Driving down the road one day, I happened upon a radio program that caught my attention. The guy on the radio was talking about relationships, and how we always want what we don't have. As the miles ticked by, I listened to him recount his college dating experiences. It seems whenever he returned from a date, he would explain to his roommate what he thought the most important feature or trait in a woman was. Every time he came back from a date, the most important thing changed. Looks, personality, sense of humor, warmth, spirituality, you name it; the most important thing seemed to be a moving target.
One day he came back and proceeded to tell his roommate what the latest "most important thing" was, when his roommate stopped him cold. "Do you know what the most important trait in a woman is?" his roommate interrupted. “It's whatever trait your latest date lacked.”
I began to think about this as I continued down the road. The longer I ran that thought through my own experiences, the more it rang true.
No matter how great a person is, every human being has shortcomings, character flaws or some missing ingredient. Everyone; you, me, Mother Teresa, everyone. If you were ever shocked by a marriage breaking up, or a couple who split up when they seemed perfect for each other, you have to ask, what happened? Maybe there was no single incident, or as we hear so often, maybe they grew apart, or fell out of love. Looking back, I wonder if the idea of that missing ingredient came into play.
If you would, please play along with me here. Imagine your perfect mate. Physical attributes, height, weight, hair color, personality, spiritual make up, political views, moral compass, even thoughts on family size. Do you have that picture in your mind? Good; now you have to give up at least two of those things. You still get everything else, just the way you want them, you just have to give up a few of those things from your list. In a few short months, or maybe a few years, how much would you be willing to wager that the things you focus on will be those missing ingredients?
Why do we do that? Why would we focus on the negative when there are so many good things all around us? I understand that people change, and there are some real horse's asses out there, people you should run, not walk away from. However, I know too many wonderful people who have split up, and I find it hard to imagine why. When two people, who once loved each other, look at each other and only see the bad things, and can’t see the things that drew them together, it is very sad.
Like I said, we all have faults; however, we tend to overlook our own faults because we know our intentions and motivations. We don’t intend to hurt people, but we do. When we do hurt someone we ask for forgiveness, or at least I hope we do. When we are hurt, forgiveness becomes a little harder. We stop seeing the good in them, we start focusing on their shortcomings.
So, is it as easy as just looking for the good in your spouse or significant other? I really do think it is a big part of staying happy and staying together. Another big part is not always concentrating on each other's faults. I know I am guilty of this, and I have exactly zero room to complain when it comes to faults and shortcomings. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t thank God for my wife. If I do forget how lucky I am, and start taking her for granted, it’s because I’m an idiot.
I know she has overlooked many of my shortcomings in our twenty-three years of marriage. I hope she can still find some of those things she once saw in me when we first met. I know I still see them in her. All those little things, those ingredients are the good stuff, the glue that holds us together.
You can spend the rest of your life, searching for that elusive missing ingredient; there are plenty of people who do. They may find someone who has the missing ingredient from their last relationship, but that new person will be missing something different.
If you have ever been drawn into that downward spiral of continually focusing on the negative aspects about the person in your life, take a step back. Take a fresh look. Both of you maybe in this same spiral, and you might have to look hard to find those ingredients that first caught your attention, but they are there. Look for the good, concentrate on that for a while. You may be surprised what you see when you start looking for it.