I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, and our tendency to turn from pursuing the best, towards pursuing the easiest.
I would say probably 95% of our marital problems over the last 20 years were the result of both Chris and I letting ourselves get pulled towards making “easy” our goal instead of making “worthwhile” our goal.
Your job is not to be the cotton batting wrapped around your spouse, protecting him or her from the rest of reality.
Sometimes, your job as a loving spouse is to be difficult. Challenging. Complicated.
Your job is not to make your spouse’s experience of life as effort-free and Disneyland-like as possible.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t comfort or protect or help your spouse, or that you should be contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I’m saying you shouldn’t try to be their training wheels for whenever life gets difficult. I’m saying you’re not really helping your spouse if your version of “helping” keeps them from growing and getting strong and developing the character that they need to get along should anything ever happen to you.
Sometimes, you’re the princess; and sometimes, you’re the dragon.
At least two or three times in the last year, Chris has made a comment that his life is much better because over the years, I kept pushing him out of his comfort zone. Although I’m reasonably sure that at the time, he wasn’t particularly grateful for the pushing and would have rather just stayed where he was.
When I think about my parents relationship, I remember it being very loving, but very…static. I don’t think that Mom ever really challenged Dad to exit his comfort zone. To be fair, I don’t think Dad ever pushed Mom to quit things that weren’t good for her (smoking) or to try things that would have been. It was as if they lived in this bubble together and believed that as long as they didn’t have any conflict between them, the rest of life would just work itself out.
And weirdly, for almost 35 years, it pretty much did. Grace and love covers a lot. But Dad was singularly unprepared to deal with life without her, and I know at least one of my sisters ended up managing a lot more of his life than a guy in his early 50s should have needed help with.
Chris has picked up watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix at the recommendation of a friend. I catch enough of it to have picked up on the dynamic between Coach Taylor and Tami. It’s one of the healthier examples of a marriage I’ve seen on television, and I think one element of that is the way that they aren’t afraid to prod each other towards doing the right thing. They make each other uncomfortable in a really healthy way.
If you don’t want a spouse who’s willing to challenge you, maybe you don’t really want a spouse. Nobody wants to partner with a “yes man” in the business world–they don’t really contribute much to the partnership. Why on earth would you want to partner with a “yes person” in the rest of your life?
Since this has gotten a little heavy, and since I brought up the concept of “Yes Men” I’ll leave you with this entertaining clip from the Jim Carey movie Yes Man. (No, it’s not the scene with the Ducati and the hospital gown. I have some standards here.)