The Hope of New Possibilities
HOPE is our friend who we love to hang out with. Unfortunately, we don’t realize we are slowly losing that relationship until we wake up one morning and notice we are in despair.
At that moment, we may say, “I have lost hope.”
I have experienced seasons of despair in my marriage, feeling like the things I longed to have happen between my husband and me were impossible.
- Why can’t he help me more?
- Why isn’t he more romantic?
- Why doesn’t he do his work as quickly as I do?
Sometimes, I accepted our differences with ease and, in other seasons, I felt like I was going to go crazy with the frustration I felt. The loss of hope was so subtle that I was completely unaware the well was slowly running dry. I felt like I had no control over it. I was a victim in my hopelessness and seasons of despair, or so I told myself.
I am so grateful that my self-deception is being removed. I am seeing what I contributed to the gradually diminishing levels of hope in my relationships and, more importantly, what I can offer to increase them! It is in the subtle nuances that I either pour in or drain out my levels of expectation for our future possibilities.
I get the choice, moment by moment, to either drain out or increase the hope of new possibilities in my marriage. Here are three examples of how I chose one of these outcomes...
Taking, diminishing, or draining new possibilities
Making Judgments: I don't know about you, but I REALLY like being in the know. It helps me feel in control when I think I know who someone is, how they are going to show up, and what I can expect from them. Yet, the thing I long for most in my marriage is for us to support each other in a way that brings out the best in both of us. The moment I decide or judge who he is and how he will show up is the moment I pour concrete on his feet and lock him into being whomever I judged him to be. For example, if he doesn’t complete something within the time frame we had agreed upon, I may decide that he doesn’t follow through. As soon as I decide that is true, then I begin expecting that result. I prepare myself for it in each new situation. I decide I am right about who he is, and I actually work to keep proving my judgment true. Being his enemy becomes my reality, rather than being his friend and believing that the best in him is possible.
Holding onto the past: This subtle "taker" is a close ally to and works with my judgments. It is the momentary choice I make to see something that seems similar to a past, painful event and assume we are going to follow the same “old” pattern. My husband and I are business partners, so we get plenty of opportunities to work together. A recent project we were doing brought up many temptations to hold onto the past. Our personalities are very different when it comes to working. I like to keep plowing through until a project is done, while my husband likes to take breaks and step away so he can see things from different angles. For many years, I judged him as lazy. (Read more in a recent blog post - What if They Aren't Who I Think They Are?) While I worked to interrupt this judgment during our recent project, a moment arose when I wanted to keep working and he wanted to stop, and I was tempted to say things like, “Here we go again!” or “You do this every time!” Yet, I stopped myself and thought, "If this had nothing to do with our past and I could be right here in this new moment, what could be different?" I realized my husband was being honest with me about what he needed. As I inquired further, he said, "I need a 15-minute break, and then I will come back." I thought about what I needed and realized I needed to keep going. So, I did. He came back later, and we got right back to work. I had made good progress, and he had new ideas. WOW! That is definitely not like the past.
Comparing: Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of JOY.” I couldn’t agree with him more. When I am comparing my husband to someone else, stress is the guaranteed outcome. For many years, I tried hinting to my husband that it might be nice if he were a bit more like my friend's husband in certain areas. I cringe when I think about the shame I dumped on him in those moments. While I was telling him on the one hand there is no other man in the world for me, at the same time I was telling him he needed to be someone else! I was double-minded in my ways and completely forgot the gift of US! We aren’t meant to be like someone else! The strengths and weaknesses of both of us put together are what brought us to fall in love and be ecstatic about committing our lives to each other.
An evil twin to comparing him to others is comparing him to myself. My husband being the opposite of me was what made me fall head-over-heals in love with him. Yet, each time I compare him to me (like in the example above when I want him to approach work like I do) is a moment I am double-minded once again. I am so thankful he is different from me and, at the same time, I want him to be just like me? Yep, another psycho moment that drains my hope, rather than growing it.
While each of the above options is easily overlooked in the moment, if we will slow down and consider the choice we are making to TAKE from the relationship, rather than choosing something new, we can “go again.” We can shift from what was diminishing and, instead, increase our hope of a new future together by applying some of the following options...
Offering, building, or growing new possibilities
Forgiving: When I let go of my unforgiveness and judgments toward my spouse, I allow him to become who he is. Before I forgive, it is like I see him through stained glasses and the stain is all I can see. However, if I will decide I am going to forgive, recognize what he did that hurt me, get honest about the consequences the offense produced or how it made me feel, and then choose to let go of that or send it away from myself, I will have forgiven. In doing that, I remove the stain from my glasses and now he can be someone new to me. According to research done by Mayo Clinic, found in this article called Forgiveness - the Secret to a Healthy Marriage, unforgiveness keeps us from being able to live in the present. If we aren't living in the present then we are living in the past. New possibilities are only found in the future!
Clarity of Vision: A famous Hebrew proverb states that, "Without a vision, we perish," yet I am surprised by how many people don’t have a vision for themselves or for the most important relationship they have. It wasn't until my husband and I reached a deep level of despair that we recognized the power in having a vision and made a commitment to always have one. Robert Holden says, “Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” Getting clear about who I am committed to being is the first step in taking account of how I am showing up in my marriage. Personally, my vision for myself is to be honest, authentic, and present. No matter who I am with, what conversation I am in, or what circumstances I am facing, I can choose to be who I am. When I couple my personal vision with the vision we have for our marriage, my husband and I pour hope into new possibilities for our relationship, as we are less likely to blame each other when things don't go the way we want. Our visions keep us pointing north and owning our own contributions to the taking or offering that occurs.
Living in my business: Byron Katie says, “There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.” If I am in anyone else’s business besides my own, I will experience suffering. It is so tempting, when things aren’t going the way I want, to make it about my husband and something he isn’t “doing right.” I start to put my energy and focus on things that are his business, over which I have no control. While creating a distraction so I don't have to take care of my business seems way easier in the moment, the only thing that will produce life in my marriage is for me to stay focused on my business only. Taking responsibility for myself is a full-time job, and I only have enough energy available to live MY life. This mindset is a huge contributor to increasing hope and having endless, new possibilities.
When I stop judging, holding onto the past, and comparing and, instead, forgive, clarify my vision, and live in my business, the more our relationship grows. With each subtle choice, I am finding a marriage relationship that I never knew was possible. Hope is overflowing for our future, as each day we become new, as individuals and in our connection. Our marriage is simply the mirror that allows me to see the reflection of who I am choosing to be. When I choose the things that drain my hope, I do not like the reflection I see. However, when I choose to offer myself and grow in character in the midst of the discomfort that honesty and owning my contributions bring, I want to dance in front of the mirror as I see the reflection our marriage offers me.