Marriage: Growing Together
Most Unexpected Views in Three parts. PART TWO
By: J. Marlando
[Special note: What we basically learned in part one, “Aspects of Dating and Mating,” is that we are primarily attracted to one another because we see reflections of our own shadow selves in them. Thus, much of what we love about the other is projection from our own psyche lives. If this sounds confusing reread part one].
One of the earliest discoveries we make about our husbands or wives is that they are ever as imperfect as we are…and, always a little more so! This is why so many experts call the first three years, the period of adjustment. Over those 36 months our real personalities are exposed in all kinds of situations and circumstances. As a result we learn what we like and dislike about one another. One of the first discoveries we all make shortly after marrying is that our mates are far less like ourselves than we ever imagined. In this regard, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a wife or husband say, “He (or she) is just not the same person I thought that I married.”
This is because during the dating process we maximized the positive stuff we liked about the other and minimized the negative stuff that we didn’t like about them. After marriage this sooner or later reverses at least for the majority of couples.
One of the most common trouble-makers for married couples is the primal howl that asks: why can’t he (or she) see things as I see them?
The answer is obvious, because we are two distinct and different people, we are two different genders, we come from two different backgrounds and while we live in the same world, we do not live in the same reality…after all, we project our world from the totality of our own experiences.
The vital observations here are: (1) we do not hold the same values. We may, for example, both love flowers but we will never love them to the same degree or even for the same reasons. (2) We both have different stress levels. How we respond to even the normal pressures of life has much to do with our earliest socialization. After all, everyone takes their childhoods into their marriages with them. (3) Nature has endowed us with different motives and different challenges. Males and females, while having unconscious components of each other’s gender (allowing each to have empathy for the other) are genetically designed for specific and separate purposes. At root level we all operate within the limits of our genetic dictates giving males and females distinct and separate worldviews. (4) Males and females are not treated the same by their societies and this adds to the conflicts between husbands and wives—while today the positive rule is “equal but different” there remains an overview of male vital-ness. This belongs to our deepest natures because females can only be impregnated once every nine months and a man can theoretically impregnate a thousand or more women in that same amount of time. Remembering that Nature’s concern is to propagate the species, we can grasp why this prejudice has occurred and finally (5) we do not “see things the same way” because we are two different people.
When we understand these things about ourselves and each other we can more easily adjust to the differences that are natural to all male/female relationships. After all, in many ways, John Gray’s famous saying is true: Men are from Mars and women from Venus.
Now then, with all this in mind, we will return to a comment made a little earlier: “we project our world from the totality of our experiences.”
No matter how we have presented ourselves to our mates, we are all limited by the limitations of our experiences. For an example, if wife is determined to keep the pet pooch off the sofa and husband welcomes the pet pooch on the furniture, there is a conflict that arises from both their pasts. One believing dogs don’t belong on the furniture and the other believing they should have a perfect right to be on the furniture. There is no right or wrong in this situation, there is only conflict.
Most petty arguments between husbands and wives are like this: They are unimportant differences turned into important issues. I once saw a husband and wife storm off to the divorce court because husband thought that dinner dishes ought be done that night and wife always left them until the next morning. Really, couples actually had verbal battles over this almost night after night. “I don’t know what to do, Frank once said to me, she just leaves those dirty dishes piled up and it drives me nuts.”
I told him to simply do the night dishes himself. He never did…they never divorced but they have ended up spending most of their lives living unhappily ever after.
A real crazy-maker for most marriages is that we all have our idiosyncrasies—they are born out of our socialization, our indoctrinations and so our experiences. I know a wife who goes bananas if anything is out of place in her house. One must walk on eggs to meet with her requirements but to her this is norm so the idiosyncrasy becomes her way or the highway. This kind of environmental situation happens in thousands of different ways for countless different couples. So how do husbands and wives learn to “live with” each other’s idiosyncrasies?
The answer is: They compromise. A good marriage is necessarily built on “compromising” with each other’s concerns and values while the route of non-compromising leads directly to constant fighting and eventual family breakup!
This makes sense so what’s the problem?
The problem is that far too many husbands and wives believe that compromise means conformity.
This is what I have named the 3-C Syndrome: Compromise + conformity =compatibility. And again there is that “my way or highway” demand which as easily belongs to wives as husbands. This syndrome is one of the most harmful of all marital negatives because it only produces unhappiness. Indeed, the spouse who submits to the coercion and conforms simply surrenders his or her will to the will of the other. At that juncture there is no longer a marriage only a kind of master/slave relationship. And, typically, the master will soon enough resent the slave for his or her servitude.
As odd as it may sound it is the master in these kinds of relationships who have the most immaturity. The slave may have a complex for his or her neurotic behavior or simply be extremely low in self-esteem anyway but the master will always be a self-centered individual and, in a term, the spoiled child. And, the more the slave feeds the spoilage the more the master will demand until the slave has forgotten that he or she was ever a self in the first place.
A purpose of marriage is for husband and wife to help each other be more than they were when they first met. This means giving each other room to grow on their own without criticism or judgment; when our mates fall or fail at something, our job is not to belittle but to encourage.
There is probably no greater injustice than for a person with a greater knowledge to take advantage of a person with a lesser knowledge. In many unhappy instances husbands will look down on their wives for their worldviews or it can be the other way around. More often than not those differences are merely…well, different as opposed to one being right and the other wrong. Yet when one can be proven correct it is the job of the mate with the greater knowledge to become a teacher of the heart and mind; to teach his or her mate with love, tolerance and patience not with arrogance and/or belligerence.
Growing together means allotting one another the room and so the right to…grow; this right is manifold as it includes the rights to fail, to fall, to be silly, to be foolish, to be afraid and to make mistakes. After all there is none of us who are above any of these human qualities and anyway there is no man in the world who knows what it is like to be a woman any more than there is a woman who knows what it is like to be a man—our education into adulthood has been different as have our experiences from which we draw our knowledge from. Knowledge, however, can be misleading and false just as readily as it can be factual—it is only through constant growth that we discover the difference.
It is safe to say that we marry believing it is because our mates are fully and wholly themselves. Then, after marriage, we tend to want our mates to be more like ourselves. When we can hold on to the marriage during this rather difficult period we can begin loving each other for being ourselves and living together without expectation or anticipation. This is when the state of marriage becomes a whole and content union.
As hopefully the reader has seen in the above, we are all imperfect and at different stages of development and of learning. It is the willingness of husband and wife to become both teachers and students of each other to assure mutual growth and…compatible growth.
Neither wife nor husband will ever become the “perfect” mate—as for a perfect marriage, the world gets too much in the way for that. Yet, I have seen happy and content marriages last well over fifty years. I was once the worse candidate for marriage but learning to grow, I have now been happily and contently married for over thirty years. The question is, what do we want most from our mates? And the answer is, for them to know all about us and love us anyway.