Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Growth in Marriage

My morning walks have become a time of introspection and reflection.  I have been trying to live intentionally.  Thinking about how I feel about things, not just go generically through life, letting events lead me.

I have been thinking about how I had taken some time for myself in college, before I met Jason.  I had taken time away from friends, not worried if I had a boyfriend and just focused on me.  How I felt, what I thought, what I wanted, what made me happy, what I believed.  I have been thinking how it was difficult to do that kind of thing in a marriage.  It's not possible to just distance yourself from everyone to think.

On Monday night, the girls slept over my parents' house so that I could meet Mary in the city on Tuesday.  Jason and I went out for a nice dinner and had a really good conversation.

You marry someone in your twenties...and then what if you grow differently in your thirties or forties or fifties?  How do you reconcile that?  Surely, there are things in your twenties that seem insignificant that you realize are crucial as you get older.

Jason and I are from two different worlds.

He is the child of carefree, laid-back California hippies.

I am the child of immigrant children who grew up during the Great Depression.

Jason was raised to do what felt right and made him happy.

I was raised to think things through and make the best decision.

Two.  Different.  Worlds.

Jason has said that to some members of his family stability equates loss of freedom.  But Jason needed stability.  He moved out at age 18, and with the exception of holidays and the occasional laundry run he never looked back.

The In-Law Relationship

I think one of the most complex relationships is the in-law relationship.  You know how the family you were raised in does things, but in marriage you are thrown into a new mix.  Your spouse's family may not call each other often or make holiday plans in advance, they may just expect you to show up for Thanksgiving and be hurt when you say that you have plans.  They probably do things differently.

I have seen it with my brother's wife.  Her family does things differently, so she was used to something different and it took a while for all of us to figure out how to meld it all.

When I met Jason, he was 22, I was 21. He had his own apartment in Princeton and a full-time job with benefits; he was responsible and took me out to dinner and to the city--he was completely unlike anyone else I had ever dated!  We had been dating for a few months, when the song "Ruby Tuesday" came on.  Jason told me that the song reminded him of his mom and I encouraged him to call her.  He did and she was upset that he had not called in so long.  She hung up on him (Jason's family is like that; if they get upset with you, they hang up or cut you off and refuse to speak to you).  It took several attempts before she would talk to Jason again.

I saw this as his mom wanting to have a better relationship with him and I encouraged him to call more, go see her more.  Over the years this presented a problem.  I see now that Jason's mother wanted the relationship to come from him.  My getting involved took the power away from he and his mom.  I did more harm than good.

Now I leave all of Jason's family relationships up to him.  Sure, if something big is going on, I may send out an email or send a card.  But the day to day keeping in touch kind of thing I leave up to Jason.

Our Relationship 

This may be the most honest thing that I will ever say, but it is something that Jason and I have discussed before and discussed again the other night.   Jason fell in love with me because I was stable, I did think things through, I did think about the consequences and as he says, "I kicked him in the ass when he needed it and straightened his ass out".  I fell in love with Jason because he let me kick him in the ass, he wanted me to straighten his ass out and he was such a good "learner"...he appreciated when I explained to him how to manage money (he also mentioned this last night as "the moment" for him when he knew he wanted to marry me); he appreciated when I got him out of debt; he appreciated when I encouraged him to take classes at the community college; he appreciated when I pushed him to apply for a promotion.

Over the years there have been times when I felt like a bubble burster.  And I don't like being the bubble popper.  Jason would come up with an idea and get excited about it.  And I would point out the flaws in it, the possible consequences.  I would feel that he was angry with me for pointing out that it didn't make sense to quit his job to start a company, I said he should start the company part time on weekends and in the evenings and take all of the profits and re-invest them in the company while using the income from his full-time job to pay our household bills.  I would feel that he was upset with me for saying, "Yes, you can go away with your friends for the weekend, OR we can use that money to ... ".   This was something else that we talked about last night and Jason pointed out that he doesn't think things through at first, he just says them and he appreciates when I point out some of the logical or rational ideas behind it.  He assured me that he does not resent me for this, but appreciates it.

Sometimes I think we all must take on hard roles in our relationships.  Roles that maybe we don't like, but that are necessary.

I tend to be very singularly focused, very driven.  I am a total Type A personality.  Jason tends to live intentionally naturally.  He tends to have a much easier time figuring out what things do not serve him or our family well and he tends to not feel guilt over letting them go.  Maybe it is being a man, maybe it is the positive aspects of having hippie parents.  We balance each other well.  Our marriage is not perfect, but we are good for each other.  We don't argue about money, we both tend to be very conservative financially.  Honestly the area that causes the most strain is that I often get caught up in drama and can not see the things that do not serve me well or I feel guilty letting them go.  I see the good in a situation despite the problems and I feel determined - that old singular focus again! - to make it work.

Jason sees the good in situations or people, but he can easily point out something that is not serving me or our family well.  He will give me advice for letting it go and point out that "they don't feel guilty for bringing the drama into your life, so why should you feel guilty for distancing yourself from them?"  He explained to me that it is not judgment or being a bad person to distance yourself from someone who has not respected your boundaries, has voiced a negative opinion or has put you in the middle of an argument that you don't want to be involved in.   He will say it is up to the person who has cut you out of their life to apologize and let you know if they are coming to town and want to see you.  He will gently make sure that I understand that it is not always up to me to make everything ok, to fix everything; he will hold me back and remind me to let others take responsibility for their actions.  He has said that once someone has hurt you, it is wise to keep them at a distance in order to guard your heart.

There have only been a handful of times over the last 18 years that Jason and I have gone to bed angry. All of them had to do with Jason smoking cigarettes and me getting upset because we know many people who have died from complications due to smoking.  Jason will accuse me of being controlling because I don't like him smoking.  He will say a lot of things in those arguments that he admits are dumb but that it is really hard to find any reasonable justification for smoking, even that it is an addiction or that it relieves stress because it is so bad for you.  Fortunately, Jason has gotten into physical fitness: yoga and running and it's been a while since he bought a pack of cancer sticks.

My problems could be so much greater.  

Marriage is hard work.  As one of my friends recently pointed out, it sometimes gets harder as we get older.  But then there are those easy times, those times when you just know each other so well.  When we first married Jason always told me that we were building our foundation.  There have been times over the years, struggles and when we made it through them we realized how strong we were.  It is during those times that we grew the most and we grew closer.  We can definitely look back and say, "Well, we made it through that...we can make it through... ."

Marriage is hard work but it is worth it.  I can not imagine traveling this journey of life without Jason by my side.

Do you have any marital advice?
How have you and your spouse grown together?