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) treat our spouse and family members and the harsh reality of how we sometimes actually treat them.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
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. 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. 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 (very successful) real estate company – she was often ranked first 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 both sides of his wife: 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. 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.
Most of us are very aware of this inconsistency and are ever working to close the gap. However, others are sometimes completely oblivious to the stark difference between their private and public selves.
In these scenarios, Jon and Amber both could do better at keeping their private and public selves more consistent, and Maggie and 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 being home
One 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 – which is a good thing.
The home is a place where we can learn, grow and suffer through the sometimes painful experience of facing our weaknesses and work to get better.
Home and family life create the perfect setting for us to work on ourselves because it is such a safe and loving atmosphere. However, if you feel like your spouse is a different person in public than in private (and it’s bothering you) here are three things you can do:
1. Work on being your best self
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?
Take a good look inside yourself and find an area or two where you can improve.
2. Look for the good
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 your spouse and help them get better.
3. Be forgiving and 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.
Your spouse is probably trying harder than you realize. If your partner has given up on trying it may be because they feel you have given up as well. So please, be patient. Give your marriage time.
Remember that you, your spouse, and your marriage are a work in progress. 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 one small change to nurture your marriage this very day.
Keep at it – there are good things ahead.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on Aaron and April’s blog Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.