October 24, 2014

Better Off Than You Realize: Turning Strengths into Weaknesses

Gary Thomas — 

Better Off Than You Realize

9:30 p.m.

I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for my Saturday run group.

“So, what time are you going to be home tomorrow?” Lisa asks.

“Let’s see. Run from 5:30 to 7, we’ll talk a bit afterwards, I’ll take a shower, stop at Starbucks, I’d say around 8:00.”

“You don’t have to stop at Starbucks. I’ve got this new protein smoothie recipe that will be perfect. And how about eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast?”

This would sound like a dream fantasy to many men, but it’s my weekly reality. One of Lisa’s top concerns is what I eat. She spends far more time thinking and planning about my food than I do. The truth is, I don’t really care about food all that much. The food I really enjoy isn’t good for me and makes me feel guilty even as I eat it, and the food that is good for me, well, I just can’t drum up any sincere enthusiasm for kale or quinoa. I just can’t. So Lisa plots to find ways to slip kale onto my nachos (don’t worry, guys—you don’t even taste it, and if it makes your wife happy, what’s the harm?) and chia seeds on my breakfast cereal (that’s a bigger issue; those things are so small that if you have chia seeds in the morning, they’re slipping out of your teeth all day long).

And honestly (this is where everybody will rightly start to hate me) sometimes Lisa’s concern feels like a burden. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to eat for breakfast the night before. I’d be happy to come home and grab a bowl of cereal (that Lisa says turns to sugar within minutes and provides no lasting nutrition) seven days out of seven. Food never sounds that good to me unless I’m really hungry. But it matters so much to Lisa that she goes out of her way to make sure, every day, I’m “taken care of.”

More guys than not would love that. Some guys complain that their wives would laugh if they suggested she cook even half of their meals: “I’m not your mom!” And yet there are times this amazing service even bugs me a little. I just don’t want to think or talk about food, especially the night before.

Before you are disgusted with me, turn the lens onto yourself. One husband whose wife earns an executive’s salary complains because she’s always on her blackberry at bedtime, while another buddy chides him, “It’s hard for me to feel sorry for a guy whose wife bought him a club membership, for his birthday.” One fact leads to the other.

I’ve talked to wives who want their husbands to ask them one question, just one, at least once a week. Initiate a little conversation. Show they care. But their husbands are consumed with repairing the leaky faucet, greasing the garage door opener, or inspecting the roof. The next hour, a wife with a husband who would be happy to go on a walk and talk for two hours is frustrated that her husband does not even notice that the washing machine sounds like a spaceship taking off whenever it gets to a certain stage in its cycle, it wakes up the baby, and no they can’t afford to have someone else fix it because he still thinks he’s going to get that novel published and baristas don’t really make all that much.

Just about every strength has a shadow side that can be looked at as a weakness. We can live in the shadows and find ourselves complaining about what others would only dream of, or we can thank God for a spouse who is so strong in one area without always having to feel sorry for ourselves for enduring the flipside.

I don’t want to sound flippant, as I know some of you face serious marital challenges. Addictions, adultery, and abuse are ugly realities and it would be cruel of me to dismiss them. But if those aren’t present in your house, take this to heart: you’re probably better off than you realize.

Think about it. That thing that bugs you? I bet I could find a dozen spouses who wish their spouse did the very thing that frustrates you, if it came with the other side of your spouse’s strength.

Still want to trade?

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