Picture this: You walk into a house that is 100% neat and tidy, except for a T-shirt lying on the kitchen floor. What catches your attention? For most of us, we will notice the T-shirt … one very minor imperfection in an otherwise perfect home.
Chalk it up to human nature. But let’s not allow that “fact of life” to cause us to focus on the minor imperfections of the people with whom we live and work.
Four years ago, I recognized I was taking for granted some important things about my wife Erin. When I stopped to think about it, I couldn’t imagine anyone being more perfectly suited to me. And I couldn’t think of anyone else in the entire world with whom I’d so enjoy sharing my life. I decided it would be helpful for me to jot down a list of reasons why I love and admire her. By occasionally looking at this list, I hoped to be less likely to take her for granted, less likely to feel bothered by the occasional small issues, and more appreciative of her impact on me.
I reviewed and added to the list a few times that year – but then I lost it. Today, I was excited to stumble on that old list. I read through it and was reminded once again that I’ve been blessed with a life partner way beyond what I deserve.
What if you kept a similar list for the important people in your life – including those you work with?
A Few of My Favorite Things about My Wife
I share my list here, though I feel a bit vulnerable because it’s so personal for me. In my awkward expressions of how I feel about the most important person in the world to me, what if I say something that could be misinterpreted by someone without full context? But perhaps there will be someone who reads this – maybe YOU – who is encouraged to recognize the treasure in your own backyard.
- Has personal values that fit well with mine
- Creative … nearly always has a project going on
- Likes to read
- Nearly always learning and trying new things
- Loves God
- Very smart … I usually feel a lot more confident when I solicit her thoughts
- Enjoys being alone with me
- Athletic … likes to do yoga, weights, exercise videos, cross-country ski, ice-skate, hike, canoe, ride horses, and sometimes gets on a jogging kick
- Looks great (to say the least!)
- Invests in exercise and eating right to keep looking great (I like to think this is for my benefit)
- Not too materialistic … for example, although every other woman we know had a cell phone, she gave up her cell phone for five years as I started my business and we paid off our home mortgage
- Not overly concerned with looking perfect … for example, doesn’t get uptight if her hair gets messed up or if she isn’t wearing the latest fashions
- Likes me and enjoys doing things with me
- Similar sense of humor as me
- Willing to stay at home and raise our kids
- Excels at homeschooling our kids
- Fantastic cook … and keeps expanding her repertoire
- Raising my daughters to be capable, happy, strong women
- More sympathetic than I am when our kids have problems
- Well-read and knowledgeable on a variety of topics
- Prevailing attitude is cheerful, optimistic, and strong
- Willing to make sacrifices for the sake of other people and the gospel
- Lets me snuggle up to her at night … and always has warm feet (and did I mention that her feet are cute?)
- Still fun to kiss after all these years
- Cheerful eyes
- Willing to wear her hair long, like I like it best
- Willing to humor my superficial requests like wearing perfume for special occasions
- A great mother … loving, but not a pushover
- Frugal … willing to buy second-hand clothes and furniture, drive extra miles to the less-expensive grocery store, etc.
- Health conscious … buys quality, wholesome food and even raises her own
- Wife of my youth … what a history we have together!
- Not given to fads, whether worldly or “Christian”
- Doesn’t do things that I see or hear about other people’s spouses doing that would probably bother me, such as:
- Bringing up various men to compare me with
- Vying to be our kids’ favorite parent
- Bringing up old grievances or calling to mind my past blunders
- Watching a lot of TV
- Reading trashy books or magazines
- Having crushes on celebrity men
- Focusing on partying with friends rather than enjoying our family
- Being controlled by an addiction
- Maintaining close relationships with other guys
- Lovely voice to listen to when she talks or sings
- Tidy and organized, especially for a mother of four children
- Minimizes her time on the computer, and in particular reserving it for when the kids don’t need her attention (this is difficult, because where we live the Internet is the primary way to get information and shop wisely, but I think it makes a world of difference in our home)
- Willing to consider doing things or change certain things when I ask her, even though she doesn’t want to. For example, grocery shopping was a huge weekly ordeal that was getting in the way of my work productivity because I need to mind some of the kids while she is gone for most of the day. She switched to twice-weekly, and even shifted the time of day so less of the workday is affected. It takes humility to respond to such a request, not to mention consideration and self-sacrifice.
- Forgives and forgets. Next to God, she is the one who most knows about the times I’ve been a big jerk. Like God, she forgives me, still loves me, and still has high hopes for me. It’s amazing to me that she doesn’t keep bringing up some major screw-ups I’ve done in the past.
- When it comes to money, I am by nature a saver, where she is more of a free spirit. While this sometimes causes friction, she never treats me like a tightwad. We discuss things and generally come to a mutual decision. I say “generally” because sometimes the thriftier person (which could be Erin if we’re talking about something I want to spend money on) seems to have veto power due to the reality that we only have so much money; in those cases, it’s not exactly mutually decided, but we both accept the decision. Anyway, it would be easy for Erin to manipulate or play a martyr often by rolling her eyes and saying, “You’re just a cheapskate” or “Don’t bother asking Daddy, because he hates spending money.” By treating me with respect, she gives me the freedom to carefully think about what’s best for the family (which often involves spending more money than feels right, but hey — I’m a tightwad).
- I mentioned above that Erin is a great cook, but it deserves special mention that she often makes up a new dish or dessert. To me, that makes eating at home continually feel special and as exciting as going to a restaurant.
- It really feels nice when she does something just for me, like paint her toenails or wear her hair a certain way or buy something that she knows I like. Those thoughtful moments bring a feeling akin to when we were dating — what a thrill that someone so awesome cares about me!
- If we both have errands around town or in another town, she tries to arrange schedules so we can ride together, even if driving separately would be more efficient. How cool is it that she likes to spend time with me?
- She has the flexibility and patience to play along with a guy who likes change.
Would your life or impact be improved if you kept a similar list for the people who matter most?
Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast and the managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.