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While some experts might tell us not to sweat the small stuff, we all know it is the little things that can chisel away at even the best of relationships. Before those granular irks lead to the Big Bang in our partnerships, we need to develop relational safety nets to catch us before we fall. You can consider these strategies to be a quirk-turned-perk energy shift, if you will. A key aspect of Wabi Sabi is learning to move our focus from what makes our partners so annoying to what makes our partners so unique.At its heart, this transition is about gratitude. Gratitude can be a marriage-saving emotion, especially if you tend to easily slide into feelings of annoyance about your partner’s daily habits. Little rituals of thankfulness can sustain you as you struggle with the thing he or she did – again.
For many years I began each day with a prayer as a way to center myself and receive divine guidance. I would make a gratitude list that often looked like this: “Today I am grateful that I have fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink and for the many friends and family members who love me”.So far so good. Then I got married and my prayers changed: “Dear God, Help me. I have married a man who refuses to answer the phone, but he will walk across a room to hand me the phone so I can answer it.”
Okay. I’m stretching the truth just a bit here, but like all couples, Brian and I each had quirks and odd behaviors that we had to learn to love and appreciate. A daily practice of offering prayers of gratitude (whether you believe in a higher being or not) for your beloved mate – flaws and all – will keep your mind open and your heart receptive to remembering how much you love him or her. For it’s really the cracks in our partners that we will someday miss the most.
Mrs. Lee’s Story
The cool, quiet room was overflowing with the grieving faces of friends and family as the funeral director invited Mrs. Lee up to the podium to speak. The petite, elegant widow walked slowly to the front of the small chapel and calmly began her eulogy.
“I am not going to sing praises for my late husband. Not today. Neither am I going to talk about how good he was.” Mrs. Lee’s eyes flashed. “Enough people have done that here.” She took a deep breath, allowing the air to fill her lungs before she continued. “Instead, I want to talk about some things that will make some of you feel a bit uncomfortable.”
Several people stopped fanning themselves and sat up a little straighter. “First off, I want to talk about what happened in bed.” She paused dramatically, shifting her weight from side to side. “Have you ever had difficulty starting your car engine in the morning?” She carefully studied the faces about the room. With a loud, grinding sound, she snorted and rumbled, violently shaking her tiny frame. “Well, that’s exactly what David’s snoring sounded like.” A cough rose up from the center of the audience. “But wait,” she continued. “Snoring wasn’t the only thing.” “There was also this rear-end wind action as well. Some nights it was so forceful, it would wake him up.” A child giggled into her hand while her red-faced mother stifled a grin.
“‘What was that?’ he would ask. ‘Oh, it’s the dog,’ I would say. Patting his back and smoothing the covers, I would urge him to go back to sleep.” She touched her hair as if remembering the way her hands felt as they placed themselves on her husband’s gasping body. “Oh, you might find this very funny,” Mrs. Lee offered the whisper of a smile. “But when his illness was at its worst, these sounds provided comfort and proof that my David was still alive.”
Silence washed over the room. Even the birds outside seemed to be listening. Mrs. Lee looked heavenward as her voice began to crack. “What I wouldn’t give just to hear those sounds one more time before I sleep.” A single tear wandered down her face, landing noiselessly on her lapel. “In the end, it’s these small things that you remember, the little imperfections that make them perfect for you.”
“So, to my beautiful children,” Mrs. Lee swept one hand toward the front row, “I hope that one day you, too, will find yourselves life partners who are as beautifully imperfect as your father was to me.”
Mrs. Lee’s eloquent tribute to her husband left the entire audience in tears. With just a few heartfelt words she summed up the mystery and magic of a lifelong marriage built on the foundation of love, imperfection, and acceptance that knows no bounds.
Wabi Sabi Love is the practice of accepting the flaws, imperfections, and limitations – as well as the gifts and the blessings – that form your shared history as a couple. This is sacred love, not infatuation, or love that is convenient. Can you imagine what the world would look like, feel like, be like if the foundational premise of romantic love and deep intimacy were based on the art of loving one’s imperfections rather than the illusionary fantasy that your relationship is fabulous only when each person is acting perfectly? ■