Today, my wife got me flowers.
I woke up from a night of drunkenness to find my wife kneeling over me, holding a bouquet of flowers. She said she had been meaning to buy me flowers, and thought today was a good day to actually do it. Then she said she had something else to give me, and left the room. She returned with a pot of daisies that she had bought because she “couldn’t remember if I preferred cut or living flowers.”
Last night, we had a small fight over some meaningless nonsense, a perceived slight on both of our parts. It was one of those dumb arguments you only have with someone when you’ve been with somebody so long that you develop these little sore spots over some pointless bullshit that you would have completely overlooked five years ago.
I was complaining because I had gotten her a small gift and she was upset that I messed with her iPad to set it up. We ended up arguing about not the actual infraction, but about whether or not anything could be “perfect.”
You see, I’m a selfish jerk who wants to think that everything I do and say is near perfection. So, when I give a gift and it’s not received with applause and adoration, I feel slighted. She was upset because I wanted her to say the gift was perfect, and she hates using that word.
Growing up, her mother wanted everything to be perfect, and would take it out on her daughter. “You should lose weight; you should get braces for your crooked teeth; clean the house from top to bottom because we have friends coming over and everything has to be perfect.”
Today, we hugged it out and apologized for our pettiness. We both know that we love and care about eachother, so we feel bad when we get all butthurt about stupid bullshit.
Now, sitting at my desk next to two floral arrangements, I keep thinking about something I regret saying last night. After going around in circles, she said “I just don’t know why you think everything has to be perfect. I don’t expect you to be perfect. Do you think I am?”
“I guess not.” I said, in my rudest tone of voice. It was meant to hurt, and I feel bad about that.
But that’s not why I keep thinking about it. What I’m really hung up on (and why I’m writing this now) is that idea of a “perfect marriage.” In music, movies and books there are usually only two types of relationships:
- The awful one you regret having and you’re glad it’s over
- And the perfect, fairy tale type of love that’s supposed to last forever
But that’s not how life actually works. All relationships have flaws and imperfections. Things we don’t like about the other person, times we’ve done shitty things to each other, arguments over petty bullshit. People are complicated, and life is full of grey. These days, I’m trying to get away from the idea that love has to be perfect or terrible.
I’m realizing that there are really two types of relationships, but it’s not like we’ve been led to believe:
- The first is the kind where you find out there’s a fatal flaw in your relationship. One or both of you has something truly incompatible with the other person, and the longer you stay in it, the worse it gets for both of you.
- The other is an intentional agreement to stay, to try to be loving and kind even when you feel like being an ass. This kind of relationship takes two people who love each other enough that they both want to show up, day after day, and put in the hard work of growing together as flawed humans.
The sad truth is, sometimes it’s really difficult to know which relationship you’re in. But here’s the key, and it’s something my grandfather told me after my grandma passed. He said “nobody is perfect, but there’s a different kind of relationship and that’s what worked for us. No matter how bad things got, we both held onto one thing. We knew in our hearts that we loved and cared for the other person, and would never want to cause them real harm. And even when we fought, we would go out of our way to come back and prove to ourselves and each other that we loved the other person more than ourselves.”
One more thing before I wrap this up. Now, I’m only speaking for myself here. It’s this concept of “forever” that I think is really problematic. I feel like if two people agree to be with each other forever, no matter what, that they’re doing something the hard way. You see, when you personify the relationship that way, as some greater “thing” you both have to live up to, I think what you’re really doing is putting the relationship first – not the other person.
I for one, am deeply happy that the reason my wife stays with me year after year, even after a bad day, is because she wants to be with me. Not because of some paperwork or religious ideal. She actually wants to be here, doing the hard work of loving me, flaws and all. And I feel the same way about her.
So no, I don’t think she’s perfect. But I don’t ever want her to be. I just want her to keep being her truest self. Because that’s the person I’m in love with.