For my 21st birthday I (Christina) sat absorbed in the second row center stage at the Broadway show Rent. I fell in love with the characters, their storylines, their freedoms and pains, and I was in awe as “Maureen” belted the song, “Take Me or Leave Me”.
That phrase, take me or leave me, resonated with me as a 21 year old and it still does, I think it resonates with a lot of people. It is a concept of take-me-as-I-am-because-I’m-already-great. It’s an egotistical viewpoint on one hand, “I’m great and don’t need fixing!” But on another hand it has laziness written all over it, an “I’m not gonna change for you or me, I’m fine and it’s too much work anyway” mentality.
The airwaves are full of gorgeous songs by talented writers and musicians advocating this same concept, “Take me as is, because to deny me is sexism/racism/ageism /stereotyping or bullying”. We can no longer expect people to change for the better without stepping on the already angry and flared up toes of society. Yet, what does the concept of AS IS really mean?
Take the housing market; it is littered with “quaint fixer-uppers” that are sold in as is condition. Have you ever been inside one of these homes for sale? We have, several years ago. One had walls sprayed with ketchup, mustard and something brown and unidentifiable. Bags of old clothes and garbage cluttered the inside while the outside was trashed and beaten. And this was not even the house I walked away from crying. The house that sent me away in tears had spray painted gang signs covering every wall and cupboard!
These houses were terrible, scary and had an overall bad mojo; and they were being sold as is! AS IS! No way!! That meant once purchased the lucky new homebuyers had a crucial decision to make. They could take the house really as is and live in the muck or they got be in charge of cleaning the decrepit mess, fixing the broken parts and beautifying the ugly. Most of us would not want to live in the muck.
Since when has it become everyone else’s job to accept the junk of others and then fix what was trashed by someone else?
More often than not, this is how I see people behave in relationships. People filled with the junk life threw at them expecting to find a loving, healthy relationship without even attempting to fix themselves up, singing along with pop culture, “Take Me or Leave Me”. All the while, underneath that brazen attitude, expecting their partner to clean, fix and beautify their junk!
It is a form of projection, “I’ll be happy if and when my partner is perfect to me and for me, but I do not have to do the same myself.”
Nathaniel and I walked into our relationship 12 years ago dirty, broken, ugly people. Well, okay, we were cute on the outsideJ, but we both had a lot of broken, dirty junk on the inside. We both wanted to be accepted in our AS IS state despite our flaws, but also at the same time we, unlike the trashed fixer-upper houses, did not think we needed to be cleaned, fixed, nor beautified by each other, mostly because until we got married and cohabitated we had no reasons to want to change ourselves. Prior to marriage, it was as if we were playing racquetball alone with a stagnant, still wall with no one to bounce ideas and changes off of.
For us, marriage became a catalyst to move out of our take-me-or-leave-me state. It was not right away that we stepped out of our selfishness; it was a decade into our marriage. And it wasn’t easy either!
` We spent that first decade testing the limits of who we were when we walked into our marriage. We tested each other, subconsciously, through every decision, every conversation and every argument. We were making sure we were still acceptable to each other in our AS IS condition. Until it became the status quo to check and we eventually tired of the routine. It was then that we finally realized we had nothing positive left to gain from living in our AS IS ways, so we moved into fixing up the Fixer-Uppers…OURSELVES!
Leaving the AS IS state, the place in my life where I was comfortable and certain and expectant of the routine was at times a bit scary and more often than not very hard. But, I was tired of living my life in just acceptable conditions; I wanted depth in my relationship and a strong connection with my husband. I wanted open, honest, idea sharing, life changing conversations. I, finally, wanted a better marriage and I was ready to go get it. Luckily, and I know just how lucky and blessed this is, Nathaniel and I wanted the same things from our marriage at about the same time. This is rare in relationships!
My path of going beyond AS IS looks different from Nathaniel’s path and from your path, and that doesn’t even matter. What really matters is that willingness to move beyond having just an acceptable marriage, a willingness to do the hard work and not force the other person to change. I knew I couldn’t change Nathaniel, he had to do that himself, but I knew I could change my life.
What small step emotionally can you take today to move out of AS IS and step closer to your spouse?