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What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from the person you’re the closest to?

You keep hitting me with difficult questions. My husband is the person I’m closest to; but, as for the most important lesson, I’m searching for an answer.

If I turn the question around and ask what is the most important lesson he’s learned from me, I’d have to say it’s patience, and to some degree, tolerance. I’d like to be as sure of myself as he is, and as certain about my opinions. It would be easier  because I wouldn’t have to question myself so often, and think about things quite as much.

We fell into a pretty traditional pattern of marriage and parenthood. I’m the nurturer, the homemaker, the creative problem-solver; he’s the disciplinarian, the breadwinner, the one with the final say. Over the years, and through some trials and tribulations, we’ve meshed our behaviors a bit and we understand each other better — the way we think and operate. We realize that there are ways in which we can change, and other changes that are not likely to happen. We’re more accepting of each other, and have reached that point where neither of us has to be right (most of the time).

Like many marriages, there are a number of points at which things could have gone off the rails, but we’ve both persevered, for better or worse, and that’s what it takes: not only to love one another, but to accept each other’s faults and flaws. We’ve  grown together, and are bound by our love of our children and grandchildren.

While I’d prefer to think that he doesn’t know me as well as he thinks he does, that probably is not true. I must have been a trial to him early in our marriage — he’s so disciplined and organized, and I’m just the opposite, but much better than I used to be. This is probably the most important thing I have learned from him. In the first flush of love, you tend to overlook shortcomings in other people — and I don’t think he was aware of how freeform I was, and I didn’t know how ordered he is.

While I didn’t appreciate it early in our marriage, I needed more self-discipline, more structure in my life. Developing this characteristic has enabled me to be more organized both in my actions and in planning. I resented being criticized for my shortcomings at first and resisted change, but as I began working at a job I loved, and had to get on top of things to succeed, and later when my life became more “complicated” with children, there was no denying the fact that I needed to be more structured in my approach to life.

I’ll never be as disciplined as my husband is, but I’m glad I didn’t marry someone as free-spirited as I was. I’ve accomplished a lot more and made life a bit easier for myself by reluctantly following his example.