I must admit, it’s been a rough weekend. Albeit the Facebook album of our kids, standing on the sidewalk smiling and cheering at a parade in the sunshine of a beautiful spring morning, may portray a different image. Trust me on this though – it was two days filled with constant irritation, frustration, nasty looks, and sarcastic comments between my hubby and me. As he put it (during one of the many arguments we had in 48 hours), “We are like two gears that should be rotating together to help each other, but instead we are grinding against one another.” Going to the grocery store, attending the parade, what to feed the children, how to manage the behavior of our firecracker preschooler we call “the baby,” – we just couldn’t agree on anything, no matter how small. Every conversation went something like this:
“Want to go do x, y, z?”
“Sure, but are you going to do a,b,c while we’re there?”
“Why? Is that a problem?!?!?”
“Stop yelling at me!”
“I’M NOT YELLING!!!”
Sometimes I find being married is like a mess of cats & dogs trapped in a tiny closet. Then when you add kids to the mix, it can feel like complete pandemonium. In moments like today, I must admit that I dream about living alone again – no preschooler screaming over me, no teen inserting snarky comments into our conversations, and no husband insisting that everything he does is the best way, the superior way, the only right way!
Marriage is much like having your first baby – everyone likes to give you advice and tells you that marriage is hard work, but until you are actually in that delivery room feeling like you are being split in half and are going to die before the baby makes it out, you don’t really understand what the heck they are talking about. And like birth, there is a moment in marriage in which complete surrender is the prudent choice – it’s no longer about being in control, making the choices that you think are best ALL the time, having the last word, or proving to your partner that you are smarter than them. Instead, it becomes about the quiet resignation that the fight is not worth the fallout and repair that will be necessary afterwards to keep your relationship intact.
When I was growing up, I listened to my parents argue behind closed doors at night when they thought I was in bed sleeping. In the daylight I saw how they constantly manipulated one another, how my father verbally abused my mother, and the tactics she adopted to diffuse his anger. I learned the word “co-dependent” in my first year of middle school and my mom sent me to self-esteem classes in the hopes that I would learn to stand up for myself in life and my personal relationships – something she never learned to do for herself in her marriage to my father. By the time I reached adulthood, I knew more about pop psychology and self-help techniques than the average American talk show host. Armed with this knowledge and knowing what I didn’t want in a marriage (i.e. not my parents emotionally unhealthy version), I thought that I was prepared for the world of relationships. Boy, when I’m wrong about something, I’m really wrong!
Being my husband’s spouse is wonderful in many ways and most of the time, I love sharing my life with him. Holding his hand, laughing together at the quirky things our kids do, listening to him play music, watching him create some crazy invention (like the time he turned an office chair into a backyard swing powered by a leaf blower: Click here to see his swing in action), and learning more each day about this amazing man I married is part of the fun and joy that I’ve always wanted in my marriage. What I didn’t count on was how the same qualities I love about him would sometimes inspire a tsunami of anger in me that would make me want to throttle him! What a shock it has been to find that all the communication and relationship skills I honed when I was younger work fabulously with everyone else except my husband! And this is where the closet of cats and dogs comes into play…and where I’m finally learning the true meaning of tolerance and the expression “eating humble pie.”
The weekend bluster has blown over now, and we are back in the calm waters of smiles, hugs, laughter, and appreciation for one another. I am thankful for the peace, but as the years of marriage tick by, I find that I am even more grateful for the man beside me who is willing to ride through the storm with me, never giving up and always working with me to clear the debris from the ship when clear blue skies return again. So, yes, after all this, I still think that marriage is like a mess of cats and dogs in a tiny closet that love each other, have grown accustomed to one another, and choose to live in harmony – with the occasional skirmish of yowls, flying fur, and gnashing teeth…