Tag Archives: marriage

4 Things We’ve Learned After 40 Valentine’s Days

by Kassandra Lamb

beating heart

by Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY- SA 3.0 Wikimedia

Hubs realized this past Valentine’s Day that it was our 40th one together. We started dating in the fall of 1975. That got me thinking about when and why I fell in love with him, and some of the more important lessons of the last 40 years.

Here are 4 of those lessons learned…

Cover your mate’s back:
Although I’d been growing fonder and fonder of him since we’d started dating, I actually fell in love with my husband on that first Valentine’s Day. He’d planned a special evening, starting with a reservation for dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant, for 8:00.

The restaurant had seriously over-booked. By 9:15, Tom had approached the check-in station several times, only to be told that it would “just be a few more minutes.”

“Do you want to go somewhere else?” he asked. But where could we go for a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day without reservations? McDonald’s?

My knees wobbled and I clung to Tom’s arm as we were finally shown to our table at quarter to ten! I was literally weak with hunger.

Suddenly my easy-going boyfriend turned into the Incredible Hulk. He had words with first the waiter and then the maitre ’d, demanding that we be served food RIGHT NOW.

A tossed salad appeared in front of me, and I fell in love with this man who would stand up for me when I was too weak to stand up for myself.

(BTW, that restaurant went out of business a few months later.)

We’ve had each other’s backs a few other times through the years… whenever one of us had to be in the hospital, for example. We’ve both slept on those horrible foldout chairs and have been awakened every few hours along with our spouse when the nurses or aides came in to take vital signs or give medication. We were there to be the other’s spokesperson and protector when they were too sick or too doped up to think straight. (And a couple of times the presence of a clear-headed defender turned out to be critical.)

It may not sound all that romantic, but hey, if you can’t count on your mate to have your back, who the heck can you count on?

swans scratching each other's backs

photo by Susanne Nilsson, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

Accept each other as unique human beings:
There’s a myth out there that couples need to share a lot of interests. Not really. A few shared interests are good, so you have something to do together. But it’s okay for each of you to do a bunch of things the other one isn’t into. Tom’s into photography and computers. I’ve got a point-and-shoot camera that no longer focuses properly and a secondhand desktop for which I paid $250.

I love to shop and play cards, and of course, write. He’d rather stick pointed sticks in his eyes than go shopping or play cards. And writing is a necessary chore that is sometimes required in the work that he does.

Instead of resenting the time that the other spends on non-shared interests., honor that those things are important to your mate. I wait patiently when we’re on vacation while he takes a hundred shots of every sight we see (I’m only exaggerating a little). He never says a word about the nights I stay up until 3 a.m. because the muse has struck and I must get those precious words down before they slip away.

And we never try to make the other do what we’re interested in but they’re not. He resists the urge to makes fun of my point-and-shoot camera and I find other people to play cards with.

Time is the most important gift:
Having said all of the above, make sure your interests don’t get in the way of spending time with your spouse. As is so often the case, it’s quality as much as quantity (if not more so) that counts. Dinner is check-in time for us. It may only be twenty minutes to a half hour, but we’re not reading or watching TV or playing with our cell phones. We’re telling each other everything important–and some things that are not all that important but are just interesting–that’s happened to us that day.

bread and wine

Bread, Wine and Thee (photo by Beatrice Murch, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

And on Fridays, we have date night. We started that when our son was about thirteen. We have a special dinner, just the two of us, share a bottle of wine, and really linger at the table until we’re totally caught up on things. Then we relax and watch videos together for the rest of the evening.

Be proud of each other:
Don’t just say it to each other. Tell others about your spouse’s accomplishments. No, you don’t have to be a bore about it. But let your spouse know you’re proud of them by telling the world.

Tom’s my best salesman. He’s always telling me about some coworker who happened to mention that they like mysteries, or just that they like to read. That’s his opening! He doesn’t have enough coworkers that his efforts will make a major difference in my writing income. But it definitely makes a difference in my confidence level to hear that he’s proud enough to brag about my writing to anyone who will stand still and listen.

How many Valentine’s Days have you had with your honey? And what have the years taught you about living and loving together? And even if you’re not coupled at the moment, what makes you feel especially loved–by friends, lovers and/or family?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. in Relationships — Why Is It So Hard?

by Kassandra Lamb

In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, I figured a post on relationships would be appropriate.

1200px-Valentines_heart pub domain.svgI read an article recently–a blog post by a guy named Matt–and I think he has absolutely nailed the main problem in most modern relationships, even those in which the partners would say they are “happy.” He posted it less than a month ago, and it’s gone viral. Last time I checked it had over 3,000 comments.

But sadly only about half of those commenters actually got what he was really saying.

The title is: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink. And I highly recommend that you pop over there and read it after you finish this post.

The commenters who didn’t get it thought it really was about the dishes. How could his wife divorce him over something so trivial, some asked. Others came down on her side, calling him a slob who expected his wife to be his maid.

All this despite the fact that he points out that it wasn’t about the dishes. It was about the lack of respect he was showing her, when he refused to change a minor habit–that of leaving a glass by the sink instead of putting it in the dishwasher–and when he tuned her out every time she complained about this minor habit.

The one mistake I think Matt made in his analysis of all this was conceptualizing it as a gender difference issue. I don’t think it is, or at least not completely so.

Most of us, male or female, have a tendency to dismiss something as unimportant unless it’s important to us, or unless we can readily understand why it’s important to someone else. It’s perfectly natural to judge the importance of something through our own filters.

But when we commit to love another person, we have to make a conscious effort to understand what’s important to them. And if we can’t understand, that doesn’t change the reality that it IS important to them. We still need to respect that.

This could happen regarding a lot of things that are important to either partner. I’m sure the issue even comes up with gay and lesbian couples. One of them is neater than the other, and the other one doesn’t get why it’s not okay to throw candy wrappers into the backseat of the car.

Are you old enough to remember this Odd Couple? (Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the Odd Couple on ABC, 1973)

Are you old enough to remember this Odd Couple? (Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the Odd Couple on ABC, 1973)

For most of his life, my husband was a long-distance runner. When we were first married, I didn’t get why this activity was important to him. I asked him why, and he couldn’t really give me a good answer. “Because it feels so good when I stop,” was what he said. Huh?

He ran at lunchtime a couple of times a week, and that was fine. But on the weekends, he used several hours of our potential time together pounding the asphalt. And I spent those hours resenting his absence.

And then his father died of a massive heart attack. My husband quite smoking and increased his running to every day. And I stopped resenting it, because now it made sense to me why it was important.

Today I know that his father’s heart attack was only a catalyst for the increase in running. It wasn’t why it was important to him. Like all athletes, he enjoyed challenging his body, and he liked the endorphin high after a good run (the “feels good when I stop” feeling). I, on the other hand, do not get the athletic mindset at all; I exercise because I know I have to in order to stay reasonably fit and healthy.

Okay, so the key problem is not all that gender related. It’s the lack of understanding regarding certain things that are important to our partners, and tending to dismiss and/or resent those things. And this, in turn, causes our partners to not feel respected.

So why is it that all too often these resentments and misunderstandings are about the guy doing/not doing something that annoys his wife?

Here’s the part that is gender related, but it’s not some mysterious, natural difference in how we see or feel about things. It comes back to some socialized differences, how each gender has been taught to interact with the world and others.

public domain (Wikimedia Commons)

public domain (Wikimedia Commons)

These are generalizations, so of course there will be exceptions. But in general, women have been socialized to care about their homes and maintaining their nice appearance. Who’s the one who is apologizing for the mess (whether there really is one or not) when we drop in on a couple? Probably the woman, because she feels that how the house looks is a reflection on her.

Men care about their homes, but in different ways. Its size and value reflect on how good a breadwinner he is. And he wants to be comfortable in his home, to be able to relax there after a long day at work (and not have to always be neat and tidy, thank you very much).

Also, men, in general, have been socialized to tune women out when they are “nagging” about something that the man deems to be trivial (and most things related to keeping the house nice fall into that category). Their fathers were clueless about these issues, so how could they teach their sons–either by example or with more blatant, verbal lessons–how to cooperate with a woman’s attempts to keep the house looking respectable?

And even though we are supposedly liberated now, and equal partners, both sharing the housework… blah, blah, blah… many men still remain oblivious to this issue, because they are modeling those fathers, who modeled their fathers before them.

Most women don’t start out nagging, by the way. First, they ask. Then, they gently point out. Then, they point it out a little more strenuously. (The man will have no conscious memory of these earlier attempts to get him to comply because he tuned them out.)

Eventually women begin to nag, letting their irritation show more and more. And sometimes, like Matt’s wife, they start to slowly stop loving this man who can’t seem to hear that it’s a simple thing to put a glass in the dishwasher, rather than leaving it on the counter. She resents, maybe without even being consciously aware of the resentment, that he seems to care so little about what is important to her that he can’t bother to do this small thing.

So why does this not happen in the other direction? Why doesn’t the man start to resent when the woman doesn’t get what’s important to him? He very well might, and justifiably so. And certainly such resentments have led to the decline and even the dissolution of more than one marriage.

But here are some other gender factors that affect all this.

  • Most of the time, the things that are important to him, that she doesn’t get, are things that don’t directly involve her. They’re activities he likes to do, such as tinkering with his car or watching sports. Maybe she gives him some flak about the time these activities take away from things she deems more important. And he resents that. But he often does them anyway, and most likely not in her presence (either because he leaves the house to do them or she leaves the room). So the negativity around these things is most likely sporadic and short-lived. And he’s programmed to tune her out! (Now, if she doesn’t learn to shut up about these things, eventually they may have problems, but she probably will learn to shut up. See below) .
  • Most of the time, the things that are important to her, that he doesn’t get, involve their home, which is shared territory. He lives in that home too, and his actions affect that home, and her efforts to keep it nice, on a daily basis.
  • Women are socialized to pay closer attention to the quality of their relationships, especially with their spouses. It’s a residual of the old belief that the woman was supposed to make the man happy, to adjust to his mood and worry about whether she was pleasing him. So today, women–again through modeling their mothers and their grandmothers before them–tend to pay attention to the state of the relationship more and analyze it periodically to determine if it is still a happy one. Now, they are noting their own happiness as well as their husband’s, but they’re still more the “keepers” of the relationship. (I’m not pulling this out of my hat, folks; research has been done on the subject.) As a result, the woman is more likely to figure out why something is important to her man and stop giving him a hard time about it.

She may not have the right reason (as was the case regarding my husband’s running) but she has a reason that makes sense to her. So she lets it go, or maybe even supports these activities that she once resented (by buying him new running shorts when the old ones get ratty 😉 ).

The man, on the other hand, just tunes her out when she bugs him about taking his shoes off at the door or putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The situation never changes and the resentment builds up. Each time it is less about the shoes or the glass by the sink and more about the fact that he doesn’t get why this is important to her.

Let me add one more thought. Even though these actions may seem like a “small thing,” It’s hard to change a habit, so cut your mate a break if s/he seems to be trying.

And if you’re the one trying to correct some little thing that annoys your mate, you will no doubt forget to do so in the early stages. Two precious words can defuse your mate’s bitching at you about it. “I’m sorry.” (Adding “I’ll keep trying to remember” wouldn’t hurt.) Say it in a pleasant voice, not an irritated one, and your spouse’s anger will most likely melt away. You might even get a kiss and a hug for your efforts.

Remember, it is NOT about the dang glass! It’s about whether or not s/he feels heard and respected!

(Please do go read Matt’s post now; it gives some details from the male perspective that I found surprising and enlightening! But don’t read the comments; most of them just confuse the issue.)

Are there things, even little things, that are important to you that your significant other just doesn’t get? Do you think there might be some things that are important to him/her that you’re not getting?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Why Is the Divorce Rate So Low? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

No, that is not a typo in the title. I am asking why the divorce rate is not higher. As I contemplate the approach of the 38th Valentine’s Day I will spend with my husband, I thought this was a fitting time to again offer up this post I wrote in 2012.

I am absolutely amazed that anybody makes it for 38 years, or longer even, without divorcing. Or committing homicide.

First let me disabuse you all of the common myth that the divorce rate is 50%. This is just plain not true, but like most myths, it gets repeated so often, with absolute certainty on the part of the person saying it, that we all believe it.

This frequently quoted statistic is based on comparing the number of marriage certificates issued in any given year with the number of divorces filed in that year. That number indeed hovers around 50%, because the number of people GETTING MARRIED has been going down at the same rate as the number of people getting divorced.

Counting the number of people who are STILL MARRIED in any given year and comparing that to the number of divorces is a more complicated and costly process, so it isn’t done very often. (This data, by the way, is collected by the Center for Disease Control. So I want to know which is the disease, marriage or divorce? I’m assuming the latter. But I digress.)

Comparing those getting divorced to those still married paints a very different picture. The divorce rate in the U.S. actually peaked in 1979 at 23% (yes, that is TWENTY-THREE PERCENT; it has never been 50%). These days it hovers around 20%. Much better odds than 50-50!

(If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a good article on the subject at PsychCentral and a study from the Center for Disease Control.)

So why am I saying the divorce rate is surprisingly low, if it’s actually a lot lower than everybody thinks it is?

Because it just isn’t all that easy to stay married for decade after decade. First we’ve got that whole men-and-women-don’t-really-understand-each-other thing going on. (See my gender differences posts for more on that topic.)

Then throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix. Are we clueless about what we are getting into there, or what? But then again, if we weren’t clueless, the species would have died out by now. If we knew in advance how hard parenting is, nobody would do it!

This is me at 3 months old; would you look at that hair!

Then we’ve got the whole aging process, and the fact that people change over time, as they experience new and different things. We don’t always change at the same rate or in the same direction as our partner does. So it takes a lot of work to stay on the same wavelength.

And we should keep in mind that marriage was invented back when the average lifespan was twenty-five years! As recently as the early 1900’s, one partner or the other was bound to die after a couple decades–from childbirth, disease or a cattle stampede. And I can’t help but suspect that, before the days of modern forensics, a certain number of household accidents were early versions of a Reno quickie divorce.

So how have hubby and I made it this long? First, you’ve got the making-the-right-choice-to-begin-with factor. We lucked out there, or perhaps it was divine intervention, because I had definitely dated my share of losers before he came along.

The most important part of making that right choice is marrying someone who shares your values. You don’t have to have all the same interests or even come from the same background or ethnic group. But you do need to care about the same things in life. And fortunately we do.

Probably the single most important factor in surviving marriage over the long haul is communication. You gotta talk to each other, every day, about the little stuff and the big stuff, and about how you feel about things. It’s real easy to get out of the habit of doing this, or to decide that a certain subject is just too painful, or will start a fight, so you don’t go there.

Study after study has found that the single most important factor in marital satisfaction is that both spouses consider their partner to be their best friend.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friend! I hope we have many more, but I’m not taking anything for granted, because marriage is hard work.

 

When you stop laughing at hubby’s funny-looking tuxedo, please let me know what you think are the important aspects of keeping a relationship strong.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )