A Manifesto for “Pretty Ok Sucks”

by Kathleen Quiring on January 27, 2010

Editor’s Note: I am delighted to present to you a guest post from Corey Allan of Simple Marriage. Upon reading my “Manifesto for Pretty OK” a few weeks ago, which was in part a response to one of his posts, Corey contacted me and suggested we exchange guest posts to extend the discussion. After getting up out of my chair and hopping up and down from one foot to the other, flapping my hands and singing “Corey wants me to do a guest post?!” for a few moments, I regained composure and maturely agreed.  Here’s what he wrote; my contribution (Entitled “In Defense of Pretty OK“) can be found over on his blog. While you’re there you might as well subscribe to his blog because you’ll love it.

Not long ago our beloved Kathleen came out with a rant regarding something I wrote about good being the enemy of great when it comes to marriage. It seems that she took my words to mean that she’s not great and may never be.

While this is not the message I intended to get across, I’m glad she opened up the discussion.

The intent of the previous post was to encourage married people to not take marriage for granted. As a marriage and family therapist there are far too many times when I see couples waiting until there’s a problem to do anything productive for their marriage.

It’s as if they are going along in life thinking that marriage will happen by chance.

They’re fooling themselves.

Roommates will happen by chance, occasional routine sex will happen by chance, ho hum marital malaise will happen by chance, but not a vibrant and passionate marriage.

There are definitely times when simply surviving the day or the week is completely understandable. But when this becomes the norm, to me, that’s a problem.

Marriage is all about growing up. In fact, Kathleen wrote a great series based on this idea.

People often fall victim to thinking that they need to work on their marriage, as if it’s an outside of themselves entity. They’ve got it backwards. The marriage is working on them. This is the main mechanism for growth.

So what we’re really talking about is growing up into better people individually within the relationship. And a tremendous marker of our growth and development is a greater comfort in our own skin.

Let’s look at this a different way.

Regardless of what your fairy-tale beliefs were as a child or what Hollywood continues to portray when it comes to marriage, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. I mean, come on, who really rolls over in the morning and passionately kisses their spouse? Ever hear of morning breath?

While we’re on the subject, there’s also no such thing as a perfect life. There’s only been one person who was perfect, and He was put to death on a cross.

While we may strive for perfection, it’s impossible to attain. And the interesting thing is, once you attain whatever you were striving for, it often ends up hollow and short lived. This is similar to happiness. Striving for happiness as your only goal is too vague and ever-changing. So as the old saying says: “rather than focusing on changing the wind, adjust your sails.”

Instead of seeking a perfect marriage, a perfect life, a rose-petal-covered-bed-with-a-soft-breeze-blowing-through-the-windows-in-the-morning type of romance, what if you created a marriage and life that means something?

Part of Freud’s theory is wrong – humans don’t have pleasure seeking as a their primary drive (although our culture seems to believe this). I believe we search for meaning more than anything else. We want to know our life matters. That we mean something.

Creating a life and a marriage that means something is entirely different than creating a marriage designed for happiness.

So once you recognize that perfection is unattainable, and you come to grips with the fact that relationships are mechanisms designed for your growth – you are one step closer to greatness.

And the interesting thing about tasting greatness in life, you discover that greatness is indeed great, and that pretty okay sucks. In other words, you’re less likely to settle for less than great.

But hear me out. When you become aware of this and acknowledge where you are in the journey, you’re already beyond pretty okay and one step closer to great. It’s an awareness that produces greatness.

It all boils down to this – life is a journey, not a destination. The same thing is true of marriage. You don’t one day arrive at a great marriage, it’s part of the journey. Regardless where you are in your journey, once you recognize where you are, you just took another step towards great.

So when you go on a rant advocating the pretty okay life, I’d say by the mere process of the rant, you’re already beyond pretty okay and into great!

{ 3 trackbacks }

In Defense of Pretty OK — Simple Marriage
January 27, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Monday Must-Reads » Will Blog for Shoes
February 1, 2010 at 10:29 am
Self-Soothing, A Key to a Better Marriage — Project M
May 4, 2010 at 9:12 pm

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adventure-Some Matthew January 27, 2010 at 10:55 pm

It’s interesting to see this dialog play out between the two “marriage blogs” that I follow.

My marriage, and life, is not perfect. Parts of them are great and parts are just good. The parts that are just good, I want to work on, and am aware that I need to do so. The parts that are great, I want to keep that way, or make them better.

I don’t feel that I have to do all of the work right now, but I do have to be aware of what I want to do, so that I can improve when the opportunity arises.

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2 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 9:48 am

Ah- the ole working to make what’s great even better. When you figure out how to do that, be sure to write a book and sell it – it’ll be huge!

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3 Dustin | Engaged Marriage January 28, 2010 at 1:32 am

Amen!

You say “pretty ok sucks” and I say “normal sucks.” I don’t want normal finances, a normal sex life, a normal beer belly, and I certainly don’t want to settle for a normal marriage. I only need to look around at the low standard set forth in our culture in all of these areas to know that I want more from my life. I deserve better, my wife deserves better and our kids deserve better.

Personally, I think I owe it to my faith in God to not waste the blessed life I’ve been given by settling for mediocrity as a way of life.

Now that my mini-rant is out of the way, let me say that there are certainly days when “ok” is just splendid. And I TOTALLY see where Kathleen was going with her initial post. But as a way of life, I want more.

By the way, I love this guest post swap by two of my favorite fellow marriage bloggers! You guys have both written wonderful posts in “defense” of your positions, and I think it’s fantastic.

And I should also add that Kathleen’s initial rant also impacted me enough to give some thought to just what it means to have an Extraordinary Marriage…and I wrote a post to ask my readers what they think. The responses have been great, and I’m sticking to my belief that I do, in fact, want to be proactive in my marriage and do what I can to make it extraordinary.

When it comes to the most important relationship in your life, I *personally* feel like normal mostly sucks.

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4 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

As you well know Dustin- being proactive in anything is often more difficult but so much more worth it. Thanks.

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5 Susan January 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

Great conversation and I so appreciate the willingness for everyone to try to get along! :-) Rather than taking this situation “personally” and feeling offended by another person’s opinion, you both have given everyone something to think about. KUDOS!
Personally I am not okay with just being “okay” – I bought into the lie that this was just the way marriage was, no expectations….. it just plain gets boring and just OK. I wasn’t much of a participant, didn’t put forth any effort and because two people didn’t strive to make themselves better together, my marriage ended in divorce. So now, I find myself remarried, I am more mature, have learned a lot of hard lessons and have a completely different perspective on my life being married, my role as a wife and a mother….and honestly if I settled for just being OK with any of those roles, everyone would suffer. You begin to just “slack off” and putting forth the extra energy to do anything seems out of the ordinary.
I want to strive to have the best, to live my life as God would want me to….to be smiling down at me knowing I am working to continually grow and mature into who He designed me to be. Yes, some days I just need to “be” with the situation, but I am always looking ahead at how to achieve something wonderful….it is always better to have a goal than nothing at all. What is that old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will likely hit it?” Yep, being OK…..well, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just my opinion! :-)

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6 Kathleen Quiring January 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Thanks, Susan. I can totally see where you and Corey are coming from, and I appreciate the clarity with which you discuss the issue. I don’t want to encourage slacking off, either. That’s why I’m so glad Corey is giving me a healthy dose of perspective!

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7 Holly January 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

After reading both posts again yesterday, I spent much of the day thinking about both sides of the issue. Then this morning it hit me: You’re not on either side of the issue, you’re on the same side of the issue, coming at it from two different perspectives.

I’ve been following Kathleen’s blog for several months, and have found such comfort and hope in it. Coming at it from the perspective of someone struggling in marriage, and feeling like that ‘spark’ is gone, reading Kathleen’s blog made me feel normal…like I have to work on my marriage, but even if we never achieve extraordinary, that’s OK. That won’t mean my marriage is destined for failure, or that I’m a failure.

I’ve read parts of your blog, Corey, and really enjoyed it at times. However, overall, reading it made me feel inadequate and pressured to achieve greatness, and I already feel enough pressure in my life. So for that reason, I generally choose to read this blog over yours.

But after re-reading your posts this morning, I realized that you essentially have the same view of marriage: That marriage is to help us grow up, to be better people, etc, etc.

Your blog, Corey, is aimed at waking people up, to making them think about their marriage, to encouraging them to start working on it. That is your definition of an extraordinary marriage.

Your blog, Kathleen, is aimed at taking a bit of the pressure off those of us who are already trying and working, and are already feeling inadequate because our marriages aren’t perfect, or aren’t where we want them to be.

Maybe now that I’ve come to this realization, I won’t feel so much pressure reading your blog. You may have gained another reader ;)

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8 Kathleen Quiring January 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Thanks, Holly. I think I’m starting to realize the same thing: we’re not in opposition to one another, we’re just looking at the issue from different perspectives. And maybe it has to do mostly with personality type. I definitely agree with Corey and others that becoming stagnant is a bad thing, and we should fight mediocrity. But I also know how much pressure some people feel when they’re told this.

I’m so glad our friendly “debate” (if that word is even applicable here) has been productive in your own thinking. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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9 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I think you nailed it Holly- Kathleen and I are writing towards the same thing. The great thing is, there are millions of ways to create a good/great/out of this world/passionate marriage, just pick what works for you and go for it!

Thanks for pointing out the pressure you’ve felt at times from Simple Marriage. I hear you loud and clear, and while I have not wanted to pressure any reader, I do hope to help readers experience as much as they possibly can in marriage (and life).

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10 V. Higgins January 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Like Holly and Kathleen, I can come at this from the “aurgh, I can’t do this” perspective sometimes. I think a lot of it has to do with just plain personality differences. I tend to be type A, and I’m a recovering perfectionist so sometimes the whole “don’t be normal, be *amazing*!!1!one”, Steve-Jobs-hyperbole can make me just want to hide under the covers because I will *never* be good enough.

BUT 1) I recognize that perfection is not what Corey is advocating at all and 2) *that isn’t what God wants in my life or my marriage*. Satan wants us to think we have to get our lives ‘just right’ so we don’t even try and we miss the entire journey of growing up and growing into God more and more every day. Just by seeking to be a little bit more, by leaning into God for the strength and energy to be intentional in this everyday life, everyday marriage, then we are changing our paths, we are refusing to buy into the lie and be stagnant. Praise God that He does not want perfection!

Thank you Corey & Kathleen for opening up this discussion, sharing your hearts and both of you for encouraging us to let go, enjoy the ride and be willing to push ourselves just a little further every day.

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11 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm

You’re right on target with your thoughts V.

Thanks.

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12 Will Blog for Shoes January 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Wonderful response!

“So what we’re really talking about is growing up into better people individually within the relationship. And a tremendous marker of our growth and development is a greater comfort in our own skin.”

Obviously, you’ve been reading my diary. :)

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13 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Yep, and I won’t even begin to comment on some of what I read ;)

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14 Dolli-Mama January 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I stumpled on the Simple Marriage blog yesterday, and just happened to catch this debate. I am so glad that I did! You have both gained a reader. And I’m really glad I found Project M. My husband and I were married young, still had some school to finish, and have been through a lot in our 3 1/2 years of marriage. I am a lot like you, a hoepless perfectionist, who wants to be all things to all people and frequently falls into a bucket of tears when that doesn’t happen. You said “I sometimes find myself a little paralyzed by all the awesomeness to be achieved.” and that describes me exactly.
Thank you both for your blogs, I know they will provide me with great reading material on Marriage!

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15 Stu @themarryblogger January 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

“Creating a life and a marriage that means something is entirely different than creating a marriage designed for happiness.”

Love that line ~ and well worth the price of admission. Oh, its free isn’t it? ;)

Thanks to you both for the great posts!!

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16 Corey - Simple Marriage January 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm

For you Stu- I’ll give you a good deal on the price of admission! Oh, wait, it is all free.

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17 April January 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

I enjoyed reading both of the posts. I couldn’t stop thinking of Beth Moore’s comment at a marriage conference my husband and I attended. She said “My marriage is not great. My marriage is good, but it’s not great. And that is okay.” Part of me was stunned to hear anyone speaking at a conference to utter these words and the other part of me was elated to hear it. There is something refreshing about “okay” being allright. My husband and I are okay. That’s us. We get along well, argue well, make time to sit and do a budget together, have regular date nights, love on the kids, hug and smile at each other, voices are rarely raised in anger… togetherness is a treasure. But, when I start to read things or stories suggesting what we should be doing… I tend to focus on the fact that we are not doing those things instead of the goodness that already exists. I guess my point is… the blessings are there if I look. Shauna Niequist says, “What God does in the tiny corners of our day-to-day lives is stunning and gorgeous and headline-making, but we have a bad habit of saving the headlines for the grotesque and scary.

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18 Kathleen Quiring January 31, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I love that Shauna Niequist quote (this is my first time reading it) – thanks!

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19 Corey - Simple Marriage February 1, 2010 at 9:47 am

Great quote from Shauna Niequist. Thanks for sharing it.

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20 Marilyn January 31, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I have to agree with both perspectives (Corey’s and Kathleen’s)!
I think that this is where God comes in and saves us, gives us grace for past failures and sin and empowers us – through His strenght NOT ours! – to move toward a changed life in every area that will glorify HIM!

Thanks for your posts! I really enjoy these blogs!

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21 Scott January 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’ve appreciated the discussion on “good versus great” and offered more extended comments on my own blog. My concluding thought is excerpted below.

As with the Gospel of grace, in marriage it is right believing first that leads to joyful, stress-free and fruitful right doing. It is the message of grace that permits you to delight in your marriage, even if for now it is only “pretty OK,” yet still grow toward one that is some day “great.”

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22 Kathleen Quiring January 31, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Thanks, Scott. I read your post and am grateful for your contribution to the discussion!

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