Sunday, June 20, 2010

Marriage Thoughts

My sister got married yesterday; we had a reception today. It was a lot of work and a lot of joy, and it left me thinking all week about marriage, naturally.

I kept wondering what you tell someone who is getting married about marriage that will help them have a happy marriage.

I can only think of a few things I might tell my sister:

I distinctly remember when I was a teenager and I went out walking with my best friend, who I married many years later. It was night, and as we walked, it got colder and he gave me his coat, which I gratefully took. We kept walking, and several minutes later I realized he was shivering. Foolish me--I hadn't realized that when a man gives a woman his coat, the man is COLD.

So that's one thing I kept thinking about. Somehow, we women seem to forget that men have feelings just like we do. Men are culturally presented as stoic and strong and hormonal, but the reality is they have feelings. And they want their feelings taken just as seriously as we want them to take ours. They want to love. They want to be loved.  Just like I took Tim's coat without it ever occurring to me that he would be cold, I see many marriages where the woman expects to be loved and romanced and cared for with no thought that perhaps her husband might be feeling exactly the same way. It's worth it to share the responsibility for the love in a marriage--you fill your spouse's needs (even the ones you might not realize he has!--he'll tell you if he finds out you want to know) and it's more likely he will fill yours.

The other thing I keep thinking about is how women find a man who has been living on his own for who knows how long--years usually--and successfully taking care of his own shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, appearance, car, job, meals, family relationships, etc.--successfully enough that the woman fell for him, at least.  And then they get married, and the wife instantly starts treating this person, who has been a competent adult for years, as if he is incompetent at everything. Suddenly he doesn't dress right, he can't be trusted to cook or clean or show up on time or express himself in a socially acceptable way. His life must be micromanaged and his decisions and actions--especially regarding practical living and home life--questioned and challenged and corrected, almost like he's a child needing to be taught or, worse, an animal that must be trained.

That seems unfair to me. It seems like we ought to be giving our spouse as much credit and respect as we give the grocery store clerk, the stranger on the street, co-workers, ward members, and our other friends. If you treat someone like they're incompetent long enough, they stop trying (they just get criticized for it) and live up (or, rather, down) to our expectations. And then women complain--publicly and in detail--that their husband won't help with anything in the house! Perhaps it's because the woman won't let them? Or criticized them for every effort (either verbally or just by doing it over when he's not looking)?  Would YOU keep helping someone who kept telling you everything you did was wrong (or even just correcting it "gently")--even if it was something you'd been doing for years? I doubt it.

Ironically, if women get treated the way they treat their husbands (but not most other men), the behavior is labeled abusive and the woman is encouraged to leave.

So that was my second thought: we ought to make every effort to remember that our spouse is a competent adult who can do everything we can do--and many things better, even in the traditional "woman's" realm. Different is not necessarily wrong. There are many right ways to do things. And you never know--you just might discover that his way is both easier and more effective than yours!

I also thought I might tell her that men just like to be told (vs. hinted at, bossed, or nagged). They also like to be asked nicely--like you would your sister, or your friend, or your mother. Like you did when you were dating him. Men don't want you to drop hints that the garbage needs to be taken out OR say, "Why don't you ever take the garbage out?". They want you to say, "Honey, would you please take the garbage out?" They don't want to be hinted at that you're mad or sad or hurting or hungry. Don't break the dishes in the sink and hope they notice. Just say, "I am so angry!" and tell them why.

I didn't tell her any of these things, though. Watching her and her spouse, it seems to me that she already knows.

What I ended up telling her was, "You look beautiful."  She did.

And if she doesn't already know it, she'll figure out the rest.

1 comment:

Becca B said...

This is an appropriate post for Father's Day.