I want you to take some time and answer the following questions:
- Who in your life ‘gets you’ and doesn’t think you’re weak or strange when you wrestle with the complexities of life?
- Who listens to you without feeling compelled to give you advice?
- Who asks second and third questions to draw you out instead of giving pat answers, simple prescriptions and easy formulas?
- Who fills your spiritual and emotional gas tank?
The answer to these questions identifies your pain partner (Chand, Leadership Pain, p. 213).
Why it is important to Identify a pain partner.
If you do not identify a pain partner, you will place unrealistic expectations on your spouse to fill roles that they may not be prepared to fill, ultimately leaving you disappointed, and leaving your relationship in a lurch.
Who is your pain partner?
Your spouse may or may not be your complete pain partner, and this is good news. Think about it – although of course you would like your spouse to empathize with your pain, do you honestly want your spouse to fill every one of the roles above? To be clear, it would be great if your spouse could fill all of the above, however, it would be a rare individual who could fill all of those roles.
The main point of this post is this: identify which of the above roles your spouse can fill, and find other people in your life to fill the other roles. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on one another. Rather, be grateful for the roles your spouse can play, and then be prayerful for another person to fill the other roles.
Often, Christy and I find that out of idealistic romanticism, individuals will expect their spouse to be fill all roles and meet all needs; that is unrealistic. While it is true that it is not good for man to be alone, it is also true that it is not good for a an individual to put all their relational needs eggs in one basket.
What to do
So talk to your spouse about the above – ask them who their pain partner is. Communicate to them what you need from them. Brainstorm together. Pray together. And ask others in your lives to join you in this process.