Keep it Simple, Stupid!
My in-laws recently celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. Add to that the 9 years they dated prior to their marriage as they were high school sweethearts, and you’ll see that they have outlasted many couples in today’s world of divorce and separation. I am always fascinated by couples whose relationships have stood the test of time as I want to know their secret.
There are a few secrets I have learned in my years of counseling couples so far: be humble, forgive quickly, and don’t let your ego get bigger than your marriage, to name a few. But as I’ve watched my in-laws, I feel that I can add a new “secret” to the mix. Simplicity.
A high school teacher of mine used to always use this phrase: “Keep it simple, stupid.” I think it may have been in reference to calculus or some other confusing kind of math (not my favorite subject), but what he was basically saying was don’t overcomplicate the problem- take it at face value. The more you over think it, the more you’ll mess it up and end up with the wrong answer.
And when I was thinking about my in-law’s relationship, this teacher’s words came to mind. You see, my in-laws keep it simple. Because I think in the big picture, they are just thankful to do life together.
I have seen many couples who come in to my office in a state of despair and confusion because they tend to overcomplicate, overanalyze, and presume many things about their spouse and marriage. It’s as if there are two levels of communication going on: the one that they actually speak out loud and then the underlying layer of guessing, game-playing, and assumptions that they keep to themselves.
For example, let’s say your husband does something thoughtless and it hurts your feelings. Let’s say you give him the silent treatment because you assume that his thoughtless action means that he doesn’t really care about you. Eventually he catches on to this silent treatment and apologizes for his mistake. But his apology in your mind is not genuine.
The way he worded it and his tone of voice just didn’t seem legitimate enough to cover his transgression. So you “accept” his apology hesitantly, and continue to keep him at arm’s length to punish him for what he’s done. In this situation, nothing is simple and nothing is being communicated. Therefore, this one little mistake that the husband has made has formed a root of bitterness within the wife that may continue to grow over time if not dealt with.
Simplicity is basically the opposite of the example above. In a marriage, simplicity means you say what you feel and you mean what you say. It means you believe your spouse rather than second guessing their motives. It means you keep a short account by bringing things up early rather than letting them fester under the surface. Simplicity means you are happy to be with the person you have married, and instead of seeking out their flaws, you appreciate their strengths.
And simplicity means you let your yes be yes, your no be no, and cut out any manipulation and game-playing in between. This is something that I see my in-laws do, and something that I believe has given them the ability to stay together for all these years. And the reality is – they aren’t just “staying together”. They are happy together.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went out to lunch with them and they were asking about a single friend of ours. Somehow the phrase, “I guess you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince” was said. My husband jokingly responded, “Mom – you must not have kissed enough frogs because you ended up with one.” And she replied with the sweetest answer: “Mikey is not a frog, Mikey is my best friend!” As she said it, she reached over and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.
Now that is what marriage is all about. They keep it simple. And that makes them the least stupid people of all!
About the Author:
Courtney A. Ellis, MA, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing professional private counseling to individuals and couples in the Tampa Bay area. Courtney offers Biblically-based support in a safe, confidential atmosphere. Areas of specialization include, but are not limited to, marital and premarital counseling, anxiety, depression, and body image. Visit www.HealingHurtingHearts.com to learn more.