It’s the classic line during a break up. “it’s not you, it’s me.” Everyone usually sees this line as a bogus attempt by the “dumper” to make the “dumpee” feel better about the demise of the relationship. But, really, it’s quite profound. If I really look into any relationship failures, and I don’t mean just in the romantic sense, the problems are ultimately with me; my reactions, my attitude, my behavior, my temperament.
Last summer, I was really frustrated with my husband. There was an important task that he needed to complete. Although I wished I could do it for him, I could not. He alone had to do it and I had been gently (and not so gently) reminding him for two years. It was really driving me nuts. I felt like I had tried everything. Initially I had nagged him. That didn’t work. So I held off on nagging for months and months. Still nothing. I wrote post-it notes around the house to remind him. Nothing was working and I was angry, losing my mind, crying. It was ugly. How in the world was I going to get him to do what needed to be done? The anger I was feeling on this one issue was overflowing into other parts of our relationship and resentment was building.
I talked a little to my aunt about my frustrations and she tried to calm me down. She understood my complaints and did see that there was an issue, but she also urged me to gain some perspective. Was this really a big deal in the grand scheme of things? I was being stubborn and still thought, “Well…yes!”. I think she could see that she wasn’t getting anywhere with me so she told me that I needed to check out a book called The Power of the Praying Wife. She said that the book included specific prayers for wives to use to pray for their husbands. Perfect! I remember thinking that this magical book would give me the prayers I needed to change my husband. I had been praying for him to change some of his flawed ways for a while now and obviously God was not listening. Clearly, I must have been saying the wrong prayers.
I went to the library and checked out The Power of the Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. I was ever so anxious to start changing my husband through prayer. As I started to read, I was surprised and a little annoyed to find that the first chapter had nothing to do with changing Dear Hubby and everything to do with changing ME. This was not what I was expecting. I immediately started to feel a little bitter towards the author. She was telling me that I needed to pray to God to make a change in ME first before doing anything else. Wait…what? Me? But, HE was the one forgetting to do something really important!! Not me! Why did I need to change?
After some internal struggles, I let the idea of “changing myself first” resonate for a while. In the beginning, I tried to resist this notion. I started to think, well, if this Stormie lady knew MY situation, she would make an exception and tell me to skip that first chapter and keeping reading. Deep down, though, I knew that this chapter did in fact apply to me. I asked the Holy Spirit to melt that resistance away and I was graced with some humility. In a moment of clarity I finally realized, “It’s not you, Dear Hubby, it’s me.” If any changes in not only our relationship but also our teamwork abilities were going to take place, I was going to have to make the first move.
After this epiphany, I started to pray diligently for God to work in and through me. I was hoping to be transformed into someone who was a little more patient and understanding, someone who sought to find the good, not the bad, in her cherished mate. Lord knows, Dear Hubby certainly did not focus on my flaws. So why was I focusing on his? Over the span of a couple of months, I did feel some changes take place in my temperament and also in my approach to the situation. Dear Hubby still had yet to complete a certain task, but the fact that he hadn’t done so just didn’t bother me as much anymore. Sure, the issue had not yet been resolved, but my perspective and attitude had changed. And perhaps I started to reframe the situation a little and didn’t even see it as a “problem” anymore. I surrendered myself to the notion that perhaps I did not know best. Perhaps there was a good reason for his delayed action, a reason that only God and not even my Dear Hubby would understand.
Within a couple of months of reading The Power of the Praying Wife and applying its ideas to my prayer life, our particular issue was resolved. It did not happen on my time, of course, but I was finally okay with that. And some of my worry associated with the task at hand ended up being for nothing. Imagine that?
I think when we experience failures of any sort in any relationship, we have to avoid the temptation to point the finger at the other person and start pointing it at the reflection we see in the mirror. This is still not easy for me. But, the little phrase “it’s not you, it’s me” has been a helpful reminder to look within first. And, this is not just for marriage. We can apply this mentality in our relationships with friends, colleagues, children, parents, and even to our relationship with God. Especially with God.
When we are in a spiritual rut, when we don’t see God working in our lives, when we don’t think the Church has it right, when we question His existence…The problem is not Him, it’s us.
And now I feel as though I’ve opened up another can of worms. But, I’ve been up since 3am due to pregnancy induced insomnia and two hours later I’m finally feeling like I might be able to get back to sleep. The topic of how “it’s not you, its me” applies to my relationship with the Catholic Church and some of its teachings will just have to wait for another day. Take care, readers!