The Un-Charming Prince – “I Kissed the Frog”

Someone who I discussed these recent posts with identified with what I have written and she had a cute way of describing the situation. She said, “I kissed the frog, and he’s STILL a frog!” This is the disappointment many young wives and husbands have about their spouse.

Someone else put it this way. When a man marries a woman he doesn’t want her to change, but she does. When a woman marries a man she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Either way, both husband and wife find themselves living with a reality that is not their ideal.

One of the traps in the process of marriage is that both the guy and the gal are transformed from one status to another. As boyfriend and girlfriend they live in the reality of being single and full of hope. However, when they become ‘man and wife’ they are both brought through from single-hood to a new personal status of husband or wife. It is almost as if in internal switch is then triggered to readjust them to this new status. Whatever their factory settings are for ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is what they now being to operate by. So the sweet little ‘girl’ is a ‘girl’ no more. The hopeful boy is a boy no longer. They both switch into the settings which they have been programming since their child-hood, most strongly from the example of their parents and their own responses to that example.

It should never be a surprise that both the bride and groom will change their behaviour once married. So this demands two effective processes at work, for ideal results. Firstly, we should each be aware of our humanity and need to become better people. The most ideal role-model for us all is Jesus Christ and we all need to become more like him, no matter what our religious persuasion. There is no-one in all of human history who is a more worthy example to us all. Each of us should be committed to changing to be more like Jesus all the time. So, when we discover that our internal, automatic settings cause us to behave less like him we should be quick to address that.

The other effective process is for the people affected, especially the spouse, to offer grace and forgiveness to the person who proves to be less lovely than was hoped. An important reason for this grace response is that God will treat us the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving and if we despise our spouse for not being what we want, we are inviting God to refuse to forgive us and to despise who we are. Since we are all imperfect it is very dangerous to engage in despisement of others who are also imperfect.

I counsel couples who are planning to wed, to realise that they may both change in the months following the wedding – if not even in the first week. They both need to be sensitive to this process and to see that they bring themselves to God so that God can teach and heal them, perfecting who they are. They both need to be ready to love and forgive each other, even when the frog stays a frog, or the princess proves to be unworthy of that role.

For those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their role model there should be no Un-Charming Princes and no tainted Cinderella’s. That is, of course, unless they are still a ‘work in progress’. And I guess, we are all works in progress, eh?

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Un-Charming Prince – Forgiven

This is yet another instalment in the investigation of how to deal with the ugly reality most marriages confront, of the husband or wife not being what we want them to be. Susan and I have both experienced this in our marriage and I have spoken to many men and women who have their own story to tell of this phenomenon. At some point in most relationships we come to realise that the other person is less than we hoped and thought them to be. They may prove to have qualities far below what we expected.

I believe that the most powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage is forgiveness. So let me tell you about my own experience of having to forgive Susan. When she proved to be a Tainted Cinderella I struggled, but eventually resolved the situation by applying forgiveness. I think this experience will be instructive and helpful.

In the early years of my marriage to Susan, which took place almost 35 years ago, I was surprised to find that she was not the ideal wife I had expected. I did not realise I had specific expectations until they were not fulfilled. I simply thought that Susan would have the same ideas of marriage as me and would naturally do the things I thought she would. I was mistaken. Susan had her own ideas and her own determination to be and do what she thought was best. When I suggested she do things my way or fit in with my expectations she showed that she had no inclination to do so. She could tell me why her ideas were better and why mine should be rejected.

I don’t recall the detail of a lot of this now; since it was three decades ago and we have worked through many things since then. I do know that I found myself so bewildered and hurt by what Susan turned out to be that I would cry silent tears into my pillow. One day at church my pastor prophesied as he prayed for me and he said, on the Lord’s behalf, “I know the tears you shed at night”. That was an amazing prophetic revelation. I had told no-one of my situation and inner pain. I feared for a while that Susan would ask me about the tears. I didn’t want to tell her that she made me cry.

The problem was resolved very simply. I finally realised that I was despising Susan for being ‘Susan’. OK, she wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t the person I thought I was marrying. But I did marry Susan. Susan was my bride. I was rejecting and despising her for being ‘Susan’, because I wanted her to be someone else. I wanted a warm and devoted wife whose whole focus was to please me. I even coined the term, ‘Country Kitchen Mum’, to describe the idea of a loving woman who made you feel special and who made you the focus of her life. Susan was not a Country Kitchen Mum.

I finally came to the place, without me ever discussing it with Susan, of forgiving her for being ‘Susan’. I told God that I forgave Susan for not being the woman I wanted her to be. I committed myself to be Susan’s husband, to love her unconditionally, even though she was not the bride I thought I was marrying. I guess I felt a bit like Jacob must have felt being married off to a different person to the one he thought he was marrying.

Once I forgave Susan for being Susan something wonderful happened in my heart. It seemed that my fantasy ideas about the ideal wife I wanted Susan to be just evaporated and all the disappointment and hurt feelings I felt evaporated with them. I found myself on a journey of discovery, to build a very real relationship with a very real person; my wife Susan. At first I had been building a fantasy relationship with a person who did not exist. My season of struggle with the Tainted Cinderella was a vital step toward removing the fantasy notions.

Please note that it is possible for the dream to die and for bitterness and resentment to grow instead. If I had not forgiven Susan for being Susan I could have spent the rest of my life resenting Susan for being Susan. So the journey from the Honeymoon Phase to the Happy Reality Phase requires God’s grace, not just realisation. Forgiveness is the very powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage. Never hold back from using it. And the internal transformation you can enjoy will often surprise you.

This is part of a series of posts on the theme of the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Un-Charming Prince – That’s Me!

Most husbands and wives come to the sad realisation that their spouse is less than they hoped they would be.

Just a few weeks ago I saw a young bride shaking her head toward her loud-mouth husband who was obviously performing below what she had hoped and expected. I have worked with men who have, similarly, shared how their wife has not been the person they thought she was. I have talked with men and women whose parents and friends tried to warn them about the person they were marrying, but they would not listen.

Eventually, even the giddiest emotional ride or the most determined intention to see only delight in our spouse must yield to the reality that the spouse is made of the same mud as the rest of us. We are each human and therefore imbued with weaknesses and limitations that only the most disciplined and blessed have moved past.

Susan and Me

My Susan made a number of assumptions about me that proved to be disappointments for her. She wrongly assumed that I, being the son of a builder, would be a good handyman, like her dad. My failure to reach this expectation was a sore point for her for years. She bought me handyman books for Christmas, chided me and even went off to do a handyman course of her own in frustration.

Another sore point for Susan was that I was all talk and no action. I was a wonderful dreamer, but not a person who knew how to bring reality to the very things I could conceive. This was more than a frustration for her, as it caused her pain that our economic circumstances could be so much better if I only pursued just one of my dreams.

At the same time I had my own suite of disappointments with Susan. She was more angry and demanding than I ever expected. She also became focused on things important to her and I had to compete for her time and attention. We ended up in more of a battle of wills than I ever expected.

So, I was an Un-Charming Prince and Susan was a Tainted Cinderella. This kind of situation is not uncommon. I suspect it is almost universal. And it is part of the process of the maturation of a relationship, where people learn to love and accept each other, not because the other is ideal or perfect, but in spite of the fact that the other is neither ideal nor perfect.

Needed Keys

The Keys to working through the ugly realisation stage in a relationship are to apply forgiveness and to commit to love the other unconditionally.

I refer to ‘forgiveness’ as the Repair Mechanism for marriage. However, it may also be valuable to put on the table the issues that are challenging each other. This is a tough thing to do without speaking from hurt feelings, desire to change the other, manipulation or the like. Nonetheless it can be very powerful, if done with a good heart.

If you are facing the ugly realities of an Un-Charming Prince or a Tainted Cinderella seek to apply forgiveness, grace and unconditional love. Once you have done that successfully you can look at bringing problems into open discussion, if you need to.

Coming Up

In a future post I will tell you about my own process of dealing with the hurt feelings I had from Susan, when I realised she was not all I expected her to be. It was vital for my own freedom and the development of our relationship. Look for a future post called ‘Un-Charming Prince – Forgiven’.

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Un-Charming Prince

What does a woman do when she wakes up one day and realises her Prince Charming is a dope? Or maybe he is irresponsible, opinionated, ineffective, vain, shallow, insecure, unreliable or otherwise less than charming. What does a wife do when she discovers that her hero is, in reality, an Un-Charming Prince?

I have seen at times the look of exasperation in the eyes of a young bride. I have heard the sighs of resignation. I have heard the sharp words or the hurt rebukes of a wife feeling sadly done-by as her husband heads off on some irresponsible or self-indulgent endeavour. My own sweet Susan expressed those very things herself, as she confronted my irresponsibility and general failure to be what she had hoped.

The process I am describing is, in fact, to be expected in every marriage. We all see in our beloved a range of things which are born of hope more than reality. We impose upon them our own biased view of who they are. We even overlook the evidence of their shortcomings. We may think that those things are just incidental glitches in an otherwise idyllic person. Or we may think that once we are married those negative qualities will smooth away. “She only needs someone to love her”, or, “Once I get him away from his friends he’ll be a much better person”, are the types of thoughts that can beguile us about our future spouse.

The initial phase of marriage is oft referred to as the ‘Honeymoon Phase’, where everything is seen with rose-coloured glasses. The ‘In-Love Phase’ is full of hopeful expectation. The ‘Honeymoon Phase’ is sweetened by new levels of relationship and intimacy. But eventually both the In-Love experience and the intoxication of the new intimacy must yield to the growing body of evidence. The weaknesses of the spouse continue to show up and the accumulating evidence becomes increasingly compelling. The small annoyances begin to loom as proof of deeper problems.

Just as the husband often proves to be an Un-Charming Prince, the wife equally proves to be other than her husband once hoped. As and when this happens, don’t be alarmed. This is an important step toward maturity and toward the deepening of your marriage and your joy. I don’t say that to be condescending, but I speak from sound personal experience. So in a few days I’ll share some of my own journey with you, in order for you to see that the ugly realisation of an Un-Charming Prince or a tainted Cinderella is a step toward greater blessing. Keep an eye out for further posts referring to the Un-Charming Prince – that will point you to my further discussions on this important issue.

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Are You Ready for Reality?

Sarsha & Dijon are deeply in love. She desperately needs him to help her after a troubled childhood. He is totally captivated by the idea of being her troubadour. He is going to make her happy and she is going to complete him. The fantasy has begun and they eagerly marry so they can live their dream.

Many irresponsible months later, after notching up a string of giddy moments and experimental exploits Sarsha and Dijon are going to have a baby. It is one big adventure and it’s just SO exciting to them both. This is their greatest achievement and the fruit of their delirious love for each other.

But after a wrenching year of incredible duress the couple are struggling to maintain their marriage. They DEFINITELY will NEVER have another child. Babies are just SO demanding. The impact of the baby on their free-wheeling lifestyle has been traumatic. The load placed on their flimsy relationship has almost been to breaking point.

What went wrong? Why didn’t the baby fit into the fantasy? Why did the bubble of delusion ever have to be burst? Why couldn’t the baby just do what the parents wanted it to do? Why couldn’t they just continue their silly game with a baby as part of the picture?

What went wrong for this couple is that Reality hit. Their foolishness did not dictate reality, but simply hid their eyes from it. Giddy giggles are not the stuff on which real life is built. Shallow personalities and empty values are straw, no matter what they dress up as.

This couple was not ready for reality, but reality is what they had. Over the next few years they will both mature, even if painfully and haltingly. They will finally come to the place where they see other things than their fantasies. Hopefully that day will come, for their sakes and for the sake of their baby.

Immaturity and romantic fantasies do not prepare people for parenting. And in our highly peer-streamed culture few young adults have shared in the care and nurture of babies and children. Many young mums have never held a baby before their own. Many young dads are ill-prepared for the invasion of a young dependent baby into their home.

Children are a blessing from God and are God’s reward. Yet many people reel in shock under the unexpected impact of a baby in their life. The problem is not with the baby, but with the way our culture prepares people for reality. The “happily ever after” stories and self-indulgent values rob many of reality and undermine their chances of a healthy start to marriage and family.

The reality check which comes from a first child and the work-load resulting from a growing family are what contribute to a person’s maturity. I have heard it said of a young man and woman at times, they have much going for them but will be so much better value once they have been married and started a family. The experience of facing realities which marriage and babies force upon them brings out a maturity and strength that is needed.

I encourage those who have not yet started a family to spend time with those who have. I encourage those who have young children to actively involve children, youth and young adults in the experience of caring for the child. These experiences help bring reality into the understanding, and protect people from the fantasies that would otherwise overwhelm them.