Discovering what it is that needs to change in our own hearts, lives, motives and actions is the key to exploring and eventually discovering peace; not only personal, internal peace but peace with others and with the world at large.
One night this past week my wife, Liz, was getting attitude with me. This isn’t an uncommon experience. Liz is full of tude and it’s one of the reasons I love her so much. If she didn’t possess more than her fair-share of spunk she’d never be able to put up with a rambunctious, strong willed, opinionated, singularly-motivated, slightly-crazed husband like me. Her attitude aforementioned was negative in this case. She was irritable and impatient and this energy was all being directed toward me. Thinking I had done nothing wrong I didn’t respond with much empathy or patience myself. I let her know I didn’t appreciate it and wanted it to stop. After all, this wasn’t my fault, she was just taking out her frustrations on me… right?
The next morning I was out on a run and the previous day’s encounter with my wife came to mind. I was trying to analyze and understand what had caused her to be so disgruntled and it hit me… I was the problem! I know half of you reading this are thinking, “Duh… I could have told you that.” I can normally realize my part in any relationship malfunction as well, but this time was different. I really hadn’t directly done anything to hurt her. I hadn’t said anything wrong, acted inappropriately or in any way been a problem in that specific moment… but it dawned on me that I still could have prevented her feelings of irritation and frustration.
Being married or part of any meaningful relationship isn’t about conflict mitigation or management, it’s about investing in another person for the sake of love. A healthy relationship isn’t one in which disagreements never occur (although too much conflict is definitely indicative of a problem), but is an environment where both parties feel cared for, safe and valued. If we notice an undesirable change in our partners behavior I think it’s safe to say they are not experiencing at least one of the “necessaries” that I just mentioned in the last sentence.
Still on my trail run, I began to take inventory of the things I had done, and more importantly, hadn’t done for my wife as of late. I thought of her love languages (if you are married or in a committed relationship and haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, make sure you order a copy of it immediately after finishing reading this blog post!) and realized immediately that her “Quality Time” need had not been getting met. Don’t get me wrong, Liz and I spend a huge amount of time together. We aren’t overworked, overstressed people kept apart by long hours at an office or by a houseful of kids requiring all of our attention… but time together is not necessarily quality time and I saw that, given more intentional demonstrations of my love and appreciation, the bump-in-the-road of the night before might have been avoided. So I took action! I bought her a new petite rose bush as a little gift, went to the store and collected our favorite treat foods and a bottle of wine, and planned a surprise picnic in the mountains for her. Even as we drove to ski basin late in the afternoon, I could feel bits of tension melting under the warmth of anticipation of our time together. As we sat listening to the stream and sipping on Bordeaux, I told her that I realized I needed to be more attentive and intentional in caring for her and acknowledged the role I’d played in yesterday’s events. We had a great time enjoying each other, and our conversation and laughter was healing balm which was immediately effective in soothing any remnants of pain that had lingered.
So what’s the point? There was something in me that needed to change to bring healing and restore joy to our relationship. My awareness and consciousness needed to change. My selfishness needed to dwindle and compassion needed to increase. In each of our lives there are areas where we are desiring growth but we will never exist in the full, abundant, joy and peace-filled lives we are desiring if we are placing blame on our circumstances or another person. If there is a problem, chances are, we are it. We need to assess the way we think, view the world and others, the way we interact, respond and love. Then we need to make changes. We need to do what is necessary to be love, peace and joy for the people in the world around us. We must realize that we can’t change other people nor should we, but we can see change in ourselves and the world can be a better and more beautiful place for it.
May you and I recognize where we need to grow and be more affective at loving and may we take action, realizing that positive change in one area our lives will have an impact on every other area in return.
Peace to you,