You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly. – Sam Keen
Sometimes the most ordinary things can bring the greatest clarity.
I experienced a moment of clarity driving home from the Thanksgiving holiday when I realized an important contributor to the strong marriage Mary Beth and I have built is something completely ordinary – dual-zone temperature controls.
The Temperature Dance
My wife and I share many common interests: We love our children, enjoy the beach, savor our morning coffee and root for the Kansas City Royals. There are also things that cause us not to see eye-to-eye like the taste of olives, Stephen Colbert and the temperature in the car.
Mary Beth likes it warm – 70°, while I like a chilled cabin no more than 60°. For years we would argue over the car’s temperature. During winter, I would close the vents facing me to force the warm air her direction. In the summer months, Mary Beth would return the favor so more of the cold air was on my side of the car.
We did this temperature dance for so long that we stopped talking about it – we just did it. But two years ago things changed. I got a 2013 Ford Taurus with some cool amenities – including dual-zone temperature controls.
No more eye rolling. No more mindlessly closing or opening vents. We found marriage bliss inside the new car. Like a Sleep Number bed, we can set our personal temperature control to what we like best without any sarcastic commentary to follow.
The dual-zone temperature controls have brought peace, which has given me the headspace to find the lessons behind the bickering and how it has actually strengthened our marriage.
- We don’t have to like the same things.
Even though Mary Beth and I have shared a life together for more than 30 years, we are still two unique people with two brains that are wired differently.
I think our differences are what help our marriage prosper. Because of the diversity we have things to talk about – to debate about – so we can challenge each other and support each other in lively ways. This energy adds an important element of growth that keeps our marriage from getting stagnant.
- Compromise is a necessity.
Because Mary Beth and I don’t always agree, we’ve found that compromise is a necessity. Rather than trampling on each other’s needs, we look for ways to meet in the middle so neither one loses.
Compromise gives us the chance to feel safe when we give up what’s important to us personally. Compromise also builds trust, which leads to greater respect, intimacy and a more grounded love.
- We accept each other.
Even when I would get exasperated with my wife’s need to turn up the car’s temperature, I didn’t judge her or think she was weird. I just accepted that she feels cold air differently than I do.
I don’t want the essence of who Mary Beth is to change. The way God has made her, along with how her life experiences have shaped her world view, is what makes Mary Beth Mary Beth. And more than accepting who she is, I celebrate her unique spirit.
On the drive home after Thanksgiving, I was taking a turn behind the wheel while Mary Beth napped. My temperature control was set at 60° and I noticed she had her thermostat at 72°. The cold November air was under control on her side of the car.
I reached over and rested my hand on her jacket sleeve. She didn’t move her arm away. Her jacket and the perfectly-regulated temperature provided an opportunity with some connection.
Acknowledging our differences, finding ways to compromise and accepting each other without judgment are the things that strengthen our marriage the most. It’s funny how dual-zone temperature controls was the inspiration for the beautiful clarity.