I’m aware that I have controlling tendencies. I like things the way I like them – my house neat and uncluttered, my food condiments on the side, my boys napping on schedule. A place for everything and everything in its place. I’d love to think that I’m a flexible person, casual and cool, but I’m not. I think if I knew all the ways that I’m controlling, I’d be pretty humiliated…which in itself is humiliating.
What’s really embarrassing is that I’m controlling in my marriage. I don’t know how much I actually impose on Andrew, but I know how much I think about it. The man sits down for some R&R and I find it difficult to ignore my mind’s instant litany of tasks he should be doing instead. Why is he sitting down when the kitchen is a mess and the boys are whining? Why is he reading when he could be making himself useful? (Of course, if he were to perform a particular chore, I’d have to leave him to it knowing that I’d criticize his method if I stuck around.) I bite my tongue, but the accusations fly in my head fostering irrational resentment. When Andrew isn’t meeting my unjustly unspoken expectations, I nitpick the socks on the floor, the mess on the dresser, and the unmowed lawn. By just breathing, my bold hero is reduced to a criminal – guilty until proven innocent or at least until he makes up for it by taking out the trash – and he doesn’t even know it.
As a controlling person, the axiom “Don’t sweat the small stuff” goes against my vicious tendencies. (Here I mean vicious as the true, adjectival form of the word vice rather than the colloquial use as mean-hearted or malicious.) I pride myself in being detail-oriented, but in some cases like my marriage, it’s aimed in the wrong direction.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
Per the suggestion of my friend Erin at Humble Handmaid, I started listening to The Missionary Family Podcast. Their recent episode on success in marriage was very humbling to hear, especially for a person who thinks she’s got the whole marriage thing down. (HA!) One of the major points was that we should sweat the small stuff in marriage – not in our spouses, but in ourselves. For example, I want Andrew to briefly leave his occupation to greet me when I come home, to do the dishes after dinner, and to pick up the house at the end of the day; but how am I at performing any small acts like these? It’s in the little deeds made with love, obedience, and service where the graces of the Sacrament of Marriage abound and I can receive them by participating in deliberate charity; which also involves examining Andrew’s wonderful characteristics as well as praying for the humility to avoid harsh and unjust criticism. If anyone asked me how Andrew could improve as a person, I’m sure I could rattle off plenty of qualities in need of attention. When it comes to myself, however, I’d rather bury my own defects – who enjoys thinking of themselves as imperfect or in need of improvement? This kind of approach is prideful and a bad habit all too easy to slip into.
I have to let go of the “small stuff” with Andrew and get a grip on them in myself. I want my actions toward him to always reflect the fact that he is my very favorite person and the most beloved in my life. Make your actions consistent with the fact that you love your spouse and that you’re in love with your spouse – from the way you greet him or her with warm enthusiasm to the diligence used in scrubbing a dish or the patience you take to listen to him or her. Any deeds I do with charity and enthusiasm at the foundation will make Andrew feel valued and precious and this will vastly add to the joy in our sacrament.