I said it the other night. I painfully admitted it to Chad because he was hurting and we were fighting and I didn’t know how to make it better. I can’t make you happy.
I didn’t mean I wouldn’t try, that I wouldn’t do everything I can to make him as happy as possible. But I think it’s true… I can’t make him happy. And admitting that was hard and it hurt him and it hurt me. It bruised my wife ego. Because I want to make him happy. I want to solve all his problems. I’ve always felt like that’s my job as his wife, to make him happy and whole. But is it? Even if it is, that still doesn’t mean I can.
I think sometimes we idealize marriage, especially as Christians, and forget how much work it is, and how hard it is turning two separate people into a team that always works together. But it is hard, and it takes both people giving it a lot of effort to make it work. I think for Chad and I, we’ve both at different times in our marriage put the burden on the other person to be everything we need. But that’s not really possible, nor is it fair to ask. I remember I used to do that a lot in the beginning. I had expectations that he couldn’t reach. And when he would fail to reach them, all my insecurities would take over and it was easy to blame him. But he couldn’t make me happy then, just the same way that I can’t make him happy now.
When you focus on your insecurities and doubts and all those things you wish you could change about yourself, it’s hard to see how someone else can look beyond them. It’s hard not to expect the other person to fix them. It’s hard not to think, if he would express his love more… if she would make me the priority more often… if he would support me more, listen more… then I wouldn’t feel so insecure or disrespected. But that’s not really true, because if you’re thinking those things, it’s likely more will never be enough.
I can’t make him happy with himself. And he can’t make me happy with myself. The best we can do is remind each other to step back, to stop self-criticizing, to remind each other of our greatest qualities, to give ourselves grace. And remind each other that we’re all made in God’s image, and that is precious and valuable and so much more than enough.
I can’t be everything Chad needs. And he can’t be everything I need. Because we both need God more than we need each other. We need God’s love, his grace, his mercy. We need to remember our value in his eyes, not our own, or even our spouse’s. And that’s a hard one sometimes because we want to be everything for each other.
We all go through stages in life where we feel insecure and less-than, and coping with that in marriage isn’t easy for either partner. So I think what I’ve been learning lately is that it’s not necessarily my job to make him happy. It’s my job to work together with him, support him, encourage him, respect him, pray for him, and turn his eyes to God. It’s my job to remind him of what’s most important– who’s most important. And it isn’t either one of us. It’s my job to remind him that he is made in God’s image and, to a certain extent, when he’s criticizing himself, he’s criticizing a creation of God. It’s my job to remind him of the grace we’ve been given and help him share that with others, including himself.
Post Script: I do think as Chad’s wife, I can make him happier. I can support him and respect him and encourage him. Those are all vital to a healthy marriage. And working together in our daily lives, helping to make our lives run smoothly, that definitely helps, too. But when your spouse is going through a period of self-criticism and self-doubt and insecurity, or even depression, there are limits to what you can provide, and that’s okay. (Even if it is a hard lesson to learn. I want to Super Wife and fix it all!) Just because you’re married, and you’re a team, doesn’t mean you can provide everything and fix everything. You also have to learn when to let God take them through it, or even when to help them get professional help if they need it, and then support them through those steps.