My Spouse is Driving Me Crazy

couple on grassFor the past several weeks, ten couples from Prince of Peace have been participating in the Marriage Course, a series that focuses on strengthening key areas of relationships. After one of the sessions, a husband asked me, somewhat jokingly, “How can I be happy when my wife drives me nuts?” We chuckled for a moment and then I replied, “That’s funny, your wife is asking the same question about you.”

That’s a really great question: “How can we be truly happy when our spouse is driving us crazy?”

Nancy Lee and I will be celebrating 32 years of marriage this summer and along the way we’ve certainly discovered plenty about each other that drives us crazy. The metaphors abound: Nancy Lee is the string, I am the kite. She’s the rudder of the boat and I’m the wind in the sail. She is the left brain, I am on the other side—the right side! (Did you catch that?) She balances the books and I do my fair share to create disequilibrium with spending habits (especially when it comes to kitchen gadgets!). I’m the unstructured ying to Nancy Lee’s structured yang. There’s a great deal of fun in all of this. But there are times when differences are frustrating. Does it always have to be that way? Surely not.

Les and Leslie Parrott, marriage and family therapists from Seattle Pacific University experience this in their marriage as well. Les admits that it took them nearly ten years to learn to appreciate what they each perceived as “faults” in each other. And now after nearly thirty years, they’re still working on it. Here’s the nugget of wisdom for Les in all of this: “When you surrender your need to change your partner’s “faults,” the things that irritate you actually have a chance for becoming the things that endear you to them.”

This hit home for me just a few years ago. One of the husbands in the Marriage Course said,

“We were thirty years into their marriage when I realized that for the first fifteen years I focused on Teresa’s faults and my needs. For the last fifteen years, I have focused on my faults and Teresa’s needs, and our marriage has been transformed.”

Taking my critical focus off Nancy Lee and trying to “fix” all of those things that bothered me allowed me to see Nancy Lee in a different light. It gave me the chance to understand and even appreciate the way she did things in a whole new light. This is what researchers mean by managing a positive view of your marriage while acknowledging what drives you nuts. And guess what? This is essential for true intimacy. Look up intimacy in a dictionary and you’ll see words like close, warm, familiar, affectionate, and caring. But researchers say that intimacy emerges when you see less “me” and “you” in the relationship and more “we” and “us.” Becoming a team, having deep intimacy, is the antibody to going nuts.

The best thing I can do for our marriage is to acknowledge that we bring different things to the table. Celebrate those differences. If I need to change anything, begin with myself.”

If I can’t do that, I’ll probably go nuts!

 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment.” Matthew 7:5 

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