When I started dating Hugh, my youth pastor – a longtime friend of Hugh’s – pulled me aside and felt he needed to warn me. “Cindi, Hugh is an awesome guy, and I’d highly recommend him as a husband, but he’s also the moodiest person I know.”
“Hugh’s not moody,” I responded, defensively. “He’s a deep thinker. He takes a while to think about things before speaking, instead of just blurting out of his mouth whatever comes to his mind, like I tend to do. I appreciate that about him. That’s what I want in a husband.”
Now, after 22 years of marriage, instead of appreciating my deep thinker, I find myself, at times, thinking things like, Hugh is the moodiest person I know.
Well guys, (Hugh here) see if you can relate. I loved how my wife was able to express herself back when I first met her. Being a journalism major who wrote beautifully, she could also speak confidently and had a way with words. That’s nice when you’re getting a love letter or praise and affirmation from a woman in love with you. But after more than 20 years together, there are days when I wish she wasn’t quite as verbal, especially when she finds something she thinks is wrong with me. Sometimes, today, when I think about her “way with words” it isn’t always in a fond way. She’s reciting her thoughts unabridged and I’m looking for the Reader’s Digest version.
How is it that when we fall in love, the object of our hearts can do no wrong? We overlook their weaknesses or, at times, don’t see them at all. Love is blind. And oh how blissful the blind state can be! Then, some time down the road, the one we fell in love with – the one with all those wonderful character traits – is simply being who he or she is (a deep thinker or one who verbally expresses herself) and they are hammered for being annoying, irritating and difficult to live with.
My, how we need to become blind again – blind to each other’s faults, blind to the things that annoy us, blind to bitterness. And open to grace and forgiveness.
We’ve been told that the characteristics in your spouse that irritate you today are manifestations of the same characteristics that drew you toward each other, originally. What once you found attractive, you now find annoying. We can see that in our marriage, too. I (Cindi) was drawn to Hugh’s depth, his seriousness, his contemplative nature. And Hugh was drawn to my confidence, my social skills, and my ability to express myself. Yet those characteristics, after a few years of life together, can grate on our nerves rather than give us a sense of appreciation for each other.
We’ve learned that we have to pick up a new set of lenses that seeks out and focuses on the positive in each other if we’re going to be in love again. Love, after all, is blind. Or, maybe a better way to say it would be: Love chooses to be blind to the less flattering traits of its lover.
In Philippians 4:8 we are told how to keep our minds from focusing on the negative:
“Keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (CEV).
That advice works not only in life, but in marriage, especially when it comes to how you choose to view your spouse. We say choose because it is a choice. Human nature will see what is there. It will notice the negative and focus on it. A divine nature (God’s love working through you) will see the best in the other – “the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8b, The Message).
Cindi and Hugh McMenamin, Co-authors of When Couples Walk Together