I didn’t find out the truth about Tony until it was too late. We were three days into our honeymoon, still in the afterglow of a beautiful wedding and all of this concentrated time with friends and family, and I was just now learning that he was not who I thought he was. I was stunned, and I was also married now. There was no turning back.
Some friends of Tony’s generously offered up their vacation home in George, WA near the Gorge for us to stay on our honeymoon. We had this spacious home to ourselves, right on the Columbia River. There was no cable, no internet, hardly any cell phone reception, but lots of sunshine and lots of time. We took some long walks, enjoyed the indoor hot tub, made some meals together, and worked on a 1,000 piece puzzle. There were plenty of books and magazines to browse and on the third day of our trip I picked up a book by Shaunti Feldhahn called For Women Only – What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men.
I began to read and as I came across things about “men” that bothered me, I quickly dismissed in my mind, “Yeah, but not Tony.” I kept reading and feeling sad for other women who were in relationships with such men who had images of other women swirling around in their heads. I thought it was pretty weird that the men surveyed in this book often felt like imposters at work and didn’t have as much confidence as they should. I thought, “I seriously lucked out. I can’t believe this is how other men think. I am SO glad I married Tony. He’s not like this at all.” Then, I made the fatal mistake of asking him his opinion of one of the sections I was reading.
“Babe, what do you think about this: This author says, ‘Even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women.’ Do you think its that common for guys to think that way?”
“Honey, I think that way.”
I couldn’t believe it. Not my husband. This man, the man I just married? This is the man I dated for three years before we made our vows. He was the very best man – person, actually – I had ever known. He was honest and funny. He was confident and talented. He never pressured me for sex during our entire dating life, maintained healthy physical boundaries, and I never once saw him give even the slightest attention or glance at another woman. I just couldn’t understand it. Was he telling me that he was just like every other man? Did I, in fact, marry a human man with flaws and weaknesses and not some kind of super-human man I’d made up in my head? It was too much for me to absorb. I was in shock.
It might help to explain that I’d had a crush on Tony from the first time I met him. He had a girlfriend at the time, so there was no chance for me. Since I had no chance, I thought of him more like Paul McCartney, or Joey from New Kids on the Block, or Chris Martin from Coldplay – a total rockstar that I could daydream about but would never get to be with in real life. Ah, the daydreams. Ah, the prayers… “Dear God, could you bring me someone just like Tony Peterson, but who doesn’t have a girlfriend and who loves Jesus? Amen.” I was hooked on the idea of him and we’d maybe had three sentences exchanged.
Then, a few years later, he was single and we started dating. Then, a few years after that, we actually got married. It was like I dated and married Paul McCartney – you know, not as a grandpa, but as a young rock star! Couldn’t believe it! Then, less than a week after the best day ever, I find out that he is a man just like every other man? I didn’t know what to do with this new information. I’m pretty sure I just stared at him. Then, I read a diagram in the book that told me this…
I read the rest of the book and tried to act less surprised when I asked Tony questions. It turns out that he is both incredible AND a man, not one or the other. It turns out he loves me and has integrity AND deals with lust. Images of other women do sometimes pop unexpectedly into his head. So, while my lofty perception of him came crashing down that afternoon, my respect for him has deepened. It has helped me to know about his thought life in general, to know where I fit in, to know what I can do to best show love to him and grow closer to him.
The rest of the book is filled with stories and surveys from ordinary men. Some of them were things I thought I knew, some of them took me completely by surprise. None of them took Tony by surprise. He shared with me that what did take him by surprise was that this stuff was in a book, he really didn’t think it was any secret. The things I found totally enlightening, he’d known all of his life. There is a corresponding book, For Men Only, that I had the same feelings about. I thought, “Of course men already know this about us.” Tony’s reactions were a lot like mine, surprised and enlightened.
It occurred to both of us that what is obvious to us is only obvious to us. What is in our heads at some point needs to come out into the open. He never intentionally hid anything from me, he just took for granted that I already knew. Since then, we both have become more purposeful in asking each other questions about things we might assume and being honest about things that we might not have mentioned before. I’ve learned that when I watch Jersey Shore, while its a total train wreck and guilty pleasure for me, he just sees images of barely dressed women that get stored up in his brain and memory. We are having two totally different reactions to what is on the screen. It’s not because I am insensitive or because he is some kind of pig. It’s because we are different as men and women – not good, not bad.
Have you ever wondered if there are things you think you know about your spouse that you might be wrong about? Could there be things about you that your husband or wife thinks they know but are actually way off? Have you ever discovered something about them that initially surprised you, but ultimately brought you closer together?
Try this exercise with your spouse sometime this week.
Take a piece of paper and each of you write down your answers to the following:
1. What first attracted you to your spouse?
2. What do you think first attracted them to you?
3. How did you know you wanted to be married to them?
4. How do you feel about that now?
5. What has been the biggest surprise to you about your spouse?
6. What do you think has been the biggest surprise to your spouse about you?
Tony and I are eager to know what you discover about each other. While Tony is not the rockstar-monk I thought he was when I married him, he is still the most incredible person I’ve ever known… and a man I hope to continue to get to know better over the years and to #staymarried to.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by! ~ Michelle
Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography