Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wifey Wednesday: Twelve Years In

...and we are still in love.

The thing is, our definition of love has changed. When I first fell in love with my husband, I thought of him constantly. Even my body thought of him. It was easy to think he was the center of my universe. But what 12 years has taught me is that I was more selfish then than I am now. I guess I can see it from a distance of 12 years later, but I didn't know it then.

When I first fell in love with my husband, I was in love with the way he made me feel. I loved him, sure, but I was hooked on my own soup of hormones and excitement of finally finding The One. I idealized him in light of that. Only the perfect man for me could make me feel the way he did, so he had to be my perfect man. Every time I saw clay on his feet, we'd argue. Rather, I'd begin a discussion, he'd avoid it, then I would chase him around with my list of points.

I applied this strategy because that's how to get me to change something about me. Point out a perceived flaw, reason with me to convince me it needs changing, help me hash out a strategy for change and boom, I'm working on it. Regardless of how many times this technique failed with my husband, I persisted. I think my thinking (if I gave it any thought) was that since he was my ideal man, he had to be like me in this. Even with all the people skills I'd learned as a school teacher, I was almost blind to my husband's needs and differences because of that ideal I'd created.

On my husband's part, he kept to himself. He grew up in a home with a mentally ill mother, so his mode of operation was to do everything possible to create an illusion of peace in the home while his real feelings and fulfillment lived themselves out under the radar. My conflict management style of discussion and rationale looked like dynamite to him. His style of conflict avoidance looked like agreeable assent to me. When I took my feelings out to examine and discuss them, my husband would say and do anything to get me to put such dangerous toys away. When my husband said and did that "anything," I took it as a mutually arrived at, logically derived marital plan of action. I was confused when later, he'd go his own way, saying things like, "But we discussed this!" He, reacting to his feeling panicked and pushed by my forthright manner, would stick his chin out and quietly and immovably insist on his way. I'd chalk it up to a miscommunication, acquiesce because he was so obviously invested, and question who this person was I'd married, he baffled me so.

Everyone has character strengths and weaknesses. In the wrong setting, even a diamond looks flawed and cheap. When applied in isolation a character strength like rational frankness looks like bulldozing, compromising support looks spineless and indecisive. Used in isolation, hurt feelings and confusion can result. Used together, an emotional character will balance a rational character. It's one of those lovely ways that the two become one. We are finally figuring each other out. My husband has learned that has input. I have learned that everything is not merely input. He has become more rational and less reactional in his thinking over the years. I have become more open to experiential emotional Venn Diagramming as opposed to my usual flow charting.

Every marriage has a recipe for disaster written alongside the recipe for success in its cookbook. Funny thing is, they both use a lot of the same ingredients. It took us about seven years to figure each other out enough to start switching recipes and using our ingredients to compliment one another. It took us that long to figure out how to set aside our perceptions of each other and actually see each other.

So Happy Anniversary, honey. Happy to know you. Hoping to know you better.

wifey wednesday
Wifey Wednesdays are hosted each week by Sheila Wray Gregoire
at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

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