Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Embrace our Differences

I had an old friend message me and ask me a question awhile back that she asked me to answer. She is a fiery and funny gal, nearing 30 and unmarried and the premise of her request was this: "Since I can't make anyone marry me, what I've decided to do is to focus on what I CAN do, especially since a lot of those things take quite a bit of time to implement & become habitual. Then when the time does come to get married, I'll have learned those things & be that much further ahead of the game." I thought I would share my insight here as her request falls completely in line with my life mantra "I only have control of myself." This has been especially helpful to repeat to myself in those moments when you are supposed to count to '10' before reacting/responding - I just repeat my mantra instead of counting. :)

Question: What is one (or a few) thing(s)/talents/skills you wish you'd developed before you got married/had kids or something you did that you've found to be very helpful/useful in your marriage. So, for instance, I've been multi-focal: developing an organizational plan & keeping to it, more consistent personal hygiene (don't freak out, I mean like flossing, & plucking eyebrows, make-up, dressing better), learing negotiation skills, getting out of debt/managing finances better, learning how to compromise when the stakes are high, facing fear, etc. etc. I'm sure you get the point. So my question is, what have you found most helpful? What do you wish you'd worked on?

Answer: I'm going with an overall viewpoint on this one, to embrace that we are different. Sounds simple doesn't it? But the real meaning of this kicks in when you and your spouse disagree on paint colors, couch fabric, china, humor in movies (my husband LOVES "Anger Management" and it's kind of a 'ehh' to me while I think "What's Up Doc" is hilarious and he'd rather work in the yard), disciplining kids, how to chop a red pepper or onion, how to load the dishwasher, what's a financial need vs. a necessity, or viewpoints on how I think laundry should be folded on its way out of the dryer as opposed to putting it on top of the dryer to get the next load in as quick as possible. As human beings, we grow-up trying to figure out how to get what we want and how we like things to be done. Our code of conduct and our viewpoints are what drive us and how we respond to every situation that arises in our day.

It is so easy to criticize someone else and honestly - aren't we just critical because it isn't the way we would do it or we think we have a better approach or solution? Isn't that why our gut reaction is to get defensive when someone questions what we do or how we regard something? Politics are so nasty simply because one person see's things one way, the other person see's them another way and both people think their way is right! And how much time and energy do we waste trying to get the other person to convert to our way of thinking? Too much if you ask me! Any change of heart or opinion is going to have to come from within. If we learned to accept each other's differences and respect their way of thinking, so many 'little issues' probably wouldn't be issues any more.

I was invited to dinner one night at a friend's house while my husband was out of town. They wouldn't let me help clean up so we chatted while they did the dishes. They started to bicker about how the dishes should be cleaned. She was the one cleaning and he was loading the washer and he wanted something done differently than how she was doing it. She simply said to him, "if you want it done a certain way than you are welcome to do it." It wasn't said with malice, she was simply letting him know that she was doing it her way and if he had a problem with it, he could take over. It was one of those 'light bulb' moments for me when I realized that if I wanted something done a specific way - I should do it. On the flip side, if my spouse wanted something done a specific way, he could do it. There isn't any point in arguing about it or wasting your precious energy on trying to convert the other person to doing it 'your way.' My way is not necessarily the right way, nor is 'his' way. The way we think things should be done really is just our preference. This is so applicable to parenting as well.

The other piece  of advice someone gave me but I didn't pay enough attention to, is to always look for the best in people, especially your spouse. If you focus on what is wrong, you will always find something wrong. If you focus on what is good and right, you will find more of that goodness. There is a balance here though that does include reality - if there is a major problem, that shouldn't be ignored. But for the day to day, focus on the positive. As for finding that 'someone' in your life, don't ever marry someone thinking you can 'change' the thing about them you don't like. You don't buy a Volkswagen and hope you can turn it into an Audi. If you buy a Volkswagen, it will always be a Volkswagen. You have to ask yourself if you can forever deal with the things that make you crazy about them (good and bad). You will forever only have control of yourself. And then choose to be happy!

Anyone have any other thoughts or words of wisdom for my good friend? What do you wish you had known or had done or developed a particular skill before getting married?

2 comments:

  1. This is awesome Brittany!! Haha! I wish I had known the same- that I hadn't expected him to change AT ALL. It would have saved me so much effort and frustration those first few years of marriage (and sometimes I still forget). :) That is SO TRUE... you will always find something to be happy about if you focus on the good. And that is a choice! Great post.

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    1. Thanks Nicole! And amen sister! I myself forget and find myself trying to get him to change. It's a challenge sometimes to embrace those differences but heaven knows it is the way it should be! Thanks for the comment!!

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