Monday, 2 November 2009

Change on the 364th Day

Hubby and I sat in the bustling church, watching the groomsmen scoot by. They pointed frantically at the spare seats in the congregation of suited gentlemen and glamorous ladies. We’d arrived from our weekend getaway, ready to play our part in our family friends’ magical wedding. It was like watching our wedding video, the characters had been replaced but the scenes remained more or less the same. It came close to feeling like a déjà vu; we were watching what had been our life changing moment on 364 days ago.

The groom stood at the front of the church, watching his glowing bride enter the church. She was welcomed by a sea of twinkling cameras and glorious singing. Through a few happy tears and nervous giggles, vows and rings were exchanged. With the couple recovering in their seats, the Pastor mounted the stage and said

‘Being married is all about being the right person’.

I glanced across the stage at the couple. Their smiles were beaming. It was clear they had brushed their pearly whites ready for the paparazzi. The glow from their mouths flooded the front of the church, yet their eyes told the story of preoccupation. Who could blame them?! I remember what it felt to be on that stage, my bridal thoughts were on pause waiting to be triggered by the words ‘you may kiss the bride’. I was concerned that those words, those powerful words that the learned Pastor spoke had gone amiss.

‘Being married is all about being the right person’. The sentenced echoed through my mind. I tried desperately to absorb it and pinched myself for opting for my make-up bag instead of my trusted notebook to occupy space in my moderately sized handbag. On this our 364th day of marriage seated in this unique juxtaposition, the light switched on. All of a sudden, it became clear to me how the miracle of marriage could work.

I am first to admit that I have been no angelic wife and I have made some very serious mistakes. I ought to win an Oscar for some of the performances I have staged to family, friends, colleagues, bank managers, employers; the world has truly been my stage. I have been known to switch from a publicly sensible wife putting her points across in a well mannered and highly eloquent manner, to the kind of wife that can only be described as a raging Spanish bull complete with African wrapper, scarecrow hair and hand movements expressive enough to land a Boeing 747. These Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde moments have been heavily medicated by my hubby’s’ patience, for this I am eternally grateful. The new literary discovery uttered by the Pastor, forced me to look at things differently. Upon careful analysis, I now realise that most arguments occur because of a deep desire to change another person’s opinion, thoughts, behaviours and attitudes.

Most enter into marriage with such optimism; glorifying the strengths of their beloved and sweeping weaknesses underneath the wedding preparation carpet. It’s natural and perfectly normal, no matter how much premarital counselling you have. We all want to and ought to think of our beloveds in the best light however, the problem is that when we get our brooms to tidy the weaknesses away you do so with the expectation that ‘they will change’. What we are really saying is ‘I will make them change’.

I have had friends who have been in relationships with some real characters, hoping and praying that one day that person will change. Perhaps she doesn’t cook; do you think that spending extra time with your mum in the kitchen would force her to take an interest in developing her culinary skills? Maybe, he is quite controlling; do you think that he’ll soon give up after he sees how independent you are? These expectations can be the source of serious discontentment in the home, creating a toxic environment where just saying hello becomes a civil war.

My hubby loves computing and the laptop has soon become part of our family. It comes with us to most places and if it doesn’t, he has miraculously hooked up his phone to be able to operate the computer when it is at home. This was a huge problem for me before we got married and we had tried to discuss it. Apologies were made and it was swept away very quickly away. It soon became clear to me that though the issue had been ‘dealt’ with and the argument resolved prior to marriage, the change that I had desired had not occurred. The laptop still has a reserved seat at some dinner times.

I have come to realise that I cannot expect my hubby to change, just because I make an excellent argument for change. No matter how articulately I put my point across, the power to change rests in his hands. I can hint, I can encourage, I can drag him to counselling, I can pray, I can scream, I can stage tantrums and I could even go on strike BUT the power to change rests in his hands. The question is…

…what do I do in the meantime?

I can deal with me.

I can change myself.

I can make sure that my actions are fair even if I think that his are unfair, illogical, irrational or just plain weird. I can be the right person. I can speak his love language even if he doesn’t understand or know mine. The sad thing is there are many who are focused on the process of making their beloved the right person that they fail to become the right person. Some may say that this philosophy is flawed and too idealistic but, if both parties are focused on being the right person and speaking their beloveds love language wouldn’t it produce a good marriage. Change will be natural and will be by choice rather than in a pressurised environment ruled by a dictator. Even if a beloved is a complete ogre, I am yet to see someone who can resist the power of love.

Our first year of marriage has been more of an action movie than a cute romantic comedy. Those closest to us have seen us try to dodge criticisms like bullets and nursing the wounds caused by the stray word that penetrates our psyche. They have seen us resolve divisions in the camp by calling in the marriage heavyweights. It’s been an amazing journey. Our marriage has made me a better person. Being married has made me act and think right. As we walked down the aisle of the church on the 364th day of our marriage, I felt renewed. I knew that I wanted to spend my 365th of marriage and next 18,250 days*, focusing not on making my hubby the right person but being the right person, a better person. Now on our 394th day of marriage my prayer is no longer ‘Change him Lord’, it is ‘Change me Lord’.

*50 years

Royal Bank of Wrongs

'You ALWAYS have an issue!’

The five worded sentence blasted a hole through any valid points I had made. I was rendered powerless and in need of a good come back, I retaliated with a few measly tears. This was far from a substantial response for a succinct summary of the state of affairs delivered by my hubby. The stark reality of what my behaviour had caused was revealed and I could do nothing to stop the torrent of flashbacks. I was forced to trace my steps from when we walked the honeymoon shores to the present day, only to discover that I had been the instigator of each argument that we had. This is not to say that I had not had valid points however, I had become a chartered accountant of wrongs.

A record of wrongs; a complete, unadulterated, uncensored account of things that have been done incorrectly and unjustly towards you. It is a mental list which exists to be used as a point of reference during arguments or as an excuse not to act in a loving way towards your beloved.

I spent so much time keeping an account of what has gone wrong in my marriage that it became a full time job. It consumed me totally. Who would have guessed that keeping a log of your husband’s should have, could have, would have’s would have been a full time job. I didn’t constantly nag but whenever I had a point to make it was accompanied with an account of wrong doings. If you become a real professional you will extend this beyond your beloved and extend it to friends, family and if you really want to go for it, LIFE itself will have wronged you.

It must have started with little things like noticing how often he would leave empty bottles of water decorating the bedroom or his shoes in the middle of the floor. I would over look those issues, opting to ‘keep quiet’ rather than starting a heated debate. Unknown to me, my conscious acted as a bank teller. It would transfer the incident to the bank of wrongs and later be used as evidence for something or even worse as a trigger to fly off the handle about a completely unrelated topic. I still believe that some things are not worth conducting a boardroom meeting over but if I have learnt that if I am opting out of the meeting, I must also opt out of writing a memo.

It’s hard work loving someone who keeps a record of wrongs, no one wants to be constantly measured against what they did in the past. Who wants to be married to a measuring tape wife or husband? It is condescending and robs that person of their confidence to love you. Arguments become increasingly difficult as the record of wrongs is pulled out to act as justification, explanation and illustration. The worst thing about it, is that your spouse becomes powerless as all that you are reiterating to them is true. You have succeeded in backing them up into a corner and they have nowhere to run to. No matter how valid their point was, presenting an evidence of bad decisions reduces their point to nothing.

As a chartered account of wrongs you naturally become an ungrateful person, so busy keeping an accurate account of what is wrong that you don’t look at what is right. Your beloved’s efforts go unnoticed no matter how far they go to please you. Every ‘how are you’ is followed by a list of ‘not rights’. No effort is ever enough as you are constantly comparing them to your expectation and adding every failed attempt to your collection. Learning to manage your expectations is tricky business, as it’s never good not to expect anything but to expect too much is to put unnecessary pressure on your beloved. I am making serious attempts to live a life that counts my blessings and not my unmet expectations. Yes, I don’t have the mansion or the Buggatti Veyron that I desire and sometimes I do wander how and when we will get there BUT RIGHT NOW , we have a lovely roof over our heads, food in the fridge and an economical car that gets us from A to B. Yes, my hubby is Mr Logical and I am Mrs Emotional but we are rubbing off on each other to make the perfect team.

My vivid imagination has created a restart button which I choose to press daily as it erases my emotional hard drive of the wrongs against me and the wrongs I made. I understand that this sounds idealistic but keeping a record of wrongs illustrates immaturity and an inability to construct convincing arguments, independent of diminishing another’s confidence. Slowly but surely, I am adopting some of the logic my husband has to make sense of what it is that I truly want to say. It’s not easy to stop your mind from searching your hard drive for past viruses but you can make a choice. The choice to forgive and forget will appear like a rainbow after a storm, with a pot of freedom to love freely at the end of it.

I realise that I am putting my head on the line here. I know that this could be used as evidence later in the argument arena BUTI am so convicted about this nasty habit that I need it to be carved into the hall of blogging fame. Let this entry be an official letter of withdrawal from the Royal Bank of Wrongs and an investment in Alliance and Loving.