By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW
Week after week, session after session, couples continue to struggle. Often, not always, the wives express dissatisfaction with their husbands’ behavior. These women talk about how their husbands aren’t paying enough attention to them, paying too much attention to them (often sexually), drink too much, don’t help enough, and the list can go on. (Certainly, the men complain about their wives’ behavior too.) So, what does all this mean? The husbands I talk to often feel that no matter what they do, it is never good enough. How can we break this cycle? Maybe, we need to re-evaluate our wants, needs, and expectations. In the big picture, how important is it that he really puts the cap back on the toothpaste? This is not to suggest the emotions behind the behavior are insignificant, but instead the details are irrelevant. Is it possible that we women make too big a deal of things? Before you answer a knee-jerk “NO”, think about it.
Given that human beings are not perfect, a perfect marriage is not an attainable goal. But a “good enough” marriage is attainable and satisfying. For instance, Mike and Noelle have been married for 15 years and are in therapy working on improving their marriage. They are both committed to trying to save the marriage because they do love each other and also have 3 young children. When they first started therapy, Noelle would bring in a list of criticisms about Mike. This would leave Mike feeling angry and wasn’t necessarily motivating him to keep making changes for her. It wasn’t until Noelle could shift her focus to thinking about his strengths, (the qualities she fell in love with years ago), that she could then relax more, accept him more and thus their marriage improved. They talked about wanting to be with each other more, having more frequent and enjoyable sex, and laughing more. When they completed therapy, Noelle said she knows Mike has his quirks and now she sees the whole picture, not just the things that used to bother her. Mike also said that Noelle can get uptight at times, but he knows it is because she is not getting one of her needs met; he doesn’t take everything so personally anymore and she doesn’t critique him anymore.
Whether you are married or not, think about the price you may pay for shooting for perfection; when instead you could relax and enjoy your relationship and your life more if you can accept that it is “good enough”.