My husband, Adam, likes to joke that throughout our entire dating relationship I was this close to kicking him to the curb. Just when he thought he was secure, I’d bring up a hesitation or concern, exposing that I just wasn’t as convinced about our relationship as he was.
A classic example of this occurred during a camping trip with Adam’s family. One evening the two of us took a quiet walk around the campground. As we walked under the stars I brought up my fears that maybe we were taking our relationship too fast. We had been dating for nine months and had talked about marriage almost as long, but I still had moments of doubt, not in Adam, but in myself. Could I trust my feelings for him? What if I was wrong? Adam didn’t get worked up, but calmly told me he didn’t buy it. He told me all the ways he knew that I loved him and he challenged me to trust myself. It was a moment that gave me more confidence that Adam was the right guy for me.
Little did I know, Adam had packed a ring along on that trip. The poor guy spent the next 36 hours sweating it out before he got down on one knee. He breathed a big sigh of relief when I said yes.
Just as he did that evening at the campground, Adam has continued to challenge me in our marriage. Whether it’s growing in self-confidence, learning not to overreact about the small things, or being more patient in just about everything, Adam challenges me to be a better person.
But marriage is a two-way street, so I also challenge Adam to grow. Just the other day we had a conversation about how he seemed distant. It turns out he was stressed about an unexpected project at work and instead of communicating his worries to me, he turned in on himself, appearing to be distracted and uninterested in home life. He knows he can tend to do this and was thankful that I had pointed it out. We talked about ways that he could communicate better and how I could help him feel less stressed.
If done in love, pointing out one another’s flaws isn’t a way to nag or nitpick your partner, but is instead an invitation to become better. As my imperfections are weeded from my life, I am able to grow into the type of wife and mother that I want to be and I am also able to love Adam better.
Most happily married couples say that as the years increase, so does their love for each other. But, it’s not time alone that does that. Time gives us the opportunity to grow, to become better people, and in turn become better lovers—but it’s our jobs to make those self-improvements happen. I think our ability to love and our efforts toward trying to be personally better go hand-in-hand. I love Adam more today than when we pledged our lives to each other and I’m also better person today than I was when I stood in front of that altar. But I couldn’t be a better lover without trying to be a better person: I can’t love him better without growing in virtue myself.
Before you think all this growth is sunshine and roses, it’s not. Just like a child goes through physical growing pains, there are emotional and mental growing pains as well. There’s the interior tug of war, the pushing and pulling of who you can be versus who you are. The whole thing can be pretty painful. I get so frustrated with Adam when he’s right. It takes time and energy to grow and change, and it’s humbling to admit when you’re wrong. But it’s in those maddening moments that I’m convinced more than ever that I married the person who’s just right for me.
Still, the pain and frustration is worth it. I know I’m better for it, Adam is better for it and our marriage is better for it. By challenging each other and growing into better people, we become better lovers, more united, more into one.