Friday, May 11, 2012

You've got your ball, you've got your chain...

I like people who like their spouses.

That's the way it should be, right? I mean, YOU made the choice to marry this person. Did you ever sit down for a second and think, "Wait, can I see myself enjoying him/her for the rest of my life?" There's a certain amount of pre-wedding due diligence you need to undertake that goes beyond what color the reception centerpieces will be.

Now of course, I understand we're all going to be irritated with our spouses from time to time. Why, I think Terry has been mad at me a time or two...or three...during the last 20 years. But I'm talking big picture here. On the whole, can you see yourself enjoying this person's company over the long haul? Do you WANT to be around them?

I'm aware we all change over time. And I suppose there's a lot of wisdom in something my sister Judi once told me: "The things you thought were cute or endearing about your significant other early on are exactly the things that are likely to irritate you later."

I've known my wife for 26 years. That's about 62% of my lifespan to this point. Neither of us is the same person we were at age 16 when we met, but then again, who is EVER the same person in their 40s that they were in their teens? Essential personality traits may not change, but your attitude, your outlook, your goals, and your general approach to life certainly will.

I'm very blessed in that Terry and I started as fairly similar people and have essentially changed in the same direction over the years. We're extremely compatible. We make each other laugh every day, without exception. As I've often said, absolutely no one in the world thinks we're funnier than we do. We crack ourselves up.

I want to be around other people who are similarly blessed. I like those whose spouse is clearly their best friend. I can relate to them far better than to those who whine about their better (or worse) halves all the time.

I read those letters in Dear Abby from husbands complaining their wives have gained 100 pounds since they got married and they're ready to leave them. And I think, "I'm sure you're looking like an underwear model yourself these days, eh, Ace?"

And even if Ace IS sporting a six-pack, there needs to be some substance behind the "for better or for worse" portion of the wedding vow he made.

I certainly don't claim to be an expert in this area, nor am I a licensed marriage counselor or anything. But I do have a theory about marital discord. My theory is that, as a race, we human beings don't do nearly enough walking in other people's shoes. We're way too quick to assume that someone who hurts us does so out of spite, or out of selfishness, or out of a desire to intentionally cause us pain.

In fact, in my experience, people most of the time are not driven by hateful or hurtful motives. Selfish motives, certainly, but not necessarily spiteful. So when our spouse does something that makes us angry, we often automatically assume they did it because they don't care. When in fact what they did was likely driven by some personal need or desire of which we may not be aware.

Before we get mad at our husband or wife, we would all be a lot better off if we took 30 seconds to ask ourselves, "Why would she have done that? What could have driven that behavior?" And if we can't figure out the answer, then we should ask our spouse. Not get mad at them, not shout at them. But just ask, "Why?"

Quite often, the answer will surprise you. Or at least it will make you take a step back and think, "Ohhhhh, OK, I see. What he did was definitely hurtful to me, but he either didn't realize it would be hurtful, or else there was some other circumstance affecting him I didn't know about."

Do I practice what I'm preaching here? Sometimes. Not nearly enough, but sometimes. I go from the basic premise that Terry loves me and isn't intentionally going to hurt me. That doesn't mean she WON'T hurt me, but I at least know that's not what she's trying to do. So when she does something to make me mad, there's almost always something else going on with her that I need to take into account.

If you're going to be married for the rest of your life (and please, people, can we all at least TRY to work from that premise?), you should be happy with the person who's taking the journey with you, don't you think? Maybe, if we walk that proverbial mile in our spouse's shoes, we can all get a little closer to that goal.

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