Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Do-overs

If I could start my marriage over again, some of the things I would do (in no particular order) are:

1) Not take things so personally. Understand that often her moods or her unhappiness aren’t about me (even if she thinks they are). Learn to listen to her venting, her expressions of frustration, or her overly-emotional descriptions of events without taking them literally.

2) Try to learn to love unconditionally. Not to have so many expectations. Be more willing to let my wife handle her life in her own way. Not be so quick to offer the benefit of my experience or my brilliant philosophies – to let her learn her own lessons on her own schedule. To not try to control her by deliberately letting my hurt or disappointment show. To not try to “fix” her or change how she feels by explaining that her reaction to action A by person B is irrational, self-defeating, and counter-productive.

3) Be more romantic. Learn to love the cards/flowers/presents thing. Sweet nothings in her ear, poems, compliments. Learn to let go of my tendency to be logical, to focus on the concrete, to prioritize & organize, etc – to learn that, illogical though it is, a $40 bouquet (or even a $4 card) can speak more loudly than a $5,000 paycheck.

4) Start couples’ counseling before the wedding. Lots of problems I could have side-stepped if I’d understood more about human psychology and the differences in the traditionally male and traditionally female view of the world. Lots of bad habits we could have avoided if we’d learned other, better patterns early on.

5) Learn to state my needs and desires clearly, completely, and without embarrassment. To own and honor them unashamedly regardless of my partner’s reaction to them.
To be willing to say “I feel X when you say/do Y.”
To say “I would like Z – is that something you can do for me?
To say “I don’t care for that – you do what you like, but that’s not for me.”
To say “I disagree with you about this issue – how might we find a compromise?”

6) Not be such a nice guy, not always try to smooth things over or avoid conflict. Sometimes confrontation is necessary, whether or not a couple is good at resolving problems in a healthy way. Sometimes you have to stick to your guns, to call people on their immature or selfish behavior. I’m convinced many men do themselves a grave disservice by putting up with their wives’ badgering or bitchiness – not just because they don’t get what they want (peace and civility), but because rather than appreciating or emulating their husbands’ politeness, wives lose respect for them. As Neanderthal as it sounds, I think most women prefer that their men stand up for themselves, even if sometimes it means saying “Step off, Girl – I love you but Homey don’t play that tune. You want a man that puts up with that, you want somebody other than me...” I’ve come to believe that many times a woman will give her husband a terrible time, and then be unhappy with herself and resentful of her husband for letting her walk all over him. The first time I was scolded, I wish I had said “Let me propose something to you. I won’t tell you what to do, and you don’t tell me what to do. Let’s learn to make requests of one another, in love. If you’d like me to take my boots off, all you have to do is ask – but don’t give me orders in my own house, and I will offer the same respect to you.”

7) Wait till I was older. If I’d had more experience with more women, I might have been prepared for what I view as the inconsistent, irrational, emotion-driven approach to life some women have. And just as importantly, waiting would have allowed me to mature, to become more emotionally and financially secure myself, and to understand more completely what I expected out of marriage.

8) Wait a while before having children. I love my kids and wouldn’t want any other, different ones – but I wish we’d waited until we were married a few yrs before firing up the baby factory.

9) Find a magic 8-ball to tell me how much sex my wife was going to want. – especially after the babies were born – so I could make a more informed decision, or at least prepare myself mentally for the adjustment.

The above sounds as though I regret getting married. I don’t. I like who I am now, and I might not be this person if I hadn’t gotten married. Besides, we have two terrific kids who are more precious than life. My wife is a good person, and I respect her honesty, her grit, her talent, her courage. She has not had an easy time living with me, either. The above is just what I would do differently if I had it to do over...

8 Comments:

At Fri Aug 19, 02:02:00 AM PDT, Blogger Erik said...

that was a good solid, honest list, thx. some helpful tips in there, too.

so carry on, sounds like you're doing ok. even though you're not romantic and there are strict limits on the love you're willing to give your wife. ;-)

 
At Fri Aug 19, 07:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Well, you hit the nail on the head with number 1. If I had been able to understand this, it would have prevented about 1000 misunderstandings. Guys make the mistake of taking everything their wives say, literally and then to make things work, they try to come up with a "solution." Husbands also try to argue and pursuade, thinking that this is an actual debate involving logic and fairness. Wives don't want solutions and rationality all the time--they want to let go with stream-of-consciousness with you as a sounding board. I learned this by describing one or our marital bouts to another guy who looked at me and said, "Well, so?" -- He'd been there so often this was pretty old news. Happily, it only took me 38 years to figure this out and I still can't get this part right.

 
At Tue Aug 23, 10:17:00 AM PDT, Blogger Lisa said...

This list should be printed and given to all college students!

I like to think I followed some of these (they apply to women too...most of them) - I'm glad we dated for 6 years before getting married, and I'm glad that we waited 4-1/2 years of being married to have a kid.

You really made me think with the request rather than nag comment - I'm going to try to work on that one - I really don't nag that much, but I see now that I would probably be more successful if I ask nicely!!

Thanks!!

PS - I read your Mt. Shasta post, and I laughed so hard!! In H.S., the swim team practiced in the Bidwell pool, and little kids had swim lessons just before us -- we had a few floaters from time to time!!

 
At Wed Aug 24, 06:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

This is an interesting post Bryan.

like Unca I relate mostly to Number 1. I can also relate to number 5 and number 6 as well. I waited until I was 34 to get married so I did have some perspective of what I was getting into before I took the jump.

This post also reminded me that sometimes my wife after observing another married guy interact with his spouse would say. “Why can’t you be more like that?” Then she would see another good quality in another husband and say the same thing. I guess she expects me to observe every man on earth and learn his best quality and then apply it to my personality. I think husbands tend to do this too but with a totally different wish list. Plus I think most husbands will tend to keep these things to themselves.

 
At Thu Aug 25, 03:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger No_Newz said...

I can't believe no one gave you a magic 8-ball as a wedding gift! What kind of losers did you two invite anyhow? Sheesh!
Lois Lane

 
At Thu Aug 25, 05:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Regardin Blogpaul's comment. Can any of us imagine the reaction of our wives if we were to turn it around and after seeing a woman interact with her husband, say to our wive's, "Why can't you be more like her?" Here's where the old double standard comes into play.

 
At Sat Aug 27, 01:21:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

Thx for the comments, all. Your insights give me the urge to blog about the additional stuff you've now made me think about. So sometime in the next year, when I find the time, I guess I'll do that...

 
At Wed Feb 01, 08:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous HGWELLS said...

Bryan,

We have a lot in common. I am a 40ish year old software consultant teetering on the brink of divorce. I must say, number 6 in my mind is by far the most important. I truly love my wife, but after 18 years of a slight push-back to her badgering, which always ended in an argument that I felt I needed to fix by conceding (#1), I am at the end of my rope. I'm now wishing I had put my foot down from day one and said "ask me nicely and we'll discuss it. Bitch and my ears will close". I too have 2 children and am torn between not seeing them daily and getting some relief from the abuse. Number 9 cracked me up…so true. Ladies and gents, Bryan is a wise man. Heed his words.

 

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