I am consistently appalled at how difficult interpersonal relationships are. I’ve been married for over 36 years, which is no small feat. To be honest, I’m no saint, though I suspect my husband of being one. Looking back, I realize with great sadness that it has taken me nearly all these years to stop being disappointed that I didn’t get the adoration and attention I wanted.
The more I look around at younger women and their relationships, I see that same disappointment when the courtship romance dies. The movie is over and instead of the attentive, alluring prince they thought they found, there’s an unmotivated, uninterested frog holding onto all the promises they made in the heat of love. I see the baffled looks on the faces of the young men. Instead of the easygoing, hot princess they found, there’s a demanding, dissatisfied froggette holding out a long list of requirements.
This turns into a fruitless, soul-killing tug of war, with both sides keeping score, and nobody winning.
Something happened about 5 years ago. I let go of all that disappointment and just started enjoying what was there without requiring more. How did I do that? It sounds easy, but it’s hard to see yourself about to enter the fray again with your usual ammunition and armor and choose instead to set it down outside. It sounds easy, but it’s tricky to simply ask about his day without zeroing in on what didn’t get done or what wasn’t done the way you would do it. It’s even harder to really listen and hear him instead of the constant clamor inside your head of “I WANT, I WANT, I WANT.”
And that long list of mine? When I stopped requiring things from him, he was finally free to give his gifts to me as his idea. These were nice gifts—actually talking about stuff I care about, asking me out to movies, thinking of me and picking up something I like at the store. The small things that really matter.
We both got a taste of unconditional love, flawed as our human version is. What an improvement! I couldn’t wrap my head around God’s unconditional love before, but now I think I get it. He accepts me as I am this moment and all he asks in return is that I trust him to care about my needs and my dreams. And he teaches me this through my relationships. It’s not about what I want. It’s about us.
And this turned out to be so much better than keeping score and watching my list go unchecked day after day—and way more fun for everyone. I hope younger women can figure this out sooner and save years of needless disappointment. I know my beloved Grandma Grape tried to tell me this years ago, but I wouldn’t hear her. Here’s hoping other women will not be as stubborn as I was.