Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Serenity Prayer


“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

 the courage to change the things I can, 

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

-      The Serenity Prayer


My daughter turned 43 a few weeks ago and celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary last summer. As she herself testifies in her pieces, it’s a challenging time in her marriage. She and her husband are getting help and working through things and the only advice I can give is to remember how it was a challenging time in my marriage and indeed, I believe in everyone’s. A tiny bit of consolation to know you’re not alone, but still it’s difficult.


It’s a time in the cycle when the bloom is off the rose, the freshness of love and the excitement of beginning to build a life together has wound down and each partner is wondering, “Why haven’t you changed the way I wanted you to?!!!” The project of turning the other into the way we hoped or wanted or insisted they be has hit a dead end. 


If partners can get over that hump, they enter a third stage of accepting that they’re actually never going to change the other and they might as well deal with what they have. So the bar of our ideal expectations gets lowered way down and if we’re lucky, we find some peace with things as they are. Yes, we’ll still get annoyed when there’s little hairs in the sink after shaving or we’re asked four times in a row if we’ll do something having replied “Yes, I will” to the other three. But we know the routines and know how to deal with them and don’t let them throw us off the course of our day.  And having made those marriage commitments for some mysterious reasons that are not always obvious, we find comfort in the preschool wisdom, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Or to return to the Serenity Prayer. There are not only things about our spouse, but many things about ourselves that are so indelibly linked to our essential character that we never will be able to— nor should we— change them. But within that, there are many things we can change about ourselves— particularly how we react to situations, how we let things hurt us or not, how we unthinkingly might hurt others. As for what we can change in our spouse, well, see the third line of the prayer.


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