When I potty trained our oldest daughter, at first she was all for it. We had watched the potty princess video, we had read the “Once Upon a Potty” book.
She understood potty training to be a next step to becoming a big girl (and noted how weirdly animated and excited mommy got about the whole issue) and was pretty stoked to start.
She was all about it the first day. M&Ms just for performing a natural bodily function in a pot? Juice and crackers all day long?? Count me in!
Then days two and three hit and she realized how hard it was to detect this specific bodily function before it happened and she experienced some failures (naturally most of these happened on our carpet instead of in the bathroom). She noticed Mommy didn’t really like the failures and neither did she since she had to help clean them up and then practice running to the potty.
A little way into the training and she was DESPERATE to go back to diapers.
Thankfully, we pushed through the failures, through the anxiety, through the awkwardness of learning a new skill and on to victory!
Today at age 8, I’m happy to report she is accident free!
Yuk, yuk, yuk. Ok, it didn’t take her six years to train, but it did feel like it would those first few days.
In any area of our lives, one thing can be certain when we try to progress: we will experience discomfort. This pesky discomfort stops a lot of us from even trying to progress or convinces us to give up half way through the process.
But, if we really want to progress our marriages forward, we must hone the skill of EMBRACING DISCOMFORT FOR GROWTH, which is our Marriage Laboratory theme for the month!!
Our love experiment this month is going to be to:
1. Really think about what is keeping you from being the spouse you want to be (take some time to really think on this! Come up with one thing you can improve on)
2. Set a measurable goal to improve that thing this month.
3. DON’T QUIT WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE DISCOMFORT!
Here’s what mine will be:
1. I think caring too much what other people think of me is keeping me from being the best spouse I can be.
2. I’m going to focus my morning meditations on this topic this month.
3. I’m not going to quit when it’s hard or pushes me up against ideas and behaviors that take me outside my comfort zone.
What will yours be? More sex? More quality time? Going to therapy? Dealing with anger issues? Talking about a hard problem? Setting boundaries to respect your own desires?
Whatever your goal to improve your marriage is, you can expect one thing to happen: PUSH BACK. Push back from yourself, from your spouse, from your busy life, whatever it is, expect roadblocks. That’s just how progress works.
Specifically in marriage, I think this push back or anxiety will happen for a few reasons:
1. When we become more vulnerable and open ourselves up, we risk not being validated or even unaccepted.
2. We like rules. We like comfort zones. When we change the rules in our marriage, we force ourselves AND our spouses to leave our comfort zones. This doesn’t feel good.
3. When we try out any new skill, it will be awkward at first. That’s just the learning process.
The Importance of Pushing Through Anxiety to Growth
Sometimes we mistake “success” in marriage to mean “happy all the time” in marriage. The problem is that happiness is so often confused with feeling a lack of anxiety, which means remaining in our comfort zones. So when we leave our comfort zones in order to progress we think, “Oh no! This isn’t working, I’m not happy!”
Or we think, “This feels awkward, that must mean it’s not working.”
We have to be strong enough to push through that feeling.
Good let’s work on that.
For example, when Rich and I first starting having our weekly marriage check ins (where we have regularly scheduled hard conversations), they were SO awkward. They felt overly formal. Additionally, It took us a long, long time to learn how to be resilient enough to take constructive criticism for the benefit of our partnership. At first we became immediately defensive and didn’t know how to express concern without blame.
It would have been so easy to say, “These weekly check ins aren’t working! They are making our marriage worse!” But we stuck it out and I attribute so much of our love and happiness together to all those nights filled with discomfort where we learned how to have hard conversations together in a loving way.
We pushed through the anxiety to growth and it has caused SO. MUCH. GROWTH.
Dr. David Scharch says,
“Marriage is designed to take the worst in us and make the best in us stand up.”
Facing the worst in us, choosing to act out of the best in us- I so wish these were comfortable experiences, but they’re not. Marriage shows us our deepest faults.
The trick isn’t to let our faults cause us to hide in shame or fight against the existence of our own faults. The trick is to see them, ride the wave of discomfort through to personal progress, which will always lead to relational progress eventually.
So, what do you say guys? You ready to let marriage do its job? Make us uncomfortable and push us through to growth?
Let’s do it. Let’s think about one way we can improve as a spouse and improve it this month! Let’s not let our discomfort get in the way of our growth.
This whole month’s blog posts will be dedicated to the topic of tolerating anxiety for growth. Today we’ve talked about why it’s important, from here on out we are focusing on HOW we do that!