By: J Marlando
No matter if we’ve been married a day or a half century there is typically always a gap between husbands and wives because there is a “gap” between the genders. “Women,” men say, “I will never understand them.” Women feel much the same way about their men. Remember John Gray’s famous title—Men are from Mars, Women from Venus. The metaphor is perfect!
Let’s face it there are things that we simply don’t like about one another. Okay, someone had to say it so I’ll say it again: there are some things that we men and women don’t like about each other. I’m going to shock a lot of readers when I explain what that “something” is a little later on.
In regard to the above, I smiled the other evening watching a TV commercial from one of those “mating” services. The lady said she was seeking a man with the same interests and values as her own. While some husbands and wives share some interests they will NEVER value anything the same. No two individuals much less individuals of different genders can. A husband and wife, for example, may both like and appreciate the lilac bush
Men and women “interpret” the world differently. Some of this is because nature has given each gender specified purposes. Other reasons are because of our socialization—boy and girls are treated differently, taught different skills, given different values and so forth. Keeping this in mind, the “equal but different” observation is no doubt best…and most accurate!
When “equal” and “different” wed, there is little suspicion of just how wide the gap is that separates the two in the deeper roots of their psyches. For one thing, as everyone knows, newlyweds are having too much fun to pay much attention to real world challenges which seldom evolve until after the honeymooning. Sooner or later (after the honeymooning) the years of adjustment begin; the getting accustomed to each other’s idiosyncrasies and everyone has a slew of them.
For one thing, “equal” but “different”
One of the most beautiful conversations between married couples I’ve ever heard occurred a few years ago: My cousin Paul had been married for over fifteen years to a woman who had always been extremely overweight; in a term she was fat…very fat! Anyway, she finally managed to lose weight and looked pretty darn good. One night my own wife and I were sitting in a restaurant with Paul and Shelly when one of us made some remarks of how good Shelly was looking. This pleased Shelly and she turned to Paul and said, “I just don’t know how you loved me as heavy as I was.” And Paul replied, openly and honestly saying, “I never noticed.”
These kinds of loving relationships are the exception and not the rule. Indeed, before marriage we dwell on the other's virtues while, most commonly, after marriage we dwell more on the other’s faults. Yet, what we “deem” the other’s “faults” are, at least much of the time, mere differences of how we “see life and living it.”
This article with strive to show ways of keeping the relationship open and loving; the way every couple desires their marriages to be when they walk down the aisle.
Love & Marriage
Most of us, regardless of age, are naïve as children when it comes to our getting married; we have high hopes, big dreams and a matrix of passions. We’re happy! Then, soon enough, the world begins to get in our way—we’re in debt, we don’t have enough money, we want a lot of stuff that we don’t have and have a lot of problems we didn’t want. Yes, there are exceptions to this but, by and large, this describes the ride on most people’s marriage-go-round.
Marriage is absolutely not all wine and roses, it never has been in all of history or in all so-called civilized cultures. Couples who have been married for a few years know this. And by the time they know this, they have realized all their differences—the petty ones and the poignnant kind that we too often take to heart. You know, the how- can-we-keep-livng-together- when-we have-so- little-in-common type differences.
Unless one (or both) in the relationship is emotionally imature, most couples learn to live in a kind of reasonable environment together. As a result, they raise their kids, pay their bills and live “aptly” everafter.
Slowly the deterioation of the togetherness reaches a leveling point and that is what is accepted as being “the marital relationship.” We know each others faults, fears and fralties and, as the saying goes, make do.
I would not try and guess how many marriages this describes to at least one degree or another but it is safe to assume, I’d say, that there are a great many. In the wake of all the discontentment do couples still love one another?
The answer to this is extremely complex since the acutal loving each other does not truly begin until after marriage
A problem is, it does not take long after the wedding for the individuals to become more fully themselves and thus the differences begin to be exposed. Not always, but typically, there comes a time for a great many couples to feel they are living with a stranger, a person that they only “thought” they knew.
For easygoing and tolerant men and women this is seldom a problem because both are desirous to make the relatonship work and both are at the ready to compromise and cooperate one with the other. I have known couples who have lived in love and contentment for over fifty years, yes, even for lifetimes! Yet, on the other side of this marital coin, the divorce courts are overflowing with couples who simply do not believe that they can reconcile. Hey, he (she) is just not the person I thought I married.
With all this in mind, the question comes down to how can we love our imperfect mates?
We will address this question next.
Loving our Imperfect Mates
Before marriage we generally see our mates as “somewhat” perfect. We CHOOSE to overlook and/or be receptive to anything we deem as being imperfect about him or her physically or in their personality. I recall reading a writer some years ago who said, when men marry, they think their women will never change and they always do…when women marry, they think their men will change and they never do. There is some real truth in this observation and since we’re all “imperfect” these truisms about pre-marital expectations falling through after marriage tend to create conflict, at least to one degree or another, in most marriages.
You were never like this before we got married.
Yes, I was—but you were never like this when we were going
One major problem is that during the dating process we convince ourselves that we are the two-peas-in-a-pod couple, we even say syrypy things like it’s like we’ve known each ofther forever and so forth. We feel this way because we’re so agreeable.” She says, “I love eating fish.” He says, “Wow, I love fishing” and she replies, “Gosh, we’re just so much alike.”
Okay, we can put all that to bed so to speak. Marriage can be bittersweet and after marriage the bitter always begins to come out of hiding. After all, we all have imperfections and, in addition, we all have particular gender differences resulting from nature and nurture that often widen the gap between Jacks and Jills who don’t see or value the world in the same way. This brings us to another crazy-maker in many marriages: Before marriage we believe that we love our mates for being wholly themselves. Invariably, after marriage, we want our mates to be more like ourselves than themselves. If you could only see things my way, we’d get along perfectly!
First of all we can NEVER know exactly how our mates expereince the world so therefore we really can’t (legitimately) pass judgement on them. Afterall, our own values may be just as foreign to our mate as his or her are to us. In the first place most of us are acting out of our indoctrinations in any case. This is why a most important part of marriage is to help each other grow. (When we refuse to belittle our mates and instead encourage them, the cornerstone of a lasting, loving marriage is always set in place).
In view of all this, hopefully you, the reader, recall from a earlier section of this narrative that what we “deem” a thing to be, it becomes. The truth is, we “deemed” our mates important to us, before marriage, we deemed them as our most synificant other and a person we desired to have and to hold for a lifetime. As the saying goes, we went a little “ga ga” over one another. Then as we have already said, after marriage reality sets in and with reality arrive our differences.
How, so to speak, do we get back on track?
We do this by paying more attention to our sameness; the many ways we are exactly like each other. I am not talking about finding a mutuality in our values because we males and females value differently. I am not talking about some unisexual merging in the household or any kind of nonsense that asks for compromising one’s own nature but I am talking about recognizing what we absolutely hold in common with our mates. I will tell you here that once these likenesses are recognized and acknoledged, your marital relationship can become happier, healthier and more loving than perhaps you ever thought possible.
- You both live in a world of uncertainty.
- You both bleed when cut.
- The lump in your throats feel the same.
- Your tears are just as salty.
- Neither of you have all that you would have.
- Both of you are often unsure and afraid.
- You both need encouragement.
- You are both vulnerable to illness, pain and disappointment.
- You re both seeking happiness.
- You both worry.
- You both want most to be loving and lovable.
- You are both living the only life that you have.
When we know only this much about one another and realize that, beneath the feminine and masculine masks that we wear, how much alike we really are with our mates, we quickly begin to treat them as we would be treated. As for the other differences—and we will always have them—we naturally become more tolerant and understanding; more willing to compromise and to grow the future…together.
What We Really Don’t Like About Each Other
With all the romantic material available and even after my own work (I’ve been writing about relationships for many years) we still arrive at a kind of natural dilemma. There is that certain something that repells men and women at least some of the time. We hear it in conversations—My wife can drive me nuts…My husband is simply maddening…she’s such a…he’s a such a…and this goes for husbands and wives that have great relationships as well as poor relationships. In this regard, it is no doubt safe to say that there is something about the other gender that we often find irritating in the least!
This may sound quite ironic after reading the above and especially after recognizng the sameness we have with our mates. So what is it that we most dislike about them?
To answer this question we must turn to the Jungian theory of the animas and anima. The anima being the feminine component in the male psyche and the animas being the masculine component in the female psyche. Without these components we would probably be unable to empathize with the other gender.
When we note that it is not unusual to hear a man say, “I just can’t stand woman” or women to say, “I just hate men,” we wonder why these gender conflicts are so common. Even though we know that such comments are not meant in any real sense, the fact that men and women can and often do, in a term, irritate hell out of each other makes us curious to know why. After all, we are supposed to be complimentary to one another are we not?
This is extrmely complex to say the least but I will attempt to make the following hypothesis as understadable as I can: As Jung tells us, “The anima, being of feminine gender, is exclusively a figure that compesates the masculine consciousness.” Every male has a femine side, so to speak, which is his shadow self. For purposes here we can say that this feiminity has a desire to be protected, cuddled, treated with great affection; nurtured and be taken care of. These are indeed qualities that we generally attribute to females.
Every female has a masculine side, so to speak, which is her shadow self. She wants to dominate, be practical and create security. These are indeed qualities that we generally attribute to males.
When men frustrate women, it is generally because they are revealing their femininity; they are being dependent and/or frivolous and/or weak and.or irresponsible. That is, he is expressing her most undesirable traits—the thing she can’t stand about him always belongs to her own personality.
It is the same for women who make their demands for conscientious decision making, practical answers and strength of character. He resents her for representing the masculine traits that he so often lacks.
So what happens is that the wife dislikes her husbands feminine side while the husband dislikes his wife’s projections of the masculine. A wife might ask the husband, for example, what they are going to do about the car payment or rent. When the husband has no ready answer his anima might respond by wanting to run away and so he throws a fit, hits walls and storms out. In such instances he has, in effect, become the “bad little girl” and his wife is left feeling that she is facing the problems…alone. As a result her animus is activated and, in a term, she becomes the dragon slayer, a position that she absolutely doesn’t want but typically accepts when her man fails in his maleness or appears to have failed in her view or standard.
I will attempt to clarify what I so clumsily tried to explain in the above: What most men (husbands) dislike about women (wives) is when the woman’s animus (male side) reveals itself in the personality of the wife. The husband, for example, is fully aware when there are money problems, when the faucet is leaking or the tires need changing but if he cannot fix those problems for one reason or another, he needs his wife to escape them, not be a constant reminder of them. In other words, when the wife’s masculinity has become aggressive, opinionated and objective her feminity has been betrayed. She has, in effect, taken over the male persona from the roots of her inner-being with the unconscious motive of getting things done or solved or completed.
This incidently is percisely why many men are so motivated toward cronyism i.e., golf, pool, cards and beer with the “boys.” They grant him the escape that his wife denies him when she is in the animus mode.
What most women (wives) dislike about men (husbands) is when they seem frivolous or inadequate in a harsh and challenging world; when her knight
When we realize that the animus (the woman’s male inner-image) is always heroic, smart, capable; the father,the brother, the friend and the lover we also know that a living male human being is generally incapable of fulfilling those roles. The wife then, believing inwardly that she would be all those things had she been born a male, attempts to fulfill the role in real life. She does this by what she deems to be practical and objective. “We just have to pay the bills” she might say but typically without a thought of how.” It is at this juncture that she wants to be recued by her “knight” who typically doesn’t know how either. So husband begins leaning on his feminine side, responding with angry, or hurt or both which the wife only interprets as weakness. After all, on the deepest level of her psyche life, she is the giver of life and therefore needs cared for and taken of. When husband fails or, if you will, comes up short of these deeply psychological expectations, he is usually seen as not fulfilling his wife’s projection of him.
There are of course far too many reasons why couples become disillusioned with one another to cover here but the underlying factors can invariably be traced to the male’s anima and the females animus being reflected in the individual personalities of the husband and wife especially in times of stress.
If this is true, then how do or can the genders live in harmony one with the other?
Knowing All About Each Other
Certaily there are gender differences—even our skin is different as is the very structure of our brains at least to some degree. And, there is an apparent female-ness about women as there is an apparent male-ness about men. As said in an above section both sexes are endowed with certain traits, dispositions and attitudes by nature but also by nurture. And so, the fundamental question is, how do we ever really get to know and understand our mates?
This question is not unique—we have all felt that we really don’t “know” the person we’re with because, for one thing, they are inconsistent just as we, ourselves are. Male or female we are all mood motivated, we all slip in and out of our traditional roles which are steriotypes anyway. And so, there simply isn’t a man alive that is”all” male anymore than there is a woman alive that is “all” female. Because of this, we can never expect much more than the unexpected from our mates. For one thing, the world plays a heavy role in the “what” we are on any given day. A drive through thick traffic, for example, can create a miserable mood at home just as a great day, we’ll say, visiting friends can create a happy mood at home. We are all vulnerable to how our lives are going on any particular day. Neither men or women have an exclusive on any of this—we are not the who or what we were before mariage or even yesterday or any hour ago—and we shouldn’t expect our mates to be either. As said, earlier, their world is just as uncertain as our own.
We all have our persona selves as well. For most couples, it is typically the persona self of the other that we “fell in love” with. Cark Jung explains: “The persona self is a complicated system of relations between the individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual…”
After marriage most of the “mask” that we wear for others to see disappears and we are revealed to our mates as we really are as human beings. In the process men will sooner or later betray their masculinity by exposing their feminine side while women will betray their femininity by exposing their masculine side. As the old saying goes, we really can’t know anyone until we’ve lived with them for awhile.
The exposure is normal incidently as there is no man who is 100% masculine or a woman who is 100% feminine. If males were they would be aggressive brutes and females would be passive crème-puffs so the balance is natural and…necessary. Nevertheless, as we have already established part of what we do not like about the other gender can be said, is those other gender qualities that we don’t like about ourselves. I will say this again as it is vital to contemplate: What we do not like about our mates are those other gender qualities that we don’t like about outselves.
In thinking about this, do not confuse not liking certain individual traits the other might have—dishonesty…infidelity…hatefulness and so on are individual failures not gender failures.
So how do we really ever know “all about” each other?
Certainly we can never know all about anyone else without living all their experiences. Yet, there is a way of knowing more about your mate than perhaps you ever thought possible. Here it is: First, understand that we are all the same and that our differences are only apparent.
That’s right, understand that your mate is you only, in a different circumstance, a different body with a different life experience to share. Like you, all your mate desires is to live as contently, as securily and as freely as he or she can. Like you, she or he is vulnerable to disease, depression, upset and worry. (Reread the list of our samenesses in the third section of this narrative).
Like you, your wife or husband has obligations and responsibilities that he or she doesn’t enjoy; like you, your wife or husband has fears, faults and fralities; and like you he or she lives in a world in which he or she doesn’t have all the answers. Like you, your wife or husband is seeking the truth…When you can grasp all this, you simply stop judging your mate and begin loving and caring for him or her for who he or she is, and not what you want them to be.
When you can grasp all this, you can start being an ally and instead of belittling and looking down on your mate for falling or failing, you will be there to help him or her up and to grow from all his or her negative and positive experiences. Indeed, you will be able and willing to grow with your mate as opposed to growing apart.
When you truly understand that “we are all the same and that our differences are only apparent” you will become more open and loving and from the openness and loving will evolve the life you have been seeking all along. Try it and see what happens.
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