Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I've learned quite a bit...

I wasn't always a tough person, it took years to get this way. In the old days when I was much younger, I was too trusting, very generous, never stuck up for myself, and I let people walk all over me. These days I am too trusting, very generous, I stick up for myself and nobody walks all over me. Frankly I like being the way I am. I believe the experiences of my life led me to where I am today, which is actually a much better place than I used to be. It's called getting older and wising up.

I bring this up because of a comment made by an anonymous person to the post I made venting about DH and me needing to find common ground.

This comment "Before he puts his hands on you your world will be so small there won't be anywhere to turn." really got to me because one it implies my DH would hit me and two, it implies he is trying to make my world smaller. Actually he wouldn't hit me and my world isn't small because of DH, it's small because of me. He encourages me to go out and do things with friends and get out of the house and have fun. But I choose to stay home where I'm comfortable and I choose to have just a few close friends I can count on one hand because I find that friendship is an important thing that takes a lot of time and I don't take it lightly. It's hard for me to keep up with people as it is so I prefer a small world with just a few people I care a lot about.

Last night in class we were discussing the topics of our research papers and one girl who is a psych major discussed the issue of marriage counseling for multicultural couples. She talked about how a couple from very different cultural backgrounds would go see a counselor who would try to mold them into your "average middle class white family" (borrowing a phrase from my teacher of course). I began to think about DH and me and how we get along 90 percent of the time and argue the other 10 percent. I began to think about how different our backgrounds are. He's from up north, from a different upbringing and a different family structure while I am from Florida, and my family structure is different from his. Our experiences in life also make us different.

And so we come into this marriage with a different way of looking at things. Hell we are very different and were raised very differently. We were both raised with morals and values but as to our heritage and the environment we were raised in, it was different. DH is Pennsylvania Dutch, Lutheran, with a cultural background of English, German, and Irish. I on the other hand am a native Floridian, with a mother raised Jewish and a father raised Christian, and we three kids had no real religious upbringing, we were raised to have morals but not a specific religion. And our background is Italian, Sicilian, Irish, German, Cherokee, Romanian and English.

Geez, with that makeup how could DH and I NOT argue? LOL!

On most things we can agree black is black and white is white but on some issues we can't agree at all. I'd say we agree on all the hot button issues like politics, finances, child-rearing, family values, things like that. Where we don't agree comes down to much smaller issues, well I think they are small but to him they are important. For instance, he believes that if he's in a disagreement with someone else, I should take his side, no matter what, it's a show of solidarity, loyalty, which to a point I agree with. If he's in a disagreement with someone I would not come out and tell him "you're wrong" in front of that other person I don't believe in that. But in private I'd tell him I disagreed. He sometimes takes that to think that I am against him but I always tell him "I am always on your side but we won't always agree". I mean in good conscience when we're alone I can't say "I agree with you" if I know that he's wrong. I wouldn't expect him to do that either. We usually don't argue over that though, we usually talk about it and laugh it off.

The only time it seems that we argue is in some times of crisis. Is that strange or what? It's when we both know we need each other's support the most, but sometimes that isn't the case. I'm not good in crisis, because I don't like chaos, I need order. On the other hand, while he hates chaos too, he's a former EMT and volunteer firefighter, he knows a lot about planning, preparation and survivalism and he really knows how to take charge of things. And in those times he might say "let's do this" and I might argue the case. Well hello. I know I am not good in emergencies so WHY do I argue with him when he tries to take charge? LOL.

There are other times we argue for no reason other than we're both stressed because of a situation. For instance when our LL told us he was selling this place that we disagreed on some things in regards to moving and we were so stressed out from the anger we felt from having to move, that we took it out on one another. We weren't mad at each other, we were just stressed about the whole situation. So finally we took a breather and realized we have to stick together in crisis. It's awfully lonely to go through crisis fighting with the person you love. You need that support and so since we promised to do that, things have been much easier. There are times I want him to make decisions because it's easier on me not to have to do it and there are times when he wants me to make decisions because he doesn't want to be bothered. I am a detail person, he's an "overall" person. In other words, if I ask him "what do you want for dinner: lasagna or meatloaf" he's like "I don't care, whatever you want" and then I push the issue and he gets annoyed. Then there's times when he asks me something and I'm like "I don't care" because really I'm not interestd. Drives him crazy at times, me too.

My best friend Deb tells me that there's something called a "power struggle" going on in our marriage. I think that is right on the mark and we aren't the first persons I know of to go through it. When I mentioned it to DH he agreed. Both of us, after nearly five years of marriage, are trying to establish our territory, and how far we can go with one another, and what our boundaries are.

The thing with DH and me is really we don't need to be struggling for power because for most of the time we are pretty easygoing and not at all demanding. For all his faults, DH is a kind, hardworking, generous person. They say women marry men who are like their fathers. I think this is true. My own father is hardworking, honest, generous and kind and always giving to his family. He'd be the first to tell you that he wasn't always the easiest to get along with. In his younger days, when he was about my DH's age, dad was loud and boisterous, opinionated and his word was law. There were times he would yell and get angry. He worked a lot, and I think the stress of work really got to him at times. But on the flip side he was FUN and we had a great time with him! And then mom, who was more passive than aggressive and more a placater and very easygoing, knew how to use her traits to her advantage. She knew how to calm dad down in a crisis, she knew how to handle him most times. They loved doing nice things for one another and we enjoyed how happy it made them. Mom would do things like cooking dad's favorite meal every New Year's Day and dad would do things like one Christmas, he got this huge box and bought mom a ton of earrings and perfume and packed the little boxes inside the big box and when she opened it, she thought it was just one thing but he told her to keep going and it turned out she had all these bottles of perfume and jewelry hidden among newspaper in the box. One bottle of perfume would have made her happy but he wanted to do something different, something he knew would to make her laugh and that she'd always remember. And yes she does still remember, all of us do.

Mom and dad had their moments, I remember them arguing a lot, but they've been married forty years, raised three kids and believe me they have been through so many serious crises in their lives. Given all they've been through, they weathered the storms pretty good I'd say. And so I believe DH and I will weather the storms too. It's because we went into this marriage without expectations that marriage was some kind of Cinderella fantasy. The fact is that our expectations were more normal. We expected to argue and fight, to disagree, and to be annoying to each other and annoyed by each other at times. We expected it wouldn't be easy.

I can't tell you how many times DH has done things for me just because it made him happy to see me smile. I can't tell you how many times he's surprised me with stuffed animals. We have nearly 40 in our house because he likes surprising me. He makes me things for my kitchen to help me get better organized. He send mes cute emails, he makes me laugh, we have fun when we go out to eat at our favorite restaurant and just hang out. Some people might think "oh well this doesn't make up for the times he acts like a jerk" but you know what? Yes it does.

The way I see it, every person has at least two sides. I have always been the kind of person who believes there is good in most people. DH has so much good in him, I wouldn't have married him if he didn't. Yes he's pissed me off and done things that annoy me, but in all honesty I have done the same to him. We have said hurtful things we always apologized for becuase one thing we're adamant about is trying not to make the other person feel inferior. That's just wrong. We don't call each other names either. We just don't like being hurtful in that way.

Sometimes we are both so damn stuck in what we believe is right, that we refuse to bend. What we're trying to work towards is better communication and meeting in the middle on everything, this means we both have to give a little. Recently DH and I had a talk about my parents, and I told him that while I see his point in why he's so upset that they think he's wrong in defending himself when someone in the family says something to him (and yes, I do see his point), I told him it would make me happy to have my family over to our house. I told him how much it meant to me and that it was something that was very important to me. Oh sure, I could go to their house anytime I want to, but I want them to come to our house too.

In discussing this, we didn't argue, we didn't fight. And after we joked about a few things, he agreed with me. Now he might have issues with them at this time, but he's not going to make it such an issue that they can't come to our house. When they come over he will go somewhere helse. But he compromised and for us that was a big deal. It's such a tremendous step in our relationship. My best friend told me that if I listened to him and really tried to understand his feelings on the matter, (without giving my opinion which I have a bad habit of doing) that eventually he would listen to me and see my side. What I learned is I need to listen more and give less opinions of what I think, and he needs to do the same. A person is more willing to listen to you and try to understand where you're coming from even if they don't agree with you, if you just do the same for them. And so we did that. And I can't tell you what a major breakthrough that was for us. We both gave a little towards the middle and both of us got what we wanted.

And that my friend is how one step at a time, we will make it.

My parents, grandparents and my experiences in life have helped mold my view of what marriage is supposed to be like and the same goes for DH. We have both told people that marriage is WORK and anyone that says it isn't just isn't doing it right. You can't expect to throw two people with different personalities, different experiences and from different backgrounds together for life and expect them to live in harmony every single day of their lives. We've only been married five years, but we have come a long way, and we still have a lot to learn. Any couple married for a long time will tell you that marriage is really a lifelong learning experience. Never think you have the other person all figured out because you don't!

DH and I both have our faults and our flaws and we argue and fight at times, but one thing both agree on always, without a doubt, is that we're committed to making this work and that it will work.

Many people don't even have that. :)


  1. Anonymous3/23/2006

    Wonderful post, Jessica! I think you and DH are going to have one of the marriages that last a lifetime. Robert and I used to fight like cats and dogs, but that didn't mean we weren't in love. We, too, had very different backgrounds. He was raised with a domineering father and had set ideas of how things were supposed to be. I was raised with out a father. It was just my mom, sister, and me. I had no idea how men felt on many issues. Over the years we have learned to respect each others ideas and to handle stressful situations with out walking on the others feelings. Now after 20 years, we do still argue, but honestly not very often. Life is good and it's better because Robert is by my side.

  2. Yeah, Jessica, it's the committment that matters. Any two people are going to have differences. How boring it would be if everyone was just alike. My husband and I have been married over 22 years and it's all about both parties willing to hang in and push through.