I already argued that the greatest place we can start aligning ourselves is with our own conscience. Once that’s underway and being appropriately prioritised, we can start looking outwards to others. I’ll explain the reasoning a little further on, but in short it’s my current opinion that one of if not the greatest thing we can do for others is to invite them to do the same thing we should be doing: ‘being conscience aligned’.
I emphasis this with three very important points: the first is that there’s a lack of authenticity involved if we’re inviting others to do something we’re not first doing ourselves; the second is just as important in that inviting others to do the same is probably the best thing we could do for them; the third is that we don’t need to be perfect to begin inviting others to join us in being more conscience aligned or bettering ourselves in general. I’ll delve into it further later on but in summary, I argue that helping people better connect to their own conscience is in most cases better than any other gift we can give them. It means it’s not about them aligning to our conscience and it’s definitely not about forcing or compelling anybody to do anything. It’s an invitation and one that we all would be better off intentionally receiving more often.
So, who are we inviting to join us? The second stakeholder I believe we should focus on is those connections and stakeholders that are closest to us; those that are most effected by our existence. Remember that we’re pursuing edification, which is about building from the inside out: outside of our being, who is closest to us?
If we’re trying to do and be good, these are they that are going to be most frequently or most positively effected by so doing and so being. Doing good for the general public, or those not close to you, is certainly not bad, but bypassing those who are, just doesn’t make long-term sense. Even when ignoring factors of loyalty or commitment etc. even mathematically speaking, there’s going to statistically be less chances for long-term positive interaction with those ‘further-distanced’ individuals, so I can’t help but think of it as forfeiting a kind of ‘compounding interest’ on one’s investments, amongst many other reasons, it’s less effective.
The individuals who are closest to us, are likely our family and more specifically, probably a spouse or partner. For this reason I believe that after conscience, the spouse should be prioritised above the rest. It’s unfortunate that I’m able to admit that despite believing this, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest I’m far from a prime example of this belief. Sufficiently prioritising your mother has been hard for me for countless reasons. I don’t justify any of them but if you wish to understand them, I’m confident you’ll already have a pretty good idea by the time you’re mature enough to read this book. To the extent I’ve failed, I do apologise for not being a better example, but simultaneously we can’t let our failures to apply a benchmark allow us to forfeit the benchmark itself. Despite my failures, my experience leaves me confident in the belief and as such I will continue to aim to exemplify the same and rest assured that the benefits of doing so will continue to be increasingly self-evident.
Now in what way we should go about prioritise our spouse, is another question. I don’t believe prioritising them is merely a matter of ‘spending’ resources on them but that one must also give consideration to how those resources are being spent. Experience has taught me that strictly “giving them what they want” or even “giving them what’s best for them” are both flawed objectives. Sometimes when we give people exactly what they want, they’re not edified. Sometimes when we give them exactly what they need, they’re uninterested and so remain unedified. It could easily be a mash-up of both, amongst other things, but whatever the case some ‘end-state-outcomes’ that should be prioritised include of course ‘edifying’ them and as such, keeping in the theme of edification’s ‘working from the inside out’, it’s my opinion that the best way to edify somebody is to help them edify themselves. Most ‘edifying experiences’ can’t be forced as much as they can be fostered, which means it’s about creating edifying environments, more than it’s about forcing outcomes.
That environment begins with example. ‘Example of what?’ you ask? Being conscious aligned, of course. If conscious alignment is the first place we should all be starting, than when it comes to effectively influencing others, exemplifying a being who effectively aligns themselves to their own conscience is the best example we can offer others. If our way of living or problem solving or achieving success is indeed effective and worth emulating, then the benefits of such should be self-evident to those who are honestly and sincerely observing us. If I’m correct in that ‘truth is self-evident to those who honestly observe’ then our spouse, more than anybody else, has the most opportunity to observe the truths we live, and benefit from that example. Once living a truth, we begin being more capable of discussing it with an authority and authenticity that’s just not accessible without living it first.
Something I realised very early on in my marriage to your mother was that most of the truths I was trying to pass on to her verbally just were not getting through. It didn’t matter how much I repeated them, reiterated them or tried to evidence them, there remained a Fort Knox level security around her mind that just couldn’t be bypassed without first getting her subconscious clearance and approval. Painful to say and even more painful to live, it remains a lesson I’m still being retaught it to this day: if there’s some truth I want to get through, there are certain conditions that first must be met, and example is just the first one. We must also love them and help them at least attempt to honestly align with their own conscience. Only when each of these three precursors are met, can I honestly expect her to be in a place where she will give serious consideration to something I want to say. Example, love, conscience, truth. In that order.
Loving someone while being a crappy example will always feel too hollow to be effectively influential. Expecting somebody to honestly engage their conscience with you around if they don’t sincerely feel safe and loved by you is unrealistic. Thinking that somebody who isn’t honestly engaging their conscience is going to be sufficiently prepared to receive truth, especially if that truth is conflicting to current beliefs, is foolish. It’s an elongated version of “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. It involves opening up and requires at least some degree of intentional vulnerability so as to allow those ideas and beliefs we hold to be tried and tested and if needs be, allowed to die off when they aren’t quite true/need to be replaced by better truths.
These are steps that we can walk other people through, if they’re willing, even if they don’t consciously understand them. Once again, the outcome isn’t guaranteed because it required the willingness of others, but also once again, the degree to which we can love and positively influence the people around us so as to help them reach a degree of willingness sufficient to engage with, remains heavily within our power. Especially to any individual who is truly ‘functional’, living with surplus and freely and consistently contributing to the lives of those around them. It really just becomes a matter of time.
As aforementioned, that willingness or ‘permission’ comes from her subconscious more than it comes from her conscience. If it was more conscious, I would theoretically be able to simply say “I want to tell you something important, can you please listen carefully?” but it just doesn’t work if these other factors aren’t first addressed. She might be willing to hear you say words, but that doesn’t mean she’s sincerely analysing the truth within those words. Despite how much we want others to be responsible for keeping themselves in a sufficiently healthy mental state where we can say what we want to them in the trust and hope it will be be honestly and sincerely received, it’s just too rarely the case. I bet a very tiny percentage of the world walk around on a day to day basis, constantly in a sufficiently edifying mental state that they can hear out any argument the people around them wish to deliver. It’s much more likely that the majority of those who can hear out a meaningful or weighty argument, and digest it in a sufficiently edifying way are people who first need to be mentally prepared before engaging in weighty debate. And whenever we’re the one who wants to be heard it’s foolish to expect others to instantly prepare themselves upon our demand.
For any wise person, it should be obvious that we also are amongst the “insufficiently prepared to hear truth” most of the time.
For these reasons, amongst others, there remains prep-work that must be done before we can honestly expect people to see ‘new/opposing truth’ from ‘new/opposing perspectives’. That prep work is about getting the listener in a place where they’re comfortable and willing to do so. As aforementioned, it can’t be forced, only fostered, yet despite such I remain convinced the probably of success is easily enough influenced so as to warrant the work required. Even without guarantees the formula is reliable enough to produce a very high likelihood of success. When the love precedes subsequent steps, they can genuinely feel that time spent with you is beneficial to them. Loving them genuinely from surplus helps ensure that they feel there’s no debt owed which helps them in turn more authentically and obviously feel that they’re better off after having spent time with you. This, when your recurring interaction with the individual, eventually demonstrates that the NEXT time (and each ‘next time’) they spend with you they’re already in a HELPFUL place, a positive attitude, an edifying spirit.
Example, love, conscience, truth. That order. If you want the best chance of truth delivery being received by somebody in honesty and sincerity, that person first needs to be willing to connect to their own conscience because that’s the only place we can honestly assess truth and compare it to the truths already housed. if we ever convince others of any truth, its going to be less due to a quality salesman approach and more due to how well that truth meshes with whatever truth they already know. we house our truth, or perhaps better viewed as ‘we access our truth via our conscience. Some may call it conscience, some call it God, some call it a soul, whatever you want to refer to it as, the individual needs to be aligned to it if they’re going to be capable of assessing any new truth, honestly.
They’re not going to do that in environments where they don’t feel safe and loved and they’re not going to consider our new truth with sincerity if it’s obvious we’re not applying or living that truth ourselves. Another important clarification is that this whole process isn’t about getting her (or others) to agree with us. It doesn’t mean they need to align with our world-view. Whether they do or not, the objective is helping her become capable of genuinely considering new/opposing truth and for that to occur, these steps need to come first.
Becoming aware of this required process is how your mother and I first began using our ‘truth wall’. The amount of time and energy utterly wasted constantly repeating the same arguments over and over again was such an obvious black hole of uselessness it was undeniably extremely painful and unhelpful. The greatest benefit might be summerised as a vent-fest however one would usually hope after venting they felt better and most of the time we did not. The discussions were far from satisfying and nowhere near edifying. Arguments were so painfully self-contradictory, inconsistent, irrelevant and just plain unhelpful, something had to change.
It became more obvious over time that the degree to which discussions were unhelpful fluctuated and despite the fact that the discussion could become so red-hot with absolutely no messages getting in or out of either party, that it was never a permanent state. Time, change and distractions were all ‘cooling’ tools which could help produce environments where the same arguments could be made with an enormously greater amount of acknowledgement and progress. Simply put, I grew tired of spending an enormous amount of energy using her own logic and previous arguments to assess subsequent logic and arguments and got sick of it going nowhere. Appreciating that there were recurring instances where she was highly function and we could delve more deeply and thoroughly through debate, these instances should be pulled from the ethereal world as best as possible and solidified in a corporeal state, as best as we could.
It began with pieces of card that we could write on. Pain cards, to be precise, the triple colour options you can get from Bunnings with the tearable edges. Each time Joleen made an argument that she otherwise contradicted, or each time she agreed with an argument of mine that she disagreed with at other times, I would write the argument down on a card, as simply as I could. Trying my best to keep the concept isolated and independent from other ideas, it would be reworded until both of us were happy that the statement, at least in isolation, was true. When we would agree, it would be blue-tacked to the wall. Over time we slowly added more and more ‘truths’ to our wall. Each time we engaged in heated arguments where I couldn’t get her to agree on things she otherwise would agree with, I simply wrote it down and when we once again returned that ‘higher functioning’ discussion time (which quickly became called ‘truth-wall’ time) I could re-introduce the concept, refine it as needs be until we could get it up on the wall. Truths would only go up on the wall if we both agreed that they were true.
This way when discussions grew heated and Joleen would return to ignoring/arguing against things she had already agreed with or simply arguing for ego-reasons instead of pursing truth, it became ridiculously easier to proceed through concepts as I could simply direct her to the REAL space in our house indicating the UNDENIABLE fact that she had already agreed with the concept. It did an insanely good job of annihilating utterly useless arguments, which previously had completely flooded our conversations anytime they grew weighted to any degree.
Also, because we both knew we had a chance to discuss our viewpoints in the future, it drastically helped to alleviate that clawing desire in both of us that said “this has to be addressed right now or it never will be”. Another important factor in the process of the truth wall was that I always let Joleen go first. Your mother always had a much greater need than myself to ‘feel understood’. I certainly also have the same need as I believe all people do to some extent or another, but hers was always much more evident than mine, in my opinion. When she didn’t go first she struggles to be sufficiently interested in my viewpoints to be worth sharing them, however if she’s gone first for whatever reason, she’s much more willing. Covey’s seek first to understand, and then be understood, accurately at play.
We didn’t have to agree with an argument for it to be made. You can argue anything you want at all. This particularly helped Joleen who admits that she commonly doesn’t really understand her own argument until she’s verbally made it and that the arguing process itself helps her clarify her thoughts. Me personally, I utterly hate that she would bother arguing anything she had not already fleshed out thoroughly in her own mind. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, how about presenting the idea as what it is, a seedling of an idea. Instead it’s common place for Joleen to fight, tooth and nail, for ideas she hasn’t even finished fleshing out. She has the ability to be extremely hostile defending concepts that she doesn’t even agree with by the end of the conversation. It’s so grotesquely painful. Yet it is our life, and this is how I’ve tried to deal with that.
Over time, our truth wall evolved into 3 parts: her arguments, mine, and those we agreed upon. This way we could track those arguments the other didn’t agree with but that we wanted to focus on for a time and sometimes return to. I also designated dates with degrees of conviction because as aforementioned, I absolutely hated how much energy I was forced to waste arguing against concepts Joleen didn’t even really believe herself in the long time, but concepts that she was ‘caught up in’ temporarily, without viewing them from a longer-term lens.
So we began a new cycle. We would use the truth-wall regularly, and hostilities would fade and life would go on with a seemingly decreasing need for the truth wall. We could converse about weighty matters more regularly without getting too riled up and we didn’t need every such discussion to come to any certain conclusion for us to be able to proceed with life. Eventually the arguments would become heated again and we would return to using the truth wall once more, then again things would calm down and so the cycle would go. I genuinely believe that a lot of good could be had in continually using truth wall when it seemingly isn’t needed, so as to ‘stay ahead of the problems’, but speaking honestly your mother and I always struggled to utilise it regularly if life was going relatively smoothly. Only when emotions got intense/particularly stressful did we return to it’s use. This might be a good thing but regardless, we at least have a tool we know when we can use to keep helpful dialogue open even in extremely difficult times.
For yourself and anybody else who feels like a ‘truth-wall’ might be helpful, let me recommend some starting concepts that could drastically help to get the ball rolling. Both parties should agree on minimising the damage caused by unhelpful arguments which in turn leads to a required commitment to regular helpful discussion (be it ‘truth-wall’ or otherwise). Both should agree to record ‘venting’ notes at the time they come up/present themselves as issues, and then kept for the next helpful discussion time, as opposed to being hashed out on the spot. This should be the case at least until such time as experience suggests the ‘hashing out’ isn’t causing more harm than good, at least most of the time. The ideal would be getting to a place where the example, love & personal conscience alignment are focussed on and prioritised by both parties regularly and consistently enough that you can basically hash out any weighty issue as it arises without it building contention in the home or between you. Make your arguments but don’t force it. You don’t need to force it. Put it down and let them pick it up if they think it’s valuable. If they don’t, you don’t need to make them. Truth is self-revealing. Truth is independent. Truth is self-testifying.
Let her fire refine you
I’m a massive believer in marriage. Unquestionably so. Yes, even after considering all of what I would classify as the ‘unnecessarily fiery challenges’ your mother has created for me over the years. Joleen has certainly been my life’s greatest challenge. Nobody has caused me even remotely close to as much pain as your mother has. Nobody has demanded such enormous amounts of energy for what too frequently feels like so little return and to do so with what also feels like so little interest in valuing the cost.
It’s foolishness to believe I’m not just as challenging or even more-so, but whatever the case I remain capable of being completely honest when I say that such experiences are one of the reasons marriage is ridiculously under-rated. So many people are still looking at marriage from such a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective that they genuinely can’t see that it’s ‘the self-less commitment to’, not ‘the forfeiting of’ the welfare of another that provides life’s most rewarding experiences. Marriage is a seed that you should plant selfishly yet can only grow selflessly.
The countless challenges themselves have each provided opportunity for me to better myself. Although I confess to having failed to effectively utilise far too many of those opportunities, they’ve been there and the times that I have been wise enough to utilised them have absolutely caused me to experience most of my life’s most meaningful experiences to date.
I remain confident that having a wife in general, can do wonders for decreasing self-centeredness, laziness, insensitivity and gratifying behaviours in general. Being married to your mother specifically, perhaps being a tad more fiery than the average, seems to have amplified that potential benefit, for me. The reality remains, that we are both imperfect people and we both share a responsibility in all of our problems and I’m telling you as black and white as I can right now: it does not matter who is most to blame. You probably already understand that you need to be willing to work hard for resolve, regardless of where problems come from. However a glorious key of wisdom you may not yet have obtained however, is that the less you are to blame, the more rewarding it can be when putting in the work.
Undoubtedly, once married yourselves, you will also end up having wasted too much of your life measuring where the responsibility lies most. However most of the time when measuring blame it’s got little to do with producing solutions and more to do with justifying inaction. Let this be your guiding line as to the helpfulness of measuring at all: If you’re decreasing your willingness to work, to carry the weight, to produce solutions, to own the problem, then measuring is likely more detrimental than helpful. If however, you can look inward and see an honest desire to take greater responsibility for the problem, bear up more of the weight that needs to be carried to fix problems and focus on solutions, you’re likely in a good place. From here you can likely see clearly enough to assess where the crux of the problem is, and where you should begin working for resolve. But remember this: solving a problem is rarely as important as problem solving. The process itself being more beneficial than the outcome due to the opportunity to self-improve and unify.
More than solving whatever the current problem is, effectively utilising the recurring process of problem solving itself, particularly together, is nearly always far more important. Each chance you get is an opportunity to work together, to evidence values and priorities, demonstrate love and in turn, fortify your relationship. Each time a serious marriage problem is resolved without utilising this process effectively, an extremely important opportunity has been lost. It’s also usually the case that bypassing each other to solve serious problems actually does more harm than good as one can’t forfeit the opportunity to grow together without it evidencing other things as a higher priority.
So whenever a serious problem presents itself, remember that maintaining and improving your capacity to resolve the problem together, is more important than solving the problem. Even if she’s the sole creator of your problems and completely to blame. Loving her is more important than fixing things, including her. If you have the energy surplus to both fix the problem and love her, love her first. If you don’t have the surplus sufficient to both fix the problem and love her, first spend what you have on loving her. If you don’t have the surplus sufficient to love her at all, spend what you have on repairing/improving your own function until you can once again love her. Once that’s done, then you can return to problem solving together or on your own if needs be.
So at the end of the day, even if she is entirely unwilling to answer for any of the problems, unwilling to carry any of the load, uninterested in producing any solutions, giving you absolutely nothing, remember this: I, your father, invite you, in that very moment, to mentally choose to carry it all. Both the work required to resolve the problem as well as and even more importantly: the work required to get you both back to a place where you both genuinely feel loved and can once again resolve problems together. Even if you honestly think she’s completely to blame. Choose to carry it all. Especially when it’s extremely hard to do so: physically kneel down, visualise yourself getting below it all, literally roll your shoulders as preparing and positioning to lift a mighty load, mentally brace yourself under it and physically stand up. Repeat as many times as required to solidify your own commitment.
Even if you could hypothetically be completely free of responsibility. Even when it hurts. Even when you’ve done it countless times before and even when she’s never done it at all. And perhaps above all, especially do it when it feels like it’s utterly, slowly, and painfully killing you to do so. In this context, yes, I want you to let it kill you. The harder it is to swallow that pride and lift, the more important it is to do so.
If you take this invitation seriously, if you begin lifting, especially when you feel justified in not, especially when you don’t want to, especially when you honestly and sincerely believe you haven’t enough strength to be able to pull it off, it is at this time that you will begin to see something incredible. The more times you do it and more importantly, the harder it is to do, the more clearly you will begin to see: the part of you that’s dying isn’t worth keeping. The ‘you that you were meant to be’ is actually housed within a whole lot of ‘you that you don’t actually need’ and that the immense pressure produced via the willingness to lift enormous loads, can start breaking through the garbage you carry within yourself, solidifying, purging, compressing, purifying and eventually presenting a superior, evolved and far more capable version of yourself.
This isn’t a feel-good-story. Although I don’t understand how it all works or exactly what’s occurring but this is indeed a real experience that I have been through on multiple occasions and nearly always scoped to ‘trying to respond well to immense difficulty’ especially when I felt my strength was so depleted that it was all focussed on ‘surviving well’ more than it was spent fighting back, or making progress or actually fixing whatever the current problem was.
When you chose to respond to difficulties in edifying ways, you become greater than you were. The more intense the difficulty, the more intense the change. Let it kill you, because if you hold fast to responding to all challenges in the best way you can, choosing edification no matter the difficulty, you will continue to be chiselled out of your ‘less than ideal-self.
Now, choosing to carry the problems alone, without carrying her, is not enough. Doing it just for yourself won’t cut it. It’s insufficiently honourable. As far as my understanding currently goes, it seems that honour is somehow a key factor in how you survive, both the problems and her. Without it, you won’t even survive your problems, let alone surviving her. You see, being willing to pay debts you do not owe to free others from their mental prisons, especially those in your stewardship, and most especially your wife, is an honest attempt at self-less love. It seems that it is the honour of self-less love being enacted that allows you access to life sufficient to survive bearing weight that is beyond your strength.
That access however, isn’t unlocked until we’re under the weight, we’ve offered all the strength we have and yet remain willing and committed to offering it all, even on an empty tank. It is only when we have nothing left but continue to dig as deep down inside ourselves as we can, even through the floor of our empty tank that we can find this well of energy and life, otherwise unknown to us, but at this point, suddenly opens and floods us. Again, I can’t explain how it all works but as far as my experiences with it have left my conceptualisation of it: it’s like a well that doesn’t belong to us, but remains accessible to everyone willing to love others to death. Meaning even when it’s killing you to do so. The well is limitless and it quickly fills your own previously empty tank, overflowing, pouring out into your whole being and giving life to every part of you it touches, making you stronger, cleaner, more capable and prepared to carry on.
I suspect it’s always there because it’s something I’ve been able to re-access on multiple occasions when similar criteria seems to be met. I also suspect it doesn’t belong to me but to all who qualify for its access because I’ve found that there are countless people in this world who have had similar experiences: Chosen to live by being willing to carry death for others. Willing to wear burdens that are greater than they knew they could carry, willing to lift challenges they didn’t know they had strength to survive, willing to lighten the load of others etc. For others, this experience might have come by helping their child, some transformed by it when saving a mate, some remoulded simply by responding to a random crisis they felt completely unprepared for. As such, I suspect that many people who have experienced the same thing, have also done so in similar circumstances. For me, it has definitely been due to your mother.
For these and many other reasons, I think there’s a huge gaping hole in the all too common arguments of qualifying the continuation of marriage based on personal gain or happiness. It’s grotesquely common, in my opinion, that people feel justified abandoning their own commitments to others because ‘it just doesn’t make me happy anymore’. It’s strangely ironic because I can honestly say from my own experience that the best parts, the greatest personal gains, and the happiest moments don’t come from selfishly abandoning the commitment the others it actually comes from choosing to honour the commitments, particularly when extremely difficult to do so.
If the marriage commitment you made was to love and support them ‘until it doesn’t make you happy anymore’ then sure, you’re probably justified in ending the agreement. But the reality is that 99% of people who get married are either doing it forever or at least ‘until death do they part’. If you’re not willing to honour that kind of commitment, don’t get married yet, or at least not using those words. Use words that you’re actually willing to honour.
I don’t think the answer is in people making smaller relationship commitments, although that should certainly be considered. Experience tells me that the primary benefit that’s being lost is due to people not honouring the commitment once it’s made. In a very real sense, commitments are supposed to be ‘beyond us’ that’s kind of the whole idea behind them. If we only commit to what’s already achieved there’s no room for growth. The answer isn’t abandoning commitments but taking them seriously when you make them and honouring them even when difficult to do so.
Yes it can be extremely difficult to do right by somebody who you feel isn’t doing right by you. But doing that exact thing creates experiences that just aren’t achievable through other means. Marriage is daily chance for us to engage with those exact experiences enough times and with enough intensity that when we are sufficiently committed to honouring our promises, we do eventually start to genuinely see that our partner isn’t the villain, we’re far from the hero, and most seemingly insurmountable challenges can extremely quickly become insignificant once put into a slightly broader perspective. Without the daily opportunity that marriage provides to exercise prioritising eternal commitment to the welfare of another, most chances to engage with these experiences are lost.
100 100; not 50 50
For the same reasons discussed above as well as many others, your capacity, not willingness, nor anything she does at all, should be your limiter. If you’re unwilling to contribute 100% of what you can to your marriage, you’re most likely too focussed on yourself and foregoing golden experiences. If however, you genuinely have no surplus to contribute to your marriage, then you’re justified to first refocus on improving personal capacity until you’re once again functional enough to contribute. Nobody can actually demand of you more than you are honestly capable of giving. This includes employers, friends, and yes, even your wife and even the universe at large. You can’t give what you don’t have, even if that displeases others. For this reason you’re not actually required to do all things or be all things for all people, even if they want you to and even if it would be great if you could. It is for this exact reason, that you only actually ever have to work from your surplus: what you have to offer without sacrificing your own function. It does need to be an honest account of your surplus, but if you are being as honest as you can about what you have to give, and give it, you have done your part. You have done your 100%.
You’re allowed to and should take the time to ensure what you contribute is helpful.
If you can’t contribute without becoming dysfunctional, you’re not being helpful.
If YOU can’t be helpful, YOU are dysfunctional: You shouldn’t contribute but should instead prioritise correcting your own dysfunction first.
What you contribute therefore must come from your surplus, not from your function. Be responsible for maintaining your own function and the resulting surplus it provides. Then be willing to offer 100% of what you can, when needs be.
This is what 100 100 means: you’re both willing to contribute all you can.
Dialling back from 100 is strictly a measure of your willingness, not your capacity, or anything to do with what she’s offering. Her 100 is completely separate from your own, following these exact same rules. For these reasons, if you can completely take care of a problem on your own, you should be willing to do so, independent of how much she’s contributing. Those who condition their willingness to contribute based on the willingness of their spouse, are forfeiting enormous potential for personal growth, countless opportunities to solidify bonds and immeasurable returns on investment.
It is precisely when our spouse isn’t contributing that it is often the ideal time to do so ourselves. People stop contributing when they feel they no longer have the surplus to do so. This means they’re focussed on more important things like spending what little surplus they have left on maintaining their own function. If they’re doing so honestly then they’re struggling but in a good place so we should help. If they’ve genuinely got messed up priorities then they’ll be feeding their own dysfunction which doesn’t help either of you, so again, we should help. Don’t condition your contribution to her behaving in a sufficiently appropriate way. Ransoming spousal commitment is a negative-sum game.
Using our surplus to free another from dysfunction is one of the greatest ways we can love each other. This does an immeasurably greater amount of good than contributing surplus to those who already have a surplus. It may seem obvious to say that when we are dysfunctional, we’ve run out of the energy required to maintain even our own function and yet our default response to the dysfunction of others is often ignoring them, or cutting them off, or sending them away and refusing to help when in fact that’s when they need the help the most. When our spouse isn’t contributing is precisely when our own contributions can do us both the greatest amount of good. Once freed of dysfunction, they return to a place they can comfortably continue contributing, which makes life better for themselves as well as everyone around them, including us. Willingly offering surplus can free the dysfunctional.
Those who have been lovingly freed of dysfunction, especially if repeatedly so, are much more likely to join you in sustaining 100:0 commitments. Again, that outcome is not guaranteed, but that absolutely does not mean it’s not worth pushing for and the probability of success is much more highly influenced by you, than you realise.
50 50 doesn’t work. Those who believe marriages are fifty fifty are likely those who are overly focussed on justice: tending to offer themselves a great deal of leniency and understanding when reviewing their own failings, yet believe the solution to decreasing the faults of others is as simple as harsher penalties. I’m more than happy to argue how unjustified we all are, who are born into this world, but I don’t wish to do so here. Suffice it to say that none of us are faultless and we all have needed more than ourselves to even survive, let alone live and thrive. If we all only received what we honestly deserved I suspect many of us would be in for quite a shock.
Due to our imperfections we’re never really going to be able to accurately assess either our own contributions or those of our spouse, without bias. We’re going to base both sides on our own value system which means we’re going to over-value our offering and under-value theirs. We’ll justify slacking off ourselves anytime we feel like our partner isn’t pulling their weight. Any time we make a significant contribution we’re allowed to be offended if our spouse isn’t ready and able to make the same offering. If we’re anything less than 100 than at one point or another we’re going to be waiting for her to fill that gap before we’re willing to contribute more. This doesn’t work. It evidences one’s own dysfunction because if her contribution then becomes a part of what you need to continue functioning and contributing.
A commitment I made to your mother many years ago and have repeated to her numerous times is that independent of whatever she does, I remain completely responsible to get myself back to a place where I can love her freely and not ransom affection. Now that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It doesn’t mean there haven’t been countless times I’ve needed a lot more time and space and distraction than many would deem sufficient. It have never gone back on that commitment through and alongside ‘air conversion’ it might be amongst the greatest contributions I’ve made to our family. I’m confident that it is heavily because of such commitments we’re still a family today. Sticking to them has allowed your mother and I to repetitively return to a place where we can have helpful conversation, process what we need to process together, and live on, even after the worst of arguments. No matter how ignorant or blind or insensitive or hostile we have deemed each-other to be, there remains a repeating place in time where everything and anything can be addressed despite how impossible it seems in the heat of the moment.
Certainly far too many marriages and families have slowly starved to death while everyone awaits each other to contribute more or apologise first. Don’t get caught in the bottomless sinkhole that this mentality offers. It’s like your both on a slowly sinking boat that’s drifting from shore: you’re both refusing to paddle back when just one of you could save you both. Generally speaking, I don’t think you can get to the point of divorce or hating each other without both parties choosing dysfunction, regularly. If even one person commits to being helpful, returning to function and continually contributing, they’ll eventually have contributed surplus sufficient to deal with the dysfunction enough to restore functional dialogues and environments. The more functional a person is, the more capable they are of ‘dealing with’ other people; it also makes that person more easily to deal with. Ransoming even 1% of your commitment to your spouse makes your contributions dependant, therefore ransoming your own function to your obviously biased interpretation of a sufficiently satisfactory contribution from your spouse. 99:1 doesn’t work. Fifty fifty does not work.
Remembering that edification is about becoming more capable of being good: I give it as my current opinion that marriage, perhaps more than anything else in life, provides some of if not the greatest opportunities to become more capable of being good. In no other environment can you benefit so much from serving another. They’re with you all the time that every improvement you make into their life directly improves the quality of your own. It’s absolutely chock-a-block of opportunities to better oneself and be better off for it.
Let me share some of the small and simple but powerful ways I’ve learned to contribute to your mother, particularly when difficult to do so due to my own dysfunction or at least very short supply of surplus. I’ve always been of the mentality that grand gestures and massive public displays of affection, although obviously not bad, rarely compensate for day to day failings. Being helpful, considerate and kind each day, in the little ways one can, contributes more to the welfare of others than sporadic grand gestures. If you’re going to get good at one of the two, I highly recommend getting good at the small things, and not only just because that’s all you’ll have when you’re running on empty.
The first and perhaps the best, is to be breathe for her. If you have nothing left to offer, try to at least be as present as you can, and continue to intentionally breathe, for her. I don’t remember exactly when it was that I first conceptualised this idea, but I do vaguely remember one of the earliest instances of practicing it where it became very obvious how effective and beneficial it could be. As best as I can remember it, it was at a very difficult time and despite the way my world objectively was, as far as I could subjectively see it, I had been repetitively offering her kindness and helpfulness to the best of my ability and she was repetitively responding to those offerings with hostility, anger and venting. My surplus was diminishing extremely fast. She had a hole in her and demanded it be filled using parts of me. She had no appreciation for how much energy I was putting into each sentence, each word, to remain helpful, accurate, truthful, unembellished, so as to at least not make things worse than they were while she seemed to exercise no restraint whatsoever. She was so irredeemably bitter, there was nothing that could be said that would be helpful.
I stepped away again as I had finally learned to do at times when she remained insistent on gratification, the unfillable void. I was pacing between our tiny back yard and our even tinier dining room, once again floundering in the hostile conundrum I had been frequenting far too often of late. After a very large amount of trying to mentally digest it all, I came to a number of profound realisations. One of them was that leaving when I had run out of surplus was sometimes a good thing, but staying even when I had zero surplus, could sometimes be even better. You see, I would normally leave because I had concluded Joleen was doing no good and I had no energy left to do good, so leaving at least gave us time to digest somewhat and return, which it did.
However I was always benefiting from that time apart much more than your mother was. If she was stuck on gratification, she would too often use that time to simply churn and fester and be no better off. What I realised was, if I could stay functional enough to just remain present, even when I had nothing good to give, if I could told my tongue and be quiet, there remained for her a place, a space, a time where she could ‘unload’ and free herself at least to some degree, of her own dysfunction. If I could remain willing to stay, something I wasn’t previously doing, I could offer her something she hadn’t previously been getting from me, a companion who remains with her through her challenges, even when in my own opinion, she’s entirely her own challenge. In the realisation itself I also acquired a confidence that I didn’t previously have: that if I stayed, if I held my tongue, closed my eyes, just listening, just breathing, I could survive it. I could survive without breaking, snapping, exploding, but that in order to do so, what little I could offer needed to be more for her than for me.
Previously, intentional breathing was about keeping my own headspace in check. Suddenly, I realised I could breathe for her. I saw an image in my mind where she would be unloading her ‘pain’, her ‘frustrations’, her ‘dysfunction’ into the air around her, resonating instability, illness, chaos etc. in her pursuit for correction, improvement, resolve etc. but that if I could stay in that space, if I could breathe every bit of that air into myself, through merely a willingness to do so, I could then breathe it all back out, better than it was: creating a clean, filtered, functioning, calm, helpful atmosphere. I didn’t need to do or say anything else. If I could remain present and willing to breathe for her, a number of amazing things could happen. I could better survive the onslaughts. Joleen could vent until she truly felt done, until she was out of breathe, and in turn ‘experiencing’ closure in a way she wasn’t previously, due to my leaving.
Something even more amazing to me was that it genuinely felt like not only the ‘air/energy’ conversion was actually taking place, but that with each and every single breathe, it was bettering me in the process, it was edifying me, improving my own capabilities. It wasn’t draining me like I thought it would at all, but that it was indeed somehow fuelling me. The willingness to wear the wrath and pain, the chaos and dysfunction, turned me into some kind of energy converter, increasing my own capacity to do more of the same as well as refuel my own surplus so that I could once again contribute helpfully.
I don’t remember ever having experienced anything like it previously, but I have certainly experienced it many times since. I know it sounds silly, or can come off as cheesy, particularly because I honestly don’t understand the physics or chemistry or biology of what it is that’s actually occurring but I remain capable of being able to honesty say that the process itself, is real. It’s accessible. It’s repeatable. Somehow, I think every human being has the capacity to be a ‘positive energy converter’. That in the face of great difficulties we can ‘engage’ with this very experience through a willingness to convert the bad into good, to whatever extent we can, especially when it’s for other people. So much so that I do sincerely wonder if it’s even experienceable when one’s only doing it for themselves. If nothing else, we can breathe, and when we can manage to intentionally do so for others, we can be edified in that process alone.
Another is to pick up as you go. Picture yourself as someone who can be trusted to always make any and every circumstance they find themselves in, at least a little better. I’m convinced it’s more than a wholesome idea but it’s a commitment that if taken seriously will pay greater dividends than century old investments. Forget giant clean up efforts, I’m not talking about clean up Australia day, I’m talking about clean up every day. Don’t worry about doing everything, just worry about responding to the opportunities as they present themselves. I’m not even talking about going out looking for opportunities (yet). Each time you notice even the smallest of things to clean up, lift, improve, fix etc. especially the smallest of things, do them on the spot. If it’s a good thing to do, do it. If it’s a good thing to do and it only takes a tiny amount of energy to do so, even better, do it quickly. Pick up as you go.
Although I do literally mean the rubbish that you find around the place, no matter who put it there, I also mean the emotional or mental rubbish. Build the habit of responding well to small negativities. Lift up as you go. I also mean mean the ‘pick-me-ups’/lift-me-ups’ when there’s no rubbish at all. In the same way you spot a bit of trash on the stairs as you’re walking up, or a can left beside the bin as you walk by, a flicker of a thought enters your mind: ‘it’ll only take a second, just do it’. In the exact same way, even when the world is calm and no dramas are present, a similar flicker of a thought will enter your mind: ‘tell her you love her’; ‘Say sorry for that thing’, ‘yes even if she forgot about’; ‘say thanks’; ‘nice pants, smack her ass’; ‘help her with that thing she can absolutely do herself and will undoubtedly explicitly tell you that ‘she can do it herself’, the very moment you begin helping her’, ‘while you’re getting two baked goods for yourself at least get one for her’, ‘no she likes savoury more than sweet’, ‘no don’t let how much she devours sweets sway your decision here’, etc. If it’s a good thing to do, do it. If it only takes a moment, even better. Lift as you go.
A particular time that this is extremely important is when there’s residual tension or resentment between you for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s only a tiny amount but it can be enough to justify inaction when that ‘flicker of a thought’ comes by. Don’t let your ego stop you from being good. Don’t let it win. Don’t let yourself habitualise ignoring that little voice that encourages you to be more good to your spouse, especially when recent arguments or contention or anything she’s done is influencing you otherwise. To any extent you do, both of you lose because of it. Especially when it’s hard to do, do the little things as willingly as you can. Be somebody who improves every situation he’s put in.
In my opinion, no big gifts, parties, holidays or the like are going to contribute more to the people around you than mastering picking up and lifting up, as you go. If you can make sure that every interaction you have with everyone and everything is one where you give more than you take, even if only a very small amount, you’ll come to see the world in a whole new light and a way that our whole world has the ability to lift together.
The last ‘present love’ is to learn to say sorry as often and as freely as it might require. If it’s harder for you to say “I apologise” than it is to say sorry, do so instead. Don’t ransom your own progress or the progress of others for the sake of your ego. Ego isn’t worth it. The real value in ego comes through its repetitive death. You have an infinite amount of ‘sorry’s available and the only thing should be limiting you is sincerity. When you struggle to say sorry sincerely, say it anyway but say it as sincerely as you can. Understand you don’t need to apologise for anything good you’ve done. Understand there’s no harm in apologising for ‘bad outcomes’ whether you wanted them or not. Understand there’s no harm in apologising for potentially being wrong even if you can’t see how such might be the case. You can apologise for bad caused ‘to the extent’ you’re responsible. etc. Others complaining about insincerity or how easily you apologise shouldn’t dictate if you apologise or not. Your willingness to to be helpful, change for the better and be a part of the solution, should be your guide. Be honest and earnest, but still promptly apologise. Make it an extremely commonly heard thing, because undoubtedly if you’re anywhere near as mortal as me, you’ll have reasons to apologise daily.
Sorry Neo: you’re not the one
I absolutely hate the enormous amount of time and energy wasted by people arguing for fate instead of acknowledging and taking responsibility for their own existence and commitments. I’m well aware that many won’t agree with me, but as far as my life and calculations have led me, leaning on any fate-based ideas as reliable life philosophy is a painfully stupid game. ‘She was the one for me’, ‘he married the wrong person’, ‘it was/wasn’t meant to be’, ‘we’re just not compatible’ etc. Compatibility indicates little more than how easily you’ll enjoy each other, until it’s not as easy anymore. There is of course some degree of truth behind these arguments because ‘all things by degrees’, however any time that somebody is using fate-based arguments as justifications for inaction or voiding themselves of responsibility, they’re just fooling themselves and doing everyone involved a disservice.
Let’s try to look at life a little more objectively, mathematically, for a moment. There are billions of people in the world, of which let’s assume we meet 100,000 of them in our lifetime and maybe 1% of those are people that we find ourselves genuinely attracted to. Let’s say 10% of those people also consider you attractive enough to entertain as well, so theoretically speaking, right or wrong, ideal or miserable mistake, you might have 100 people in your life that you could come to an opportunity to seriously choose to commit to. Are people getting divorced or wishing they didn’t make that commitment to a particular person? Absolutely. At painfully astounding rates. So does it mean out of the 99 options you lucked out and made the mistake of marrying the 1 wrong choice out of 100 potential options? Or perhaps is it a little more likely that the hundred are all standing on a spectrum of best to worst ‘potential life partners’ where some are more likely to make you happy than others and some more likely to make you miserable over time? Do you really think that even magically connecting with the best 1 out of 100 is going to award you a pain-free relationship or life? You think they’re sufficiently perfect that you’re not going to occasionally rub each other the wrong way or that perhaps she’s functional enough to account for all of your own dysfunction that you won’t be required to account for yourself and get to work? No. Surely perfect compatibilities requires two perfect people and a roll of the statistical probability dice indicates that’s not going to be the case for either of you. You’re both some degree of incompatible and some degree of compatible. All things by degrees.
Wherever your final choice ends up on that ‘probability of marriage success’ for you, don’t forget you’re on the exact same spectrum for them. If they’ve genuinely made a mistake by marrying you, does that mean you are, were and always will be a bad partner? Or perhaps does it mean you’ve got failings like everybody else, but that you can still choose to function and contribute to life independent of your failings? Why does it not mean the same for them? Why are you wasting any energy debating a commitment already made, when the entirety of that energy should instead be spent on honouring the commitment?
Where does wondering ‘what could have been’ get you? Do you think the fate of your relationship is set in stone from the beginning and bad outcomes are merely due to a lack of sufficient honesty prior to marriage? Is it because you never actually loved each other enough? Is it because you didn’t sufficiently voice your fears before marriage and if you had you both would have known the relationship was doomed for destruction? No. All garbage. Every single joule of energy you invest into such beliefs is like casting a vote for selective ignorance. It’s not going to help you. It certainly won’t edify you. You’re investing into a void, which means you’re gratifying the hunger.
You, my sons, are unquestionably flawed. You’re 50% biologically me, so even if your mother is as flawless as she sometimes might seem, my failings indicate you’re going to be far from the mark yourselves, apologies, but suffer in your jocks. Just like every other imperfect person on the planet, intentionally suffer with a good attitude, and such things can eventually work in your favour. As it would require a perfect person to be ‘the one’ which neither you nor anybody else is, the question therefore is always a matter of degrees: are they kind enough, smart enough, healthy enough, faithful enough, compatible ‘e n o u g h‘, that you’re willing to forgive all of her gaps indefinitely, prioritise working on yourself indefinitely, while you both travel together, helpfully, on the endless road of improvement.
No matter where either of you stand ‘on the spectrum’ for each other, failings can be addressed and appropriately managed with enough work. When you’re both being honest, the amount of work required is often far less than you both predicted, but it will seem in most cases insurmountable, until you both get to work at which point you’ll realise it’s just like every other problem, added to the infinite list and manageable to the extent you both keep your commitments to truth, yourselves and each other. Some people are more work than others, unquestionably. Those who waste energy playing the ‘re-guessing game’ of determining if the one you already committed to was or wasn’t ‘sufficiently compatible’ are in fact demonstrating their own inability to stick to their own commitments much more than they’re coming to any clearer picture of how imperfect their partner was in the past.
Here’s something else I want to highlight as brightly as I can. “The signs were everywhere”, “I saw it coming”, “red flags from the start”, “wasn’t it obvious?” etc. And all such comments are more of the same. Fate-based ego pandering. In case nobody has explicitly said it to you yet, both those who indefinitely sustain their marital commitments and those who revoke them, had plenty of red flags. Just as both successful and failed marriages had the same green flags, evidencing potential success. Even the exact same flags in most cases, I bet. Bell curve isn’t called normal distribution for no reason. Stop thinking you, your partner or your marriage is the exception. It’s very unlikely true. You’re most likely facing the same kind of struggles most marriages do.
What happens however is after people have committed their minds to the life or death of their marriage, they prioritise focussing on one colour and choose to ignore the other until they’re completely forgotten, leaving behind whatever picture it is they want to see. Unfortunately, the more frail the ego in failure, the more ‘picture-perfect’ the reality that their marriage was doomed from the start. Fortunately, the more frail the ego in success, the more ‘picture-perfect’ the reality that their marriage was destined to flourish from the start. Either way, if you’re going to let your ego blind you to anything, let it blind you to the failures of others instead of your own. We all need to consider ourselves ‘most to blame’ more often than we realise and perhaps even more importantly, be committed to doing the repair work, completely independent of who is to blame. You and everyone around you will fare much better.
If we’re struggling, the primary problem in nearly all cases is going to be our own dysfunction, so don’t bother wasting energy trying to pinpoint theoretical alternative realities. If you sliders want to make sure you don’t spend your whole life being lost: set these home co-ordinates right now: Apologise, forgive, be willing to do all the repair work yourself, and live on.
Even if she theoretically and objectively is the entirely the problem, your job doesn’t change at all. You keep yourself functional enough so that you can continue helpfully contributing to her so that you can both resolve that problem just like every other problem, ‘enough to keep living’. Solving problems never trumps loving people.
The reality is that functional people can sustain investing into their own commitments indefinitely. They understand how to create their own surplus independent of what others are doing and manage their contributions to ensure helpfulness without reverting to dysfunction. If you can’t sustain your own commitment to your spouse and are blaming them for it, you’re fooling yourself. If you’re thinking ‘they’re too dysfunctional’ for you to be able to fill the gap, then you’re not appreciating that you only need to offer what you can. If you’re not managing that, such is an indication of your own dysfunction. Despite how dysfunctional others might appear, the reality is that we all fluctuate in function on an ongoing basis. There’s going to be both times your spouse is more functional than you as well as times you’re both functional enough to reconnect, forgive, repair damages and move on. The only question is if you’re sufficiently committed to your own function enough to utilise those opportunities when they arise.
All that’s theoretically required is for one person to be functional enough to bare the presence of another. If that’s possible then it’s only a matter of time until both parties reach a functional state. If you can’t get along with another person it’s because neither of you are functional enough.
Now I don’t believe a commitment to be ‘functional’ is sufficient for anybody who wants to remain at least functional. Due to human failings that goal post will leave us wanting. Instead the best approach is to aim at being ‘as functional as possible’. As ‘full of truth’ as we can be so that we can wear any dysfunction of others around us. Now when both parties of a couple are willing to wear the entire cost of both themselves and their partner, that’s when the real power of marriage begins to reveal itself.
Spouse qualification takes place prior to marriage. If you’ve decided to make that commitment, you’ve decided she qualifies. Any and all energy you invest into trying to re-qualify her after the fact, is self-sabotage and just stupid. Whether you were right or wrong to marry, you’ve made that choice already and how you should be responding to new/unexpected problems doesn’t change even if you did make a mistake. Yes of course there are exceptions but the reality is that in this world more and more people are thinking themselves the exception in more and more cases and statistically speaking, it’s just not possible. If you want to adopt a good general rule of thumb: the vast majority of people who think of themselves as the exception, are wrong.
Here’s some more common arguments I loathe to hear: “I can’t stand her but she’s great with the kids”, “he’s a crappy husband but a good person”, “We made a mistake being together but he’s still a good dad” etc. When these are the arguments one is debating to determine if they should stay with somebody or not, they can only be made by self-centred narcissists. Why do I think that? All such comments follow the same flawed logical: “The individual fails as a spouse, but has other qualities potentially sufficient to redeem them and warrant my continued commitment”. This is obviously the calculation being made and what’s unfortunately insufficiently obvious for most of the world who continue making such ignorant arguments is that all of these can only be made by individuals who either consciously or subconsciously (and probably the latter) fare themselves qualified as a spouse. Ironically, the moment you’re spending more energy questioning the quality your spouse instead of actually qualifying yourself, you’ve insta-failed the spouse quality test.
It is precisely when you don’t think you’re the problem, that you most likely are the problem. Why? Because people who aren’t the problem are spending their energy qualifying themselves: helpfully contributing, not wasting everyone’s lives feeding the egotistical assumption that their a sufficient spouse while their partner is not. If you ever hear anybody making these kind of arguments, most especially yourself, kindly remind those involved of the underlying assumptions that have to take place to warrant such a debate. In nearly all cases, the moment someone begins seriously questioning the quality of their spouse for the purpose of ransoming their own commitment to them, they’re ironically unqualified to do so.
All such debates are more than justified prior to marriage. If you haven’t made the commitment yet, no betrayal is taking place. The moment you have solidified that commitment though, it’s not possible to try and re-qualify your spouse without betraying your own conscience, attacking your own function. Ransoming your own contributions to the marriage based on your (probably ridiculously) flawed valuation of your spouses contributions is again a losers game. It can’t come without losing at least some of your own function. This is what losers do, the ‘losing cycle’: constantly betraying one’s own conscience by blaming others for the holes in themselves when they should be building and proving themselves, then when that just enlargens the holes they continue blaming others further and the cycle can continue indefinitely. We must work from the inside out.
Real husbands and wives, edifying husbands and wives are committed to being so far beyond basic functioning that their own function and contributions to the marriage and family are as completely independent of their spouses contributions as they can be. What they put out is independent of what others are putting in. Obviously the reality of life acknowledges it’s easier and more likely to contribute more when you honestly feel the spouse is doing the same but even when you honestly feel that they’re not you refuse to ransom your own contributions. You refuse to allow the stagnant death of bitterness and pride to imprison you.
No, you’re definitely not “the one” for her. You’re not the 1 in 100 that’s optimally probably to produce her happiness. You don’t need to be and the bigger the gap between you and the real one, the greater the opportunities to invest in her, resulting in an even better relationship than one that required no or little investing. This includes both what you offer in kindness and what you withhold in bitterness or anger.
Each thought that says “stuff closing the garage door, she can do it” as you drive off to work, is immediately binned. “I do the kids breakfast every day, it won’t kill her to do it once or twice” is quickly killed. “I’m not going to kiss her goodbye/hello, she never initiates the same for me” isn’t allowed to survive. Any thought that entertains the idea that you’ve done enough and she hasn’t is immediately acknowledged as gratifying death. Unhelpful to both her and you. Every ounce of energy invested into starving that death, will strengthen your relationship. Feeding that enmity benefits nobody in your family, including yourself. It is not edifying. You might think you’re saving energy by not investing into her with kindness, but the energy you saved has just been spent gratifying yourself, if you don’t invest it in starving the gratification. Yes, in case you forgot, that means feeding your own death. It’s not actually ‘energy saved’, you’re not better off. Get your head right, offer your gift as honestly as you can, and move on, if the only gift you can offer is not making things worse, good, offer it with kindness and move on.
Independent of what she offers each day, if you are unable to give a full days honest work and invest into your spouse and your family, and the rest of your world as required, she is not the problem. The husband who complains about his spouse draining him of the energy required to do anything isn’t prioritising properly. He who is prioritising properly is continually building function and can deal with her drain and then plenty more. Maybe not all the time every day, but the self-care is there so that if it’s not at least most of the time than it is at least an increasing quantity. He must learn to be increasingly functional and if he’s wise, an effective converter. The latter being an undeniably ground-changing benefit: those who can convert negative energy into positive energy while improving themselves in the very process, are definitely the kind of people we should all aim to become or at least surround ourselves with until then.
Despite wanting to ensure she fixes her problems instead of endlessly complaining about them, he acknowledges he’s not responsible to fix her problems but to be someone capable of regularly giving her an edifying place where she can fix her own problems in her own due time and even if she wastes those opportunities despite how much they cost you to provide, you remain committed to your own edification and therefore continually, repetitively, you remain able to return to a place where you can provide that edifying space again and again and again, forever. Your capacity to repetitively offer her a genuinely helpful self-help-work-shop is in no way dependant on her ability to effectively utilise it. Even if she wasted it again and again, you offer it from surplus, never function. When you start running low on surplus, that’s your problem, that you own and correct and live on.
Realise that your role, your responsibility in this context isn’t to do anything but provide her that place. You can completely disagree with her and the entirety of her messed up logic, and keeping that to yourself initially, it is to be delivered to her in as delayed and tiny bite-size pieces as are required for her to indefinitely remain convinced your priority in that place is her welfare and not your pride. The reality is that she’s quite probably more functional than you, so when you’re both in a good place you can begin unloading it all starting at the biggest problem, however the priority always remains to prioritise the quality of the work-shop. If it just turns into your own venting or if you’re not actually being helpful, then that once again needs to be reprioritised with all else put on hold.
Learn to convert. Hold her and intentionally breathe in her troubled, anxious, nervous, hostile, bitter, hateful air. Absorb it all with every long, slow, intentional breath and convert it into peace. Neutralise it into steady, constant, reliable energy. Stabilise it into clear-minded, rational, organised reasoning. Once you can do that with your touch and breath, Then and perhaps only then, might be capable of starting to do the same with your actual words. The moment she begins to feel otherwise, revert once more to being silent, taking notes and just breathing. Once again offering her only intentionally helpful breath. An environment where if nothing else your words and actions aren’t making it worse while your breathing is making it better.
Most of us aren’t going to be Neo for our Trinity: ‘the one’ that does nothing but free our spouse from their own matrix of problems. It’s painfully mathematically improbable that we’re even the best 1 out of 100 potential partners for her. What’s much more likely is that our spouse is going to be one of our life’s greatest challenges. The commitment you make to her isn’t ever going to be the thing that’s griefing you, even though that’s exactly how it looks sometimes. Freeing yourself of her or your commitment to her is not what’s going to let you fly. Don’t believe that gratifying self-centred lie. She is not the problem. Your inability to honour your own commitments is much more likely the problem. Ridiculously more likely. She might well feel like a lead weight Doug Butabi, but effectively utilising the resistance she provides is exactly what will enable you to fly to heights you never would have even dreamed of, without her. I’m not being dramatic. I’m not exaggerating. I’m telling you honestly, from my own experience, having had countless soul-emptying experiences with your mother: The greater the resistance, the more powerful the output when finally harnessed and utilised and the more experienced and capable you can become in the process.
She may well be the hot headed Raphael of the team, but make no mistake Raphael is the strongest. Neither you nor your family are going to be anywhere near as capable on your own. The better you get at acknowledging that and utilising what she has to offer, the more you’ll see her talents drastically outweigh your failings and more importantly, you’ll begin to glimpse how great you can make your lives as you get better and better at working together. A wife is second only to one’s conscience, in potential life function and output once aligned. If you want to experience edifying success, work on getting right with your spouse the moment you’re done getting right with your conscience.