I had a conversation today with Meredith. Periodically she calls me. Today was one of those days. We talked about a lot of things, but one thing stuck out that I want to write about. Defending who I am.
You see, most of the qualities I bring to a relationship are soft qualities. They are the under the hood type qualities that help to make the other person a more complete person. Promoting self-growth and working to make them feel loved and cared for at their core. What I am really not good at are the surface qualities such as cleaning dishes, buying meaningless gifts, and regular chore type tasks. The day to day household functioning, and store bought ideas of romance. Both are important in a marriage, but the surface qualities get most of the attention even though many could be done by a house cleaner.
However, Wife is often frustrated with my inability to take care of the surface qualities. It drives her crazy. Yet she loves me more than anything because of the soft qualities. Even though she does not realize it. She just knows she feels good, and loved when with me. She looks back and realizes I have always pushed her to be her best self. She has not delved deep into why she feels so enamored with me even though she finds herself frustrated regularly about surface qualities.
What’s worse is that many other people, including my mother and some friends, will say harsh things about me because they can clearly see the surface qualities being neglected, and they do not understand how I am still married. Wife does little to make the situation better, and defending myself comes off as all too defensive. In fact Wife often joins in and/or encourages the behavior. It wasn’t until I told her to stop egging my mother on that she finally realized it was happening. She never thought to stand up for her wonderful husband. Of course she would tell me afterward how wonderful I am and that she was just teasing.
When I mentioned some of what my mother said recently to Meredith she became very agitated. I brought it up very casually because my mother’s comments have become normal to me. Without any prompting on my part she told me how she would defend me. She said I am a wonderful man, and anyone who thinks otherwise for surface reasons is going to hear from her. She will be nice about it (I have seen her argue with people before and she is so gentle about it – I’ve never seen such an empathetic defender before), but she is going to let them know how wonderful her future husband is. Then she told a story of how she recently did something very similar to defend her sister in law from her own parents. It just comes naturally to her to stand up for the soft qualities. She is an idealist after all.
There is such a stark contrast to me in how Meredith actually knows me. She knows who I am, and why I am valuable as a person and a husband. She isn’t going to let anyone else define that. Whereas Wife should know me by now, but still focuses a lot of her energy on the surface qualities which she feels are really important. Therefore she spends little time defending why I’m great. She may not really know. She just knows she loves me, that she feels loved and cared for, but not really why.
To me this is really important. It clearly highlights what I’ve been struggling with in my marriage. Wife simply does not know me. She enjoys the benefits of who I am purely by chance, and focuses a lot of energy on changing me to be more like a standard modern day 50/50 husband. She does this because she does not understand who I am. She gets so upset with me at times even when I am doing the things that will make her feel better because she doesn’t understand. This is the core of our problems I’m finally coming to grips with. My wife does not know who I am.
How do you move forward with that? She loves me dearly and I love her. But I am no longer satisfied with not being known.