SERENITY IN MARRIAGE
God, 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.
So goes the famous Serenity Prayer. It’s most well known as a major part of the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, though it did not begin there. Originally penned by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the Serenity Prayer has much to offer alcoholics trying to heal themselves. It has just as much to say to others, particularly those trying to make marriage work.
Here’s how I break it down. Accept the things I cannot change: This means my spouse. I can’t change her. The more I try, the angrier she gets, the more frustrated I become, the less serenity I have in my life. Is she chronically late for everything? Sure she is. Does she eat junk food? Yep, pretty regularly. Does she insist on having four dogs? I’m afraid so. Can I change any of this? Apparently not.
Change the things I can: This means me. Changing myself does take courage and sometimes I don’t have as much as I need. Courage to give up on things I thought were important for her to change, courage to challenge myself to stay when things aren’t going my way and I’m angry, courage to push myself to grow, to accommodate, to nurture someone who doesn’t always cooperate. This is hard.
Wisdom to know the difference: This is about boundaries. Just because she eats junk doesn’t mean I have to. But it gets tricky. If she keeps it around I’ll be tempted and that requires more courage from me. Still, my problem, not hers. Then, I have to deal with my attachment to her svelt figure. Again, my problem, not hers. If she ruins dinner for herself, I may not get any. My problem, not hers. Tell me it doesn’t take wisdom and courage to cope with all this! Is my serenity worth accepting things I don’t like about her? Yeah, most definitely.