Thursday, March 1, 2012

Staying the Course

My wife and I are coming up on our 30th wedding anniversary next month.  The last few years have been the happiest of our marriage, but it wasn't always that way.

We went through some extremely rocky periods, and quite a few periods where we just tried to stay out of each other's way to avoid arguing.  You can get into a spiral of anger and recriminations, saving up in your own little piggy bank of hate.  I won't go into the details, because it wouldn't serve any purpose at this point, except to say that we were probably both equally at fault.

Part of the problem was also that we are both such different people.  She is an outgoing, political and social conservative, evangelical Christian from a large household (she's one of 6 sisters), growing up very poor.  I'm an introverted, political and social progressive, non-Christian Unitarian, from  a small household (1 sister and me), growing up lower middle income.  Like positive and negative, the lightening could sometimes fly between us.

I think part of the change was that we both just got tired of being angry all the time, because it not only makes you feel bad mentally, it also affects you physically, like an illness.  We discovered that you can get into a spiral of love, also.  Doing small things for each other, remembering things that are important to each other, understanding each other, and showing your love whenever you can leads to more and more of the same.

We've also discovered that taking care of each other can be very fulfilling.  We both tend to be very independent and prefer doing things for ourselves.  But a while back I had to have surgery for a ruptured disc in my lower back.  I was bed-bound, not able to stand or sit for more than a few minutes because of the pain, for three weeks or so.  A year or so back, my wife had to have both knees replaced because of a congenital defect that left her walking bone-on-bone, without cartilage in her knee, by the age of 50.  She took care of me when I needed it, and I took care of her, both of us learning that we should accept the care of the other because it can make your partner feel very useful and giving.

We have also had periods recently where I was out of work for months at a time, getting only contract jobs without benefits.  My wife is in charge of the money, which we both agreed was for the best, and she not only kept the bills paid, but kept our credit rating from taking a hit.  We also found that it was possible for us to be together all the time for long stretches without eventually being at each other's throats.

So, we are planing to take 4 days down at the Canton, Texas Trade Days, away from the kids, grand kids, relatives, neighbors, and dog.  I'm as bad as she is at loving to shop for bargains, though we're usually interested in different things - I'm a computer and tool geek, she's more of a home and yard person.  We never got to take a honeymoon after we were married, so maybe we can make up for lost time.

For all you couples still going through the rough periods, please know that it can be worth it.  People's personalities usually don't change a lot, but they can certainly change the way they feel about things.  All it take is a little effort.  Nothing huge, just doing little things - many times for no special reason.

Like I said, you can get into a spiral either way.