My wife, Karen, and I will hit the big 3-0 on June 21, 2010. Thirty years of bliss!
Bliss. What a funny word. The dictionary says that bliss is this: Supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment.
That’s quite a goal, eh? And a worthy one! You’d think Karen and I would’ve achieved it, since we were completely set up for lots of bliss three hours after we tied the knot. Julia, a woman in her late 80’s, attended our wedding. As Karen, age 19, and I at 22, said good-bye to her at the country church door, she shared: “You should know that my husband, Ford, and I never had an argument in 60 years!” My young bride and I stared at this sweet woman, now seeing a bar that was set pretty darn high, wondering if we could clear it.
I’ve concluded that it’s pretty hard to achieve. Sure, we’ve had good times, but we’ve had some bad days, too. I didn’t say that Karen is bad or that I am bad. We’ve just had—in thirty years—some lousy days. Probably because …
I know, I know—some call it “incompatible,” then type it into legal doc and go their separate ways. Nah, we’re just different. Really different. I mean, Karen has …feelings!!!
I had a feeling once; I didn’t like it. In fact, it made me mad. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I guess I’ve had two feelings: The first one that made me mad and then the being mad part!
Just kidding. I do have feelings. Really. I do. But Karen sometimes doesn’t think that I do—and I don’t blame her. I wasn’t raised to reveal them. Most kids growing up in the home of an alcoholic aren’t. It was more like, “Don’t talk back to me!!!” if I attempted to share a feeling. Of course, I wasn’t able to share a feeling with any great skill. Maybe that’s why when I was really angry at my German teacher in 9th grade, I didn’t know how to handle it—so I just called her a nasty name.
Right in front of the class. I was then sent, like a speeding bullet, straight to the principal’s office!
When I speak from the platform, I—with Karen’s blessing—share this: “Our marriage isn’t perfect. Go ahead, email my wife and ask her. Trust me, she’ll respond! She’ll write back, ‘Nope, it isn’t. We have good and bad days. The lousy ones are always based on us trying to change each other, and the good ones are based on The Ultimate QBQ! I hope my husband shared it with you today!’”
And what is The Ultimate QBQ!? Well, let’s step back and define QBQ! It’s an idea, a tool, that enables people to practice personal accountability at work, at home, at church, in their community—wherever. In many ways, it’s based on this:
Question: “Who’s the only person I can change?”
By understanding that truth (I wish I’d learned it years ago), we can use The Question Behind the Question (QBQ) to avoid asking, “Why doesn’t she <or he> change?” but rather ask, “What can I do today to change me?” That is QBQ! in a nutshell: A better question that always contains the personal pronoun “I”—because I can only change me.
So what exactly is The Ultimate QBQ!? It’s this: “How can I let go of what I can’t control?”
Wow, outstanding question—and greatly needed by any man and woman who commit to each other for a lifetime.
Especially if … they’re different.
I think I’ve finally figured out what Karen and I sometimes do (it’s only taken me 30 years): She tries to get me to feel more, and I try to get her to feel less. By doing this, we’ve really wasted some time and energy. But, we’re learning. Learning to ask a question that I should’ve been asking when Disco, John Travolta, and Pet Rocks were hot, and it’s this: “What is it that I do and say in this relationship that doesn’t work so well—and how will I change these behaviors?!”
Since I can only change me, it’s the right question. In fact, 30 years into this wonderfully imperfect journey—it’s the only question. As Karen and I cruise to Alaska to celebrate our 30th and watch the whales, I’ll ponder it mightily, searching for answers. Maybe—just maybe—I’ll learn something about me.
John G. Miller