Marriage: Not Filmed Before a Studio Audience

It’s really difficult to change old habits.  I just thought I’d start out with a statement everyone can agree about.  I’ve been working on not procrastinating, not wasting time at work and keeping my house clean.  At the moment, I’m pretty sure I’m failing all three, though truthfully, I was doing better before my husband’s plant was threatened with closure and my father-in-law passed away.  But the thing about those habits is, once I identified the problem behavior, it wasn’t that hard to correct.  It was just a matter of remembering to do what I was supposed to.  And since I know beating myself up for forgetting things is counter productive, I don’t do it.  When you decide to stop procrastinating, it’s not all that difficult.  At least, it’s not a big intellectual challenge.  Just try to remind yourself to “Do it now, unless there’s a compelling reason not to.” and there you are.  Then when the resistance comes, I ask myself, “Am I trying to cultivate filth?”  because cleaning things around the house is really the only thing I consistently resist my best intentions on.

But I’ve realized I’ve got some much larger problems that need work, and that aren’t all that easy to change.  I suspect that this is a common problem among those married folks like me, whose parents are divorced or otherwise have major relationship problems.  I really don’t treat my husband with all the respect that I should and that I expect myself to.  I didn’t exactly realize it at first, but Mike doesn’t share my love of parenting blogs or self-help books (or parenting books for that matter) and so it’s becoming more obvious as we go along that we aren’t coming from the same place in our parenting and it’s creating some conflict.  As I tried to think of how to handle these conflicts, I noticed a disturbing pattern.  Every thing I thought of to say would start out with “Dude…” and it would go downhill from there.  If I’m starting off with “Dude” then I’m going to go on to say something sarcastic or belittling or else I’m going to invoke other people’s opinions.  Not cool.  I’ve been doing these things all along, regardless of whether I was actually calling Mike “Dude.”  I think I’ve found one of the root causes of our communication difficulties.

So I’ve figured it out, right?  Don’t ever call Mike “Dude” or say whatever came after “Dude” in my mind, right?  It’s just simple, isn’t it?  Well, no it isn’t.  Because I’ve been relying on sarcasm and public opinion or whatever all my life in my dealings with people.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t just start doing this when I got married.  When I realized that my husband’s name is not Dude, I also had the epiphany that I really need to make sure that I just tell him what I think or how I feel or both.  I don’t need to be sarcastic.  Playing to an imaginary audience is counter productive.  And yet it is so hard for me to just tell the truth, straight up.  So I’m kind of in relationship purgatory at the moment.  I know I won’t be here forever and I’ll work my way out, but I wanted to put this out there for your consideration.

You see, I’ve always admired people who just spoke their minds, good or bad, in a direct way.  But I hardly know anyone like that in real life.  I think I mostly see people like that in reality tv shows and they’re not the usual type to be on those shows.  I knew I admired that behavior and wanted to cultivate it, but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.

But here is the thing.  Sarcasm and belittling are definitely NOT relationship skills.  Invoking opinions of others is rarely helpful.  It’s as though you are trying to convince the TV audience at home that your spouse is completely wrong about something.  Except that not only is there no TV audience, but there is really only one person in the room.  Husband and wife are one flesh, the Bible teaches us.  It goes on to tell us how no one would abuse their own body, and for this reason, no one should abuse their spouse.  When you read Ephesians 6, it seems so obvious that you can just read right over it without really thinking about what Paul is telling you.

So, let this be about me.  I’m playing to the TV sitcom audience.  I’m trying to convince them that I’m right and my husband is a cad.  Except that it’s just me on the TV screen, making myself look a fool, because my husband and I are one.  I am not better than him.  He is not better than me.  That is simply not how marriage works.

And the reason why this is so difficult for me is that the ideas come to me in that old, bad form,  complete with sarcasm and eyeball rolling.  I have to be alone, I have to have the mental space to be able to think past that pattern and get to what I really, honestly mean.  It’s hard.  And by the time I get there, the moment has always passed me by.  But I am resolved.  I will not call my husband “Dude.”  I will call him by his name or by a term of actual endearment.  I will not invoke expert or outside opinion unless I’m reasonably sure there is some research backing it.  If there’s no research, then it’s really just the opinions of the experts I believe vs. the opinions of the experts I don’t believe, after all.  My opinion is valid all by itself, but so it Mike’s.  I honestly don’t believe that our parenting values differ by much, as our values in other things are quite well-aligned.  So talking about this really should just be about two people talking, two human beings who have learned what they’ve been taught and also have learned by their own (different) experiences.  It’s just so much more difficult than it sounds.

Have you dealt with any issues like this in your marriage or relationships?  How did you get past old patterns to the point where the correct behavior became second nature?  I could really use some encouragement here.

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