Like literally almost every single other person in the universe, I have always struggled a little with my self-image. I’m a confident person, but it’s more of a selective confidence. I’m confident in certain things, but only very specific things.
My main self-image issue growing up revolved around boys. Because, of course. How much more “basic” can I get? Like every other heterosexual, teenage girl, I wanted boys to notice me and like me. And like every other teenage girl, I fantasized about my wedding and my future husband.
He didn’t have to be perfect. I was naive but not stupid. I just wanted him to complete me in every way; to be everything that I was not.
I wanted someone to be my other half.
And that’s something we say a lot, right? A man shows up to a social gathering without his wife and someone asks him, “Where’s your better half?” We post pictures on social media with captions like, “I just couldn’t do it without my other half.” It’s a pretty common description of marriage and relationships.
It’s a harmless phrase, really. I recognize that. I just want to step back and think about its implications.
I don’t want to bring half of a person into my marriage. I don’t want to rely on my husband to fulfill me in all the ways that I can’t fulfill myself. That isn’t his job and it isn’t fair to put that much pressure on him. I want to be a whole person all on my own and I want the same for my husband. That way, when we work together, we are bringing more to the equation.
I don’t want to need my husband to complete me. I want him to be there for me, standing beside me, working with me towards a common goal. I want us both to give 100% of ourselves all the time because life happens and there will be times when one of us can’t provide 100%. Our pastor and friend who performed our wedding ceremony gave us some of the best advice during our pre-marital counseling. He told us that marriage isn’t 50/50. Divorce is 50/50. Marriage is 100/100.
It’s true, though. What if (heaven forbid) one of us becomes seriously ill? The other can’t just provide 50% of themselves at that point. It will become necessary for the healthy spouse to carry more of the weight. To use a less extreme example, my husband is getting his MBA. Doing this on top of his full-time job requires a lot of sacrifices – mostly sacrifices of time. We’re also in the process of moving, so I’ve been doing a lot of packing while he’s been coming home from work only to start schoolwork. He’s usually good about getting enough done during the week that he can use the weekends to spend time with me or help me with packing. But there is still going to be some slack of his that I need to pick up because I support what he’s doing. Not only that, I’m proud of what he’s doing. He deserves this and he’s worked hard for it.
Sometimes there is going to be an unequal division of labor and that’s OK. We both have individual lives happening alongside our married life. Jake is a great listener and I love being able to come home and unburden myself by telling him about things that are going on with my students – especially the tough stuff. He sympathizes and can sometimes provide advice, but he will never be able to fully understand the ins and outs of what my job entails. In the same way, I am never going to understand all of the intricacies of working for a Walmart supplier. That. Is. OK. Support doesn’t require us to be able to fully empathize, it just asks that we try.
We support each other, and I need that support. I’m OK with needing that support. But we cannot do it for each other. We can’t complete each other. My husband’s independence was one of the things that drew me to him. I love that he has his life mostly figured out. I love that he has a plan. Sure, that plan has changed a few times because life happens, but he is a whole person. I fell in love with a complete man, not half a man who was just waiting for someone to make him better. I think that’s the case with most people.
I write to remind myself as much as anyone else. I am enough. I need to be enough, on my own. If I need Jake in order to feel like a whole person, then I’m doing something wrong.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t challenge each other to be better. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t rely on your spouse. It just means that you can also rely on yourself. It means that you shouldn’t find your fulfillment in your spouse. I want to find my fulfillment in Christ and myself. I want to find love, happiness, support, encouragement, and partnership in my relationship with my husband.