When Jason and I were first dating, he took me to a local creek that winds its way through a narrow canyon. It’s idyllic there, perfect for conversation and a picnic lunch. We found a pebbled beach and spread out a quilt. After cold sandwiches and fruit, we inched close, gazing at each others’ faces. This is what you do when one of you grows up evangelical and the other Lutheran; you get close enough to touch, and then you stare.
Jason flashed a half-smile and breathed, “Wow.” I braced for one of those compliments that gave me goosebumps. “I never noticed,” he began, “how much hair people have on their faces.”
See, this man who became my husband is a sweet guy with no lack of guileless charm, but every once in a while, he says something like that. He was close enough to see my cheeks’ peach fuzz; I was now close enough to see his foot-in-mouth syndrome.
As chance would have it, we still ended up married. Maybe it had something to do with my thereafter purchase and religious application of facial waxing kits, or maybe it was because his utter cluelessness about his verbal slip-ups was endearing. After all, this guy who didn’t know a girl would be self-conscious about her peach fuzz was also the one who warmly thanked Siri for getting directions to the nearest Starbucks. Either way, that day out at the creek was just the beginning of our many tutorials in each others’ flaws.
The closer you get, the more flaws you see. It’s the Murphy’s Law of marriage. I soon learned that the way he slurps his food can make my hair stand on end. He learned that I get nasty under a deadline and still insist on procrastinating. The longer we’re married, the deeper we understand each other’s insecurities, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and weaknesses.
But there’s another law at play in marriages that work, I think. The closer you get, the more good you see. When you’re looking with the right lens, you’re at the best vantage point to see your partner’s patience and depth of character. You’ll learn to spot the enduring sense of humor and the superhuman strength. It’s not always easy to see it; there are days, months, even years when the good is shrouded by your focus on the flaws. But the good is there. Here’s how I spot it.
SEE HIM AS SINGLE
I once read some fantastic advice about how to gain a new appreciation for the clothes you have rather than spending money on new ones: “shop” your closet. Look at that two-seasons-old dress like it’s hanging on a rack in a well-lit shop and imagine yourself finding it. If you bought it once, chances are you’d buy it again. I’ve used the same mental trick with myself on my husband, and boy does he sparkle under those imaginary lights. Would you be attracted to this man if you were both single and you met him today? You chose him once—today, choose him again.
SEE HIM THROUGH YOUR KIDS’ EYES
My heart never goes pitter-patter as quickly these days as when I see my daughter light up under her daddy’s eyes. Take a look at your husband through your kids’ perspective. No doubt you’ll see a superhero, a gentle cuddler, a bedtime story aficionado, a strong shoulder to rest on. Their innocent gaze doesn’t see all those superficial flaws that don’t matter; they see the togetherness, the love, and the play. There’s nothing more attractive than a committed father.
SEE HIM HOW YOU FIRST SAW HIM
Remember those first glimpses when you thought there could be something there? Remember the flutters and the anticipation and the way his glance made you melt? Tap into those memories for a quick jolt back to the twitter-pated days of flirting, will-we-won’t-we, and daydreams. This always gives my romantic side a shot in the arm, which is a necessity during the hands-on, worn-out days of parenting young kids.
I married a flawed human being who makes mistakes, needs grace and points out my peach fuzz. My husband also married a flawed human being, and somehow that realization is exactly what we need to make this partnership work.