19 October 2012

The Love Boat: Loose Lips Sink Ships!

What a society of over-sharers we've become. Facebook, blogging, emailing, texting, the death of discretion...it all adds up to a pitiful crescendo of "let me tell you a secret that you can share with the world." What's sad is that our marriages and families have lost out so badly in this turn of societal events.

If marriage is the sacrament we Catholics insist it to be, it cannot remain sacramental without an element of mystery. Sacraments are all about transformation and the Holy Spirit and the mystery of Grace and God's love. We as Catholics (and people who want to help their marriages) have a duty to protect the innermost workings of the sacramental love of our vocation. That means...Buttoning. Your. Lip.

So how do you help your marriage remain a light to the world while protecting the important stuff, and what's really "important" anyway? Is it okay to complain to your girlfriends about your husband's laziness? Is it okay to mention how hot your wife is when you're out with your buddies? What about yakking with your mom over coffee and mentioning your husband's shortcomings? I mean, you tell her everything, right?

Andrew and I look at our home and family sort of like a special club. If you didn't create the people in it or drop out of a very select uterus, it's none of your business. There is such a delicate balance between letting the world know how much you love your spouse and over-sharing the tiny details of your marriage.

A big part of this is how much we share with our extended families and "best friends." The notion that a woman should have any "best" friend other than her husband is part of what gets us into this mess in the first place. I often come up short on husband drama when it comes time to talk about husbands just because my husband is my business and I prefer to keep him to myself. Girlfriends are such an important part of a woman's life - there are so many things that your husband just doesn't need to hear or really couldn't care less about, and girlfriends are there to fill in those gaps. The laughs I have and problems I solve with my girlfriends are wonderful and precious to me. But it feels to me that men are often so much more willing to keep their relationships more private than their female counterparts.

I was very fortunate to have married someone whose family cut him loose on his wedding day. At first I didn't know what to make of that. How was this poor kid going to survive with just ME? Didn't his family even love him? As the weeks started to move and the months passed on, I realized that I was being taught the NUMBER ONE lesson in marriage. If you're going to build that home, we're going to give you the tools to build a very high fence. A man's pride hangs in the balance as he finds his feet at the head of a family, and a woman has the distinct duty to allow him to take the reigns and let him get on with it. Andrew values discretion more than any person I know, and our marriage is strong because of that. Our house is in a private place, our photo albums are high on a shelf, the details of our intimate life are quiet and private. Quarrels? Maybe we do, maybe we don't. Money troubles? Maybe we do, maybe we don't. The things that could sway an opinion in an outsider's mind are always left in the house under lock and key.

But why? Because a person's reputation is what is there when they can't be. Damaging your spouse's reputation can have long-lasting effects on your friendships, your children, your spouse's well-being and your marriage. Complaining about your spouse to anyone but God and your spouse may paint him or her in a light that is really just a bad camera angle. So he's been working late for the past 5 nights and it's driving you up the WALL. Happens to the best of us. You tell your girlfriends over coffee, and one of your well-meaning pals thinks, "Gosh, he's pretty neglectful, isn't he?" She then takes it home and tells her husband about this sad situation, in front of her five-year-old daughter. The next day on the playground her five-year-old daughter says to your five-year-old daughter, "My mommy said that your daddy doesn't come home until bedtime anymore. Why not?"

And your daughter's mind races all night trying to figure out why Daddy hasn't been at dinner for a week.

Extreme? Not at all. Gossip races like wildfire and it always comes back to us. Sadly, much of the gossip starts in a place of friendship and turns into a demon that can hurt people later. All because you mentioned how much you hate it when he works late. Girl, give it to GOD. He never spreads gossip back, and never talks about you from a "place of caring."

In public, Andrew's negatives are silly. I mean, there has to be something, right? He always leaves the milk on top of the fridge when he gets the juice from the back of the top shelf. Who does that?! KILLER. He only washes the insides of dishes because he insists the outside is "just fine." I know. Major handful. I try to only share the things that we both laugh about and that he knows are "can't help but laugh about it" topics. He comes off as a shining husband who wouldn't do a thing to hurt my feelings or neglect perfect care.

In private, maybe his shortcomings are bigger than that, and maybe they aren't. Many people know that Andrew is the shining light in our family. He's just a really stand-up guy who was raised right. My duty to my children began long before they were born in the task of finding the man who would be their father, and I know that I made the right choice. But he is human, and yeah, once in awhile one of us wants to scream and yell and run out the door. (I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who causes most of the drama, but he suffers in silence.) But we keep that between us and the confessional. As my mom said yesterday, "When you get married you become one person, so the things you say are really representing yourself in reality."

So what about all the positives? Should we share those instead? I really have to say, moderation is key when you're talking about your spouse. Imagine this scenario. You're sitting at Starbucks listening to your friend complain about her husband, forming your opinions and listening attentively. She says, "Has Joe ever done that?" You respond with, "Oh, he'd never do that. He always comes home promptly at 5, (well, 5:15 on Wednesday because he brings roses on Wednesdays) does the dishes, bathes the kids, puts everyone to bed, walks the dog, vacuums the living room, massages my feet and joins me for some sweet lovin' right at 9pm."

And suddenly your friend is friends with your husband on Facebook. Weird, huh???? I wonder if they'd have become fast friends on Facebook if all you'd said was, "Oh, you know men..." and sipped your coffee sympathetically. The best way to paint your husband in a good light is to smile and reflect his love and attentiveness, rather than share all of those intimate details that belong to the two of your alone.

Marriage isn't a honeymoon all the time, that's for sure. But when I think back to my honeymoon, the best parts of it were the parts that we remember between the two of us. Not everything has to be shared and one of the best parts of belonging to the club is knowing the password. And really, why share your club with people who aren't paying dues?

1 comment:

Jenna said...

I love this post. We all need to be reminded of this from time to time. It can be so tempting, particularly if you are feeling a little aggravated at that moment in time, to fall into the gossip trap with a well-meaning girlfriend who is looking for someone to gripe with. And it can make you feel sort of ostracized when you choose NOT to participate in those kinds of husband-bashing sessions when everyone else seems to be doing it - even when you're blissfully happy with your husband, you begin to feel like you should find something to toss out into the conversation just so that other women don't think that you're over there in the corner thinkin' your marital "(you-know-what) don't stink". I have often felt like I will be perceived as judgmental if I DON'T say something in those situations, because if I don't have anything to (publicly) complain about then I must think that her marriage is pretty screwed up after the litany of complaints that she just divulged to me. You feel like the social expectation is for you to reciprocate.

We just get too wrapped up in how others perceive us, whether it be based on the things that we say or the things that we DON'T say. Why should I feel like I have to divulge personal details of my relationship (much less "bash" my husband) just because someone else chose to share (unsolicited) details with me?