You bring out the worst in me

“You bring out the worst in me.” Most likely you have said this to your spouse or partner or it has been said to you, but as much as we try not to, it is hard not to blame our loved one for everything that goes wrong in our relationships.

A few of days ago I received an email from one of my readers. She was telling me that after a few months separated from her loved one, they got back together. They were happier than ever and the topic of marriage had come up once or twice. But after an argument she could not go on with their dream of a happy family.

You bring out the worst in me

I asked why and her response was:

“He brings out the worst and the best in me, and that can’t be good.”

I couldn’t contain a smile from forming in my face. You see, I was on that same spot not long ago. So this gave me an opportunity to share my own experience and what I did to tackle the situation.

And now with her permission I share it with you because you might be facing something similar.

People have unrealistic views, ideas and expectations of what a relationship should be. Those views are either unrealistic good or unrealistic bad. Causing us not to seek a relationship wisely.

Another view, which is most common in people from failed marriages. Is that marriage is nothing but misery. Coming from a failed marriage myself, I was more inclined to that negative view. But I couldn’t be further from the truth. We all get a second chance to do things right.

When I faced relationship struggles again and was about to throw the towel one more time. I snapped out of it and realized that I was worth much more than another failed relationship. This time I wasn’t going down without a fight. I sat down and prayed asking for guidance from God and He answered in a very peculiar way (as usual between us). This time it was by popping  into my head this quote that I read somewhere.

“Spend time with people over the age of seventy and under the age of six”

So I gave it a try.

Spending time with children

I began to observe my daughter and my nephew with more attention than usual. Looking for something that I could learn from them. They spend a lot of time together and of course they come into conflict quite often.

What I observed that had been there all along but I never really paid attention to, was very interesting. Whenever there was conflict between them and argued. Instead of asking me or his parents to leave, they would take their iPad and sit on opposite sides of the couch. Trying not to put too much distance between them, until either one would find something that would be of interest or benefit to the other. Then they would use that as an excuse for an approach to express and smooth out their differences.

It was so simple! Instead of looking for reasons to remain separated, create a bigger gap that would yield to resentment, they would look for something that would bring them back together.

Spending time with much older couples

I asked for advise from my friends, but not from my closest friends. Their advise would be biased and they would tell me what in my anger and altered state I wanted to hear and that would feed my pride.

Instead I looked for my older friends, the ones that have been married for a long time. I asked them:

  • How did they deal with their struggles?
  • How do they deal with and fix their differences?

I wondered what could I learn from their experience…

These were specific questions with specific answers. Answers that would shine a light brighter than ranting to  friends that would agree with me. Because if I ask for advise from people who agree with me it would only feed my ego and my own desire to be right, then I would learn nothing.

My older wiser friends quoted quotes like:

“He who knows others is clever, but he who knows himself is enlightened” -Lao Tzu

That got me thinking… What better way to get to know myself, than getting closer to the person that “brings out the worst and the best in me.” ?

Could I be onto something here?…

When we argue with our spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, we get so hot-headed trying to win the argument and wanting to be right, that we forget about the love that we have for each other.

Why is it that being right is more important than the person we hold dearest to us? Why is it that winning has  more weight than what brought us together?

I began adding things up, I kept asking specific questions and each answer brought with it a new possibility. You see, I am not 18 anymore, I won’t go into a relationship just to see if it works, I’m in it with a purpose and to make it work.

Besides quoting quotes and disagreeing with me, my friends also recommended books like “Things I wish I’d known before we got married” by Gary Chapman. In it he makes several good points (I totally recommend it):

  • Every year there are over four million people in the United states alone, saying “I do“. To the question “Will you have this man to be your wedded husband?” or “Will you take this woman to be your wedded wife?” Almost all of these couples anticipate “living happily ever after“.
  • No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable. But the divorce rate  is around 50%.

“Divorce is the result of a lack of preparation for marriage, and failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.”

  • There are two stages to romantic love. The first stage requires little effort, we are pushed along by euphoric feelings. We commonly call this stage “being in love”. In this stage the couple does not have to work on the relationship. The second stage, when we find ourselves saying “Our differences seem so obvious now. Why didn’t I see them earlier?” We are completely different from each other, because each one of us is unique (we are like snow flakes). This stage is much more intentional and it requires work in order to keep emotional love alive.

Just like Gary Chapman said:

I wish someone had been there to tell me that what I was thinking and feeling was normal, that in fact there are two stages to romantic love and I had to make the transition. It would have saved me from years of marital struggle.

So, yes, the second stage requires work to keep emotional love alive, however, for those who make the effort to transition from stage one to stage two, the rewards are astounding.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. –Ephesians 5:25

Another book that my friends recommended is “The meaning of Marriage” by Timothy and Kathy Keller. And this is the reason why I couldn’t contain a smile when I read “he brings out the worst and the best in me.” It was a nice coincidence…

This is what I was reading from this book that same morning before reading that email.

The challenge of marriage

Marriage brings into intimate contact two people more than any other possible human relationship. Which means that not only we have a relationship of absolute immediacy. But we have to deal with our partner’s respective virtues and defects.

When we get married, our partner is like a huge vehicle that impacts our hearts. Married life brings out the worst in us. But it is not responsible for our failures (although we may blame our partner for everything that goes wrong). The highlight is that we can not say that’s a bad thing. How will we be able to change for the better if we go into a relationship thinking we are already perfect?

Marriage has the power of truth, the necessary strength to manifest what we really are, defects included. How wonderful is it then that marriage also has the “power of love”. An unrivaled power that reassure us and heals the deepest wounds of life.” –The meaning of Marriage

In conclusion

  • Don’t let your dreams of a happy marriage, be shattered in the real world of dirty dishes, unpaid bills, conflicting work schedules and crying babies. Through hard work and counseling you can go on to have the marriage that you dream of.- Paraphrasing Gary Chapman.
  • Bringing out the best in someone is good, but bring out their worse is better as it gives the couple an opportunity to grow together.
  • Every aspect of a relationship is about giving. So, instead of thinking “how can my partner make me a better person.” Try changing the approach to. How can I help my partner become the best version of themselves in the most loving way possible.
  • When facing a struggle, don’t rant to the friends that will agree with you. Instead seek advise from children, elders and people who disagree with you. Asking specific questions with specific answers to the problems you want to solve.
  • There are two stages to romantic love, the second requires work but if you decide to transition to it, the rewards are astounding.
  • These conclusions apply whether you are married or in a relationship towards marriage.

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