FIFTY WAYS TO KEEP YOUR LOVER # 21

When we marry, we all have certain expectations. What about you? What did you expect?

My friend, Emily, says when she and her husband, Steve, were dating, she honestly thought he could, and should, run for President of the United States someday. With the upcoming Presidential election, I thought this story appropriate. Regardless who you vote for, you must admit being the wife of a president is a big deal too. But then, well, I’ll let you read her story for yourself:

The day of Bill Clinton’s first inauguration was January 20, 1993. I’d been dating Steve just over a year. Head over heels in love, etc.  He was a Navy fighter pilot who had finished first in his Top Gun class and completed a tour in the first Gulf War. He was a commercial airline pilot with American Air Lines, but still flying F14’s part-time. He was an economics and military science double major from the University of Texas that knew all about the government and politics. He was a gentleman with a good sense of humor. Dick Cheney and a couple of others from the Bush administration were family friends. So, my thoughts about his future presidency weren’t entirely delusional, lol.

The guy I worked for at the time had Clinton’s inauguration on the television in his office all day. I was in his office working on something and stopped to watch with him. At some point, as we’re watching the parade, I said to Paul, “I actually think Steve could be President someday.” Paul, who knew Steve, seemed amused by that thought. Then I swear, not five minutes later, the commentator of the parade said something about Hillary and how proud she must be of her husband. “Just think of all the young women out there today watching this and thinking that one day their husband might be president.”

Paul got quite a kick out of the coincidental comment. I remember feeling humbled, but a bit confused at the same time. I remember thinking:  No really. I think Steve has what it takes.

Steve and I married two years later. And, though happily married, I slowly began to realize that Steve just wasn’t going to be the guy that walked through a crowd, smiling, shaking hands, and kissing babies. Finally, after we’d been married a couple years, we were talking about politics one day and I made another comment about his future political career. He just looked at me and said, “But I don’t want to be president.”  

And that was it. I’m pretty sure my big thoughts of designing Christmas at the White House fought long and hard before agreeing to let go.  

Though I am pragmatic and rational, I am a creative, and do tend to have big (at times borderline grandiose) thoughts. Mostly for myself. But some for Steve too.  This was before I’d learned you can’t have thoughts like that for other people. I have also learned that we cannot depend on our spouses for 100% of our happiness and fulfillment; especially not from our expectations of them.

Emily’s story is more typical than one might think. At least, her expectations were more updated than mine. Having been a daydreamer with strong fantasies of Prince Charming rescuing the Princess, I wanted and expected a strong, Knight in Shining Armor to whisk me away from my troubles. I expected my husband to be Prince Charming. When I married Bill, I had a load of baggage I wanted him to carry, and I wanted him to carry me too. Like a Cinderella story, I wanted someone to be my happy-ever-after—to make me happy.

We were only married about seven years when the school counselor suggested we seek family counseling. Our blended family was taking a toll on us and our children. We found a Christian counselor, Mrs. Lavonia Duck, and we all thought she was wonderful. She really made you think about life and could help you understand yourself and others. Not only did her sessions help our children adjust, she helped me realize that expecting anyone to be responsible for my happiness was too much to ask. Bill had his own baggage to carry, his own happiness to manage. “No one can be responsible for your happiness but you,” she said, adding that my expectations of Bill were too great. She suggested we each find what made us happy and then share that happiness with one another.

I’d been waiting for Bill to give up his time with clients to make me happy, to do the things I wanted or needed done. But I really just wanted his attention. He was expecting me to take on the household and parenting so he could concentrate on building his clientele which he enjoyed, and admittedly we all benefited from.

I became aware of what I found interesting and pursued it. I watched the news and sports which gave me something to discuss with Bill. He began sharing his day with me and introduced me to clients and their wives.

I began to be more independent and found the self-confidence I’d lost. I stopped waiting on Bill to do the things I knew how to do around the house and in the yard. I moved the furniture when I wanted it moved and rehung the clothesline when it broke. If I wanted Chinese food, I took myself out to eat. I went to the matinee in the middle of the day all by myself or I’d take the kids to the drive-in theatre when Bill worked late. We’d go fishing or crabbing on Saturday mornings or play ball in the field next door. We quit waiting on him to make us happy.  

I went to college and the kids helped me study as we did our homework together. Bill and I discussed sports and national issues, and I discovered I had the confidence to debate. And best of all, we all learned to laugh again. Bill’s time away wasn’t so hard on the children or on our marriage. We each developed independent joy which we could then share.

Love isn’t being someone’s happiness. Love is sharing someone’s happiness. It’s sharing their joys and their burdens. Remember Bill’s formula for a happy marriage? I Corinthians 12:26 And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Are you expecting someone else to be your happiness? Or to share your happiness. Perhaps, you are the one expected to be someone else’s happiness. That’s a heavy responsibility, and unchecked, it can cause disappointment and resentment, and will rob you of the true joys in your marriage.

Please comment below and share your own story.

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