In-laws and Outlaws

Ya know, sometimes it amazes me that so many marriages succeed.

No, seriously!

You are throwing SO MANY differences into a pot and putting it on boil!

People who are raised in different parts of the country, with different cultures, backgrounds, and expectations, suddenly being expected to live together in one house, contractually obligated to love, honor, and nurture the other, and trying to navigate the cutting of ties and apron strings from a previous life with its own traditions, heritage, and dysfunction.

I’m surprised it actually works well. Well, sometimes it does.

My parents were wonderful about supporting us kids in our newly-married lives. They gave us space, didn’t incessantly offer advice, and helped out when asked. We are some of the lucky ones.

I have heard horror stories about parents throwing absolute fits when a child couldn’t attend the annual CHRISTMAS DINNER every year, the one where all of the relatives come EVERY YEAR, and almost disown the child and his/her/their partner.

I feel like this is the epitome of selfishness.

It feels like, “I don’t care about your spouse/partner/loved one, or whether THEIR family has its own traditions. How dare you plan something that doesn’t involve US on this Holy Family Day??”

Wow.

Sometimes the hardest things in a partnership are not the struggles within it, but the stresses that are heaped upon it from the outside. And the most damaging of these are sometimes piled on by the ones who raised us.

Let’s do better.

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Power

Power is an important thing to think about in relationships.

*Prepare for takeoff. Please ensure your seat belts are buckled, and tray tables are in an upright and locked position.*

Let’s talk a little about submitting. Submission. To submit.

*Deep breath*

SUBMISSION IS VOLUNTARY!!!  ..OLENTary ..olintary ..tary ..ary ..

It is not something a man should require or demand of his wife!!

It is not a demand for the wife to give up her voice in a marriage!!

It is not a way for men to take advantage in any way of a woman’s body, mind, or opinion!

What it IS is a suggestion from Paul that if a man has a proper relationship with Deity, then a woman should have that same sort of relationship with her husband.

Let’s look at that relationship- God gives suggestions to us as His children. He doesn’t coerce, He doesn’t blame, He doesn’t force in any way. He says, “Hey, you guys should act this way. Love me. Love each other.” And then He leaves us alone to do as we will.

But some men feel as though it is their place to demand that women submit to their authority as if they were all-powerful and all-knowing and as if they deserve it.

stop and think about that for a minute.

So…. God gives us guidelines (that most of us can’t even keep daily) and says “I’d love it if you did this”… but men deserve to have their wives submit to them?

see the problem? no? *sigh* ok, let’s try again…

If men are truly righteous, and truly living the commandments, which include loving God and loving others as themselves…

then submission would never, ever, even enter their thoughts. EVER.

Because their concern would be about themselves, and their families, and making sure that they are all safe and happy and joyful.

See, the thing is, if you love your wife as yourself, then you will gladly submit to her at every opportunity.

She would be the precious gift that you have. She would be the focus of your daily thoughts.

This is the thing that men miss. They are too concerned about getting what’s theirs, their respect, their authority, their way, that they miss this point completely.

a good, healthy righteous marriage is one where the wife submits to the husband

EVERY BIT AS MUCH AS

the husband submits to the wife.

Thank you for sharing this somewhat turbulent flight with us. We have landed. You are free to deplane at your convenience.

Have a nice day!

*whew*

Let’s Talk About…

SEX

yeah, the “S” word. Let’s talk about that.

no, seriously. we NEED to talk about that.

I firmly believe that sex is the most under-discussed topic in the world today. For something that is vital for our society, and for something that nearly everyone engages in, it is certainly something nobody likes talking about.

And yet, where do we start the conversation?

Sexuality exists in us from birth. As little children we realize that there are certain places on our bodies that feel good when we touch them. We are not ashamed. And yet, the way our parents react to this can shape our sexual future in so many ways. If not handled correctly, we may link the adjectives dirty, shameful, bad, and naughty to our genitals, leading to problems in the future.

Or, we may learn that there are certain things that it isn’t polite to do in front of other people.

Or, it may open up a discussion about the sacredness of our bodies and intimacy with a mate.

One of these things is not like the other…

My wife and I talk a lot about these things. Both of us had a great measure of shame attached to sex. Both of us have suffered for it.

We love sex. We are both comfortable with it and with talking about it. We both talk to our kids about it. We believe it is a great force for good in the world.

Or for bad. And with many of the young people we encounter, it’s bad. Very, very bad.

People use sex to hurt people in selfish attempts at gratification. People use sex as a weapon to get revenge. People use sex to get rich. Most of the young women you will meet in your lifetime have been sexually assaulted and/or raped. Multiple times.

SO, let’s talk about sex. What sex is. What sex ISN’T. How sex can be used for good, how it can make a marriage stronger, how it should never been forced or coerced.

And mostly, how sex isn’t bad. People are bad, people misuse sex in bad ways, but sex isn’t bad, or dirty, or shameful, or ugly.

Sex is beautiful. Sex is natural. Sex is healthy.

I love sex. 😉

Gridlock

I hate traffic. And lines. And crowds.

I know, I know, hate is a strong word. And yet, in this instance, I feel comfortable that I am excused in using it.

I think that the reason is, when I have something to do or somewhere I want or need to go, I dislike having people or events that prevent me from getting there in a time I feel is reasonable. Which is always RIGHT NOW!

I am not in sole and complete control.

I believe that the same feeling of frustration and being out of total control can occur in marriage, even when we are fully aware and understand what it means to completely share another person’s life. When we commit to love, honor and cherish our spouses, we do not always commit to understanding them, seeing their dreams and goals, or supporting their decisions.

We’re all individuals. We all have things we want to do, or see. We all are constantly growing and, yes, changing.

I am not the man that my wife first met. If I was, she wouldn’t have married me.

My wife is not the woman I first met. Though I still would have married her.

Gridlock in a marriage is the result of one spouse having deep goals, dreams, and visions about some aspect of their life, and the other partner not understanding the dream or goal, or not sharing the value of such. If I have always wanted to go skydiving in Brazil, and my wife is always arguing that we don’t have the money, and I am unwilling to let go of that dream, and we are constantly having conflict about this every month when bills are due, we are in gridlock.

Gridlock in a marriage can be a harbinger of divorce, but it doesn’t have to be. Open and honest communication includes being empathetic and searching for solutions as a team. The answer doesn’t have to be, “we can’t”, or “we don’t have the money”, or “that’s a crazy idea why would you want to?” There is always “help me understand why this is important.” There is the helpful “is there an alternative?” And then, as a last resort, there is “we will find a way to”.

This weekend marks the opening week run of the second lay I have been involved in in twenty years. The first play was only two months ago. When I was considering trying out for this play, I realized that it would happen over the beginning of the school semester, with both Tessi and I working at colleges in the area as well as both of us being in college classes. It would mean sacrifices in time together. It would mean I wouldn’t be home to help cook or clean or do laundry. It would mean me being busy every night of the week for more than a month.

Her only reply was, “You light up when you’re on stage. It gives you life. Go for it.”

I love this woman, my partner, my wife, my love, more that I can ever express.

I still hate traffic, though.

Managing Conflict

Conflict is uncomfortable. People tend to want to avoid it at all costs. In their marriages, in society, and in themselves.

But is it inherently a negative thing? Is there any redeeming quality to engaging conflict?

Methinks so.

I believe that conflict is a friction between two opposing forces or beliefs. It can come in countless different forms. It can be on a grand scale, or it can be a minute internal feeling. But each and every conflict in our lives is the opportunity for change and growth. In fact, without the catalyst of change there is never any growth.

Also, growth can be painful beyond belief.

For example, let’s say you are feeling guilty for not donating blood, even though you know that it is an important thing that can help save lives.

You have an opportunity to reexamine your schedule and maybe prioritize service more that you currently are.

Or, suppose you are in disagreement with your wife because she doesn’t like you going to a Masonic meeting that lasts three hours.

Perfect chance to have a discussion about whether she is getting enough time away from the home and kids, and if you can chip in more around the house.

Then again, maybe your child has been the victim of a random drive-by shooting. Or, maybe your infant daughter has died suddenly of SIDS. Or your spouse of two weeks is struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Wow. Painful? Yes, undoubtedly. Devastating? No question.

Opportunity for growth?

Anyone?

Yes. Absolutely.

I know that there is a God. I know that there is an afterlife. I KNOW that there is a purpose for this life, and it isn’t without meaning. I have no doubt that God loves us and that He wants us, ultimately, to be happy.

I hope that I never have to face that kind of pain and sorrow and anger. I pray every day that my wife and children and grand-children are safe and happy and live long after I am dead.

But for now, I approach conflict with a mindset that is open. I enter spaces of tension with a desire to hear, and learn, and grow. I communicate with my wife, when we don’t agree, without a sense of who’s right and who wrong. I try to find solutions without bad feelings, because I value our relationship, and I would so much rather be wrong and happy than right and angry.

The Mighty and the Humble

Pride is one thing that I really, really struggle with.

My wife loves this about me. At least, she says she does.

I struggle with pride, but not in the way you think- I struggle because I understand how damaging pride can be, and am hyper vigilant whenever I feel like I may be feeling pride. Like, we talk about how my lack of pride is really pride, and how if I THINK I am humble, then isn’t that prideful? Where is the line between pride and honesty, and how do I know when I’m crossing that line, and how can I possibly function in this world when I am never sure if I am really being prideful or I am being modest and it soundspridefulandIcan’teven

yeah, I know I have issues. Sorry.

Tessi assures me that she will let me know if she feels like I am being proud in any area of my life. I trust her to do so.

The last thing I told my first ex-wife after the divorce was final was that I was willing to accept fully 50% of the blame for our marriage falling apart. She laughed, and told me that I should be accepting 150%, then hung up the phone. I refuse to do so, and maybe that’s because I’m being prideful. Or maybe that is because it isn’t true. She could be mean and cruel, and was emotionally abusive.

When I told my second ex-wife that she had to choose between me and the “other guy,” and that if she lost me she’d never find anyone as good as I was to her, maybe that was pride. Or, maybe it was the truth, based on how I had already put up with two other affairs that she had had and most guys wouldn’t be willing to work on a marriage after the third. I don’t know.

I DO know that I am painfully aware how much pride damages relationships. I know that pride “goeth before the fall” and leads people into thinking that is contrary to God’s will.

I’m not always sure if the voices I hear are God’s counsel to me, or the voices of my insecurities, or the voices of my mental illness. I AM sure that I always need to stop and check before I listen to their counsel. I DO know that I am so far from perfection that it is laughable to think that I am even able to see Christ’s reflection in myself.

But I do know that I am on the path. I know where the path leads. And I know that I can see Christ in my wife, and in my kids, and in my support system, and in many other people.

Right now, that’s enough.

Turning toward the Other

I’ve been thinking lately about turning to your spouse instead of turning away from your spouse. What I mean by this is when your spouse makes a bid for attention, or affection, or assistance, you return the bid with love and understanding, instead or prioritizing yourself and your interests.

um….

yeah?

I posit that there have to be people that just do not understand why they got married or why they are still wed. Which is totally fine, if you want to be somewhat miserable, or very miserable, or unbelievably miserable.

Like, for example, my parents.

My mom and dad were married for twentysomeodd years. Mom and dad were in love with each other, I have absolutely no doubt. They each thought the other was a great, wonderful person. But they got divorced. Makes no sense, I know.

The reason they got divorced is because they had no communication skills at all. AT ALL. For example, my dad bought a house. My family lived in that house for almost twenty years. My mom hated that house. FOR. TWENTY. YEARS.

She never told him how she felt. He never told her why he bought it. Until after they had been divorced for more than five years.

My mom hated the house because it was too small. She wanted a bigger house, especially after she had another child. There were only two bedrooms for six people. She thought he would recognize her frustration without discussing it with him.

My dad bought her that house- that TOO SMALL house- because it was two doors away from her best friend with whom she had a business making cakes. He thought she would be happy to be so close, but he just assumed she’d recognize the gesture without discussing it with her.

He didn’t like the house either.

sigh.

THIS is the environment I was raised in. That level of miscommunication was the average. NOBODY talked to ANYBODY in that house unless they were upset or angry, and then it was with raised voices. It is no wonder that we have struggled greatly with relationships.

sigh.

With all of that in mind, I’d now like to address the topic of the week, that of turning toward your spouse. This is an area that I struggle with to no extent at all.

What? Not at all? How could that be, with your history, you may ask. Or you may not, which is fine too. I will answer regardless.

When Tessi approaches me with a request, or with a suggestion, or with a question, I try to stop what I am doing, both physically and mentally, and turn toward her- with all possible meanings of the phrase intended. I look at her and listen to her, even if it is a hard conversation. Even if I have other things I want to be doing.

Why do I do this? Why do I prioritize her needs and wishes over my own?

Because I WANT TO BE MARRIED TO MY WIFE. I want that more than I can even tell. I love having someone in my corner who is always there for me. I adore having someone who I can spend time with and can travel with and can love with and can cook with and can do dishes with and and and

It is awesome!

I stumbled across a secret long ago that has shaped the way I interact with my wife. Would you like to hear it? Here goes-

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

What? You- you have heard it before? Really? It’s common knowledge? HMMM…

Then why is the divorce rate so high? Why are people, married or not, miserable?

Here’s how I practice it. Whenever my wife and I are awake and in the same space together, I think- “what do I want right now?” And then I answer myself the same way every time- “I want Tessi to be happy. I want her to be the happiest person on earth right now. I want her to never forget how happy she is in this moment.”

And then I do whatever I think it will take for that to happen.

I don’t always get it right. I am very selfish sometimes. I am cranky even more times. But always, there is in the back of my mind, the thought that I married the most amazing woman who is strong, brave, beautiful, and wise, and despite all that STILL married me.

So turning to my wife in difficult times, or in easy times, or in any times at all, isn’t even a question. It isn’t a challenge, or a hardship, or a burden. I chose this woman and I decided that I wanted to spend every available minute I could with her. I remember that she didn’t have to say yes. She said yes because she thought that being with me forever would be better than being without me.

It isn’t a burden to give her attention. It isn’t an inconvenience to listen to her tell me how difficult work was today. It isn’t a chore to wash dishes with her, or clean the catbox because it’s my turn, or respond with love and patience and understanding when she is upset at something I did wrong, or didn’t do when I said I would, or even when I have to change plans at the last minute.

I love her. I want to be with her. So turning to her is my privilege.

It’s an honor.