Lately it’s become clear to me how often men and women willfully misunderstand each other.
A discussion about love, marriage and dividing household responsibilities devolved into an argument about whether socks on the floor constitute a deal-breaker. I was shocked at the speed with which rational thought turned into “men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and never the two shall meet.”
Well, I don’t buy it.
Of course men and women are different, but that doesn’t mean they can’t, or shouldn’t, lean on each other’s strengths. In my experience, people evoke Mars and Venus to avoid having to step outside their comfort zones and consider the needs and feelings of the opposite sex. It’s a phrase that draws battle lines where there should be open borders.
I have no academic credentials to classify me as an expert. But I have been happily married for eleven years, and as a wedding musician and a teacher of natural family planning, I interact with many couples. So I feel confident in the following list.
A marriage needs:
Empathy. When I’m ready to take my husband’s head off, that’s when I most need to step back and try to see what part of the conflict (latent or overt) is my own fault. Because in every marital conflict, there is blame to go around. Every one. Empathy requires…
Mutual respect. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to pay lip service to respect without actually living it. Mutual respect means you don’t go to your friends and gripe about all your husband’s faults; you talk to him, calmly and with an open mind. Mutual respect means that you don’t tune out your wife’s requests and call it nagging; you listen and communicate.
Mutual respect requires…
A spirit of self-sacrifice. It’s not sexy, but let’s face it: in any relationship where one or both members are focused on their own wishes rather than the good of the unit, the relationship is going to suffer.
A spirit of self-sacrifice involves…
A willingness to compromise, especially (though not only) when it’s not important. Often, we get hung up on stupid things: Colgate vs. Crest? (Why not both? What difference does it make? You’re using the same amount of toothpaste regardless.) Toilet seat up or down? (Here’s a novel idea: why don’t you BOTH put the lid down when you’re done? Then everyone’s equal—and the bathroom looks better.)
And finally, a marriage needs…
To be the primary relationship. The parent-child relationship is critical, but children need their parents to love each other, and that means the marriage comes first. Friends and hobbies are important for individuals, but the marriage comes first.
And of course, since everyone fails every day, a marriage needs…
A short memory and a bottomless supply of forgiveness. Enough said.
Do or die time in a marriage is in the everyday, in the way that we interact with each other over toothpaste tubes and toilet seats. Of course, my husband isn’t perfect. But then, neither am I. Our marriage flourishes because we choose to love each other anyway.
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