Written by Jasmine
I am not an expert on marriage. My credentials come from being so for almost all my adult life. The first one that began at the age of 18…ended so sadly 24 years later and included 2 wonderful children. After a 2-year gap…I married again and remain so after 20 years.
I have always heard “marriage is a lot of work”. In my early years I remember hearing that from my elders and I would just smile back and nod my head in agreement. However…I did not understand the multi-layered depth of the short statement and why it needs to be so!
In the very beginning of a new relationship both sides are on their best behavior shining their “light” side. Being a hopeless, very sensitive romantic myself, I remember how much I adored this stage and fully immersed myself into it with all my senses, heart, and emotions. So much so that after my first marriage ended, I had thoughts I might avoid another altogether in my future and just have short relationship adventures to enjoy, then move on. It was not just the sex part. It was the intense butterfly tummy sensations and the thrill of his hand accidently brushing mine or a certain, from the side, eye-catching look. Or lying in bed without touching and the electrifying sensation of the warmth coming from his skin inches away. Was it practical and fair? No! It did sound fantasy nice for a minute.
The beginning stage is to find out if there is enough chemistry, attraction, and common ground to go further. It’s a time to experience new things together. There is a tendency to dress to impress. Going on dates means presenting activities to entice the other and impress them.
When the sexual part of the relationship begins…this is where a very special bond is born. It’s where the two of you can let go of the world outside and you can truly become one. It’s a very private, magical place that should breed trust. Trust that does not judge where your body “flaws” are and the need to hide them. Where you can experiment and learn what pleases the other person. And the knowing that you would never cause pain to the heart of the other. To be honest…this has always been the only place I could let go and feel truly real and confident in myself. Later I will come back to this subject and the importance of this particular bond when the relationship gets a lot further down the road.
The thing is…what we are dealing with here is 2 “aliens” that come from 2 different planets. Each planet is shaped by their childhood, families, experiences of their life being good and bad, where they grew up and how it formed their ideas of what life is for them, etc. When it comes to living together…you are inherently living with another person that lives in their own reality! They each see life through their own filters and understanding and that is how they view and try to understand you. For each one…their own planet is “normal” for all the light and shadows.
Everybody has their own “cute” quirks along with the weird ones. In the beginning…there are usually more cute ones than weird. The thing about a relationship, after some years have passed, maybe less for others, is the “cute” ones can easily pass weird and become infuriatingly unacceptable. As the years pass…the two alien planets are still merging, and this can cause major planetary eruptions!
Enter what marriage is all about…COMPROMISE! I put that in caps because…that never ends. The trick is to actually learn what compromise really is. It is usually never 50/50 and many times can be more like 20-30/70-80. This is where trust and respect come into play. It could be something as small as the fact he wants to drink straight out of the milk jug, and she finds that totally unacceptable. He says he is not backwashing from his mouth into the jug and wants to know why it is a problem. She talks about a video she saw where a camera was placed in the mouth and the tongue naturally takes the milk in and thrusts some back into the bottle. She says…Gross and finds this unacceptable! Yes, she has known germ issues! She has actually lived with this situation for some time and knows she cannot overcome it. In this case…the compromise is, he loses. What he gains is more respect for him in understanding her needs and her trust that he truly will stop doing it. He Listened to her, and they came to an agreement.
I think the most important thing for a couple is to truly Listen to why a situation has become an issue to either one. They need to not look at it through their own reality…rather see it through the eyes of their partner. That always requires #1 love, patience, asking questions (more if needed) and truly Listening to what the other is saying. Give them time to express their words before adding your own. When you Hear, all your doing is passively taking it in. You’re probably listening to your own head and what you’re going to say next or assuming you know what will be said next and consequently not truly Hearing what is being conveyed to you. When you Listen, you are intentionally working to comprehend what you Hear. When a situation becomes extra heated…I think its usually because the person that Heard what was said reacts with negative emotion.
This is where Dirty Fighting can come into play. The point of the whole reason for understanding why your not agreeing can quickly become lost in pulling up from the past, throwing in words like “you always” or “you never”. What about that time you did “that”; dragging things up from the past. From there it can escalate to pulling in the other’s family/friends jabs and basically crushing their whole being. Number one…always stick to the main issue!
This is called Toxic Behavior, and it is poison to a loving relationship. This is a relatively new label to a real part of some human behavior. The person wielding this reaction are dealing with their own unrecognized stresses and traumas as well as the emotions they carry with them from their own planet. They are lashing out in frustration and anger in the only way they know how. In my opinion…they might feel powerless to fix the situation at that point so the result is they project power in the form of manipulation, control, and humiliation aimed at their partner. Violence might be suggested or carried out.
They can be narcissistic, aggressive, intimidating and with a sense of astonishing righteousness they will assert dominance over their partner if they don’t find things going their way. They will be inconsistent: their behavior, attitude or perspective will change quickly with regard to what they need to accomplish at the time or what they want to happen next. It feels like a Jekyll and Hyde situation. You never know which one you will have to deal with at any given time.
When their partner tries to defend or explain themselves, they are accused of being argumentative, arrogant, and selfish. Which to me is rather ironic. They are left with feelings of insecurity, humiliation, low self-esteem, worthlessness, sometimes fear, guilt in thinking they have let you down and so very alone. Not to mention the pain it causes to their heart. Their own guilt for allowing themselves to be in such a situation can invoke their own anger that must remain mute to not add to the others’ anger. And if it does erupt…it could be very dangerous for them. This can contribute to depression and loss of life purpose or shutting down their emotions to cope. As time passes, they can lose their own sense of who they are while trying to be what they think their partner wants in order to avoid any conflict. If these situations continue over time…it could only become worse.
Yes, very heavy sharing there! However…there are much healthier and common-sense ways to handle marital compromise. I will call back up my aside from earlier where the love and trust bond during intimacy time became a part of the couple. It’s based on love. That love that is shared, where you feel safe, needs to come into negotiations for working through life problems. No, you’re not always going to agree. Sometimes there will be anger because of it. That is normal. The anger should be directed at what had happened rather than the tearing down the person behind it or has requested a compromise. It’s how that anger is handled that will decide the outcome. Sometimes when the conversation goes off topic in the wrong direction…one of you might gently remind to stay on the subject matter.
When negotiations get tight…it is respectful to your relationship to recognize when it’s time to take a break and cool down. Set it aside for a while or sleep on it for the big stuff. Inject a bit of humor in the situation. Even share a hug to remind yourselves of your love for one another in spite of the dilemma on the table. And yes…this could even lead to a visit to your safe bedroom for an interlude. Regardless of the choice…come back again to the issue with purpose and respect.
The person presenting the issue will state why it is important to them. If it’s a simple one, like the milk example…it can be resolved easy enough. If its more complicated, the person Listening to the issue needs to look at the impact on themselves.
Is it going to personally impact you?
What do you have to give up in agreeing to what the other is asking for?
What compromise can be added to meet closer in the middle?
Do you understand how important or valid this issue is that your partner is expressing their need? If not…, do you need to ask more questions for clarification?
If it’s only yes or no…remember why you chose and love this person and are you willing to give something up for what they need in order to respect your relationship.
It might come down to…is this issue more important to you that you would deny them over your relationship.
Of course, marriage is a mutual agreement, so, I am assuming that your partner that loves you has already considered what they are asking of you with the same respect.
In my experience with marriage…keeping that special love and respect healthy is paramount. It’s the little things that can do that. Going back to the beginning of the romance part where there was the tendency to dress to impress and going on dates to entice the other and impress them should never leave or at the very least, show up more often than not. It shows that you value them in your life. That special loving bond can work like a beautiful ribbon weaving through your life experiences faced together…the happy, scary, sad and wonderful times. The same partner that will be by your side in the winter of life years with a well tended unique love shared.
If you are the jeans and well-worn t-shirt kind of guy…you might splash out and actually go to a store and buy a button up shirt of some sort and surprise your woman wearing it out on a dinner date you have asked her to. And yes, if it helps, go ahead, and wear your usual jeans. What!!! You say? Just try it once and see if you don’t get a spark from her. It could even be as simple as complimenting her on something that you appreciate about her.
If you are the ponytailed haired, no make-up woman that has become too comfy in your leisure wear…try taking it up a notch and glam it up a bit on the face or try a new/different outfit look for him when he comes home from work. Or maybe even a warm hug when he least expects it.
There are many things that can be done to keep that loving spark alive with a little effort. One of the things I love about my marriage is we always say thank you to each other when we do something for the other. That helps keep respect alive. When it comes to Fair Fighting…the bottom line is…marriage is a lot of work! And is very much worth the effort required.