Imagine for a second a married couple named John and Jill. When John and Jill got married they each got a 55 gallon drum of Gourmet Jelly Beans with an astonishing 150 different flavors. They had every flavor you could imagine: cotton candy, ice cream cake, strawberry cheesecake, java, root beer, and even buttered popcorn. They also had emotional jelly beans like anger, love, unhappiness, insecurity, closeness, gratitude, and admiration. There were even complimentary jelly beans like “Thank You”, “You look great!”, “Can I help around the house?”, “Can I give you a hug?”, and “Supper was wonderful!” I know it is kind of out there, but John and Jill wanted a magical marriage so they agreed on using these magical jelly beans.
The rules were that John and Jill had to have a supply of jelly beans with them all of the time. Whenever they would come in contact with each other during the day they would have to pick out a jelly bean for the other. The jelly beans each had their own unique colors, and they could tell from that what a few tasted like, but largely they didn’t know what they were giving each other.
On the first day of their marriage, they woke up and saw each other and Jill gave John a bright green jelly bean. He returned the favor with a shiny yellow one for her. He didn’t really like the flavor of the bright green jelly bean, but that was alright and there would be many more to try. She thought the yellow one was quite tasty.
This went on for several weeks and about a third of the time either John or Jill would be disappointed in the jelly bean that they received. This was alright because it wouldn’t be long and they would get a new jelly bean to try. Chances were pretty good that they would like that one more.
After a couple of years, John and Jill had realized that there were some jelly bean flavors that they really liked and some that they really hated. They wouldn’t give the ones they liked out every time, but the flavors that they liked best they would give out more often than the others. There was only one problem with this. The flavors that John liked were not always the flavors that Jill liked and vice versa. They each wondered why their spouse would give them a flavor that they really didn’t like so often. This bothered them to the point that they felt like the other was intentionally trying to give them a bad jelly bean. There were certain jelly bean flavors that would immediately cause one or the other to have angry feelings, disappointment, or depression.
After several more years of dealing with this struggle, Jill had an idea. “Instead of giving John the jelly beans that I think are quite tasty, maybe I should look at how he responds to different jelly beans. Maybe I should try to find out what kind of jelly beans he likes and try to give him more of those.”
As she began to monitor his reaction to each jelly bean, she immediately noticed several that he seemed to really like. She kept up a list and would add a few to the good list, some to the “try not to use” list, and a couple to the “never use” list as she went along. After working on this for some time, she was able to go back and separate out the good list and reclassify them to be “awesome”, “great”, and “good.”
In the meantime, John is living the good life. He is getting good jelly beans most of the time every day. He feels appreciated, admired, and respected. He starts to notice that while he is feeling great, Jill seems to get a bad taste in her mouth often from the jelly beans he gives her. He wonders how he could be getting such good jelly beans so often. He knows that he loves those green ones with the yellow spots, the blue ones with the red stripe, and the confetti dotted orange one, so he keeps picking those great ones out and giving them to Jill. It finally occurs to him that maybe the jelly beans that he likes best are not the same ones that Jill likes best. He might not be giving her the jelly beans that she most desires.
As all of this great awakening process was taking place, Jill was also changing. Jill had started to find that she was getting happiness and peace from giving John the jelly beans that he liked best. While she still wanted to get the jelly beans that she liked best, she found that the delight of making John happy was more fulfilling to her than the need for her own favorite jelly beans.
John began to try to find out what jelly beans Jill liked best. He found that Jill was happy whether she got a jelly bean she liked or not. He worked hard to find out which jelly beans Jill liked because he knew how the good jelly beans made him feel. As he researched, he was able to find a good number of jelly beans that made Jill feel loved, appreciated, and beautiful.
John and Jill’s jelly bean romance grew and grew and they enjoyed their marriage more every day. You would expect me to say that they lived happily ever after at this point in the story, but I just want to remind you that some days when John or Jill reach into their jelly bean drums one of the other’s favorites isn’t up near the top. During those times, maybe they have to pick up a flavor that isn’t a favorite or maybe even brings up a particularly bad tasting flavor from some time in the past.
It is in those times that John and Jill have to show that they have learned to love and respect each other most. It is in those times that they have to show that they trust each other most. They have to show that they have accepted each other for who they are, bad jelly beans and all. They have learned to express their needs, wishes, and desires for jelly beans to each other. Over time John and Jill were able to get a better understanding of each other and meet the other’s needs in a positive way. By finding ways that they could make each other happier, John and Jill are providing a gift to each other when they serve a jelly bean the other likes. Each also has gained the freedom to know that when they can’t serve a good jelly bean to the other they will still be respected and appreciated.
This story could be easily retold with John and Jill’s roles being reversed. The important thing is to realize that sometimes what we give our spouse is what we want, or how we want to be treated, or what makes us feel best. For us to be our best for our spouse, sometimes we have to change how we approach something, how we show them we care, and how we try to solve a problem. We need to look at “their” needs, wishes, and desires and let our perceptions of “their” flaws change. Often times we are more than happy to point the finger at our spouse and say that they are the problem. Unfortunately, change comes easiest in relationships when we take a look at changing what we are doing first.