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19 February 2008

Mating Growl, 5 of 6

Oh, been there, Brother Leo. Anybody else relate? Did he track mud in? Get hair in her meal? Forget to groom the cubs?

I think I am safe to assume all relationships periodically go through a period of disharmony. Ours does. And I think that helps us in the long run wear down the sharp edges until we become more harmonious. Seems so simple, eh? I wish. But at least there is science to back it up.

A 17 year study conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Psychology concluded that couples that scream, yell & throw things express themselves live longer than those that bottle up their anger.

In our kindler, gentler world (yeah, right) we are conditioned to equate passivity with civility to superiority. Well, fooey on that.

Thunder & Rain

I'm sure I am not alone in saying that I have been in a strife filled relationship before and it was the pits. Of course we don't always know it is the pits until we are no longer in the relationship. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

A guy I used to office with has a rather tumultuous relationship with his wife. On his desk he displayed a sign "A Marriage was Made in Heaven...but so is Thunder and Rain". For them it worked...and they have been married for 20+ years.

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."
- Confucius

A long time ago I learned that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. And so it goes. Our relationships are in the worst shape, the most trouble, when we no longer care about the other person, the topic at hand, the whatever. Hate the way your spouse squeezes the toothpaste tube from the middle? At least you care enough to have an opinion. And spring for 'his' and 'hers' toothpaste tubes to avoid this by the way. :)

Relationship Math

Now lest you think I was some whipped puppy before meeting Tonya, you're wrong. We both came into our relationship at nearly 100%. It is a common misconception that each relationship participant makes up 50% of the relationship to make a whole 100%. Well, horsehockey. How unfair it would have been to expect the other person to make us complete, dontchathink? In relationship math, 100% + 100% = 100%. Whereas 50% + 50% = future trouble in China town. Got it?

Unfortunately, couples rarely stay at 100%. What happens is a type of trade off. The ebb and flow of our relationship river of zen. I can have some humdinger days when I am not in sync, not productive, not happy...and not pleasant to be around. As trite as it sounds, that is when Tonya steps up. She really does complete me, or rather completes US. She pulls the weight for the both of us and our relationship stays afloat. I do the same when the roles are reversed. In the long run, by bouying each other, we gain individual and marital experience in maritime navigation. And the more experience we have at that, the less likely we will get lost amid a sea of distractions, perpetual unhappiness or isolation.

So I submit that it is not the never arguing that makes relationships suceed, but in having a relationship where arguments start and end in a respectful manner.

Deal Breakers

What if the argument is about a deal breaker or even the end of the relationship? For starters, remember that there is no such thing as a happy ending...if it were truly happy, it wouldn't end.

Secondly, nothing should be allowed to die a slow death. We all have deal breakers (or we should anyway). Things like infildelity, abuse, insane religious conversion, incarceration, NASCAR, whatever. And if that line gets crossed, if that boundary is obliterated, if that deal gets broken, then evaluate whether a professional can help fix it, or let it die. Endlessly arguing about it does nothing but generate unhealthy patterns for more arguing.

"There is nothing so easy to learn as experience and nothing so hard to apply."
- Josh Billings

The important takeaway, however obvious in retrospect, is that the better we "hire" our mates in the beginning, the less likely we will have to "fire" them in the end.

In the last part of series Mating Growl (don't fret, withdrawl symptoms are natural and will subside with time) we conclude with our "State of the Male" prognosis. If you are catching the safari late, be sure to review the first 5 stops on our tour by starting here.

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Dana said...

Secondly, nothing should be allowed to die a slow death. We all have deal breakers (or we should anyway). (snip) And if that line gets crossed, if that boundary is obliterated, if that deal gets broken, then evaluate whether a professional can help fix it, or let it die. Endlessly arguing about it does nothing but generate unhealthy patterns for more arguing.

I really needed to hear this today - thank you!

Michael M. said...

Glad it helped Dana. Be strong Sister!

Tismee2 said...

Well said Michael. I think I live in a very healthy relationship. We argue and air our views a lot. But never go to bed on an argument.

I lost my Mum to cancer 13 years ago and one thing she said to me in her last few weeks was "Always find a way to say sorry to lose you love". She did that to those she had fallen out with in the past. Phoned or wrote to them to tell them the same.

As for the toothpase - it would still irritate me, along with the way he puts the cutlery into the dishwasher and leaves his socks all rolled up in the laundry!

Kat Wilder said...

Michael, so true. My former and I never fought when we were married; now, well ...

It's how you fight that matters, and if it strays past the issue at hand and into personal attacks, it's not healthy. And at some point, you just might have to agree to disagree on those things that aren't the deal-breakers.

However, I sure do wish people were clearer about the deal-breakers before they got married ...

Average Girl In Average World said...

My hubby has always said "The ending is never good, so there is no need to prolong it longer than necessary."

You have done very well expressing the information in this article.
Average Girl

Michael M. said...

Well said Gail (tismee2). I enjoy reading about your family on your blog and it is obvious that you have a involved family.

With our working dogs we learn that every dog has issues...some we can live with...some we can't. I find that works well with people too. :)

Michael M. said...

Kat: And from reading your blog, you are quite 'wise for the wear' (gosh I hope that came out right!). It is a shame that we often have to experience the lessons of one failed marriage / serious relationship before truly enjoying the upside of a healthy relationship. Thanks for sharing your story Kat.

Michael M. said...

Average Girl: I like your husband! You also have some great stories on your blog about your family, kids and husband (and math test....argg). It is refreshing to see others who are honoring of their spouse.

And as always, thanks for your readership and kind comments!