Are you a good partner?
Partnership is one of those skills that people assume they have until proven otherwise and, boy, oh boy, are people good at proving otherwise! We all understand the concept, but when it comes to execution, it can be a spectacular disaster.
Think of all the sports movies where the entire plot revolves around the team members getting over their differences, learning to trust each other, and winning the big game at the end. Think of all the police shows where two cops are forced to work together, start out hating each other, and finally at the end realize they have to work together to defeat the Bad Guy of the Week.
The struggle, drama, and final achievement of partnership is entertaining because it’s so very relatable. We see where the story is going, we see that if they’d just work together then everything would be better, and we cheer when the characters on the page or the screen finally wise up, cover each other’s flaws, and leverage each other’s strengths.
Well, how good are we at spotting the power of partnership when we are one of the characters and our life is the plot of the story?
Marriage brings together two people with different personalities, opinions, backgrounds, fashion sense, communication styles, temperaments, and much more. We were married three years before my wife learned I didn’t like cold pizza. She had to reflect deeply on our courtship and how such an earth-shattering revelation hadn’t surfaced before she’d gone past the point of no return!
The reality of marriage is that two very different people are expected to seamlessly interweave their lives overnight. We’re told that the two become one (Gen 2:24), which sounds wonderful and romantic, but in real life tends to be quite messy.
Like the straight-laced, by-the-book police officer and the streetsmart, wise-cracking detective who have to figure out how to work together by the time the credits roll, couples often start at very different places and it can be a struggle to end up on the same page.
Tara and I are so very different. We fell in love because I’m sensitive and romantic, and she’s smoking hot! There may have been other reasons, but it was a long time ago and I get to choose what I remember.
Anyway, we had a lot in common, like our Catholic faith and our readiness for courtship instead of just wanting to avoid loneliness. At the same time, we had a mountain of differences. She was fun and spontaneous (and still is). I didn’t handle surprises or changes to plans very well (and still don’t). She talked to her mom multiple times each day. I talked to my parents every few months. She really valued the Church’s teachings on secuality and morality. I was more interested in ensuring we all had a proper understanding of indulgences.
Did I mention she ate cold pizza and I didn’t? Could we be any more different???
Those first few years, I had a lot of growing up to do in the partnership department. Our differences bothered me. Our different perspectives led to conflict, mostly of the Cold War variety, because I’m not very good at getting my emotions into words. She kept turning my world upside-down! I’d settle into a routine and the next thing I knew we were moving to a different state or were pursuing pregnancy or were starting a homestudy for adoption or were trying pizza with cauliflower crust for dinner! It was chaos!
Actually, that’s not true, she’s never made me eat cauliflower crust. She does love me, after all.
I’m a slow learner, but as time has passed I’m coming full circle. The fun, faith-filled, spontaneity which attracted me to Tara in the first place has become one of the most dear parts of our relationship. I love her for the weird things she does that I don’t understand; because I simply can’t manufacture them myself. My life would be missing the random trips to local tourist destinations, which, being from North Dakota, are pretty life-changing, and the trip to China to bring home our son. My life would be missing the wait to go back there again to get the one waiting for us right now. Oh, and our three other kids, she’s basically responsible for them, too.
I mean, I helped. But they were her idea.
Without her, I’d still think turning off lights to save electricity actually would make me happy. I’d still think the point of saving money is to… look at it… or something (I never really knew what I’d do if I had any to look at).
The villain at the end of our action movie is passing through life instead of living it. That’s something I never could have done on my own. God gave me a partner perfectly suited to drive me crazy, in every sense of that expression, and who I could team up with to do incredible things.
To answer the opening question, I’m a pretty terrible partner, but I’m learning.
How about you?