courtesy of Bob Jenkin
I don’t care what anyone says, but marriage is a major step to take and it isn’t one to be taken lightly.
If you’ve been reading some of my blogs throughout the past few months, you must have noticed a kind of see-saw quality in my relationships. One day I was up, the next day, down. And, ALL because of relationships gone awry. The rest of my life, my friendships, my work, etc., are usually on an even keel.
Today is a significant day for me. It was exactly four years ago on March 26 that my late husband Andy took his own life. I guess you might say that the month of March has a special meaning for me for four important reasons: My Mom died 10 years ago on the first day of spring, which was on March 21, 2003. Then, Andy passed away on March 26, 2009. Gary and I were married on March 9, 2013, and last week I learned from his sister that my first fiance’ passed away on March 15, 2013 of pancreatic cancer.
Today, on this special day of reflection, I woke up ruminating about what marriage means to me and I realized that, in some respects, perhaps I was sabotaging my own happiness because of my feelings for my ex. Sadly enough, we can’t always control our feelings, but we CAN prevent them from controlling us. In other words, I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to continue to care for an ex, but it isn’t acceptable for these feelings to interfere with our primary relationships. I would be lying through my teeth if I claimed I didn’t have deep feelings for my ex. And, I suspect that my new husband Gary most likely still has lingering feelings for his ex.
Although Gary is very tolerant of the contact I have with my ex, and I tell him it’s fine if he sees HIS ex from time to time, I realize that neither of us can allow our ex’s to interfere in our relationship with one another. I’m not the controlling type and neither is my husband. But, if our ex’s want to see us when we’re busy with each other, we need to draw the line somewhere. It’s kind of ironic that neither his ex nor my ex has accepted the fact that we’re married, but it’s still a fact. And, I also would be lying if I claimed I didn’t sometimes miss my ex as he had a significant impact on my recovery after Andy passed away. Without him, I would now be in a lot worse shape for sure. Then again, had things gone as I had wanted to with him, he would still be my primary partner.
What does marriage really mean? I think it means that, when we get married, we are telling ourselves, our significant others and the rest of our immediate world that we have chosen someone with whom to spend the remainder of our days (ideally) and that we have found love again.
For a while, Gary and I were so embroiled in wedding preparations and in post wedding obligations such as sending out thank you notes to about 60 people that we didn’t have much time for one another. How ironic is that! Now that the wedding is over and all the thank you notes have been mailed out, we finally are spending some quality time together. Of course, the fact that we’re going on our honeymoon on April 6 means more preparations are in store for us. However, planning a honeymoon is nothing like planning a wedding as many of you already know.
This morning, I was in a rather contemplative mood. Maybe it’s because today is the fourth anniversary of the death of a husband to whom I had remained married for almost 25 years. I say almost 25 years because my late husband Andy bought me a diamond and ruby ring for our 24th wedding anniversary because he didn’t think we would make it to 25. He sure was right about that. However, it’s because he decided to check out of this world and not because the Lord had taken him. Then again, when I read the autopsy report (autopsy reports are always required when someone commits suicide), I realized how very ill he was and that, even if he had waited for God to take him, he might not have lasted very long. Still, losing a partner to suicide is so different from losing someone to natural causes. Then again, although I lost my Dad to natural causes, what killed him was so bizarre — it was the flesh-eating bacteria — that his death was as traumatic to me as was Andy’s. My Mom, however, fell ill at age 88 (she had had a weak heart since age 71), and she lingered for a few months before she died at age 89 on the first day of spring in 2003.
In any event, I was in a very specific mood today, so I sat down and ruminated about the things I could do in order to be a good marriage partner to my new husband Gary.
I thought about the ways I had sabotaged some of my previous relationships. I also thought about the things which made my marriage to Andy successful for many years, and I came up with the following things I could do to be a good marriage partner to Gary:
1. Always keep the lines of communication open. Why did my last relationship fail? Because my ex and I took many things off the table. It even reached the point in which I called this ”off-the-table-itis” because we did this so often. Whenever I raised an issue he didn’t want to discuss, he suddenly had to see a client. Whenever he raised an issue I didn’t want to discuss, I told him “I don’t want to talk about it.” He took things off the table far more often than I did. But, I can’t say I was totally innocent either. Now, when either my husband or I is troubled about something, we talk about it. I tend to preface my commentary with something like, “We agreed we would always be open and honest with each other, and I have a need to talk about ....” He tends to preface his comments with “I know this might look like I’m ......but ....”
2. Stop to smell the roses. Active people have a tendency to be on the go all the time. We are certainly are no exceptions. He always wants things done yesterday and I sometimes become anxious if I don’t accomplish certain tasks in a timely fashion. We learned pretty quickly that we both tend to want to cram too much into one day, so, when one of us is tired, we decide to take some time out and relax. This prevents us from getting irritable and it also helps us to pace ourselves better.
3. Always tell my husband that I love him when he least expects it. I believe everyone needs to hear they are loved. My ex never said he loved me and that became a major bone of contention between us, especially since I sometimes told him I loved him.
4. Make plans to do fun things together. It’s probably very easy for relationships to stagnate unless we work on making them fun. Both of us are photography buffs, so I decided to buy Gary a good quality Camcorder for his birthday which is on April Fool’s Day. I think he suspects I might have bought one for him because I told him I went to Best Buy, but I didn’t spill the beans, and I’m sure he didn’t expect me to buy such a high quality Camcorder, if he, in fact, thinks I bought him one. I know he loves to take pictures and he’ll have fun with his new Camcorder and might even bring it along on our honeymoon. We also make plans to see movies or to get together with mutual friends on a fairly regular basis.
5. Be as open as possible about intimacy issues. If you read my blog the other day, you could tell I was disgruntled because I didn’t understand why my husband didn’t make time for sex. So, what did I do? The other morning, I said to him, “You know, honey, we’ve been so busy with wedding plans and with post wedding plans and work that it has been at least a week since we made love.” And, guess what? He heard me, and that very night was a night to remember. It’s also important for partners to tell one another what we like or don’t like in bed. With all the ***** at our disposal, sometimes we’ll see something on video and decide to try it out on our partner. Once in a while, what we try is a winner and at other times we run into the “ouch” factor. It’s not that we’re deliberately trying to hurt our partners. It’s just that we either tried something sexual with someone else, or we saw something interesting on a video and we thought it might make our partner happy. When it bombs, all we have to do is shrug our shoulders and say, “Sorry you didn’t like what I did.. I just thought I’d try something different for a change.” There’s no need to feel dejected or to belabor the point. By the same token, it there’s something I like, I tell my husband about it, and then it’s up to him as to whether or not he feels comfortable with it.
6. Accept my partner for who he or she is. Realize that no one human being can fulfill all my needs and accept that fact. Instead of trying to convert Gary to my point of view concerning some issues or expecting him to engage in intimate practices which are repugnant to him, I accept him for the wonderful and unique man he is.
7. Do my fair share of the work. My husband works full time because he is a few years younger than I am. I only teach part-time. Because he works longer hours, I do most of the cooking and a lot of the cleaning. But, he enjoys doing the laundry and going shopping, so he does the wash, and the two of us go shopping together often. I always ask him if he needs something from the store if he happens to be working. This way he knows I’m thinking of him and that I realize he has less free time than I do.
8. Accept criticism without becoming defensive. I grew up in a household where my Dad used to criticize me for little things. When I was younger, I used to always fight back. Now, when Gary tells me I did something wrong (even if it’s minor), I thank him for telling me. The only time I might argue is if he might accuse me of something I didn’t do, and so far nothing like this has happened.
9. Practice good personal hygiene and look presentable most of the time. Most of us don’t look so wonderful when we first get out of bed, but I make it a practice to shower and to wear fragrances and to dress respectably at all times, even if I’m wearing jeans and a top. My husband appreciates the fact that I try to look nice for him. It also makes me feel better when I look nice, especially since I’ve gained 10 pounds this year. I’m not happy about the weight gain, and I realized that, because Gary is taller than I am, he can eat more without putting on a lot of weight. I was shocked to find out recently that I had gone up an entire dress size, and now I am trying to get back down to the weight I was at when I first married Gary. Gary doesn’t like thin women, but he shouldn’t have to put up with a butterball either!
10. Try to remain optimistic even during tough times. None of us can be in a good mood all of the time and sometimes things come up which can ruin our day. If I’m upset about something, I will talk to Gary about it, but I won’t try to bring him down. If I’m feeling ill, I’ll just tell him that I’m not at the top of my game and he’ll understand. Of course, when something really catastrophic happens, it’s almost impossible to be optimistic, but I still try to be kind to my husband even when in a **** poor mood.
11. Be an active listener. Sometimes our partner tells us something which is hard for us to hear. Being an active listener goes beyond communication. It means listening intently to what our partner is saying and offering feedback to let him or her know we understand. Invariably, there will be arguments and hurt feelings, but, if we really listen to our partner instead of reacting negatively immediately if we don’t like what we’re hearing, we might understand where our partner is really coming from and why the issue needs to be addressed.
12. Try not to nitpick over little things. No two people have exactly the same living habits. If our partner drives too fast or leaves a mess in the kitchen, we can point out in a nice way that something is bothering us. Remember that our spouse is supposed to be our friend, and we should always try to be kind to our friends. Sometimes I will point out that Gary is walking too fast and that I have a hard time keeping up with him. I do this in a joking manner by telling him that I feel as though I’m taking baby, Chinese steps just in order to keep up with his pace.
13. Don’t always try to be right. Being right or winning an argument can result in more unhappiness than it’s worth. I’m not saying you should cave in to your spouse, but arguing for the mere sake of arguing is a colossal waste of time. Sometimes Gary and I argue about how the computer should work. Sometimes one of us insists we know what we’re doing and that the other person should just leave us alone. However, when we work together to solve the problem, both of us learn something and neither of us feels stupid.
14. Never go to bed angry. If we had a spat over something (usually about an ex), we make sure to kiss and make up before going to bed. Usually, by the next day things don’t seem as serious as they appeared to be anyway.
I’m sure you can come up with some other qualities which make for a good marriage partner. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.