November 26, 2012 by rebelwithalabelmaker
I know a lot of people in happy marriages, and I am in one myself. Interesting fact I have noticed: For all the people I know in happy marriages, I would not on your life want to be in any of those marriages myself. And, I’m pretty sure not one of them would want to switch places with me. Definitely not with Gary, anyway.
In fact, I remember in the middle of one of My Great Creative Projects–a weekend long Harry Potter coming of age retreat for the congregation with a cast of 32 people not including the dog, Gary apparently walked into a room to hear Kathleen declare in awe “can you imagine actually being married to Liz?”
I am assuming this was a compliment.
That’s the interesting thing about marriage. It is not a one size fits all kind of dealie. Contrary to what they might tell you in 1950s home ec magazines.
I know we’re supposed to laugh at this list, but I can’t seem to. The spirit of it resonates with me. I like the idea of thinking about what I could do to make Gary happy to come home. Not because it’s my duty as a wife, but because I love him and I know he’s always thinking of ways to make me happy.
It’s not that Gary works any harder than I do, really–he has more than once told me that being at home with kids all day is not something he imagines he could ever do–but he does have unique stresses in his job. For example, I am never required to tell someone they’re going to die.
Occasionally, I do so voluntarily, but I’m pretty sure that they know I’m not serious, because it doesn’t seem to modify their behaviour at all.
Friday is Gary’s tell-people-they’re-going-to-die day. (Note: It is also his tell-people-they’re-going-to-live day, as Friday is his office day. So please don’t read anything into your appointment schedule, if you’re a patient).
On Fridays in particular, I try to have the mindset of the allegedly oppressed woman in the above excerpt. I make sure there’s a nice supper, because I know that matters to him. I try to tidy the house, and have a fun family activity planned for the evening.
I don’t so much speak in soft, soothing tones. That would be so out of character as to suggest a brain tumour, and also I’m pretty sure that for him when someone shifts to soft soothing tones it’s associated with that person being about to tell you about bad test results.
I read Gary the list a few days ago, and asked him what he thought.
Gary: That makes sense to do. I try to do that with you.
Me: Speak in soft soothing tones?
Gary: No, think about what you’ll need at the end of the day. If it’s been a hard day, I stop at the doorstep and take a few deep breaths and pause, to try to leave the day behind, so I’m really here when I come in.
Me: Oh, that’s what you’re doing when you pause on the doorstep. That is definitely not what I thought you were doing.
But the list sparked a very interesting conversation, about which things we value in one another. I asked Gary what he would put on the list, to create a tone of calm and peace when he’s at home. He said he doesn’t look for calm and peace from me, he looks for fun and liveliness. Which is good, because my natural talents do not run in the relaxation-inducing direction…
I had a lot of trouble answering the same question, when he asked it of me. Again, I don’t look to Gary for relaxation–when someone talks to me in soothing tones, I assume they are trying to get me to lower my voice. I think I look to him for structure–a constancy and predictability that provide the foundation for family life.
Me: You are like the bones of the family. Also the muscle.
Gary: What are you?
Me: I’m the skin. And the circulatory system.
Gary: I’m not sure I completely understand all the metaphors here.
Me: Also I am the hair. I am definitely the hair.
It’s an interesting conversation to have with someone you love and/or live with and/or are married to… Maybe leave out the skin and hair parts.