Mark: When we found out Jill was pregnant with our fourth child I was angry. We had an appointment on the calendar for me to have a little “snip snip” surgery and the stick turned blue two weeks before surgery. I spent much of that pregnancy angry at Jill for being pregnant. Sad…I know. Immature…most definitely. And yes, I know that it takes two to tango so my perspective was definitely selfish and skewed. It wasn’t like anything could change, but I was absolutely ticked at reality.
Jill: I hated dealing with Mark’s anger all the time. He seemed to always be disappointed with life because it didn’t meet his expectations.
Mark: “It is what it is.” This is a phrase I’ve been characterized by saying in the past three years. It is representative of a huge mindshift I’ve made that is serving me well and making an impact on my marriage.
Jill: Truly I’ve heard Mark say that dozens, if not hundreds, of times over the past three years. More importantly though, I’ve noticed that Mark is characterized by being less demanding, exhibiting more peace, and having more realistic expectations.
Mark: As Jill and I have talked about before, unrealistic expectations can really wreck a marriage. Being unwilling to accept things that cannot be changed is a form of unrealistic expectations.
Jill: The Serenity Prayer is a powerful marriage prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Mark: This was the heart of my challenge: I was unwilling to accept the things I could not change and I lacked the wisdom to know the difference. These days, however, I feel my eyes have been opened to see and accept what I cannot change. How did that happen? It was a two part process:
- Brokenness: My unrealistic expectations were not only present in my marriage, they were present in every part of my life: my faith, the church, my work, my friendships and more. I was even demanding of God that I understand him. My midlife crisis ended when I gave up fighting and demanding. I accepted the reality that I couldn’t change anything in life except that which was inside of me. This helped me to accept things as they are which led to saying more and more, “it is what it is.”
- Humility: In my unsubmissive heart, I demanded that God be someone other than who He was. In my pride and arrogance, I demanded that Jill be someone other than who God created her to be. It wasn’t until I humbled myself, submitting my heart fully to God that I was able to experience the serenity to truly accept things I couldn’t change.
Jill: Acceptance is important, but one of the things Mark and I have talked about is how important it is that it doesn’t cross over into passivity. If we say “it is what it is” about issues that really need to be addressed, then it’s not about submission or acceptance. Instead, it becomes a form of stuffing my emotions.
Mark: So a healthy “it is what it is” would be me accepting that Jill is an introvert and needs time alone to refuel. An unhealthy “it is what it is” would happen if Jill did not embrace my extrovert needs for being with people and I chose to stuff my frustration instead of addressing it with her. (She’s pretty good about that by the way….just using it as an example. )
Jill: Having a healthy sense of acceptance in marriage can make a huge difference in experiencing a deeper contentment and giving our spouse the freedom to truly be themselves.
What about you? Do you have some places where you need to increase your acceptance of things you cannot change?