I know almost to the minute when the word divorce stopped being a concept and became a possibility, a reality, a real thing in real life that could be devastating.
Oh, not for me. Dick and I fought like pole cats the first couple months of our marriage, ten years ago. We fought about the usual things: money, sex, how to spend our free time and who should be home cleaning the toilet on a fine Saturday morning. I said the “d” word once and Dick looked at me with hurt eyes; I hadn’t accepted that I could hurt him. But for him divorce was a real thing, because his parents were divorced. For me it meant “I’m really mad at you and right now I think not being married would just be simpler.” Neither of us has said that word, in relation to us, since that day.
But on Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at approximately 9:43 am, I found out that divorce can happen to anyone. It wasn’t me so I wasn’t hurt. It was someone I love, so I was mad. I wanted to pull newly-grown hair and smash Christmas ornaments and throw dinner on the floor.
In college you hear a lot about paradigm shifts. Adolescence could probably be characterized as that stage in a person’s life when (they think) they’re experiencing massive paradigm shifts between each class. My middle-aged humanities professor shocked me by saying that it had been a long time since he’d read a book that actually changed the way he thought about the world, and OH! How I pitied that man.
Threat of divorce has shifted my paradigm. It makes me feel rebellious. No one should have to turn herself into Clean House Barbie to keep her husband happy, or pretend to enjoy Jazz basketball or not to mind when the kids are not fed and in bed on the one night I go to the library after dinner. When I told Dick I felt like never cleaning again, he panicked, made me promise that I was just joking. Then I had surgery and had a medical excuse anyway.
I could probably turn into a model wife, for a week or so, at least. If I did, if I woke up and made lunches and saw him off with a kiss and a stack of French toast, and kept the house clean and kept up with our finances and never used the mean voice and picked up socks without asking, “Did you want these socks washed or were you going to wear them again tomorrow?” And if I made one of his five favorite dishes and had dinner on the already-set table and three happy, clean, and sweet-smelling children lined up to throw themselves at his legs at 5:52 pm. If I didn’t yell at them or let them hear me swear, would he love me more and think that I had lived up to the promise of my 30-pound lighter, not-stretch-marked, adoring, twenty-year-old bride-self?
Love me more: I don’t think so. Think I lived up to the promise better: probably. We did both promise to be our best selves. That’s not true. There was nothing in the actual sealing about setting goals or maintaining our figures or cleaning the toilets before doing fun things together on Saturday morning. Instead, though the LDS ceremony is slightly different, it including something about loving, honoring, cherishing. And while it didn’t say anything about in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, it did say forever, eternity. Which pretty much includes all the rest. And you usually think that the hard times would be the sickness and the worse and the poorer. But maybe those are the easy times — the times when you know you couldn’t possibly make it without your spouse at your side.
Without a man who will wipe your armpits with baby wipes when you can’t shower. Or laugh when your milk squirts him during an otherwise romantic, amorous moment. Or not even shout when you kill a laptop with your bare hands.
I didn’t really mean to write about what I don’t do to make my husband happy. And I meant to be humorous and light. Go read Marie’s Making Men Happy for a great, funny list of things men (at least the Ask.com men) want in a woman. And for proof that Google might be getting in touch with it’s feminine, nurturer side.
What I do try to do is: communicate to him that what he thinks and feels and does is important, significant, relevant. Make him know that he is the big tuna in my life, and always will be. That even though I wouldn’t actually rather get sick myself than see him sick, his health and comfort and life and happiness are vital to my own.
I would promise, like Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, to always be yar. But I know I’ll use the mean voice again. I’ll get mad that he is Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. I’ll wish at least one of us were independently wealthy. I’ll even, heaven forbid, swear in front of the children again. But with my paradigm forever shifted, I’m seeing the sickness and the worse and the poorer as opportunity to thank God for knowing better than I what was good for me.
I think this week (month?) has been hard for a lot of people. Hard to smile when terrible things happen. Loraine has a post, Still Trying to Smile After Sunday, that nigh unto broke my heart. I usually feel pretty darn callous. What do I care about someone I don’t know? But determination to find something, anything to smile about is irresistible. My favorite line? “Likewise, Mekare finally cleaned off the coffee table- wait, one of the kids already threw her hoodie on it.” That’s my life, in a nutshell.
To participate in the brave new world of the Makes-Me-Smile Monday carnival, write on today’s topic “How to keep your husband (or other loved one) happy” and then follow these guidelines.
Before you object, let me say that I believe that if anyone is in a relationship with an addict or abuser or adulterer or abandoner who is not 100% committed to changing and to the relationship, they should get out. Even (especially?) if you have kids and even if the abuse or abandonment is emotional rather than physical. Staying in a bad relationship on the strength of what once was is too Rose for Emily-ish. Get out.