Friday, June 08, 2007
Hanging marriage out to dry
Edited: Post in haste, repent in leisure! I do not know how or why I neglected to do so, but I did not include the linnks to Gwen's blog or her post that inspired this one. I mentioned it, and had the text for the links all set, then just didn't do it. Sorry Gwen!
In my head I've been working out my own answer to my Hump Day Hmm question (due next Wednesday, so my expectations are very high) about "what if I shut down into a coma twenty years ago?" So I keep reminiscing about life and all it held in 1987-1988, which happened to be a lot. And then Gwen goes and fires up the grill with the hot spark, "I wish sometimes that the very wise and talented people who write so openly about real parenting would write that same way about marriage." Then she relates a story about crushes, and asks what we think.
You know what happens to me when someone asks me what I think: I share.
I met my husband for the first time in 1988. That's a few years back, and a lot of water under the bridge. We have truly grown up together. I could lie and say we were 8 years old when we met, but the truth is we were in college, on the cusp of adulthood and independence. By the time we started dating a few years later, our primary concerns were evolving from school and fun to earning a living and succeeding in our chosen professions. By the time we married a few years after that, we thought we were certified and bona fide grown-ups just because we were in our mid-twenties. We thought the wet had dried from behind our ears.
However, the more I live, the more the rug has been yanked out from under me; the more I realize I don't know; the cockiness of youth has been utterly shaken out of me; and most importantly, my shade of gray has expanded and continues to grow in most areas (by which I mean 'point of view and larger comprehension and understanding' not 'hair.').
I've gone through all of this with my husband.
In a way, our relationships with other people can be the making of us. I don't mean they define us, or that without them we wouldn't evolve, but I do mean that they shape us significantly. Marriage/commitment between two people is one of the most meaningful of all relationships. Your family is a powerful relationship, but you don't choose your relatives. You do, however, choose your significant other.
For me, this makes the relationship very personal and private. I talk about my husband on my blog. I share family outings, thoughts, experiences, and even sometimes tease him about parenting stuff (like the infamous Halloween candy incident after which I revoked his parenting license). But I firmly draw the line there.
Plenty of times we've had a conversation, gone through an experience, had a disagreement, or I've wondered if others deal with this too, other times he's annoyed me on one point one to many times.
But this is my blog, not my laundry room and although I air out my mind here frequently, it feels uncomfortable to air out my marriage.
That leaves me with the complicated question of why I can be so open about parenting but not about marriage.
Gwen theorizes that it is, perhaps, because our children don't read our blogs whereas our spouses (theoretically) do.
I think that's certainly one reason.
But I also have to admit that I'm probably not as open as I appear, even when talking about parenting. I do a really good "distract with a lot of information and details while not really sharing what all is going on" act. I've had a lot of years to perfect it, thank you very much. The act has now thickened to about the consistency of tulle.
I think another reason I don't talk about my marriage (versus including my husband honestly in stories) is this feeling of sacredness.
Parenting is an act---and I don't mean that in a false way, I mean that in a "it's visible to the naked eye" sort of way. Parenting isn't private; it's not something largely done behind closed doors. Like marriage is.
I gladly talk about the act of parenting, the difficulties in day-to-day situations, the feelings I have sometimes, the difficulty juggling time and roles.
But if I were to talk honestly about my marriage, what would I talk about?
My good friends and I talk openly about the day-to-day aspects of marriage, but even in person there are lines. I'll moan about certain arguments to my best friend, but again, even there, there are limits.
See, when I talk about parenting, I largely depict myself. When I talk about my marriage, I am responsible for depicting two people. As a parent, I am often my children's voice. As a wife, I am one voice in a duet.
If one day my husband and I agreed to a topic and did a he said/she said thing, I'd be okay with that.
But he's such a private person. And I respect that. I know my boundaries are a lot broader than his. He has always played very close to the vest. Someday, if I ever share the story of how we came to be us, you'll see he's very much a ditto kind of guy: more acts than talk.
This brings about more aggravation than you'd think, because I, too, tend to love through action. I love with food, help, support, and chores, "Look! The floor is vacuumed! With this I proclaim my undying love and affection! And HA! A fully stocked pantry...has any bouquet of flowers or poem ever been so romantic?"
Laugh if you like but when you're finished, step back and tell me you don't have some otherwise mundane action that means love.
The truth is, deeds aside, I am a talker, one who likes to process out loud, who likes to discuss...be open. Married to a close to the vest man. You'd think my blog would be a good space to journal my thoughts and feelings, gather and gain wisdom and insight---especially since it has functioned so well in that way for other issues.
However, the things that really weigh in my mind are things that are typically so private, I wouldn't even talk to my sister about them, and we talk about a lot, even more than I do with my best friends.
The only person I really talk to about all the aspects of my marriage is...my husband.
Marriage is a heady investment in another person. It requires trust, and a lot of faith and patience. Perseverance. Plus, a sense of humor, and openness.
We're silly and joke about crushes, as Gwen described. It doesn't bother me. I know where our commitment is. It is to one another.
Crushes, jokes, finding another person attractive isn't the issue. The issue is being unhappy in a relationship and looking for something to fill that hole, or looking for an out. It's creating a new problem to try to hide another bigger problem. And there is no amount of jealousy, suspicion or "eyes wide open" you can have that can ever prepare you for finding out you---your relationship---have been betrayed. Having been there and done that in a previous relationship, I decided I either believe in and trust the man I committed to and who committed to me, or what value does the commitment hold?
The looking, the joking, the crushes are nothing, really, when the commitment is honored and respected, trusted. In fact, the fights, tough times, disagreements, and so forth are challenges and obstacles to oversome with our commitment.
That's probably the main reason I don't discuss my marriage very openly, or on my blog. It's too easy to be in a bad spot or tough time and take the venting too far, present only one aspect of the relationship and only one side of the story. This can give an incorrect impression. I've made that mistake before. I've learned from it. Luckily, it was simply with a trusted friend.
So I'll keep mentioning my husband, hopefully he'll keep making surprise guest appearances, I'll still share stories about our family life, but unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to write about marriage---the specifics of mine anyway---in the same way I do parenting. I can, however, promise, that anything you hear from me about marriage is more likely to indicate effort and commitment rather than beds of roses and luck.
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert