So, I’m married. This isn’t a new thing, mind you; it’ll be three years this summer. But this is different.
My wife isn’t a superhero, but she’s my superhero, along with my two teenagers. After all, they put up with me. But that’s not specifically what I want to talk about. I could get all mushy about how she’s perfect for me, and I couldn’t ask for a better mate, but I won’t. I won’t even talk about how she compliments me in area’s where I’m weak and respects me even when I don’t respect myself. Nope. Not gonna do it.
What I am going to do, however, is show what the machinery behind a functioning and happy marriage looks like. Be warned; it ain’t always pretty.
You see, in America, there’s this strange assumption. I assume it’s there in other countries, but I don’t know. The assumption is this; happy couples don’t fight and unhappy couples do. I dare you to prove me wrong. Perhaps my own upbringing has colored my view and several of you will disagree with me. That’s great, because I’d love to be the only one who thinks this way. But I’m not.
Scene: A generic mall. You’re hurrying to the Bon Ton to get your significant other that special thing they’ve wanted for years. As you enter the store, there’s a couple standing there arguing. They’re loud and obviously emotionally engaged. You can tell this from their body language, and from the flush in their cheeks. Perhaps they’re shouting, or perhaps it’s just raised voices, but either way, it carries. You notice more than one customer looking at them. They could be dressed well, or poorly; I don’t think it matters. They’re arguing in public.
What judgments do you make about them? I suspect that most people will assume their relationship is a mess. Perhaps you side with one party in the fight, perhaps not. Either way, you probably think they’re having problems. I think this is ‘normal’ but I don’t think it’s healthy at all, and this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. You see, I’m divorced, and that’s probably in part because I didn’t argue with my first wife. I avoided conflict at every turn, and I did so because of my parents.
I never wanted to get married because I was sure I’d end up like my parents. I have a very clear memory of my mother standing in the kitchen, and my father in the dining room. In this memory they are shouting at each other, screaming at each other (my mother especially. The only emotion I saw regularly on her face was anger. We’d often hear weeping from the bedroom later.). My mother turns to the sink, picks up a sauce pan, screams “Go to Hell you son of a bitch!” and hurls the saucepan at my father with deadly velocity. Lacking deadly aim, however, the pan slams into the wall and I retreat into my room to read. I was 11, and this was not an unusual day in our household. They argued all the time, but nothing was ever resolved. I really don’t know how my parents stayed together as long as they did.
I wonder what my brothers would say about that if they ever read my blog? Hmmmm.
Anyway, when I was married the first time – and there’s a long story about why I ever agreed to get married in the first place – I wouldn’t engage in conflict unless I had no other choice, and then I tried to defuse it as fast as possible. The result was that problems which might have been dealt with festered until they eventually killed the marriage. Well, that and some other things which I won’t talk about here.
Then I met my current wife. My now wife. My perfect wife. Perfect for me, because she and I have discovered the truth. My parents house was dysfunctional because they never resolved their issues, and my first marriage was dysfunctional for exactly the same reason. Conflict wasn’t the problem, and passivity wasn’t the answer. The truth Deet and I have learned is that conflict in a marriage will happen; in fact, it must happen. But that conflict must provide the energy to get to the core of the issue. It must impel the conflicted parties to find a solution. Then, and only then, can you have a good marriage. The form of your conflict may vary, and how you choose to express it may vary, but it must be there, and it must be a catalyst for change.
Oh, and then the most important part of all: You must forgive each other.
So there it is, the secret to a happy marriage, and may it serve you well.
And to my sweet wife; I’m glad I discovered it with you!