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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tide Pool

People have always said that marriage is hard work. I've never understood what they meant. I've always felt like the rest of this life is hard work, but marriage is the soft place. I may not have an easy time with co-workers or friends or the random people in the supermarket, but my husband loves me, and that's it. End of story.

As is so often the case, time and life experience has caused me to re-examine my beliefs. Yes, everybody, you're right: Marriage can be hard work.

Paul and I had a long talk last night. It started with one of my snippy, passive-aggressive comments regarding the dishes, progressed to actual listing of household responsibilities, hit its peak with a few choice f-bombs on my part, and ended with a few epiphanies, a few tears, and forgiveness.

Paul is an introvert. He's not a flashy like a crashing wave. Rather, he's still, like a tide pool. People are attracted to the white spray and the ocean mist, and they skip the life and vibrancy of his unassuming little puddle. 

Paul can do anything. If I asked him to build a planter in our backyard, or install solar panels or to become a beekeeper, he would read up, gather the proper materials, and do an amazing job. This would be done humbly, as befits the descendant of Wisconsin dairy farmers and lumberjacks.

He is the world to our boys. They seek him out, and already there is that masculine sharing of wisdom, an unspoken chemistry that I simply cannot replicate. Yet, there is no distance, no Norwegian stoicism. He kisses them and holds them and tells them, again and again, that he loves them.

I love him, and he loves me, so why are we having long, emotional talks? I think it's what people have to do sometimes---bring up the ugly, and shake out the dirtiness.

I bought Paul a carpet shampooer for his birthday one year, and it remains one of his favorite gadgets. Periodically, he'll shampoo our carpets, and we're always astounded and appalled at the sheer filthiness under our feet. It's there, but it's usually buried deep.

Likewise, our dirt is so often unspoken, or simply unnoticed. Occasionally, though,  it comes out. I am extremely passionate, often impatient, and the perfect balance of an introvert and an extrovert. I need alone time but I also need lots of conversation and activity. Add in the stress of young children, and a soupcon of control issues, and that makes a person who is, admittedly, high maintenance

Paul, on the other hand, is methodical and as even-tempered as I am passionate. He knows that he should try harder to make friends and keep up with existing friends, but the process of picking up the phone is emotionally draining. After a day of interacting with co-workers and customers, and then immediately focusing on his children, all he wants to do when the kids are in bed is recharge his batteries. Alone.

And, because I am inconsistent, sometimes I am right there with him, and sometimes I need him to talk to me. I desire his company, and feel lonely without it.

So, you see: work. How do we balance these needs? When does he go out of his comfort level, and when do I? Is marriage even about leaving comfort levels?


Your two cents?

26 comments:

noisycolorfullively said...

I've known my Leo since I was 14. He is the most comfortable place in the world. He's steady and strong and kind. He's quiet. He refuses to fight. Refuses. He won't give in, he won't be walked on, he'll simply let me have my space. He'll watch as I whirl around the house bristling with static. He'll nod as I rage or weep and he'll quietly apologize, or accept my apology when I'm good and ready for whichever response is needed.

Since we met, we've been effortless. Then we started taking in kids and life became busy and we didn't have time to be. Our titles changed, our responsiblities changed, our priorities changed. A few weeks ago we both realized that our-ness, the thing that had always been our saftey, our prize had been neglected.

We stopped life. We closed ourself off in our room each night, we read to one another, we talk, we kiss, we touch, we're right again.

Life demanded that we adjust and we realized how easy it is to take for granted who we are together. I don't know if I'd call it work, but whatever it takes, it's worth it.

clearness said...

I don't really think marriage is 'work'. It's about balance. Knowing when to speak your mind because of the things bugging you and knowing when to keep your mouth shut because things may be bothering him a bit more. (Vice versa) It's about being with friends and making new friends because that's something that makes me happy, but having that quiet alone family time too because that's what makes my husband happy.

It almost always works out in the end...balance

June said...

"descendant of Wisconsin dairy farmers and lumberjacks" I know these men. There are not many left, sad to say.

Sure sounds like you have a good balance in your marriage and know when it is time to hash it out. Ward is my comfort zone as I am his. Our comfort zone is almost to comfortable some times...need to breach the security every so often to bring us full circle again.

Daffy said...

Ohhh, I'm going to second what June said. She said it much better than the way it was swimming around in my head.

LB said...

Girl, you've inspired me to go home and start a fight with the hubby.

LOL! I'm kidding, but I know what you mean. My husband and I don't really fight, but we go weeks, even months, without really TALKING. We just say, "hi" or "what's for supper?" KWIM?

I loved your post, and I'm glad yall talked.

Jeanine DeNitto said...

As someone who can only imagine (and not very well) your life with your husband, it still sounds like you're doing well. It doesn't appear that letting go is work for you, but that keeping things bottled up--is.

And a carpet steamer is a wonderful gift. And a great analogy for your story.

SamiJoe said...

We've just had one of these moments too. I agree it is not always fun going thru it, but it is necessary.
I like the word 'balance' better than work...

Ms. Moon said...

I think marriage requires leaving comfort zones sometimes. Yes. I do. And I think it's hard work sometimes. Very hard work. And I think that when we just let it slide and forget to work at it, forget to nurture and cherish it because hey! life is busy and it's tough and whatever, the relationship gets shallower and shallower, like a river drying up until one day, if you're not careful...it's gone.
Well, that's what I think.
Your husband sounds like mine.

Robin said...

With the economy..my two cents is probably worth only one...but...as far as marriage...I dont really call it work....per se...but more of a compromise and knowing WHEN to give and take...now that is where the real dance takes place...the art of communication and the timing of conversation...its how and when....and what you can come to agreement on as far as giving a little and getting a lot..for both...sounds like you understand this already..it took us many years...!!

Melani said...

I agree, marriage does take work. There are times when we must put the "mommy hat" away and put the "wife hat" on...I know that we are both pretty spent by the time 8:00 comes, and one kid is in bed....but the other kid refuses to go to bed early, thus, "our time" is suffering. So, my goal this week is to get Brandon to bed at a decent time, so we can have "adult time" and sit and talk, watch TV or do whatever it is that WE want to do. Balance. What a great word!

LMJ said...

marriage can be work. when it is something in our lives yhat we love, we work hard to keep it forever. marriage is meeting your other half half way--compromising. besides, an argunent once in a while spices up the sex life.

Marla said...

Work is only work until you find that thing you are passionate about and then are fortunate enough to "work" your passion for the rest of your days.

We are passionate about our marriage and each other. Even on the rare days it might seem like "work".

BTW ... You and your husband sound exactly like Bob and me.

only a movie said...

I am emailing this post to the other half.
I love your writing. Thanks for sharing this peek of your life.

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

What a beautiful post, Nancy!

adrienzgirl said...

I believe marriage takes work. Maybe not in the sense that most people think "work".

However, anything worth something takes a little tending to. Like a gardener loves to play in her flower garden. It's her space, her sanctuary, her respite from all things ugly. Still, weeds need to be pulled, rose bushes pruned. Watered daily.

So does marriage need pruning, weeding, watering. There are seasons where little care is needed. Others when the weeds grow rampant, and the drought left unattended would wither the flowers and let them die if not watered properly.

Amie said...

My marriage is work. It just is. I am sure some have marriages that don't require as much work and others that require even more. But we are determined and committed.

Traci said...

Balance is tough. My husband and I are yin and yang. We work together smoothly most of the time but when it turns, we fight so differently that it is HARD. I am hugely oversensitive and at times he can be insensitive -- winning combo, right? I try to not react at everything and he is trying to be more aware of the effect of his words. That's after 15 years of marriage. It just is. But we love each other more than we are inconvenienced by stepping out of comfort. To me that's the key.

Sonya said...

Loved your post..I think marriage is about balance..sometimes it can shift and then you need to work out the kinks to get it back where it needs to be. We're best friends and at times we clash like that..we take each other for granted sometimes and we have been working on not doing that.

Mel said...

I had to go off and ponder this one for a while, and i'm still all thumbs here. We're not unlike you two in our temperments, and we've been married 24 years, together 27 and it's been mostly good, but it's not always easy. The balance comes from the give and take, and maybe lots of love and respect. And we both spend some time uncomfortable or out of balance, but we have this equilibrium we always get back to and can count on, like oxygen.
I love your analogy about the carpet. I think it's crucial to clean periodically, if that means venting, listening, arguing, whatever it takes so you both feel heard and whole. Here's to long lasting marriages!

Coby said...

#1, This is wonderful, and did we marry the same man? (a Steady Eddie)

#2, I think one of the great things about marriage is that God designed it to help sanctify you - to show you the filth underneath that needs cleaning that otherwise might never come to the surface without a spouse who loves us unconditionally, saggy boobs, jiggles, stretch marks, mood swings, and all (those are my issues, anyway!).

I think there's a place to go out of your comfort zone with one another, and be stretched, then come right back to that comfortable place, like a well-loved couch that just conforms to your body. For example, I get uncomfortable telling Shayne "I think you're wonderful" to his face. I'd rather hug him, but I know he needs those words of encouragement. So I hug him, and say it over his shoulder instead. Stretch...comfy...

dek said...

I like Paul more every time I see him. Still, you should ask him to become a beekeeper, just to see what happens.

Tracie said...

I think a good marriage requires some effort and consideration by both parties. I'm not going to go into my long, sad tale of woe but I will say that I know the feeling of being lonely even if you aren't technically 'alone'. I'm glad you talked. Sounds like you guys have a pretty good thing going.

Bethany said...

I have no thoughts or ideas about this sort of thing. But I loved reading yours. Loved the carpet cleaning/dirt analogy. Love your description of yourself and your husband.

Cat said...

Marriage wasn't my forte (I tried damn hard, but it takes two actually working on it). But it wure sounds like you guys are doing everything you can to keep it strong. I definitely think that you need to clean the carpets every now and again in any relationship.

When did I become my Mom said...

Like you, my marriage has been a fairly easy comfortable one.

But there is a lot of give and take.

I wish I had some words of wisdom or reflection, but I am still trying to get my head around this one myself.

Beautifully and honestly written as usual Mrs C.

Gretchen said...

I've never met Paul, but he sounds an awful lot like your dad. :)