Monday, June 18, 2007

Support Us

Thank you all for your response to the last post. Some very thoughtful and impassioned responses. I know that the person who asked me to do this appreciated your input as well. If i find out what happens, i will let you know.

This all made me think of the weddings i have attended over the years. Religious, not religious, gay commitment ceremonies, whatever.

Almost all of them have included the part where the wedding official asks the audience if they will support this marriage. We all clap or say "we will" and promise to do so.

But do we? And really, how can we? What can we do to support the commitment that we have witnessed?

When my own marriage was failing, i kept it a secret for as long as possible, because i was ashamed. I kept hoping that i wouldn't ever have to tell anyone. I didn't tell anyone at all until my husband finally decided that he wanted to separate. And i only told then because i had to.

It was a lonely and horrible eight months. I can still feel the shame of finally having to tell.

So why can't we admit that marriage can be very hard, and that there are times when i just fucking hate this man? Does everyone but me feel all lovey all the time towards their spouse? Would it help to realize that other people don't have the perfect marriage? And that the nature of commitment is to keep on going? (Aside: i do not condone staying in any marriage. Drugs, abuse, repeated adultery......these are commitment breakers.)

This is something i read in a book called Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass.

"On good days, i am committed to my wife. On okay days i am committed to my marriage. On bad days i am committed to my commitment."

This man i married, he is as good a man as i am a woman. We are both good people. People with baggage, and issues, and anger and insecurities. So back to my original question, what can we do to support the partnerships of the people we know. Maybe just to admit that we all need support sometimes?

Wow, this is not the post i started out to write. I think i've been hijacked by my feelings.


gary rith said...

Sorry, Meno, but we are lovey dovey here all the time.
As for supporting others, people need to talk and someone to listen. Easier said than done.

Mrs. Chili said...

Feelings are the original terrorist hijackers. This is not a surprise.

It was REALLY important to me to have that "will you support these two" bit in my wedding, and my minister forgot, so he put it in at the reception (which was fine). I'm a "it takes a village" kind of person; no one can do any of this stuff alone.

I agree with G.R. It's important to be available to listen. Even if no one takes you up on it, making sure that EVERYONE you care about knows that you're there and willing to do whatever they need is vital. I talk a lot to my friends and family about what's going on with all our relationships, and I make a point to offer to babysit for dates - or to bring up the idea of dating - whenever it seems appropriate.

I GET the support I asked for at my wedding by, well, ASKING for it. I have some people I can talk to when my husband does something that sends me over the edge (to be honest, that's not often - we really do have the kind of marriage that makes other people slightly sick - and when he does do something, it's usually that he's done NOTHING. He's a MASTER procrastinator). Being able to get another perspective on things is important, and I have a handful of good and trusted friends - who know my husband well and who support our marriage - to give me that different camera view.

It's all I could ask for and, really, everything I need.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Yes ! you have just given me some of the words I couldn't find for my friend.

As you know, I was (nearly) the marriage wrecker in my marriage (and someone elses'). My friends who knew about this did their best to be understanding and supportive. Maybe they said WTF?!? and I just wasn't listening, but I don't remember.

I have recently been thinking that (like you have stated many times on your blog, and I assume you do or try to do in your real life) you need to wear your moral code on you sleeve and on your lips.

That's the tricky part, because I don't mean in a judgmental way, but in a way that can help a person see that there is another way. That their situation (barring things you mentioned - drugs, abuse, repeated adultery) is not so unique, but because "everybody is doing it" isn't a reason either. That if they really do have to get out of a marriage or relationship, don't do it by falling into someone else's bed.

Lynnea said...

Meno, I remember the first time you posted that there are days you just hate this man you married. I needed that. I was confused and scared because our honeymoon period had started to wane and I was having those exact feelings with noone to talk to about it. I thought I was failing my commitment. But then I read your post and I was so relieved to find out that that is normal.
So my answer is yes, being there, talking about it, listening. Seems like the best support a person can give.

Marshamlow said...

I am sorry you went through such a dark time, I imagine if my marriage were to go through a tough time I would hold it in and have no one to confide to and that scares me. I seem to have put all my eggs in one basket. I do have those days when I hate my husband and the very sound of his voice makes my skin crawl, I think that comes more from things that are going on with me.

I think that when people first get married, they are usually closer to their families and friends than they are to their new mate. During that first year, when the couple is getting used to being a couple they often go to their friends and families with all their complaints etc. Sometimes friends and families will give some support, a sympathetic ear and tell the to go talk to their spouse. Sometimes friends and family will say, I never like him/her you are better off without them, let's go get drunk, etc. I think some people's marriages get broken up by family and friends egging them on or getting mixed up in the middle of a couple's business.

And for the part where you ask if it is a good idea to admit that all or our marriages go through difficult bits... This one is hard for me. I am relatively new to the marriage thing 6.5 years, a part of me feels that it would be humiliating for me to talk badly about my husband to others. That I could keep my business between us, not that I am ashamed but just that I don't want to say mean things about my husband behind his back. I also get that doing that makes me appear to others as if I have a blissful and perfect marriage, which I do not. I still think that my first priority is to my husband and marriage and not to woman kind. If I had a friend going through a hard time I would tell her, that I go through the same thing, but would she feel comfortable enough to confide in me, probably not. It is complex.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Truthfully? I don't really care for weddings - I think most of them are silly tripe overwrought with fancy decorations and meaningless emotion. A ridiculous waste of money. Because of that, my wedding was BORING. I just wanted a standard church wedding with an organ - no silly readings from my Kindergarten BFF, no silly tears. I refused to buy flowers to decorate the church to the horror of one of my friends (it was a quaint church in New Hampshire - it didn't NEED flowers). I bought the cheapest dress I could find that didn't offend me too much. I made my own invitations. I bought flowers without seeing them (I ordered "white flowers" - I could tell the florist thought I was insane). I then funneled the rest of the wedding budget into a really kickass meal, which WAS important to me. Food? I'm all over THAT. :-)

My marriage is NOT all lovey-dovey. We are not overly sentimental and I buy my own chocolate and flowers. By the time I met my husband, I was so cynical when it came to all that "soulmate crap". I just wanted someone to build a life with, have a family with. However, I love my marriage and my husband. I am a little overwhelmed with my good fortune. My husband is a good man, an excellent father and we've built a nice life together. Which is what I wanted. I don't need a bunch of romantic BS.

Marriage IS hard. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. While my marriage is happy, every DAY of my marriage is not necessarily happy. But, we work it out, compromise, and keep plugging ahead because divorce? Is worse. An unhappy marriage? Just as bad. So we do our best to make it work because the alternatives aren't appealing. We may live in Kansas City where Hallmark is headquartered, but those Hallmark moments are best viewed on TV anyway.

Timely post for me, BTW - our 4th anniversary is coming this week, so I've been mentally ruminating all this love and marriage stuff anyway.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Just read Marsha's comment and she made some VERY good points about others' comments adding decay to a marriage.

I am very careful with whom I grouse about my husband. There are only 2-3 people I will talk about serious issues or arguments with. For example, my sister hears the most. However, she knows my own faults equally and doesn't hold grudges against my husband. She is the one to remind that my husband is a good guy at heart. My sister would be horrified if my husband and divorced so yes, she has a vested interested in us staying together. My parents? Don't want to see me divorced, but would blindly take my side if I were to complain. That doesn't help me in the least.

I would tell any new bride to be careful who she confides in about her relationship with her husband. I've witnessed people eagerly jumping on the bandwagon, egging someone on to end their marriage. It's not pretty. I have a friend who is like that and because of it, I would never, ever tell her anything bad about my husband. Yet, she STILL digs for the bad stuff.

urban-urchin said...

"On good days, i am committed to my wife. On okay days i am committed to my marriage. On bad days i am committed to my commitment."

That is it. That is the core. I hate my husband sometimes, sometimes the sight of him makes me want to smack him. Other times I can not believe my good fortune.

I think that we can support partnerships- but the problem is that we live in a society where we've become very insular and might not have the friendships neccessary for this kind of support.

ms chica said...

This post may have veered away from your original intent, but the detour is beneficial for many of us to. Thanks.

Marsha and Cagey both made excellent points about choosing your confidants carefully when confiding about your marriage. When we are chosen to be confidants, it is difficult not to take sides and get involved up to your elbows. Listening is the best support you can offer. It isn't fair to manipulate the outcome of someone else's marriage.

Most know going into marriage that it isn't easy, but we don't realize exactly how much work is involved until we are in the thick of things.

V said...

I always think about that bit in the weddings too. And rarely do I really respond because I know I usually don't have anything to do with the inner workings of the marriage that's going on. You can never really know what's going on inside unless you are in it. I had everyone fooled my marriage. But I prefered most of them to be fooled rather than telling all to the whole family.

Liv said...

well, you know how I feel, after all! It's been interesting to read all the comments so far, and surprisingly my prevailing feeling is: I don't want to think about all this right now. I want to be happy.

meno said...

gary, good for you! Most of us do need to learn to be quiet and listen.

mrs.chili, i like what you said about it's usually your husband doing nothing. And i have learned to ask mine to do something rather than steam about it. See, it would never have occurred to me to ask for support because i didn't want anyone to know. Silly me.

de, your last sentence is wonderful. It is easier to find someone else than to be honest with who you have. I have had friends who were thinking about and coming close to having affairs. I don't tell them not to do it, but i do tell them to be honest with their current relationship first. I am very firm about that.
Otherwise they are just cowards. (Not that i don't understand cowardice, i just don't endorse it.)

maggie, it would help if someone had told me about this too. Most days with my husband are good, especially as the difficulities of having a small child wane. But every so often.....

marsha, great observation about it being more about what is going on inside you. You are right about other people inserting themselves into a relationship. That's why it's so hard to find someone to talk to, someone who will not have their own agenda. It's not fair to my husband to talk smack about him with people that he will then be interacting with. It's not fair to them either.

cagey, yes, wedding can be quite silly. Mine was very low key too. So i get you on that. We got married by a judge at my parents house in front of just family. And then people came over for a party. The standard expectation of romance IS BS. Flowers, chocolates, diamonds. Those in no way "prove" love. Ick! But, whatever works for each of us. And no, it is not pretty when friends, who don't really take the time to think through the whole situation, egg on the end of a marriage. I sometimes think it's a love of drama rather than any kind of good sense.

u-u, that is the core. Otherwise commitment means nothing. I fear you are right about the insular nature of thi society. That's why we are blogging. Someone to reach out to.

ms.chica, it's important to think about how to be that confidant too, rather than be blindly supportive. Good point.

v, i always respond because i mean it at the time. But how can i carry out that support? I had everyone fooled too, maybe because they wanted to be. I find that i am pretty sensitive to the nuances of relationships when i am around people as a result.

liv, i want you to be happy too.

thailandchani said...

I think the best way support marriages and relationships is to pass along the understanding that it is behavior that matters.. far more than feelings. Feelings are fleeting, they come and go.

I've never been one for unconditional emotional support because I respect intellect and logic too much. We need to choose our behaviors. Making decisions on pure emotion rarely leads to anything but heartache.

And I honestly believe that most marriages are held together because of that understanding.



QT said...

When I was married, and it turned abusive, I didn't tell anyone because I felt so trapped. I knew everyone would tell me I had to leave immediately, when in my brain I was formulating a plan to leave. And the abusive event that made me leave happened about two months prior to my "planned" leaving - but I had already taken many steps, so I landed on my two feet in a way that I wouldn't have if I would have listened to those people that, while they cared about me deeply, were too removed from my situation to know what was best.

In my current relationship, whenever we fight, my immediate response (in my head) is "You know what - I DONT NEED YOU" I think it just makes me feel better to be able to say that to myself. But imagine that I was telling that to my sister or a friend - they would be like "WHOA, are you moving out?"

So while I think it is important to have people listen to you bitch and moan, it is equally important for us to realize that sometimes the person doing the talking just needs to say some things out loud, just to see what they sound like. I listen to my BF's sister complain, and she does the same for me. We both know that ultimately, we love our men, but sometimes that Y chromosome drives us absolutely INSANE.

Great post!

Elliot said...

I've never fully analyzed my marriage. I can't get over my idealistic view that marriage is a sanctuary where we deal with each other's idiosyncracies and, ultimately, do all our lobbing of grenades at the crazy world around us. The world, in turn, is more than happy to slash at our deficiences--we shouldn't do it to each other.

That said, like I said, I'm shedding that fantasy and, after double-digit years, just getting to understand it can't be that way and that, as cagey said, we just need to work on that "life together" remodeling project and see where that ends us up.

Bob said...

I am not a proponent of marriage for marriage's sake. I have met too many people who are their own best company and someone else would just get in the way. That is why I have an issue with the statement:

"On good days, i am committed to my wife. On okay days i am committed to my marriage. On bad days i am committed to my commitment."

The only thing that keeps me with my wife on the really bad days is my commitment to her. period. I am a practical man and I see no reason to continue doing anything just for the sake of it. I've seen people who are married just because it is easier than leaving. Or, because the church or their neighbors expect it. they are unhappy people living unhappy lives. they should move on.

Don't get me wrong, life is richer, more fulfilling, - and easier - when there is someone to share it with. Parenting is without a doubt something that, unless absolutely necessary, should be done with a partner. But to commit to something for the sake of the commitment? I have serious questions about that.

I always remember why I married Laura. Even when she and I underwent a 8 month separation. I didn't fight for my marriage then just because I was married - I fought to regain the relationship I knew we could have. Because I knew I was incomplete without her. I wouldn't have done that for anyone else - friends, etc.

I cannot ever recall (rose-colored glasses?) ever hating Laura. I have hated something she's done - I am occasionally frustrated as hell by certain habits she has - but I have never found myself hating her. I think maybe I'm not exactly normal in this regard. I can almost always see the other person's point of view. But the bottom line is, I love my wife and cannot find it in myself to hate her.

flutter said...

You must feel better, that was a hell of a post.

It comes down to this, the only people that can really support a marriage are the people in it. All other support comes to the individual. It seems to me, you have someone who is willing to support you...and that is a wonderful thing.

Girlplustwo said...

oh, Meno. you stirreth the pot.

It's hard to admit defeat. wrongdoing. it's hard to trust others will hear us in the way we need to be heard.

but you are right - it's like cracking the veil on marriage itself. all is not well all of the time. it shouldn't be seen as failure.

more talking. more listening.

meno said...

chani, what an interesting way to look at it. I think i agree, but will be thinking about it.

qt, well, in your case, there was no support that could or should have kept that marriage together. Your point about saying things to someone who will just listen is well taken. All of us say things we don't ultimately mean.

jeremiah, i view my family that way too, as a safe place to get out of the world. But there have been times when that family was the cause of the pain. Good luck with the remodeling project, sounds like a great idea.

bob, i sort of agree with you. No kids in a marriage, then no harm, no foul. But when there are kids involved, i think that married people should try and do everything they can to keep a marriage together and happy. Note the use of the word happy. Sometimes it takes denying ourselves something that we really think we want. But we are no longer the center of the universe. I feel very strongly about this. Plus i think you married the exact right woman for you.

flutter, it sort of got away from me didn't it? But i don't feel better, i feel exposed, so i wrote something else to be at the top of the page. I have been trying to leave comments on your last two posts, but i keep getting kicked out to an error page.

jen, i didn't mean to, but it's my nature i guess. I just wish that there was some way to let people know that cycles in a marriage are not uncommon and don't always signal the end.

Anonymous said...

Meno dear, you make me afraid to even venture into this subject. *smile* You approach it with candor and aplomb, and I just want to applaud you for it. Marriage, like parenthood, is not always the joyous walk in the flowers that we're lead to believe in the flickers. I'm glad you're out there letting your feelings lead you.

amusing said...

Tomorrow would have been my wedding anniversary and now it is the Stepmom's birthday. Irony there, huh?

amusing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heartinsanfrancisco said...

When I was in an abusive marriage, my family didn't want to know anything. I finally left, and they ostracized me because divorce was a disgrace.

I realized that they were not on my side, and all the "shoulds" in the world would not help me.

In my present marriage, there are times when I feel something like hatred for my husband. We are both stubborn. It usually doesn't last and although the romance is mostly over (for me,) I did choose someone with solid moral and ethical values, loyalty, and kindness who would do anything for me. Ultimately, friendship is more important than romance.

I try not to complain to friends when we're fighting because they are all divorced and seem too eager to see us split up.

Mother of Invention said...

I think we soon find out that marriage is not perfect emotionally, sexually, intellectually, etc. or just plain fun ever day. It definitely helps to talk and I have wonderful sistes and gal friends...but...what I think would help people would be to have guys included..maybe in a couples discussion/connection group to meet with throughout marriage...sort of a continuation of the 8 week pre-marriage "course" we had to take at the Church. It would have been interesting to see and hear others' concerns and it would help if it were facilitated by someone who really knew how to do it. You could do this on your own with just couples you know but maybe this would be difficult. Some we know would be good at it. I think I needed a guy opinion all along, other than my husband's.
Marriage Encounters groups do this all the time with retreats etc.

Kellyology said...

I heard this somewhere, I believe it was Paul Newman when he was asked about his lasting Hollywood marriage,

--Some years we like each other. Some years we can't stand each other. It's the commitment that gets us through the years we don't.

Or something like that. I like it because some years I look at my husband and say, "I married YOU???"

Susanne said...

There is no such part in German wedding ceremonies. Just so you know.

Sometimes I feel very fortunate to have such a deep loyalty for my husband. Sometimes it just makes me want to kill him. Right now everything is swell and getting better and better. But I always tell people that you have to put something in it too. And I always tell that there were a time when we were almost separated. That wasn't funny.

Since we're all getting most of our knowledge about marriage from movies I'd rather tell people how it really is for me. And I make a point to talk to my students about part of it. Because nobody does. It's all, "And then they lived happily ever after..."


amusing said...

Okay, my last comment was pointless because I really had no answer and all the question reminded me of was my stupid failure of a marriage where he checked out and I have never come up with any good answers.

In fact, I sometimes wonder (and not without making a face) whether serial relationships and endings are just inevitable. But now I have just had a run where my brain went into free association and here is what I have come up with:

1) you have to be concerned with someone's happiness other than your own
2) for there to be communication, you have to communicate
3) there must be balance of some sort [I'm not saying it has to be even, just variety]; you cannot make one person, one job, one thing, your entire focus
4) you have to be prepared to work through crappy times; we don't expect to like our family all the time even though we love them, why do we doubt so monstrously when we find we don't like our Other for a time?
5) you have to stay connected; sitting next to each other watching tv every night doesn't really count, I suspect
6) I dated a man who compartmentalized e.g. when his kid got arrested, he didn't let it get him upset, he dealt with it and put it away. Effective for getting through life, but he's skimming and doesn't let stuff in.
7) If you are thinking it, your Other is wondering if you are thinking it, and maybe elaborating it into something even worse. It will create friction. Talk about it. If you don't know how to talk about it, go see a therapist who will teach you how to talk about it. The greatest gift of therapy for me has been how to communicate, how to acknowledge anger, etc.
8) Kids will suck you dry; realize this (see arrest record above) and be prepared to cope by taking turns freaking out, laughing, counseling, taking escape-one-person-at-a-time-for-decompression-vacations, whatever inventive, creative thing can be devised
9) Always try and see things from the other person's point of view; appreciate the other person (it sucks making dinner every night and I don't think my mom ever really got the credit she deserved for slogging through that chore year after year).
10) Insecurities are fine, to a point. I used to think the great thing about a relationship was that you could let it all out: the fears, insecurities, dark secrets. You'd each support the other in those scary places. Now I suspect that after awhile, those fears you have begin to take on a life of their own and the Other may start believing them all. So shine a light on them. Figure out which are real problems you need help with and which are insecurities. Keep the insecurities to yourself, and work together on real problems.
11) Trust. Keep working on trust always and forever. Never betray the trust. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. Forever.

[Please note this is all me thinking about the world and my entire life and in no way reflects or is intended as comment on any recent people or life experiences; if anything, I was reluctant to comment in case people might assume so]

meno said...

irrelephant, don't be afraid, i don't bite.

amusing, fucking irony everywhere.

hearts, divorce is a disgrace, but abuse isn't? THAT'S disgraceful. Interesting comment about your friends.

moi, i've never been to one of those encounter things. Too much religion for me i think. But i have heard that they can do great things for people. It would be helpful to have realistic expectations.

kelly, Paul's cool. And that's really a true thing he said.

susanne, i have deep loyalty to my husband too, but i don't think he's perfect. Good for you for telling about your reality in marriage.

amusing, i understand your reluctance, but this is really quite beautiful. If it wasn't so long i would have it made into a sampler. See what all you'e learned? I think serial momogamy might just be ineitable. But the problem with it is that if you don't work through the issues in one relationship, you are doomed to repeat them until you do figure it out. If you ever do.

Anonymous said...

So many of the people close to me are ditching each other right now. One friend is leaving her husband (and taking their two girls) for another man who just had a first child with his wife. Another couple of friends are both sleeping with others and shuttling their one-year-old back and forth between them - they just got married in March. Someone else thinks he doesn't like women anymore, after 4 years of marriage, absolutely devastating his partner.

I don't think you can really help someone else's marriage. You can be a listener, but in the end, you are just an observer and there is nothing you can do about someone else's relationship. You can only be a friend.

I am lucky in my marriage, I am really and truly in love with my husband and I believe he is with me too. Yes, we irritate each other occasionally but not much and in minor ways. We enjoy each other like we enjoy no one else in the world. But I am never so dumb to think that it couldn't end for me too. My father left us seemingly out of the blue, why couldn't this darling man I love just decide he doesn't love me any more? It's a lurker.