for release Friday September 17, 2004
by Melodie Davis
When You’ve Lived With Your Spouse Longer Than With Your Parents
If you are lucky and have been married a long time, somewhere along the line you realize you’ve lived with your spouse longer than you ever lived at home with your parents. You know your spouse better than you did your parents or your siblings. And that feels kind of freaky the first time you think about it.
But also very comforting, and stable and solid.
There are of course a lot of critical passages in achieving this kind of comforting stability in a long marriage: the newlywed adjustment period; the arrival of children; the so-called seven-year itch; the kids leaving home; and finally, the retirement years and old age.
It seems that the changes brought by having children are among the most critical. Ironically, at least ideally in the original plan, one of the key purposes of marriage was to provide a strong, stable, and nurturing atmosphere for the rearing of children. How is it then that children provide one of the most severe tests of marital vows? We tell kids divorce is “not their fault” and yet arguments about child rearing and discipline are at the basis of many marital split ups.
I heard a florist talking recently about an unusual order, from a father away on a business trip. He had four sons, ages 18 months to 8 years of age, and he felt kind of guilty leaving his wife to fend for herself as he went to Dallas, Tex., on business. The wife said the boys were “high strung” on the trip to the airport and it kind of went down hill from there. The dishwasher broke down, and one of the kids ended up getting sick.
Several days before his planned return, he called a florist in his hometown, who was also a personal acquaintance, and ordered an arrangement that was to be absolutely “beautiful.” They discussed a price range, and he placed his order.
I don’t know what happened next, but I assume he found out his wife was nearing the end of her rope. He called his florist back and added, “I know I gave you a price range but this has to really be take-your-breath-away stunning.” I’m happy to report that in the end, the wife was “stunned” and pleased, according to a friend.
“I think he was trying to smooth the way for re-entrance into the frazzled household,” the friend reported.
Smart man. My husband specializes in bringing me flowers most often on just-for-anyhow days, not on special occasions like birthday or anniversary (although he hits those sometimes too.) A single carnation at 50 cents these days is cheap enough to fit anyone’s budget or lifestyle.
Happily Married With Kids: It’s Not Just a Fairy Tale is a recent book by Dr. Carol Ummel Lindquist along these lines (Berkley Publishing Group, 2004).
I remember one moment early in our parenting days when my husband seemed jealous of the time I was spending with the baby and was feeling left out. It seemed like he always needed help with something whenever I was nursing her (and in those early days, it seemed like I was doing that every two to three hours for 45 minutes at a time). I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t understand, and so it was a difficult time. Negotiating home duties and care of children can be a difficult.
Dr. Lindquist offers these tips for married couples to navigate the hurdles of parenting:
§ Avoid the trap of exhaustion
§ Manage conflicts to improve communication
§ Stay best friends with each other
§ Balance work and home
§ Enjoy the kids and each other, at every age
§ Revive your sex life
§ Find humor in everyday difficulties
§ Make time for yourself and your marriage
One writer talking about how to “affair-proof” your marriage argues, ironically, to “get a life” that is separate from your partner. Stay interesting and your spouse will stay interested. Have separate hobbies, interests and friends—but also cultivate time together. You don’t want to do everything separately.
I would add two more to that list, which both arise out of a religious perspective: Find a faith community where you can both participate and raise your family, and find worthwhile community, civic or church service projects you can work on together. Doing good together make you both feel good!
For a free booklet: “Cherish Your Marriage,” write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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