Written by Aaron & April Jacob
We all face a very human problem, an inconsistency of sorts, that isn't always easy to talk about.
It's the fact that we know how we should - and want to - act and treat our spouse and family members and the harsh reality of how we sometimes actually treat them.
Why is it that we can put on such a pretty face for our co-workers, neighbors, and friends, and yet at home let down our guard and sometimes become impatient, demanding, and critical people?
Let's see what we can learn from the following examples.
Jon was a dentist and was well-loved by his patients and staff. He was kind, thoughtful, considerate, and complimentary. He always encouraged those he worked with and was an overall happy and positive guy.
His wife, Maggie, came to work one day to pick something up and noticed how he was helping one of his new employees learn the ropes. This employee, Rachel, was asking question after question and seemed to need help with everything. Jon was extremely patient and helpful with her and kept telling her that her questions weren't a problem at all.
Maggie found herself conflicted inside as she immediately began to wish Jon treated her like that. She thought back on all the times that Jon was impatient with her at home and how annoyed he got whenever she had questions about how to do something.
On the other hand, Maggie also tried to appreciate what she was seeing in the office that day, Jon like she used to know him. She appreciated how good and kind he was and how much everyone adored him.
Still, she wished the Jon they knew was the Jon she knew at home.
Amber ran her own real estate company and was uber successful in the county where she lived - often ranked the #1 among her peers in the industry. She often spoke at conferences and was in the process of writing her first book.
Her husband, Sam, worked with her two days a week and saw what he thought were both sides of her on the regular - the happy, polished, refined Amber at work, and the sloppy, critical, whiney Amber at home.
Since Amber seemed to treat Sam differently at work than at home, he was starting to feel jealous, upset, and frustrated that she wasn't her best self for him - and he was sure that if she acted differently towards him that their marriage would somehow be better.
Inconsistency in private and public
Sadly, for most of us, the inconsistency of our private and public self is a real, sometimes harsh, reality that we deal with (struggling to improve upon) on the regular.
Most of us are very aware of this inconsistency and ever working to close the gap. However, others, are sometimes completely oblivious to the stark difference between their private and public selves.
In both of the above scenarios, Jon & Amber both could do better at keeping their private and public selves more consistent, and Maggie & Sam could learn to work on themselves first and realize that perhaps they weren't seeing things in exactly the right way.
The Safety of Home and the Love of Family
One positive reason this inconsistency may exist is because most people feel safe and secure at home, a place where they can be real, raw, and vulnerable.
The home has been called "a laboratory of love,"(here) for that exact reason - it is a place where we can learn, grow, and suffer through the sometimes painful experience of recognizing and facing our weaknesses square on and working to change, improve, and get better.
Home and family life create the perfect setting for us to work on ourselves. To be refined. To be shaped, molded, and changed into better people because of our family relationships, not in spite of them.
However, on the flip side, the casualness and intimacy of home and the security and love of family also make it a place where we can be our worst selves, without fear of any serious consequence. We somehow feel that our spouse and kids love us unconditionally, no matter what, and that they will never leave us, even if we treat them poorly. (We're not talking about abuse here, just a general lack of respect and manners.)
While that may be true to some degree, it is important that we each work on being our very best selves for the people who matter the very most to us.
Being Your Best Self
Just think of it - at some point in your marriage it became perfectly acceptable to burp, pass gas, clip your nails, or do any other normal - yet gross - bodily function in front of your spouse.
It also - over time - became perfectly acceptable to say things as they really are, no matter how rude, inconsiderate, or hurtful.
This isn't right.
When did it become acceptable to be our worst selves for the people who matter most to us?
We love something author Ardeth Kapp said about marriage. She taught that though challenging, marriage and family life have the greatest potential for helping us to become who we are meant to be. She then suggested this very practical and helpful marriage advice,
"Successful marriage partners find it more effective to use a challenging experience to tutor themselves, rather than to coach their spouses." (Kapp, Ardeth; Better Than You Think You Are, p. 192)
If you feel are feeling frustrated about the fact that your spouse is a different person in public than at home with you, we would suggest the often painful task of looking at yourself first.
What kind of a spouse are you at home? Do you make your spouse want to be home with you? Do you treat your spouse as respectfully as his/her co-workers or friends do? Are you YOUR very best self at home?
Is there something you are doing that is causing your spouse to distance themselves from you, dislike you, or treat you differently than they treat others (no matter how wrong that feels)?
Take a good look inside yourself and find an area or two where you can improve.
Here are a few places to start.
Look for the Good
See the good in your spouse. Although he or she may be better in public than in private, they still do a lot of things right at home.
Remember when she filled your car up with gas, or when he put away the dishes from the dishwasher? Remember how she left you that encouraging note, and how he bought you your favorite ice cream, just because?
Your spouse is a better person than you think, and than you probably give them credit for. Although they may not be perfect at home, your ability to see the good in them will only encourage them and help them get better.
Noticing the good in your spouse is a habit that each of us has to develop in order to nurture our marriages. It often doesn't come naturally, however, like any positive habit, if we work at it, it will start to come more easily to us and will become a part of who we are.
Warning - it's going to take a lot of practice (and some time) to get really good at constantly seeing the good in your spouse. However, you will be given opportunities multiple times a day, so embrace them. You may even be given an opportunity to see the good in your sweetheart this very night.
So, see the good, and then compliment your spouse or say something to let them know how much you appreciate them. Let others know how good of a spouse you have, and make sure your spouse knows that they are accepted and loved in your eyes.
Be Forgiving & Patient
Finally, be quick to forgive.
Your spouse won't be perfect. So forgive them. Forgive them ahead of time. They will fall short. They need you to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Your spouse needs your forgiveness and patience, because guess what, your spouse isn't perfect.
You aren't either.
And your spouse is probably trying harder than you realize. If he/she has given up on trying it may be because they feel you have given up as well.
So please, please, be patient. Give your marriage time.
Not sure how to be more patient? Start here.
Don't keep score.
Remember that you, your spouse, and your marriage are a work in progress. You haven't reached the final product yet.
Try and see the big picture.
If you can be so madly in love with the unfinished masterpiece (despite the flaws), just think how wonderful the final product will be!
Remember what you are working towards.
If your marriage isn't where you want it to be today, then decide to do something about it. Start small. And make #onesmallchange to nurture your marriage this very day.
Perhaps then, the inconsistencies you see in your spouse will grow smaller, and the changes you work on in yourself will grow bigger.
Keep at it, there are good things ahead.
Photo Credit: The Ramsdens
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
You Know You Want to Read
Everybody Loves These