One of my colleagues died during my last year at Children's Hospital, having served on our university medical faculty for more than twenty-five years. During his tenure as a professor, he had earned
Some wives will discover that they are married to a mate who will never be able to fully express himself or understand their needs. His emotional structure makes it impossible for him to comprehend the feelings and frustrations of another—particularly those occurring in the opposite sex. This husband will not read a book such as this and would probably resent it if he did. He has never been required to "give" and has no idea how it is done. What, then, is to be the reaction of his wife? What will you do if your husband lacks the insight to be what you need him to be?
My advice is that you change what can be altered, explain that which can be understood, teach that which can be learned, revise that which can be improved, resolve that which can be settled, and negotiate that which is open to compromise. Create the best marriage possible from the raw materials brought by two imperfect human beings with two distinctly unique personalities. But for all the rough edges that can never be smoothed and the faults that can never be eradicated, try to develop the best possible perspective and determine in your mind to accept reality exactly as it is. The first principle of mental health is to accept that which cannot be changed. You could easily go to pieces over adverse circumstances that are beyond your control. You can determine to hang tough, or you can yield to cowardice. Depression is often evidence of emotional surrender.
Life can't give me joy and peace;
it's up to me to will it.
Life just gives me time and space,
it's up to me to fill it.
Can you accept the fact that your husband will never be able to meet all your needs and aspirations? Seldom does one human being satisfy every longing and hope in another. Obviously, this coin has two sides: You can't be his perfect woman either. He is no more equipped to resolve your entire package of emotional needs than you are to become his sexual dream machine every twenty-four hours. Both partners have to settle for human foibles and faults and irritability and fatigue and occasional nighttime "headaches." A good marriage is not one in which perfection reigns; it is a relationship in which a healthy perspective overlooks a multitude of unresolvables. Thank goodness my wife, Shirley, has adopted this attitude toward me!
Action Steps for Seeking to Understand
• In what ways do you and your partner communicate well? In what ways do you struggle? Talk about how you both can compromise in order to improve communication in your marriage.
• Are you the victim of any "marriage misconceptions"? How has this affected your relationship with your spouse, and what can you do about it?
• Have you taken a long look at any communication difficulties in your marriage from your mate's point of view? Decide what you can do on your own to improve your situation—and if there are some realities that must be accepted as they are.