Why Good Enough Love is Better Than Amazing Love

On Valentines’s Day, we aspire to make love look amazing. But an enduring love must be rooted in the midst of our mess, where we see each other fully and embrace each other’s brokenness. To do so isn’t settling; it’s sublime.

Photo Credit: bored-now via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bored-now via Compfight cc

I acted like Rocky Balboa on my wedding day.

When my wife and I were pronounced husband and wife, we practically skipped back down the aisle to a joyous song—“Amazing Love.” Within hours we were introduced again at our reception, while the DJ played “Gonna Fly Now” from the Rocky soundtrack. Caught up in the moment, I stopped and raised my arms triumphantly, mimicking the mythical Rocky statue in Philadelphia.

It felt thrilling and victorious.

But I think somewhere inside of me I was already feeling the pressure to maintain an amazing love, to be perfect and strong and unshakeable, to be a Hallmark card—day in and day out. Somewhere inside of me, I knew I wasn’t up to the task. I knew I was weak and cracked and faulty. I knew I wasn’t even close to amazing.

When I look around on Valentine’s Day, I realize I’m not alone.

“Amazing” Love

Valentine’s Day bleeds expectations of amazement and perfection.The National Retail Federation predicts we will spend $18.6 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, up from $15.7 billion in 2011 and $17.6 billion in 2012. I suppose we could chalk this up to a little romanticism and the need to connect once a year. Yet, look how we’re trying to achieve our connection:

By spending

I think when we distrust the value of what is inside of us, we invest in valuable things outside of us. We compensate for our perceived shortcomings with glitz and glamour. Deep down, we know we’re not amazing, and we’re pretty sure that is unacceptable. So we throw money at a holiday and we hope it feels amazing. And we hope to hide our cracked and crumbling selves. 

Ordinary, Good Enough Love

Last October, after a week of vacation, I returned to the office, anticipating the wave of phone calls and complications that always follow an extended absence. Fourteen hours later, I arrived home, and my wife was standing in the kitchen. She must have seen the look of defeat in my eyes, because she asked me a question:

“Were you able to take care of everyone today. Did you return all the phone calls?”

“No,” I answered.

“Are some people going to be disappointed in you?”

I looked down. “Probably.”

“Are you still good enough?”

My chin came up, and I looked at her. My eyes held a question and her eyes held a smile.

And she said, “You’re good enough, Kelly. No matter how much you did or did not get done today, you are good enough.”

I hugged her and thought, “Wow. That feels amazing.”

Shameless Love

Last week, a friend told me he was at a gala event, where every person looked beautiful and every performance was polished. And he said it made him feel a little depressed. When I asked why, he responded, “There was no room for things to be a little broken.”

Maybe that’s why the Hallmark cards and bottomless candy and saccharine perfection of Valentine’s Day is a little depressing to so many of us—it doesn’t leave us any room to be a little broken. 

And we need that room, don’t we? Because we’re not amazing; we’re human. And we’re all a little broken.

We don’t need pressure to be amazing. We need permission to be broken.

This Valentine’s Day, maybe we could give each other room to be a little broken by giving each other a priceless gift: the gift of grace—the assurance we are good enough even in our brokenness. 

You tripped on the ice and broke your hand and now you can’t hold the baby, but you are good enough, and I will carry your load.

You gained twenty pounds after your mother died, but you are good enough, and you will always be beautiful to me. 

The kids are making horrible decisions and they might be doing drugs and you are doubting every decision you ever made as a parent, but you are good enough, and I will walk through this with you. 

You lost your job and we might lose the house, but you are good enough and I’ll rent an apartment with you. 

You are sick and the diagnosis is scary and we have no idea what tomorrow holds for us, but you are good enough, and I will be next to your bed through everything.  

I think this is the gift we are all yearning for this Valentine’s Day. Perhaps this year, instead of a pricey dinner or a sparkling jewel, you can give your partner the freedom to be broken and beloved, all at the same time. It’s a free gift, and I think they will be amazed

Questions: What is one way you show grace to your partner and communicate they are good enough? Share your experience in the comments section at the bottom of this post.         

Dear Reader, My new eBook, The Marriage Manifesto: Turning Your World Upside Down, describes “good enough love” in more detail. New blog subscribers will receive a free PDF copy by clicking here to subscribe (your subscription confirmation e-mail will include a link to download the eBook). The book is also now available for Kindle and Nook. As always, thank you for reading; it’s a gift. From good enough person to another, Kelly

Preview: My next post will be on Wednesday, February 20, and the working title is, “The Best Way to Guarantee a Blog Post Will Not Be Shared on Facebook.” 

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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jennifer Newell

    Kelly,
    This touched my heart so much, it made me cry. I also realized how incredibly blessed I am to be loved by a man who has more than once taken my hand and navigated us through some difficult times. Boy is he ever good enough. Thanks!

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, Jenn. I hope someday I get to talk to your husband; he sounds like an amazing guy!

      • Jennifer Newell

        He is amazing but still a normal guy who is a little bit broken like the rest of us.

  • John Meyer

    We were a family of six. Three girls one son. We were going through a lot of financial stress. There always seemed to be more month than money. Arguments ensued and they only helped to make it worse. One day I realized that our problem could either destroy our relationship or it could actually unite us. I called her on the phone immediately after an argument and with the same tone in my voice I said, “I don’t like all problems we are going through, but I know one thing for sure… if I have to go through a problem, I don’t know anyone else in the world that i’d rather go through it with than you…” I don’t remember much of what I said after that. It’s a blur. The result is that we became a team, our problem cemented our relationship, because we decided to join forces make sacrifices and go through the storm together. We are empty nesters now. Just celebrated 30 years. Actually because of budget issues, the day came and went without a lot of fan fare… yet I hope I get another 30 years with this wonderful woman, my wife.

    • Jennifer Newell

      John, I could not tell you what we have ever done on any of our Valentines Day’s but I can tell you about a man who has always been there for me. Last year about this time I had major surgery and I remember waking up and knowing my husband was there beside me. He was by my side everyday and night until I came home from the hospital. He sat beside me working from home every day until I was able to get up and move around without help. Those are the times I remember and treasure. So for me Valentines day is not that big a deal. On the weekend’s when he makes me coffee and brings it to me that to me is the kind of thing that is worth more than candy and flowers. Sounds like you two know this as well.

    • drkellyflanagan

      John, your story is truly inspiring. I love to hear the way your assurance in the midst of stressful times transcended those times. Beautiful.

  • Don

    But what if I sincerely believe that I’m NOT good enough? That was the message from my family of origin, and I’ve always believed it, even now at 58 years of age. There’s also a valid biblical reason to believe I’m not “good enough.” So I must ask, how do I rectify the oh-so-necessary acknowledgement of my sinfulness with the crippling belief that I’m no good and will never get over it? Please understand – I have absolute knowledge of Father’s great love and eternal acceptance of me, but deep down, to be really honest, I know that I’ll never measure up…..

    • John Meyer

      You’re not a sinner. We were lost sons & daughters who were born into Adam. Our true value and identity is found in the gospel. Our true identity is that we were made in the image of God. Adam lost his way and we were born into that. Jesus said we can be born again. God never lost sight of our value, that’s why He sent hos son. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. What was lost? Our identity. To God, we are worth the blood of His son. Here we found our value and identity. That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… We can’t measure ourselves by our mistakes (sin). Our worth is equal to the price paid to redeem us. That price was the blood of Jesus. You measured up when God saw you before the foundation of the earth. You measured up when you took your first breath and God breathed life into you. It’s not our mess that measures us. It’s the blood shed that declares our worth. Are we smarter than the potter, who paid such a radical price for the clay? How can we disagree with the creator of all things, and say we don’t measure up. He already sent His son.

      • drkellyflanagan

        Don, your comment clearly struck a nerve, in a very good way. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and care of the replies. And Don, I think your questions lurk also in the hearts of so many. Here at UnTangled, I’m determined we start tackling those questions and struggles, including both our psychological histories and our religious ideas. My post on Wednesday, will begin to lay the groundwork for doing so, I hope. Stay tuned. And remember, Don, you are beloved, not in spite of your brokenness, but in the MIDST of your brokenness.

    • Nadi

      Hi Don

      My response may sound a bit unusual but…

      You are right. You are not good enough. Neither am I. Neither is anyone on the planet

      We are all broken to some degree and far from perfect. But the amazing thing about it is that we were never meant to be perfect for anything or anyone. And chances are that most of the people we come across in this world will never see us as perfect. Except God.

      As we see our imperfections we can thank Him for being good enough so we don’t have to worry or struggle to be. Its through knowing, understanding, living, loving, and cherishing His goodness that we can call ourselves sons and daughters of a Lord that is good enough. And that’s really all that we need

  • Joel Settecase

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing this. My wife and I have been taking Gary Chapman’s Love Language Challenge. So far, it’s been a good way to demonstrate “ordinary” but deeply meaningful love toward one another.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Joel. It’s always great to hear about couples out there working intentionally on their marriages. Thanks for sharing!

  • Riz

    Don, I just had to reply to your post as it so resonated with me. This was the message I got from my family of origin as well. Things got so bad that I had to cut ties. I am also a Christian … I hope to encourage you – I felt the exact same as you – the message was ‘you will never be good enough.’ I have had to put my past behind me and embrace who God says I am, that I am ‘beloved,’ that I am loved with an ‘everlasting love.’ I have had to embrace that I am good enough because the perfect God of the universe redeemed my soul when I thought I wasn’t. If He thought I was ‘good enough’ to save – then even in my brokenness and imperfection, He thought I was worth saving. He thought you were worth saving too – He thought you too were worth dying for. You are more than your family of origin could ever know. There is no greater love than God’s – when He makes us His own, we can know He sees us as valuable – to Him. Embrace that – you are of value even in your brokenness because He valued you enough to make you His. And that is ‘amazing love.’ 🙂

    … When it comes to my husband and I, we communicate to each other all the time the little things we appreciate in one another. Being loved by a man who loves me in spite of my brokenness and shortcomings and imperfections is the greatest gift a woman could want. I cannot believe he loves me like that (my family of origin sure didn’t). Valentine’s Day for us is just another day – the only thing we do is go out for a nice meal together, just he and I – other than that, its just another day of being able to be with each other, having opportunity to actively love one another. I am more ‘in love’ with this man now than the day I married him. We’ve been married 19 years.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Beautiful, Riz, thank you.

  • MofE

    Hi, Don. I also felt moved by what you said. I think it can be hard to sort out guilt feelings and accept the things you’ve done wrong while still building up a belief in your own worth. That’s kind of where I am too. I think it helps to believe that we are created for goodness, but we can’t do good without God. Maybe? I hope you find what you need.

  • Catharine Phillips

    Whoa. Thank you! Exactly what I needed to hear today. My beloved has been so present for me through my recent seizure experiences and aftermath. Today I am returning the favor for his health-related issues. This is probably the best Valentine*s Day ever. Hard to explain. Feel like we*ve upped it more than a notch.

    • drkellyflanagan

      As they say, we don’t grow (or grow closer) during the good times, only during the hard times. So good to hear your companionship has grown in the midst of your struggles, Catharine.

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  • Amber B

    Wow I so needed this, thank you so much.

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, Amber.

  • Susan Trodden

    I find myself this month in the position of having spent two years, through periods of massive pressure, stress and life changing events, telling my love that he was ”good enough” but in the end, he didn’t believe it. And has instead chosen to recreate ”perfect” with a virtual stranger. So yes, we can tell people they are good enough, but they have to be willing to hear those words, and believe them for themselves.