Imperfections Brought to you by Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day just finishing up, love is in the air. If you've been married for any amount of time, Valentine's Day can often serve as a magnifying glass over your relationship. The holidays and the new year are over, everyone has gotten back into a routine of work and school, then here's comes this hyped up holiday that usually throws a kink in the routine. Babysitters, reservations, and getting off work on time are just about impossible. And of course, the kids are acting up and your spouse is stuck at the office. To top it all off, you spilled something on your clothes and there's nowhere to park. Sometimes a not-so-perfect Valentine's Day can create a blanket assumption that the relationship isn't great. A stressful day invokes thoughts of new year's resolutions you made for your marriage. With things already feeling like they aren't going right, you can't help but wonder: are we doing okay?

Looking around at other couples at dinner who seem to be engaged in conversation, laughing, and never looking at the clock. Then I see us-- counting down the minutes until we need to get the check because the babysitter has a midterm tomorrow which has cut all conversation short.

Does no one else have to work tomorrow?

Do they all have live-in nannies that put their kids to bed?

Did they dress like that for work or did they have time to go home and change?

Why isn't it as easy for us as it is for them?

If you've ever felt this way, whether it be on Valentine's Day or not, I want you to consider two things that can help keep your feet on the ground when you see the glaring reasons why your relationship isn't perfect. It all lies in perception. The way I describe perception is vision through the lens of your belief. Not seeing things in the raw objective, but rather seeing what you believe is going on. Consider these two things: what you want to see in your scenario, and what you choose to see in their scenario.

Whether it's Valentine's Day, Christmas, a birthday or just one-on-one time, most people bring an expectation to the occasion. One person may want a chill, easy evening while the other wants some spontaneity for once. Maybe they both want a relaxing evening-- that doesn't guarantee they have the similar ideas of relaxation. No matter what, the expectation is probably not the same. These expectations are what we each want to see on Valentine's date night. The only thing that was agreed upon was dinner at a restaurant, but both people visualize the date differently. Secretly, she wishes he would show up with a dozen roses. Secretly, he wishes she would surprise him with the gift he's been hinting at. Disappointment settles in early when expectations aren't being met. Then, eyes wander to another table. Look at them, laughing and smiling on their third glass of champagne like they don't have a care in the world. The other couples just seem to be in a Hallmark movie while your table is lifeless and almost awkward. The assumption that everyone's relationship is better than yours sits down right next to that early onset disappointment.

What's reality in this scenario? How do we keep our imaginations from running wild with this stuff? Surprisingly, these situations fall under much of what God says about judging others.

When I think of judging others, my mind understands it as "don't condemn someone because you don't know what they are going through." However, judgement, in the simplest form, is just drawing conclusions from the world around us. Merriam-Webster would describe judgment as "to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises." Except when we lose our heads in the fog of assumption, we look through the lens of our belief, not of weighing of evidence and testing of premises.

It's in these moments we judge our spouse. We let our imaginations run wild with how little they know about us or how they must not have been listening. Looking around, it's disgustingly obvious that the other couples both young and old are killing it this Valentine's Day. Ugh, why are we so bad at this?

Folks, if there are problems in the relationship, it's not coming from the lack of a killer Valentine's Day dinner. I promise. What seems to be going on at another table might be completely true or completely false, but it will not help you make the most of your reality. How do you make the most of your reality? Here's what I try to do:

1. Speak to myself from a place of victory in my present moment. I have made it to dinner. There are no kids here crawling over the table. This food is about to be good! Go us for making it here! We got the babysitter and made the reservation after a full day of work. This is actually a miracle.

2. Speak to my husband from a place of gratitude. Seriously, just say "I know it's Valentine's Day but I can't tell you how awesome it is to just be sitting here with you. Thanks for doing this." Mood lifted.

3. DO NOT LOOK AT OTHER PEOPLE TO SEE HOW YOU'RE DOING. That's for the rest of time. No one knows what you guys have to do to make the day run smoothly. No one knows what you're going through at your job. No one sees the little things that make it all work. And guess what else? You don't know any of that stuff about anyone else either.

So, relax and be confident. If something needs to improve, let it come from within not from a snapshot of a random couple on a good day.