The beauty of good enough in relationships

On a quest to add a challenge to the same workout routine I’ve been doing for years, I decided that this summer I would learn to swim laps. I already knew how to swim, but the kind of swimming you do to play Marco Polo, not the kind that builds muscle and stamina. I started with the breaststroke. It felt so unnatural that I abandoned it after a couple of attempts at laps. It dawned on me that freestyle would be much easier and why didn’t I try that in the first place. Even in freestyle, though, I had one tiny, little problem: I couldn’t figure out how to breathe.

My husband advised, “Don’t worry so much about the technicalities. You just need to get laps in.”

When we were newly married, I probably wouldn’t have handled Mike’s feedback well, to be honest. I might have been exasperated that he didn’t understand the intricacies of the problem (breathing is very complicated). I might have felt defensive.

But in eight years of partnership, I’ve learned to be more trusting of Mike as one of my people.

I’ve also learned that being one of my people doesn’t mean that he will understand or say the right thing 100% of the time. I won’t, either.

That last point tripped me up for a long time. I didn’t know how to resolve differences. The slightest disagreement made me terrified that we were doomed. It might have been a decade after my own parents’ divorce, but I was still tensed for the moment I needed to cut my losses and run. Maybe it would be over an irreconcilable difference of life values previously undetected. Or maybe it would be because he gave me the wrong advice about swimming.

Somewhere along the way, though, I figured out that good enough is… good enough.

A couple of years ago, I ordered a picture from our wedding printed onto a puzzle. I put the puzzle in a frame, leaving out one piece. It is a chunk of leaves from the tree behind us that is missing, nothing that prevents us from seeing me smiling up at Mike and him beaming down on me.

The framed puzzle sits on our dresser, a reminder that one missing piece – the times we don’t get each other, when we disagree, when we are tired and angry and human – doesn’t have to keep us from seeing the big picture.

And sometimes we do get each other. Sometimes we know exactly what to say.

I jumped back in the pool. I slowed down my pace. I circled my arms in and out of the water. I put in laps. My breath grew rhythmic. I swam for 45 minutes.

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