Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Another Word on Marraige

I know, this is weird. Two blog posts from me in less than a week?! What is this madness?! Well, I had an experience this morning that really got my wheels turning.

As you know, Peter was out of town for school for over 2 months (see previous post). Upon his return, the inevitable happened: readjusting to life as a father of five young children has been challenging. J He has been away for so long that the little things that kids normally do, things that a seasoned parent has developed a thick skin toward, are driving him up the wall. His patience has definitely seen better days. We both knew this was going to happen and expected it.

Last night when Peter was dealing with one of the twins who had kicked off (mind you, we had been dealing with copious amounts of barf and diarrhea the entire day from 2 kids, so both of our nerves were shot) he was pretty close to losing his temper and was dealing with the situation in a way I didn’t like. I thought he was being way too hard on the little guy. And I told him so. Right there. In the middle of the exchange. I know, probably not the best place to do that. Anyway, a spat between the two of us ensued. We both went to bed in silence, fuming a little.

Now, I know the whole adage about ‘not going to bed angry,’ but this saying was coined by someone who doesn’t know my husband. In the early days of our marriage, I would push and push for us to ‘resolve’ every disagreement immediately. Which basically meant, when I wanted to resolve it. After nearly 12 years together, I’ve discovered that if I try to force Peter to ‘talk it out’ before he’s ready, it will all just blow up in my face. I have to let him (and myself) cool off, think about things, then talk it out. This approach may not work for everyone, but it has worked for us for years now and I’m not going to mess with what works.

Anyway, this morning as I was driving a close friend called and we talked on the phone for a bit. This particular friend knows me very well. She knows Peter very well also and knows all about our history together, including the few years during which we struggled. She asked how things were going now that Peter was home. I was still a little upset about the spat from last night and briefly described the exchange to her. I didn’t rail about it, or badmouth my husband, and I was really fair about describing my contribution to the whole thing. Then she says, “Wow, do you think you should go talk to a marriage counselor?” And she was sincere. For a split second, I thought she was joking. What? Counseling?! Over a silly disagreement about parenting? No, I said, I didn’t think that was necessary at all. “Well, I just don’t want things to get hard for you again,” she said.

This exchange has been on my mind all day, for a couple of different reasons. The first thing is something that has bothered me for years: the people who I’m closest to (friends and family) who know about Peter’s and my history will forever hold it against him. It’s really my fault, I guess, because they were my shoulders to cry on during that time and they got my ‘side’ of everything. But (and this is a big ‘but’) Peter and I have worked everything out, I have forgiven him and he has forgiven me for the things we both did and said during those 2 rough years. That’s all that should matter to anyone else. And it was nearly five years ago, for crying out loud! J Anyway, I can’t really change anyone’s opinion now, no matter how hard I try. But every time I’m met with this bias against Peter from my closest friends and family, a single thought penetrates my mind. That is not the Lord’s way. And it shouldn’t be ours.

When we mess up, as we humans are apt to do, and we sincerely repent, the Lord doesn’t remember our sins anymore. They are wiped clean. If we truly believe in the absolute power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when people we love mess up and ask our forgiveness, we should extend it. Wholly and completely. If we are true Christians who are trying to become like Christ, isn’t that the least of what we should do for those we love? Peter and I have spent the last 4 ½ years making right our past mistakes, so much so that we hardly remember them. Neither of us ever even brings it up, so when friends and family do, it’s a little jarring. And it’s unfair, as well.
Another thing it’s made me think about is other peoples’ marriages. Do they all run off to a marriage counselor when they have a spat? “Honey, you left your socks on the floor again. Time to call the counselor,” or, “Dear, you didn’t rinse your whiskers and shaving cream out of the sink. I’m calling a therapist.” No, it’s ridiculous to even say. One HUGE thing we both learned in counseling was that a good marriage does not mean you never fight. It means you fight in the right way. That was big for me, because I honestly went into it thinking that a ‘good marriage’ meant that you never argued. It was a revelation to me that that was just not the case. And it took a huge amount of pressure off me, too.

Now, this is just my own personal philosophy, but I really believe that every marriage should have disagreements. If you don’t, that means that someone (usually the same person every time) gives in and is not heard, all in the name of ‘keeping the peace.’ Maybe that works for some people, but I can’t help but think that it’s a very temporary fix. Eventually, all of those times of giving in, of not letting your voice be heard, of not compromising so that both people can be happy, will wear down the relationship. It creates a fundamental imbalance in a marriage that can’t be sustained. One person is almost always getting their way, calling the shots, steering the ship. The other is always allowing that to happen, not taking an active role in family decisions, not asking for their needs to be met too. These two people will eventually, in my opinion, come to resent each other. I would imagine it’s very isolating and lonely in a marriage to either a.) have to make all the decisions alone without the input of your partner, or b.) feel like you don’t have a voice or that your voice isn’t important. I can’t imagine that a relationship like that is fulfilling. Or fun. Or viable.

When I look back on our marriage, I can see how each experience, good or bad, has helped us grow. Even the really bad times I can look back on and, in retrospect, be extremely grateful for. If they hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be where we are now: happy, together, steering our ship as a team. If I had always ‘given in’ in the name of keeping the peace, where would we be? I think we are commanded to marry because that relationship almost forces us to grow up, in a sense. If we don’t take those opportunities for growth that are a natural byproduct of living under the same roof with our spouse, then we are stunting our own growth.

So, no, we won’t be going back to counseling now. J Just as I thought, we patched things up before lunch and by tomorrow morning it will be a distant memory. I’m really glad, too, that my husband will disagree with me. I’m glad that he has an opinion and that it’s not always the same as mine. Some of our best conversations are about things on which we do not agree. It’s a wonderful thing to have someone love you enough that they still love you, even when you ‘win’ and make them see a chick flick instead of an action or sci-fi movie. J

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