Last August, Trice and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary, and I started a little journey of blogging about different things God taught us in our first five years of marriage. I love how I set a goal that I would write 5 nuggets in one month..... Yet here I am, almost a year later, finally sitting down to write the 5th nugget. Hey- at least I am finishing what I set out to do, right? :)
If you didn't get a chance to read the first four nuggets, you can read those here:
Today I want to finish up this little blog series with a topic that is oh so tough for me.
Perfectionism and unmet expectations.
Perfectionism is something that has caused more frustration in my life than anything else. It has its good side - like in the detail-oriented things. For instance, I would be a totally amazing CPA or brain surgeon. Perfectionism is good for those sorts of areas where you cannot afford to make a mistake. But the bad news is that I'm not a brain surgeon or a CPA, but am instead a wife and a mother who makes lots of mistakes! So you can see how perfectionism has caused me quite a bit of grief ;) Today I want to talk about this perfectionism and how that applies to marriage. Grab a little cup o' joe, get comfy in your chair, and delve into this topic with me. You ready?
Nugget #5: Perfection Is Not The Goal.
I remember when Trice and I were planning our wedding. Everything had to be just perfect. The color combination had to be perfect. The playlist had to be perfect. The guest list had to be perfect. The bridesmaids dresses had to be perfect. I just wanted everything to be perfect. Anything short of perfect would have been a disaster in my mind.
And you can't really blame me. In the world of bridal magazines and happily ever after fairy tales, the bar was set pretty high from early on that our wedding had to be perfect, and that if my expectations of perfection were not met, then the whole thing would be a bust.
And that was pre-Pinterest days! YALL. Let me just say that Jesus knew just what He was doing by having our wedding take place a whole year before Pinterest got popular. I hyperventilate looking at wedding pins these days. I thought the pressure was bad when I got married, but EISH. I'm so sorry for all of you Type A, perfectionist, INDECISIVE brides out there who are trying to plan a wedding these days. Just stay off of Pinterest. For reals.
Anyhow, back to the point. Our wedding was immaculate. Everything was indeed perfect. I felt more beautiful than I ever have in my whole life, I got to walk down the aisle to my most perfect for me, dreamy husband and vow to spend the rest of my life with him in front of my family and closest friends. As we were driving away in my sister's convertible, I whispered to Trice, "Wow, that was so magical and so perfect. I wouldn't have changed a thing." Then our first night together was perfect. Trice went over the top to set up our sweet little hotel room with candles and flowers and my favorite music and communion. And then our honeymoon in Alaska was perfect. What about hiking mountains and touring glaciers with your new hubby isn't perfect?!
I was on Cloud 9 y'all. And frankly, that's where every newly wedded bride should be. At least for a second ;)
But those perfect few weeks set a precedent in my mind that everything in our marriage was going to go as planned. Everything would be perfect. And anything less than perfect was a failure for me.
So you can imagine how a few weeks in, when the wedding high wore off, how my ideal of perfection started withering away.
You can imagine how a few months in, when Trice didn't have a gig on the books, and when we were working together at this author's house for like 8 buckaroos an hour, how that perfection started fizzling away.
You can imagine how a couple of years in when we were raising our son in my parent's house (and not in that perfect country cottage I had always dreamed of), how that idea of a perfect life drifted further and further away.
You can imagine how 5 years in, when we still weren't financially loaded, still hadn't traveled near as much of the world as I had hoped, and hadn't gone on a vacation in several years, how all those unmet expectations became a thorn in my side, and a place where bitterness could grow.
Our wedding was only perfect in my mind because everything went according to plan. But what happens when life doesn't go as planned? What happens when marriage doesn't go as planned?
The truth is... marriage is FULL of unmet expectations. I'm saying this as gently and as truthfully as I can. Marriage is full of unmet expectations and imperfections. And if you are a perfectionist, and if you don't allow flexibility and room for mistakes, you will be defeated, burned out and depressed. When perfection is your goal, you will fail. Every time. Perfection truly is the thief of joy.
Maybe you and your hubby don't have as much money as you thought you would have. Maybe it turns out that you are less than excellent in the kitchen and your husband has a pretty exquisite palate... ahem... that would be me and my Trice ;) Maybe you have babies and surgeries and your body doesn't ever go back to normal. Maybe your hubby wants to stop at 2 kids and you always dreamed of having 4. Maybe you aren't as into sex as you thought you would be. Maybe your husband loses his job or a tree falls on your house or your vacation plans get wrecked. Maybe you lose a child. Maybe you have less than ideal in-laws. Maybe the life with your hubby that you had dreamed of from the time you were a little girl doesn't go as planned.
Marriage is not about white picket fences and a big yard. It's not about impressing others with your wealth. It's not about having a home-cooked meal every night in a perfectly clean house. All these perfect ideals, all these perfect expectations... those aren't the things that make a marriage last. Those aren't the things that bond you and your husband together tightly. Those aren't the things that prove that your union is from God.
If these are the things that bring worth to your marriage, if perfection is your goal, then your marriage is going to fail. And I mean it is going to fail fast. Because life is unexpected and imperfect. Body parts fail, money disappears, jobs get lost, casseroles get burned, and feelings get hurt.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
THIS IS GOOD NEWS! You see, GOD is the only one who can bring perfection to a marriage. As a Christian, when you are married to your spouse, you become one with him and one with the Father. Your husband is going to fail you, hurt you, be mad at you, and disappoint you. And you are going to fail him, hurt him, get mad at him and disappoint him. But that is why God set it up that the two of you become one with Him. Because every imperfect area of your husband's life will be covered in the grace and perfection that comes in Jesus Christ. And every imperfect area of your life will be covered in the grace and perfection that comes with being in partnership with God.
The true goal of marriage is to mirror God's everlasting covenant. It's about having a covenant that lasts through the good times and the bad. In sickness and in health. In rich times and in poor times. The true goal of marriage is to let God's power shine through in our imperfections. To love each other despite our weaknesses. To embrace one another when life doesn't go as planned.
Our society does a terrible injustice to brides these days. We place so much emphasis on planning the wedding. According to this article, the wedding industry is worth 53.4 billion dollars. There are checklists and to-do lists and idea books and companies that will do it all for you... but after the wedding is over, we wake up to this new life of being a wife, and we are left high and dry.
And then there are the romantic comedies and Disney fairy tales that don't really paint a full picture of marriage. They once again just focus on the wedding. We don't ever get to see Cinderella gain baby weight or fight with Prince Charming. All we see is that they have a perfect wedding and live happily ever after.
But there is something wrong with the fact that the wedding industry is worth 53.4 billion dollars and the divorce industry is estimated to be anywhere from 50 billion to 175 billion dollars. This shows me that people are spending a pretty penny on their weddings and then 1-3x as much to divorce a few years later.
My fear is that we are focusing so much on planning perfect weddings and not so much on equipping people to make their marriages last. My fear is that society causes us to paint an unattainable, idealist picture of marriage, and that couples are going to feel like there is something wrong with their marriages when they don't go as planned.
If you are a bride about to get married, or if you are a single woman still waiting for Mr. Right, understand that marriage is not about planning a perfect wedding.
Obviously, having a PERFECT wedding is not what you need to have a thriving marriage.
Instead, knowing the PERFECT ONE is what is necessary to having a thriving marriage.
We had our wedding ceremony. So what has our "happily ever after" looked like since then?
To sum it up, the first 5 (and now 6!) years for us have been perfectly imperfect. There have been times where everything was blissful and where Trice and I did nothing but laugh and have fun. And there have been times of serious disappointment, fighting, and not getting along. Years 5 and 6 for us were oh so tough. They were years where we had to fight for our marriage to survive. There were mornings when I woke up and thought about running away... although I could never quite figure out the logistics of that one ;) [Do I steal the car too? Do I leave the kids or take them? Where would I go? Most importantly, WHO WOULD FEED ME DINNER?] In these last 6 years, my perfection bubble has been popped. Many of my expectations of what I thought marriage should be have been unmet. Many of my ideals have been shattered.
But God has proved faithful in our weaknesses.
But God has loved us perfectly when we couldn't love each other well.
But God has shown us the true meaning of having an everlasting covenant. He has shown us how His grace carries us through sickness and health. Rich times and poor. Good times and bad.
Amidst all the imperfections and all the tough times, God's love still stands firm. God has helped my heart to grow more madly in love with Trice than I could have ever imagined was possible. God has helped my love to become deep rather than shallow. God has shifted the focus of my love for Trice away from what I could get and instead towards what I can give. God has intentionally allowed my glass house of perfection and unattainable expectations to become shattered so that I could learn to love amidst weaknesses and disappointments. PRAISE BE TO GOD.
If you are reading this today and are currently in a place of discouragement because your perfect little marriage hasn't gone as planned, let it go this morning. Perfection cannot be the goal for your marriage any longer. Unattainable ideals cannot run your life anymore. Unmet expectations have got to stop stealing your joy. Your goal has to be to mirror the love of God and the everlasting covenant He makes with His people.
Release the ideals. Release the perfectionism. Release your husband from the unattainable standards. Stop focusing on the highlight reel of everyone else's life. Stop harboring bitterness towards your husband.
Instead, bring your disappointments to the feet of the Father, not to the ears of your husband. Embrace the imperfections. Embrace your spouse for who they are, mistakes, annoyances and all. Learn to love yourself even when you make mistakes.
When we stop trying to work so hard for perfection, we give God the room to do His perfecting work in our hearts. When we take ourselves out of the spotlight by not trying to do things in our own strength, we allow God to get all the glory for the amazing way He faithfully carries us through the ups and downs of life. Today, choose to give glory to the One who is able to do abundantly more in our marriages than we could ever ask or imagine.
I am praying for you today, Sweet Reader. Please reach out to me if you need to chat. The chains of perfectionism can be oh so uncomfortable, and I want to see you break free and embrace your marriage, flaws and all.
How has perfectionism hurt your marriage?
Are unmet expectations hindering you from loving your spouse fully?
Is there any bitterness in your heart toward your spouse for things not going as planned?