When it comes to finding the right spouse/partner, our friends, peers, even society, is always ready to be the resource to offer direction. They will show you what you need to look for! For example – “You need a spouse that makes lots of money, while being good with the kids, a family-oriented person, home for dinner, a handyman who cooks, bakes, cleans the house, strong yet soft and understanding, she’s not afraid of bugs, loves to talk to you and listen…” Even in our liturgy, our Shabbat evening song contains the words that are meant to imply what is a perfect spouse/partner- אשת חיל (Woman of valor/’wonder woman”). Even most recently, women have been quietly singing for hopes of finding that איש חיל(Man of valor/”wonder man”), after all this is the ultimate example of what you need to search for.
I noticed that when people are dating, they say: “He/She is perfect for me” “I accept them for who they are”. Maybe they consciously or unconsciously realize that “wonder person” is not really realistic, after all no one is perfect [and what is perfect anyway?], and eventually, many do find that spouse with whom to share their lives.
So…how come as a spouse or parent we seem to forget that insight into reality regarding ourselves? I have found that many are constantly feeling guilty for life’s realities – picking work over spending more time with family, finding ourselves frustrated with our kids and choices in life, missing meals together, moody and unmotivated to do house chores, suffering from self-blame, self-judgment and the negativity list goes on…
What happened? Did we not already realize that this “person of valor” may be an ideal but is not a realistic expectation from ourselves? That no one is perfect. Instead we turn back to society’s expectations; we compare what we think is going on in other marriages and households; we allow the media to create our aspirations. Then, we look at ourselves and think “Are we terrible spouses/parents?” Does that make any sense? After all, what is the perfect spouse or parent? Do those people exist? Must I be able to be a doting Dad or Mom 24/7? Is wanting some time for myself a selfish request?
We look at that perfect spouse/parent inאשת חיל , where the song begins with the words: “Wonder woman/[man]” (implying that everyone needs to have one), continuing: “Who can find a ‘spouse’ of excellence- whose value far exceeds that of pearls/fine gems?” What is the essence of this song?- It can be read to understand: “It is very difficult to find such a woman/man. …whose worth reaches far beyond what the normative person can imagine.” How difficult and how challenging to find that person, and more personally, to be that person.
What I am trying to drive home here is – The perfect person, the wonder person, the person of valor may be an idealistic song but is an unrealistic expectation. Though perfection is in the eye of the beholder and therefore defined differently by each person, it is both a dream and a barrier to get what we want and where we want to go. We look at those who present themselves in life or on social media who seem to have been able to “accomplish” what we define as a perfect life and say: “How did they do that?” We seem to be stuck between what we want to do, should do, wish to do, and can’t do….We want to be home but also need to work 8-12 hour a day jobs. We want to be successful at work and in our relationships. We want our mood to always be up, be always playful and full of energy for our spouses, friends, and kids. We want to make money and spend money without stress and concern. But, dear reader, realistically- is that always possible? Who is this “wonder person” and is being a “normal person” a wonder in and of itself? Can I accept the wonder of me just being me?
Alfred Adler, an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology remarked that people tend to look at their lives and at themselves in a vertical way when they should be looking in a horizontal way. A vertical lifestyle is hierarchical – someone is always on top or on the bottom: boss – employee, parent – child, coach – player, rich – poor and the list goes on. Adler believed that we should all live a horizontal lifestyle. Horizontal relationships are egalitarian and treat everyone as equals. Having something to live up to or want to be like is fine as long as it’s realistic and obtainable within you! Though one can have aspirations, one should avoid unrealistic expectations, considering a life based on how you see yourself, whether in a vertical or a horizontal perspective.
You need to ask yourself – Who’s life do I wish I had? Why is that person or thing or idea of a goal for me? Am I looking at it in a vertical or horizontal perspective? Is it realistic and obtainable for me, considering my capabilities, strengths, values, life goals…? What steps can I do to obtain my aspirations or think in a way that will get me to reach MY goals and not the goals of someone else?
Some look at others and say: “I can never be like them or get what they have” and suffer, sometimes silently and sometimes not, from their feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, moodiness, while creating a toxic environment for everyone around them. Instead, they could be looking at what they do have and are able to provide – being a loving partner/parent, healthy partner/parent, a good life filled with love, sustenance, friendships. You must look at yourself and your capabilities and say: “I am doing the best that I can with what I have to give and what I have been given! I may not be wonder person but then again, who is?” Your hard work and your reality should never be taken for granted. Being a “normal person”, doing normal activities, providing for your family, creating a life and providing for your family, being a good friend, knowing how to live, laugh and love, well, that is really “wondrous”!
Ari Wruble – Life coach.