REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)
Here's the caveat. This stuff is going to sound incredibly old fashioned. I know that. There's a perfectly good reason for it, too. Old fashioned marriages had a tendency to last. Modern ones don't. So, follow all the modern advice you want right to the doors of the courtroom. I'm going for the wisdom of the ages, myself.
The 3 and 3
There are just three things you have to keep in mind and three more things you have to do to have a successful marriage, or the 3 and 3. Sounds way too simple, and believe me it isn't. Marriage is anything but simple. I really should add a fourth, a fifth, a sixth thing, ad infinitum, but the mind is a funny thing. It just won't process too much at once. Especially under stress. I'm keeping it simple because, once stressed, the brain has a tendency to simplify in order to facilitate the fight or flight response. Your job is to remember that fighting and flighting is not the way to stay married. After we get the 3 and 3 on the ether here, we'll have a chance to look at each one in a little more depth.
3 Things to Keep in Mind
1. You picked him.
2. You can't change him.
3. You didn't marry a girl.
3 Things You Need to Do
2. Give more
3. Stay in your right mind
The Things to Keep in Mind
I will be bluntly honest and admit that at one time I was an idiot. I did marry the alcoholic drug abuser that everyone warned me not to. Yes, he slept around. Yes, it was nasty. And yes, I came to my senses and left. I put 3,000 miles between us and started over. Yes, completely over with the debt, the utter lack of belongings, and the emptiness that that entailed. So, let me just say, if you married my ex, or any man like my ex, this advice is not for you. This advice is for the average woman married to the average man. If you really, truly feel you are married to a demon not of your making, what are you reading this for? See a rabbi, see a priest, see a shrink.
(FYI to my fellow Catholics, that first marriage was annulled and my current marriage was regularized in 2003 during my conversion to the faith.)
Still reading? Okay, so that must mean you've had some humility and admitted, at least to yourself (if not to your mother) that he really isn't that bad. He's human, therefore imperfect. And let me tell you this, sisters, if he was perfect then he'd REALLY be annoying.
1. You picked him.
All right. You picked him. If he really is as bad as you say he is, then who's fault is that really? Were you really such a bad judge of character all those years ago? The thing we ladies don't think about when we indulge in our sport of male bashing is this, while you are ranting people are wondering what was it in you that made such a (insert your favorite anti-hubby adjective here) man attractive to you.
What did make him attractive to you? Was he good with his hands? Good with kids? Did his voice in your ear send you over the moon? Come on! There's got to be something. Remember back to the days when your wedding band was so new it had a mirror sheen instead of the little nicks and scratches of long use. He was much kinder then. So were you. Try kindness again. Try it for a month. See if kindness and good manners on your part don't bring about a softening on his part. See if they don't bring back into the marriage that hopeful young woman and that sweet young man.
2. You Can't Change Him
Quit complaining about him and to him, trying to get him to change. Trust me, there's plenty in you he'd like to change, too. He just might be too scared of you to say so. A fundamental rule of people is this: you can't change them. That may lead you to despair if there wasn't this ray of hope. There's still someone in the relationship you can change and control. YOU. If you can't admit that you are part of the problem, then you are the problem. Or, if you are really good at the womanly manipulation kind of thing, you can find a way to admit your problem while somehow turning it back to him. We do that kind of stuff all the time. It's why more men go bald than women. We make them pull their hair out.
Act like the kind of wife you'd like to have. Be sweet. Be of service. Do stuff for him just because. There's a rule of thumb I heard from a psychologist in the marriage realm, the one who complains, "I give and give and give!" doesn't. Someone who is keeping score is a self-centered individual. It's all about what she is getting. A self-centered person is not a happy person, ultimately. When there is only one person in the Universe, the echoes of your own voice is your only company. Your marriage isn't about you. It's about us. Make sure he's happy and he'll turn around and do the same. And you know what I just love about men? They turn around a lot faster and forgive than we women ever do.
Just change yourself and see. Again, try it for 30 days.
3. He's not a girl.
If you are not grateful for this, pray you will be. (I mean that seriously, pray to be grateful for him.) We are demanding and emotional creatures who are slow to forgive. We notice everything and we comment on it.
Your man is the exact opposite (unless you've been so awful to him it's going to take him a while before he'll trust you with his feelings again). His needs are pretty simple. His emotions are cut and dried. He forgets, forgives, and moves on before you've even finished mentally reviewing the first 456 reasons why you are so hurt and angry.
Let's take an example. You've asked your husband if he wants to go out to dinner and he says, "Sure, okay." He means, "Sure, okay," in the sense that he wasn't thinking about dinner at the moment because he wasn't hungry, but the idea sounds good to him. Meanwhile, you are reading something! He hesitated. What does that mean? Is he implying that you should have already had dinner planned and ready? Is he criticising you for being a little lazy about cooking? He doesn't appreciate all you do around this house. And the fight is on.
When I was a schoolteacher I noticed the differences between the male and female species to be profound. Girls had girl wars and got every friend they could involved. It took weeks, months, counselling, kid gloves, gentle remonstrance, and sometimes the threat of detentions to negotiate a peace. Even still some of the grudges were epic and lasted until adulthood even though the battles were sometimes brought to a level of peace that allowed a wary coexistence. The boys? You know how to fix a problem between two boys? Make them work side by side and demand they don't talk to one another. Pretty soon, they are rolling their eyes, making faces and they are just fine. Forever.
Who would you rather have mad at you? You? Or your husband?
Be glad he is the forgiving man that he is and return the favor. He isn't perfect and neither are you. When he annoys you with his imperfections, just remember to thank God he isn't perfect. If he was, he never would have married you.
end Part 1
Part II Here: http://gardenofholiness.blogspot.com/2009/04/part-ii-all-you-have-to-do-is.html