We had so internalized others' expectations for what it means to be a man and a woman that we were working against, rather than for one another.
Around year 10, we hit a wall, largely attributable to these unresolved issues. Through a series of counseling sessions and conversations with other couples, we began to understand the deleterious consequences of our thinking. We had been trying—and failing—to conform to idealized norms and departed from our true selves in the process.
Step 1 involved confessing our judgments of each other and asking for forgiveness. We call step 2 "holy resignation." Regarding those areas where we actually do fall short, rather than give up on one another, we choose to graciously accept the other's limitations even as we continue to pray and hope for growth in those same areas. This does not mean that I will be singing on the platform beside him any time in the near future or that he will suddenly take interest in watching the Bruins, but that we stop expecting each other to be someone other than who we are at this moment in time.
Step 3 is the tough one. Both of us had buried certain God-given attributes which we deemed too much trouble. To move towards wholeness, we had to begin the process of parsing out the false self from the true and then reintegrate our authentic gifts. This has been simultaneously liberating and terrifying. Liberating because as the shame diminishes, we feel more freedom. Terrifying because removing the mask of the false self leaves us naked and vulnerable.
This place of vulnerability, though destabilizing, propels us toward God. David Benner writes in The Gift of Being Yourself, "Beneath the roles and masks lies a possibility of a self that is as unique as a snowflake. It is an originality that has existed since God first loved us into existence. Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity. It and it alone provides an identity that is eternal."
Last month, our dishwasher died. As soon as I got the quote for the installation, I knew I would do it myself. Lying on the cold kitchen floor, thankfully not eight months pregnant, I had to laugh as my husband played the piano in the next room. I am happy to report I felt no resentment that he did not offer to help. And he thanked me profusely while loading up the dishes from our dinner.
Dorothy Littell Greco spends her days writing, making photographs, pastoring, and trying to keep her three teenage sons adequately fed. She and her family live surrounded by apple orchards, just outside of Boston, MA. You can find more of her words and images at www.dorothygreco.com and on her Facebook page.