We live in a society that constantly tells us what we have is not enough. Our houses need to be bigger, our cars need to be faster, our schedules need to be fuller, and our vacations need to be fancier. We build bigger closets to accommodate a few more designer labels. We buy the latest version of our favorite hand held device because it has a few more features our current version lacks. We buy new furniture because our old stuff “just isn’t in style anymore.” We live in a society of more, not less. We are taught that when we don’t like something the best solution is to simply replace it. Besides, we won’t truly be happy until we have the newer, faster, shinier, sexier version anyway.
Unfortunately, we have allowed the influence of marketing giants to affect our relationships as well. When friendships get hard, we simply start calling someone else. When our in-laws are difficult, we try to avoid them as much as possible. When we no longer find our spouse as sexy, funny, interesting, or patient as we once did, we assume the best solution is to replace him or her with someone else. Why not? When the car hit 100,000 miles I just purchased another newer, sexier model that makes me happier than the old one did. Surely the same logic can apply to my spouse, right? Instead of approaching our marriages like a purchase plans, we see them as lease agreements. We’ll test out one partner for a few years but as soon as the lease option expires, we want the newer, younger, funnier, less nagging, more engaged model.
The problem lies in the fact that we are taught to constantly focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Perhaps if we spent more time watering our own lawn it would become lush and green once again. Instead, we see our neighbor’s yard and covet what he has. We assume the best course of action is to buy his house so we can enjoy his grass. What we don’t notice, however, are the countless hours he spends attending to its every need. He is diligent to keep out pests and weeds that will destroy the delicate blades as they grow. He takes the time necessary to water and fertilize, ensuring his yard gets the nutrients it needs to survive the harsh seasons of life. While we are frantically running around in an attempt to keep up with our fast-paced schedules, our neighbor is mowing, pruning, edging, and clipping. He finishes his work sweating, scratched, sore, and tired but pleased with the effort because of the immense joy he receives when he looks out at the sanctuary he has created. We don’t understand why after a few months of living in our neighbor’s house his grass has withered and died, much like our own. We didn’t take the time to care for it as he did. So once again we look over the next neighbor’s fence to see what he might have in his yard that we can take for our own.
We tend to have the same attitude with our marriages. We look at our spouse and think “why can’t you be as thin as Bob’s wife”, or “why can’t you be more like Sally, she never nags Fred.” And then we think maybe we were meant to marry Sally in the first place. What if instead, we took the time to attend to our own marriage? What if we remembered back on all the qualities that made us fall in love in the first place? What if we had conversations with our spouse and cleared our schedule for a date night once a week? What if instead of longing for someone else’s marriage, we took the time to make our own exactly what we wanted it to be? Perhaps we’d find we really like our yard better anyway. It’s not an easy task. It takes time and effort but more often than not, the joy of a lasting meaningful marriage is well worth the bumps and bruises endured along the way.
Lauren Guenther, LPC Intern