She doesn’t like the way he snores, he doesn’t like the way she sniffs
If we’re going to have any friends, we must have a tolerance for human flaws. After all, no person is perfect and the more frequently one interacts with a person, the more evident these imperfections become. That’s why it often seems that our spouse is the most imperfect person in the universe.
“I love my husband — he’s a great guy. But he has lots of annoying habits that get under my skin. I don’t like the way he chews his food and his posture is awful. I also find him immature.
“I didn’t notice it while we were dating — or maybe it didn’t come up then because there was nothing very adult he had to do — but now I feel like I’m the one who has to organize everything and take care of everything and he’s like a little kid with no responsibilities.”
The funny thing is that this woman is very flawed herself. Her husband has this to say about her:
“I find her petty. She’s always picking on small details — she’s very critical and negative. I don’t think she realizes how depressing it can be to be in her company for more than a few minutes. She has a million complaints. She thinks she’s perfect and everyone else — particularly me — is lacking.”
Life Is Imperfect
These two might be reporting the facts quite accurately. They look at each other and see the flaws. Of course, it usually takes a few months of marriage before this behavior sets in; there’s a period in which one’s partner seems perfect and everything looks rosy. This is typically followed by the rude awakening, the alarming discovery that one’s spouse is actually flawed.
At first it may seem like he has only a couple of flaws, but as time goes on, the list grows. Eventually, it can happen that one sees only flaws. Any goodness is buried under them, inaccessible except on rare occasions.
It’s no one’s fault. It’s just one of our human flaws that we tend to focus on the negative. Our day may have thousands of perfectly happy minutes in it, but if one or two things are problematic, in our minds, we’ve had a “hard” day where “everything” went wrong. Small bits of negativity seem to undo all the good — not just in our loved ones but in our life.
We’re dismayed when things don’t work out. Our daily problems come as a great surprise, as if we weren’t expecting them, when in fact, there are problems every day. There are small issues and big issues but there are no days without issues.
We were sent down here to solve the problems Hashem lays out before us, each challenge presenting its own opportunity for spiritual growth. Whether it’s a broken appliance, a delayed serviceman, an overly large bill, or whatever, we need to recognize the Hand of Hashem. We can be grateful that the issue isn’t worse. We can have in mind that our suffering should atone for our sins. We can beseech Hashem to resolve the difficulty.
Similarly, when confronted with our partner’s flaws, there’s no need for shock or dismay. We should have expected that our human companion would be human, through and through. Like ourselves, our spouse has strong points and weak points. When we find the flaws, we can exercise our spiritual muscles just as we do with other life challenges: We can be grateful that the flaws aren’t worse, we can work on forgiving our spouse for his imperfections with the plea that Hashem similarly forgive our own imperfections, and we can ask Hashem to improve the situation. And of course, we can improve our character to the point where we can tolerate another person’s flaws.
The flaw factor in marriage is no accident. Hashem puts a flawed human being up close for us to judge (positively), interact with (patiently), and accept (unconditionally). Our reaction to our spouse’s imperfection becomes the ruler by which we ourselves are judged.
It isn’t easy. Our feelings of frustration, disappointment, and hurt can challenge our ability to rise to the occasion. And yet it is this very challenge — the challenge of living with a flawed human being — that can bring out our greatness. And theirs as well.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 656)