Do you know this man?
He’s my husband and my partner and the love of my life. He’s the person who makes me laugh the loudest, on whose shoulder I cry the hardest, and with whom I tackle my Life Tasks, from the mundane to the unimaginably complicated, on an everyday basis. I’ve had friends tell me how lucky I am to have this amazing man. I am and, yes, I do know it. I’ve wondered before, though, if somehow they think that I hit the husband jackpot and landed Mr. Right.
The truth: Kevin isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. (Sorry, babe. It’s for the sake of the world, I promise.) But our marriage works well because we both subscribe to a very simple Marriage Philosophy.
Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Think “complementary” rather than “different.”
Don’t speak ill of each other in public.*
1) Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
You’re familiar with the concept, no? Much easier said than done, of course. I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to people I don’t know, however – the guy who cut me off in traffic, the rude woman at the checkout – than I am to my own husband (and children). Is that right, I ask you? I will answer myself: NO, that is not right. So I give my man the benefit of the doubt. Or, because I myself am not perfect, I try to give him the benefit, and when I forget, I say I’m sorry. Right away.
2) Think “complementary” rather than “different.”
Oh, Lordy. When they said “opposites attract,” they were talking about Kev and I! He’s neat and orderly, I’m a Tasmanian devil of disorder and chaos. He’s measured and thoughtful, I’m impulsive and excitable. I see the big picture, and he sees the minute details. This used to drive.me.nuts. I would be intent on cleaning the house and leave him alone in the kitchen. Come back 45 minutes later to find the top of the fridge (which, incidentally, I cannot even see because I am not a giant like my hubs) perfectly spotless, and the rest of the kitchen untouched. This type of cleaning behavior caused many a fight in ze Darr Haus, let me tell you.
But here’s the thing. Over time, I’ve come to see the balance we bring to each other. There have been many (many many many) examples of Kevin talking me down from [insert rash decision here], and equally as many moments when I’ve prodded Kevin to take a step we felt was right but that he hesitated to pull the trigger on. (See: moving to South Korea.) Now that I see how we influence each other, I’m much less likely to get upset when he “does things wrong.” I see the gifts he brings to the marriage, and how he “fills in my gaps” and how I do the same for him. Not just different: complementary. It works.
3) Don’t speak ill of each other in public.*
Please, please, please don’t speak badly about your spouse in public. Not on Facebook, not to your moms group, not even to your very own mom**. If your husband, strong and virile and unflappable as he may seem, gets dressed down by you in any public forum, you’ve hurt him and you’ve hurt your own marriage.
Need to vent? Sometimes I do too. Here’s what I do. First, I try talking to him. If that doesn’t work, I find someone that knows (and more importantly) loves us both. That way your friend (**or mom, if she does in fact love your spouse a whole boatload) will know that you’re just venting and isn’t likely to misconstrue what you say as being a precursor to a divorce filing. And ladies, really, truly, I beg of you: keep it simple, and make it clear that you still love your husband. Venting is healthy and can give you ideas of how to approach a difficult situation in the future, but when it devolves into gossip, it’s time to steer the conversation to another topic.
*This post is geared toward typical marriages with generally loving spouses. If your husband is abusing you in any way, emotionally or physically, please do not keep quiet about it. The National Violence Domestic Hotline can help.
So there you have it. If I don’t share about our struggles much, it’s not because I married Mr. Right, or that we never fight or have difficulties. It’s because our Marriage Philosophy says: I got your back, babe. Don’t get me wrong: Kevin is great, and I love him with my whole heart. But even more than the love I feel for him is the promise of love I made to him in our wedding vows. We are a Team Darr, and we play to win.
What’s your Marriage Philosophy? How do you and your spouse keep the peace? I love reading suggestions for a better marriage, so be sure to share yours in the comment box.