Every day, thousands of young girls pretend that Barbie dolls and Disney princesses meet the man of their dreams, marry, and of course, live happily ever after. If only we were made of plastic, perhaps our realities would mesh with the fantasies we had so many decades ago. But let's be honest. The curtain doesn't come down when we say, "I do." In fact, it is just the beginning of a new chapter — a chapter that can be both challenging and rewarding. So how can our flesh-bound bodies find true happiness and satisfaction in marriage?
I once knew someone who complained relentlessly about her husband's dirty socks on the floor. I knew it affected Brittney* greatly and I tried to be sympathetic to her complaint. However, I couldn't help but secretly be jealous of her since I discovered a year earlier that my husband was having several affairs. I longed to have a spouse who loved me with a sincere, faith-filled devotion, regardless of where he threw his socks at the end of the day.
Now that I'm remarried, I better relate to Brittney. Although I've never gotten upset at Allen over his socks, other things that are just as trivial have sent me into a tailspin. Last week, I snapped after I made it clear that I needed time for myself. Despite my warning, Allen followed me around the house trying to get some attention. I lashed out at him, coming to the conclusion that he didn't care enough about me to respect me or my boundaries. I watched as my words caused Allen's face to twist with confusion, sorrow and grief. Here was my man, just wanting to spend time with me, and yet I grew angry.
The apostle Paul commands us to think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ... anything ... excellent or praiseworthy" (Philippians 4:8). I was mad at Allen because I didn't follow this advice. Instead of thinking about the truth — that he sacrificially loves me — I convinced myself that he didn't care about this introvert's need to rejuvenate through solitude. I stopped remembering how noble he was in marrying me, a broken, fragile woman. I forgot how admirable it is that Allen's love freed me to love again. As my mind veered far away from the Spirit-inspired words of Paul, I lost sight of the sheer gratitude I normally have for my husband.
Living out Paul's principle of focus upon admirable things in our relationships is risky. It means that rather than jumping to conclusions or demanding our rights, we first frame our hurts and disappointments with the other person's best characteristics: the things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Then, and only then, should we give voice to our complaints. But, don't be surprised if you realize that in light of all your husband's great attributes, his socks aren't so stinky after all.
* Not her real name.