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Posts Tagged ‘staying in love’

Do we expect too much of marriage?

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, men, women on February 18, 2014 at 12:41 am

By Caitlin Kelly

From The Economist:

Eli Finkel at Northwestern University in Chicago.. told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week that most married Americans expect their spouses to develop profound insights into the essential qualities of their other half, fulfilling their needs for esteem and self-actualisation. A spouse, these days, can be expected to be a confidant, lover, co-parent, breadwinner, activity partner and therapist. This, he concludes, makes being happily married harder than it was in the past.

I was struck, and touched, by how many of you “liked” my recent post about my 14 years (so far) of marriage with Jose.

ringsOur rings and wedding certificate

One commenter noted that I believe in work, that a happy marriage doesn’t just happen spontaneously. Maybe it does for some people.

In our case, our marriage is hard-won. We were both married before, very unhappily. We came to our relationship, as many of us do later in life, scarred, wary and battle-hardened, by life, by work, by disappointing relationships along the way.

It wasn’t a great start and we’ve benefited from several smart, insightful counselors along the way.

So, what do you think of this list? It does strike me as exhaustive, and possibly exhausting to fulfill.

— confidant, lover, co-parent, breadwinner, activity partner and therapist.

I don’t expect him to parent children (we have none). I do expect him to earn a living, but he is not the only breadwinner; we rely on my income as well. I don’t really look to him as an activity partner, much as I’d like to. I love going to movies. He hates it. I love theater and dance and museums. He’ll join me occasionally but he’s happier reading or relaxing at home after another hectic workweek. We’ve helped each other confront some of our issues, but I also have a therapist and her role is clear.

I’ve also learned the hard way that it takes two people to make a marriage.

Duh!

Actually, not really. You can hit every traditional milestone: a fancy wedding and sexy honeymoon and a big house and tons of kids — and still have a crappy, lonely, cringe-making life, wondering why on earth you took vows with this creep.

If both people aren’t in the same set of traces, pulling hard in the same general direction most days, I think your marriage is less likely to last.

I don’t actually feel like an oxen tilling the fields. But we all need backup!

Knowing that each of us is as fully committed to life’s dreary scutwork — laundry, groceries, scrubbing the toilet, getting the damn car inspected, collecting all our tax paperwork — as we are to one another’s deeper happiness helps a lot. Jose is not, thank God, lazy or messy or disorganized. (OK, I can be the last two, rarely the first.) He puts gas in the car. I wash the floors.

Sexy? Maybe not for some people. Someone taking responsibility is deeply attractive to me.

Shared values matter enormously.

One of the many self-help books I read while dating, (yes, I admit it!), offered what I thought was an interesting way to decide if someone new might prove to be a good fit romantically: PEPSI — whether we had a decent match in the following categories: Professional, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual and Intellectual.

From our first date, I knew we matched well on four of the five.

Offering your sweetie your absolutely undivided attention, preferably for an hour a day, (yes, it’s not easy; that’s the point!), is also huge. In an era of CPA — continuous partial attention — this is one of the greatest gifts we can still, and must, give one another.

But I think the single most important element of a marriage you want to last for decades is, paradoxically, remembering that your partner or spouse is a separate human being.

We each carry our own fears, hopes, dreams, goals and unresolved wounds. We each arrive at the altar — whether we marry at 20, 40 or 60 (possibly all three!) — as someone with a past. We all bring ghosts, angels and demons, some of which we have yet to even notice, acknowledge, tame or banish.

(Which is where good therapy can also strengthen your marriage, whether you go alone or together.)

I keep a photo of Jose, as a small baby in his onesie, his mother beaming beside him, nearby in a lovely frame. I treasure everything about this image: her joy, his delight, her optimism, their love.

photo(30)

Gregorita is so thoroughly delighted with him, even though he’s a surprise baby and she’s 50 and her husband is not in good health and they have little money.

She cherished him, but she died decades ago.

Now it’s my turn.

Here’s a post from Psychology Today, by a man happily married for 43 years, with his five tips for a satisfying marriage.

What do you expect from your husband, wife or partner?

Is it too much — or not enough?

How To Win My Heart

In behavior, men, women, life, domestic life, blogging, family, love on February 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm
Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

Image via Wikipedia

And, so to Valentine’s Day…

Having loved and lost and loved again — now in the 11th year with my sweetie — here’s how he won my heart, and continues to.

I suspect many of these are on your wish list as well:

Be loyal. If someone disses me, especially in front of others, remind them, however gently, that their concerns are best addressed directly to me.

Be fair. If you know I’ve been doing all the housework and you’ve been doing none, man up and grab that toilet bowl brush!

Listen carefully. Do not blow me off with “I hear you.” Focus your undivided attention on me for at least 30 minutes every day and you will learn who I am and where I’m going and whether I still want you with me on that journey.

Make me laugh. I can handle a  ton o’ stress as long as I can laugh long and hard in the middle of it. A man who makes me laugh wins me every time.

Action, not words. As someone who uses words for a living, as a journalist and author, I am totally unimpressed by fair phrases and fancy promises. Heard ‘em all! I’m watching and waiting for you to put those words into action. Until you do, I tend to tune out.

Take good care of yourself. Dress with care and style, smell good, trim your hair and nails. Go to the gym or court or field and sweat off your stress and frustrations. Or meditate, or pray or go fishing to savor life and slow down into pleasure and come home again happy. Watch what you eat and remember that a trim, healthy man who respects himself enough to keep strong and flexible is attractive at any age.

Be fun. What do you do for pure fun? That does not involve some tech-toy or screen or sitting still? Think of fun, spontaneous things to do or places to go or a new meal to try. Delight me, please.

Have a spiritual life. You must be very clear that we all are much more than the sum of our possessions, good looks and/or fancy job title. What are you giving back to this world of value to others?

Astonish me. My sweetie scrubbed my mother’s soiled mattress after she had been trapped in bed for days before she was rescued with a brain tumor (She is fine.) Who does that? He did. Sold!

Don’t confuse charm or personality with character. It’s a very old-fashioned word, character, but it’s what lasts long after superficial charm or a cute smile or a cool job. After the age of 40, life starts getting much tougher for most of us, as our parents sicken and die, as friends die too young and we face our our work and health challenges. A man, or woman, with character will be steadfast through it all.

Be kind. To me, yourself, to others. Pat dogs and cats in passing (unless you’re allergic or phobic.) Hug babies and kids  — everyone! Kiss people when you see them. Hold their hands, literally or figuratively, when they are scared or lonely. Compassion is one of the sexiest qualities a man can have!

And, yes, of course — we need to bring these qualities as well!

What qualities in your sweetie won your heart?

What would?

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