February 4, 2013

  • Clearing The Air

    I just had a snarl-inducing, non-marital thing come up that had me griping at Stephen for No Good Reason.

    And then I got on Facebook to clear my head.  As I scrolled down my newsfeed, I was reminded of all the things Other People’s Husbands do that Stephen doesn’t.  (No, no–it wasn’t one of your posts.  Somebody else’s.  I promise.)

    So I listed them.  On paper.  (Well, electronic paper.)  There were lots.  I didn’t even hit the biggies, like, Stephen isn’t an axe murderer and Stephen doesn’t have a mistress and Stephen doesn’t do illegal drugs and Stephen can compose a grammatical sentence.  I only hit the ones that my current newsfeed reminded me of.  (Okay, so maybe the grammar one did occur to me.)

    Stephen doesn’t impulse cars or motorcycles or boats or suits or anything that costs more than five dollars.  He has never purchased an inoperable vehicle.
    Stephen hasn’t abdicated responsibility for the cleanliness of our home.
    Stephen doesn’t treat me as if I were an incapacitated dependent or a domestic servant.
    Stephen has never ignored my professional goals.
    Stephen doesn’t snore.
    Stephen doesn’t make me do all the kids’ activities, nor even assume I’m the default activity coordinator.
    Stephen doesn’t have or want a job that keeps him away from us all the time.
    Stephen didn’t abandon the life of the mind when he graduated.

    The list is much longer, actually, but if I kept going, some of you might accidentally think I was talking about your husband.  (And I’m not.  I promise.)

    But, really.  Have you ever made a list of all the things your spouse doesn’t do to annoy you?  (Not all of the ways your spouse annoys you by his or her inaction, but of all the things that you have no annoyance to report of because your spouse doesn’t do them.)

    It’s easy to make the bad kind of list.  And if you work hard enough, you can even manufacture things to put on that list: how easily do things go from the Things I Noticed And Not Because I Like Them list to the Things That REALLY Annoy Me list?

    One really should make this other kind of list from time to time.  Even if you’re not the “grass is always greener” type, it’s helpful to remind yourself of your spouse’s virtues and the places where your personalities mesh well.

    Incidentally, not all of the things on my list were virtues.  In fact, for other women, they might positively be vices.  That is to say, some of the qualities that I praised in my husband, some of the negatives he avoids, are not negatives to other women.  Some families positively enjoy a busier lifestyle than ours, one that would drive me crazy; some families would find our two-working-parents lifestyle insane or even immoral.  Some women, apparently, don’t respect husbands who change diapers.   ( :incredulous stare: )  Some women want to be taken care of and have the burden of decision-making kept from them.

    So this list is as much an exercise in self-knowledge as it is in spouse-appreciation.

    Make this other list.  Today.  Use your FB newsfeed, if you need to.  (But don’t tell your friends.  They won’t appreciate it.)

    Consider writing it on paper and giving it to your spouse, if he (she) won’t read it as a list of Things He (She) Better Never Do Lest You Turn On Him (Her).  (If your relationship has deteriorated to that point, just start with one a day. “Honey, you know, I was reading so-and-so’s complaint about his wife on FB, and it occurred to me that you would never criticize me like that in public.  I appreciate that about you.”)  It might be an interesting conversation-starter.  But even if the conversation never gets farther than “There are a lot of things I really, really appreciate about you,” it’s a worthwhile one.

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