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 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 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


Christine said...

I really enjoyed reading this today, Julie.

I've though a lot about this point both in terms of blogging and in terms of "real life" discussions. I, too, have lines. Like you said, we are a duet, and to sing solo would really hide his soaring voice.

I also worry were venting would bleed into husband bashing. You know? Now I am not saying we can't tactfully vent or share frustrations and obstacles we have in our marriage, just that we have to be respectful and not end up painting an ugly picture that, when we look back, are ashamed of because it is only half a picture.

Oh i would be a fool and a liar to say that my life with my husband is a perfect field of daisies day in and day out. We shouldn't paint the opposite illusion either--an illusion of a perfect romance movie, no fights, no problems.

In the end, for me, it is all about respect. I can show my true love for my husband by respecting our marriage with a little privacy. You'll hear about him from time to time for sure, but the intimate details and the true fights and hard times will remain private.

MizMell said...

Effort and commitment indeed. But that's exactly what parenting is all about.

Perhaps there's an middle of the road out there somewhere we haven't stumbled upon.

Mary-LUE said...

One of my blog friends who is also a "real life" friend and I have discussed this. It is simply a very dangerous thing to discuss your marriage on your blog. You risk saying too much or the wrong thing. I have made a few general comments about my marriage but always have been careful to state that it is my point of view and that what I've said is something that would be something that is common in a marriage. And really, I can only think of one or two instances where I've mentioned anything at all.

I've read blogs, some "big" ones, where there is a "no holds barred" approach in talking about a spouse. I cringe. Even when the spouse appears to have done something terrible, I can't help but think that it can't be helpful to their relationship.

Lawyer Mama said...

"In a way, our relationships with other people can be the making of us." YES! You are very right about that.

I have written about my marriage and my relationship with my husband, but if you read closely you'll see I do not criticize *him* only me. The reason? His privacy, of course. His family reads my blog. But also out of respect for the privacy of our marriage. I don't really discuss my marriage with friends or family either. I firmly believe those are conversations that should take place only between me and T. He has to feel confident that he can say anything to me about himself or our marriage without worrying about it ending up on my blog. That's a trust I can never break.

Like Mary-lue, I read a couple of blogs where everything is revealed. I just can't do that. It would be like making my marriage into a reality TV show. I have no desire to be Jessica Simpson.

slouching mom said...

I too am married to a very private person.

But well before we met, when I was still in college, when girlfriends would be drinking and giggling over penis size, and they'd ask me to share my boyfriend's, I'd refuse. Because it just seemed so astonishingly disrespectful of someone else's privacy.

And they called me a prude.

So be it.

NotSoSage said...

This is fascinating and something I must admit that I've never really thought much about. And I can't even explain why.

I'm just starting to mull this over - largely in response to your post - and so I don't have much to say, but I will say that finding the right balance of what and what not to share, either in relation to parenting or my marriage, is going to get even more critical as time goes on, I think.

Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

It is funny that you posted about this. Earlier today, I started a post about some frustrations with my husband and, after tearfully reading the draft....deleted it. I am not opposed to sharing certain things....but there IS a limit. There may be a time when I feel compelled to share some details of my marriage...but I will try to respect the privacy of my spouse.

Of course, this will NOT stop me from b*tching about him from time to time!

You know what they say about women? We don't burp or we must b*tch or we will EXPLODE! (hee-hee)

Kyla said...

I totally agree. I don't blog about my marriage for the same reasons.

thailandchani said...

If I was married... when I was married... discussion of our private life was off-limits for both of us.



Julie Pippert said...

Thanks, Christine. It's harder in real life, when some days you have something, with a strong emotion, just waiting to burst out and all it takes is a special friend to say, "How are you?" In writing I have more time to consider. I do always want to be respectful and fair.


Mizmell, maybe so, a middle. And possibly someone really talented will find it. :)

Maybe even Gwen.


Mary, I agree. That's the POV I have on it. It might provide some relief (getting it out) and satisfaction from validation but that's only personally helpful not marriage helpful.


LM, you have it's not just respect, it's trust. Absolutely. Yes, I have no desire to be on reality TV, or liek Jessica Simpson. Anyway we all see where that ended up.


SM, I have never understood why privacy and restraint was considered "prudish" or "uptight." I'm with you.


Sage, I had pondered it a little, such as when I had a story to tell but decided not to b/c I worried about how it might make someone else (or in this case my husband) feel, and when I read other blogs that shared fairly openly about their marriage.

But it wasn't until Gwen put it all so well (this post started as a really long comment back to her) that I really considered it independently.


Queen, I've also deleted drafts. It felt good to write on certain topics, but I knew it wasn't something I could ever post. And it was about privacy and respect.


Kyla and Chani, yep. :)

kaliroz said...

Julie, I would never blog about something sacred with my husband ... but I will talk with my best friend about some things.

It's never really that I need to vent or bash. It's always sort of an "am I being too dumb, prickly, insensitive" kind of thing. I have to air the stuff so that I can see what's really an issue and what's not.

That's just me.

And I suppose, on one hand, I don't think marriage is that big a sacred cow.

I love my husband and I married him because of that, but, I don't know, I feel like if I've gotta talk to someone I'm gonna. And I don't like therapists. I know they're very important for some people, but not for me. (Bad experience.)

I feel like talking out some of the things with another person, even though that person is not totally un-biased, helps me work things out. That way if I DO have to talk to him about something, confront him, I'll be able to frame it not just in the "This really pisses me off" mode ... but also in the "This pisses me off and this is why it's disrepectful to me and our relationship".

Now, again, I'd never blog about our real issues, ever. #1 -- husband and his mother read it. #2 -- That's just too public a venue. My best friend is one thing. The world wide web is another altogether.

Ally said...

Power to the prudes (thanks, SM). I nodded like a bobble-head all the way through this post. A resounding amen from me.

Julie Pippert said...

Thanks, Ally!


Roz, I think you misunderstood what i wrote. I didn't say I *never* discuss my marriage with *anyone* at all for any reason.

I said my friends and I discuss the ins and outs, the dailies. I go a little deeper with my best friend and a little deeper still with my sister.

I simply said I have boundaries that I don't cross. They are arbitrary, they are mine.

One boundary is to not blog about it.

Mama Drama Jenny said...

Everyone has a line they don't cross. Mine is blurry...but it's there.

kaliroz said...

Ooops, sorry, Julie.

This is why I shouldn't respond to blog postings sans coffee. Or in a rush. (I was on the way out the door.)


K said...

Completely awesome.

My husband is much like yours, very private. I am thankful that he puts up with me and my "sharing".

Oh, gosh, this whole post-has me grinning in agreement.

Karen said...

very late to weigh in - but this was posted on my 11th wedding anniversary - and my reasons for not "marriage" venting/sharing on my blog and in real life are very similar. If I thought it would lend strength to our marriage, I'd probably talk/blog more about it, but I don't think it would, whereas parenting is just the opposite.