My husband brings out the best in me but that’s only half of the story … he also brings out the worst in me.
He brings out the parts of me that I am embarrassed to say are there. The parts that I don’t want others to see for fear that they might overshadow the good parts of whom I am, behaviors that spill out in the heat of the moment leaving us to both wonder if it was always there buried within.
It’s sort of that phenomenon where beautiful (now now, I’m not saying I’m beautiful) people can instantly turn ugly with the uttering of a few words. Isn’t that the way it often works?
Sure, we give our best to our partners. But we also give them our worst. We give them our ugly — the things that we bit our tongues about throughout the workday or carried with us on the drive home, only to spill out as we trudge into the house or engage in a disagreement with our spouse. We’re not monsters, of course, and we don’t always behave this immaturely, just enough to be occasionally reminded that we are indeed flawed.
Several months ago, our family was driving a couple hours away to attend a baptism. In the car, I read him an article on marriage featured in Deeply Rooted Magazine. A particular set of words stung, and as I swallowed them, I felt myself concurrently swallowing my pride.
“God’s going to use your spouse to show you parts of yourself that are ugly, things that are not conformed to the fullness of Christ.”
I reflected on that passage, realizing that marriage has done this — shown me my ugly. Marriage has magnified my flaws, making them impossible to ignore.
I had always thought of myself as a selfless person. I value service and gave and helped people whenever I could. I was praised for my generous nature, but through marriage I realized how selfish I was.
It was easy for me to be giving and generous when I was giving away something that I wanted to give. But what about the things that I wanted to hold on to? The beliefs or ways of doing things that I felt my husband should adopt in order to make me happy. Because what I thought compromise should be, looked a lot like him doing whatever it took to make me happy. That’s what husbands do right?
Only that’s wasn’t his job (kudos to him for trying awfully hard to though). His job was, and is, to help me become the best person that I can be and it is my job to do the same for him. As for my happiness, I needed to take responsibility for it.
This sentiment, of marriage and ugliness, has been reiterated for me a few times since I first read that article. Again in church several weeks ago, when the sermon prompted me to realize that the challenges we face in our marriage often show us the areas that we need to work on. They also show us our ability to withstand life’s storms.
The things that we don’t necessarily like about our spouse tells a deeper story than the things that we love about them.
Over a year ago, I wrote how, “I met a man who loved me enough to help me carry the baggage I had from an unhealthy relationship and what felt like a lifetime of struggles with depression and poor self-esteem. And not only did he help me carry it but he has stood by my side as I have unpacked in an effort to work on and deal with some of the things from my past that still challenge and impact me to this day.”
I still believe that, but he’s done more than just stand over my shoulder watching as I’ve unpacked. He’s kneeled down with me and helped me unpack piece by piece.
He’s helped me preserve and build upon the beautiful parts of who I am and he’s helped me see the things that should no longer take up room in my life — our lives – helping me find the courage and strength to move on and let go.
I find myself humbled and grateful that I married a man who can help me see the less beautiful parts of who I am and love me enough to stand by my side as I work to address them — a man who is willing to help me do the work. He sounds like a Mr. Wonderful doesn’t he? He is pretty great. While he’s far from perfect, and occasionally seemingly less than wonderful, he’s committed — to us, to our children and our faith.
We are starting to understand that marriage is more than just striving to make one another happy, it’s about helping to make one another better.
There may be times when you have to hold a mirror up to your spouse, as well as times when you may have to hold them up because they’ve seen their reflection and it feels awfully hard to bear. Sometimes learning who we are can be more painful than realizing who we are not.
This life, that he and I are building, it isn’t just about us. It’s about the lives that we touch on a daily basis. The two precious lives we have been given the privilege of raising and the others that we interact with as we go about our days.
We’re here to make a difference, to be a light in a world that often appears increasingly dark. And that starts with making each other and ourselves better.
My husband has helped me see that I’m not as selfless or patient or forgiving as I thought. But he’s also helped me to see that those traits are within my reach. In fact, he’s here helping me reach for them.
This year we celebrated four years of marriage and while, I’m still a work in progress, I am far more selfless, patient and forgiving than I was the day we said, “I do.” In some ways I am at my best with room to become better — after all we’re always growing.
And wouldn’t you know it, by bringing out the worst in me, he managed to bring out the best, too.