One of the joys of being in a loving relationship is having someone there to build you up and breathe courage into your life. Eric has given me pushes I have needed to accomplish several tasks in my life when he could have just as easily discouraged me. Knowing he believes in me goes a long way towards helping me believe in myself.
Whether we realize it or not, we have a lot of influence over our significant others and spouses. Sometimes Eric feels like I listen to everyone but him, but it is not true. I listen to his eyes, his facial expressions, his grunts, his actions, and his words. When he lacks enthusiasm for my dreams and ideas, it affects me. When I do not show support or interest in his goals, his heart deflates – even if he does not always show it.
He Needs Me? He Really Needs Me?!
Early in our marriage, I did not believe Eric needed me much. He was such a go-getter and his decisions were typically good; so, I gave into the lie that I was not of much value to our marriage. It was as if I needed him and he needed him, so that left me rather purposeless. It took a while before I realized how much power I wield in our marriage. He needed my ideas and opinions all along, but I did not trust myself to give them. He needed my support, but I thought he was his own support.
Turns out he needed me all over the place, but I was unaware.
Along with being unaware of how much my husband needed me to be involved and present in his life, I was under the illusion that my words could not pierce him. It does take a lot to hurt him, but it is not impossible. When he did not understand my side of an argument, I would get frustrated and keep pushing my agenda – sometimes to the point of shouting – occasionally leading to character assassinations and unkind comparisons.
Turns out he needed my kindness and uplifting words.
One of the reasons people choose to marry is because we want someone to acknowledge us. It does not sound very romantic, but it is true. We want to walk through this jungle of life with someone. We want someone to take care of us and vice versa. We want someone to be on our side. We want someone to have our back. We expect that person to be our go-to person, our teammate, and the one who will come running when we are in need.
Perhaps this is why we feel so devastated when we believe our other half makes a fool out of us.
None of Us Can Escape Completely!
Few of us will make it through life without someone putting us down or painting us in a dim light. I can remember:
- A twelve-year-old complete stranger calling me a geek and laughing at me with a group of girls (also strangers).
- Battling an unkind rumor spread by a few girls in my youth group.
- Hearing through the grapevine that my ex-boyfriend, his new girlfriend, and his new girlfriend’s family regularly made relentless fun of me behind my back.
These are just a few memories of mine which spring to mind. As much as they hurt me at the time, they simply cannot hold a candle to how I would feel if Eric made a fool out of me – and he easily could if he wanted to! No one else besides my parents has more ammunition to show the world my lowest moments than he does.
This is one reason it is essential for couples to keep contempt and bitterness from taking root in their relationships. The more resentment rises up, the easier it is to let “playful” insults fly. Maybe they first occur in private. Then, in a group of friends when he or she is not around. Before long, the surroundings do not matter as much. “You are a jerk and I do not give a flying rip who knows it.”
When our relationships get to this point, we have to stop in our tracks and examine our hearts.
How did we get here? What needs to change? Why are we so angry? How can we fix it? How have we neglected our walk with Christ?
No relationship can continue in this destructive way and change must begin in our own hearts.
How Did it Come to This?
Maybe you have been around couples who seem to be in competition for who can make the other look more foolish. Bringing up one offense after another. Letting humiliating relationship secrets fly. Such displays are embarrassing and tragic. To think that these two people once loved each other. How could it have come to this?
Here is one path many couples take:
Step One: Love and Marriage – I love you, you love me, and we are going to have an awesome life together filled with sex, cuddling, and loads of fun.
Step Two: Wait, This is Not Quite What I Expected. We are not having as much sex, cuddling as much, or having as much fun as we expected. In fact, we seem to be a lot busier than we used to be. And, between you and me, I am a little annoyed by…
Step Three: Crushed Expectations and Regret – She is not holding up her end of this deal. He is emotionally absent and I feel so lonely. This marriage gig is nothing like I expected it to be. What happened to us?
Step Four: Anger – I love him, but lately when I look at him I feel my insides squeeze together. I cannot stand how much he underappreciates me and then has the nerve to expect me to sleep with him! He throws his time and attention into his work and hobbies and then wants me to “be available” whenever he is in the mood.
I love her, but she is rarely physically affectionate, she makes excuses for her bad attitude, and she blames me constantly. How much more of this can I take? I am so sorry (not sorry) I did not turn out to be her Prince Charming. She is certainly no princess to me either.
Step Five: Explosion – You have ruined my life and I do not care who knows it!
When couples are at step one, it is hard to imagine step five (or even step three or step four) being possible. Just as Casting Crowns’ song sings, it is a slow fade. This deep-seeded resentment does not grow overnight. It comes as the result of many arguments left unresolved. Many evenings passed without connecting. Many angry thoughts festering. Time with God neglected. Bibles unopened.
What we rip out of our relationship is as important, if not more so, than what we plant. Consider a beautiful flower garden. It does require a lot of planting and watering up front, but once the flowers begin to grow, the focus shifts to keeping the garden free of weeds, debris, and animals who wish to feast. You are probably pouring a lot of love and care over your garden now as you prepare to get married, but do not allow your excitement over your beautiful blooms to distract you from pulling up those sneaky weeds – which grow quickly and choke the life out of your flowers.
Couples who make it to step four and five have neglected their gardens. Period.
Couples who neglect their gardens are far more likely to make fools out of each other than those who take a little time each week to nourish their roses, tulips, and Gerber daisies.
Let April Fool’s Day Remind Us …
… to clean our hearts, minds, and gardens.
Today will likely be filled with pranks, laughs, and probably some tears. As you watch the day unfold and wait for some pleasant or unpleasant surprises, take time to consider your relationship in five, ten, or twenty years. What can you do now to ensure that you and your special someone never reach the point where you are content to make fools of each other?
We cannot make fools of those we once loved without also making fools of ourselves.
How are you avoiding crushed expectations, regret, anger, and explosion?