Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Is your marriage good enough?"

Maybe if more people read columns about marriages and relationships, as preventative food for thought, maybe fewer couples would be in therapy. I’m not saying therapy isn't helpful, but maybe people need to learn to solve their own problems sometimes, or at least take a crack at them themselves. (I'd like to think that if we can identify our problems on our own, it prevents needing additional help outside the marriage.) I don't think our marriage needs help, but I do tend to find these reports kind of interesting.

Ginger Tobias of O, The Oprah Magazine, wrote an article that appeared on CNN today. It listed, “ten questions you can ask yourself to help clarify whether or not your relationship, albeit imperfect, is worth a good go.”

1. Are you exaggerating the negatives? For the next two months mark the good and bad days on your calendar to get a reality check.

I don’t think we do this. In my marriage, I have so few negatives, so little to complain about, that I think anyone that knows us would know if I were exaggerating anything negatively. Given the state of some of our friends’ and families’ relationships, I actually try to downplay some of the positives in front of them. I don’t want to look like I’m showing off, and for some reason, I’ve ALWAYS felt like that. Maybe that’s not good either. Maybe it means that deep down, I'm embarassed or ashamed of my good fortune.

2. Have you already left the marriage by emotionally withdrawing? Or by giving up all attempts to make the relationship better? If so, can you find a way to reengage?

I don’t have a reason to emotionally withdraw.

3. Do you get so angry that you hit each other or throw things at least once a month? If the answer is yes, are you hanging on to a terrible relationship because you're afraid of being alone? Or because you're convinced it's the best you can do?

OMG, if it ever came down to this, let me tell you, I’m GONE. I couldn’t live in a house where I didn’t feel safe. And I would expect no less from my husband if I ever went all pyscho crazy on him and started chucking stuff at him or hitting him.

Now, that's not to say that the occasional hitting or tossing of something (not at anyone) when you're super pissed off is unhealthy. I think it can be healthy: a good release of negative energy: almost no different than going to a gym to work off some of that energy. But it should never be directed at your significant other.

4. If you're frustrated because your husband won't change (you'd like him to be more forceful or manly, for example), is it really necessary that he does? Is there anything in your family history that may be driving your need to transform him? (Your father never stood up for you when you needed him.)

I don’t want my husband to change. I never did. He’s a good guy…that’s why I married him! Fun, friendly, responsible, you name it!

5. Have you been teaching your husband the wrong lessons by not challenging his hurtful behavior? (You don't say anything when he criticizes you in public. He never washes the dishes, so you just do them, resentfully.)

This can be a hard thing to learn how to do and then to implement it, if you've never witnessed it before. However, I know for a fact this is something we've gotten better about the longer we've been married. It's okay to point out something you know needs to be addressed and isn't a positive thing. It has to be done. It's like pulling off a bandage: if you do it slowly, its going to hurt more.

6. Do you have fun together? Even when things are tough, do you make jokes about it? (A good sign.) If not, can you make time in your marriage for more play?

Oh man, my husband is the most fun person I know! I'd actually love to have more fun time with him, but with our work schedules and school, it's not always going to happen, so we make the most of the times we have.

7. Are there conflicts that you've avoided in the relationship? What do you fear would happen if you confronted them?

There was one that I didn't want to bring up for discussion, even after my husband brought it up once. I'm not going to go into detail here, but we discussed it briefly and agreed to table that subject for the time being. My worst fear would be that our marriage would fail in the end.
8. Do you simply need more time alone? A weekend on your own every so often to make the heart grow fonder?

Between our work schedules, yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder. Outside of work, my alone time is the dog transports I do. For him, it's motorcycle rides with his friends. We aren't joined at the hip, and sometimes, we do participate in each other's alone times.

9. Has something occurred-- a death, a big birthday, a job loss -- that's throwing off your relationship and needs to be addressed?

When I was laid off last year, I felt out of sorts. My first thought was, "Thank God we paid off the credit card." I didn't like the feeling of possibly leaving my husband with ALL the bills to pay. I didn't feel like I was going to be equal anymore. But between my job searches, my paid out vacation time, my severance pay, and my 4-5 months of unemployment, I was able to keep my feelings of self worth. But that was also greatly due to conversations with my husband about all of it too.

10. Have you done everything you possibly can to make this marriage work? Are you certain he has heard your complaints? Have you tried a marriage-education class or couples therapy? If he won't go to counseling, have you gone yourself to see how you might save the relationship?

We've never tried marriage counseling. But if something came up in our marriage and he wanted to go to counseling, I think I would. Unless he's beating me or cheating on me, I'd want to save our marriage. But I like to remember something he told me a long time ago, even before we got engaged. We were still in college, and he said, "We are both Communications majors in a certain way. There should be no reason we can't talk to each other about anything." True...very, very true.

Before we got married, we had to do a couples' retreat kind of thing, because he wanted to get married in a Catholic church and I'm not Catholic. We did it with his aunt and uncle, because they went to that church, as our sponsors. It actually wasn't so bad. It was a good time to sit down and discuss some topics that could someday come up in our marriage. 

In the beginning though, I didn't like the idea of some Catholic priest telling me that we HAD to do this in order for him to marry us. He didn't know us, we didn't know him and it felt a little like a slam against me because I wasn't Catholic. I suppose if I had pitched a fit, we could have gotten married somewhere else, but it ended up not being a hassle afterall.

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