Its been very interesting reading the comments on my FaceBook page about love, and the flowers that Jon, my husband, gave me. There seems to be this idea that men are barbarians and women are the civilizing influences, so we train them up to be what we need, or want. Or that there are only a few perfect men out there, and Ive lucked out and found one. Both those thoughts are based on incomplete logic, and in fact I havent found either to be true.
First, its insulting to men to cast them in the role of hapless, even stupid, until the right woman comes along and trains them up. A couple trains and teaches each other. You both learn and grow together if the relationship is to be a happy and fulfilling one.
Second, this idea that I found the perfect man and there is just a few of them out there, and if a woman could find the right one, then shed be as happy as I am discounts all the time and effort that Jon and I have put into our relationship. There is no perfect man, or woman, out there. The idea that the right person will make everything in your life work effortlessly is just not true, but a lot of people believe it. I think that one of the reasons for the high divorce rate is this fallacy that if you fall in love with the right person that it will all be easy, and that if it isnt easy then youve obviously chosen badly and you need to find someone else. Sometimes you do choose badly, and a divorce is the only cure. My first marriage ended in divorce after sixteen years. We were college sweethearts, and we went virgin to our honeymoon after a big church wedding. Nearly twenty years later I was a different person than the one he married, and we grew apart rather than together, until there were so many differences we could no longer thrive as a couple. I left when I realized I would rather be alone the rest of my life than be in a marriage that made me miserable. I planned to never marry again. Six months later I was engaged to Jon.
I did everything differently the second time. I insisted we live together first, because I had learned that you never really know someone until you wake up beside them, see them sick, after a hard days work, happy, sad, whatever. Anyone can pretend while they date, but sharing a home . . . you learn the real them, and the real you as a couple. Again, dating is all about the special, but marriage is all about the ordinary. A lot of men that are great on special occasions and will sweep you off your feet in that romantic way, suck at the every day. No, really, they do, just like some women that hit that same romantic note may totally suck at being a permanent partner. You cant live on little black dresses and roses, because somedays the toilet over flows and somebody has to wait for the plumber to show up. Was that unromantic? Good, because real life cannot be all flowers and pretty, real life is messy and you want someone who is willing to get down in the trenches with you, even if it means getting mud on their Gucci loafers.
Being married to my first husband didnt help me be married to Jon, they were too different, and I was too different from the girl who married the first time. What I needed in a partner had changed almost completely. I was nearly twenty years older, so that made sense, but it was weird to realize that I had to throw away most of my preconceptions of marriage to make the second one work. I think a lot of people that marry over and over again, try to treat people like cookie cutters and fit different spouses into the same shape of marriage, and then theyre surprised why it doesnt fit. They have a new shape of cookie, a new relationship and it needs to be treated like something brand new, and special in its own right.
One thing I did learn from my first marriage was that you had to make everyday special. You couldnt wait for holidays, or anniversaries, because there werent enough of them, not for me. Im the kind of person that needs anniversary sex daily, and flowers for no reason more often mean more to me than a big, expensive bouquet on my birthday. Now, I know I said earlier that dating is all about the special, and marriage is all about the every day, but successful marriage for me is about making every day special. Now, you cant do it literally every single day, because there are days when the child is sick, the work deadline is crushing you, and by the end of the day you and your spouse are so tired you just want to fall into bed and sleep. It happens, the point is to make sure it doesnt happen too often. That takes conscious effort on both your parts to understand that being married to the other person is a privilege, not a right. You earn privileges, rights are given to you like the Constitution gives rights. You must always remember that marriage is about earning the privilege to continue to be happily married, and its up to each person, each couple, each family, to figure out what that means for them.
Heres the other thing I learned from my first marriage that helped me make a happier one the second time around. Love doesnt mean the same thing to everyone. That means that how you show love isnt the same, and what makes you feel loved isnt the same. That sounds logical, right? You just have to find out what makes the other person feel loved and do those things, but what if they are mutually exclusive things?
To one person doing the dishes makes them feel loved, but to the other person being made to do dishes feels like punishment, maybe it was a punishment as a child so to have their spouse complain about them not doing the dishes throws them back into unhappy childhood memories. But the dishes still have to be done, and the other half of the couple will not think its fair to do them all the time. It is the job of the couple to find out why dishes are such a hot button for them. Figure that out, and the half that was punished with dish washing can offer to cook more often, or vacuum more often, or take some task that their spouse hates more than dishes.
You were punished by being made to mow the lawn, Ill do that, if youll do the dishes, because it makes me feel punished to do them. Is that fair? Only if both halves of the couple feel its fair. Thats just one small example of the kind of dynamics that go into a long term relationship.
Heres another example of the confusion that can happen if love means different things to people. I sent flowers to my first husbands work once. I loved him and wanted him to have a happy reminder of that at his job. He came home and told me, Never do that it again. It had embarrassed him for his wife to send him flowers, and the other guys had given him shit about it. I had meant it to be romantic and tender, to make him as happy to get the flowers as it had made me to pick them out and send them, but it had made him unhappy and far from making him feel special, or loved, it had made him feel just the opposite. I must admit that his reaction to my flowers made me feel very unloved, too, so lesson learned. carrera de fotografia . I never sent him flowers again.
Go forward about twenty years and Im seriously dating Jon now. I was out on one of the last big book tours I would do by myself without Jon. I was gone for weeks and it was the longest we had been apart since we got serious. I sent him roses to his job with the first stanza from Elizabeth Barrett Brownings poem, How Do I love Thee, Let me count the ways . . .
Now I was taking a chance here since a similar gesture had blown up in my face with my first husband, but I had been dating Jon for nearly six months, living together most of that time, and we had been friends for eight years before that. I had sent him flowers to congratulate him for getting his first big job out of college and he had liked them. Id done other romantic gestures for him, so I thought it was worth a try. But not only had I arranged for this bouquet, but I had arranged for a different color of rose and the next stanza of the poem on the card to be sent to his work every day for a week.
He got the same ribbing that my first husband had gotten from male coworkers for the first flowers, but Jon was able to proudly say, She loves me, and she wants me to know that. To him the flowers and the poem meant he was loved, just like it meant to me that I loved him. We matched up in our love expectations and actions. Yay!
The women at work thought it was very romantic, the first day. By day three the women were getting hostile to him, and the men at work were having two reactions. One, what sexual secret did Jon know to make a woman send him this many flowers!? Jons answer of, She loves me, and I love her, did not make the men stop trying to wheedle this bedroom secret from him. Two, that he was making them look bad in front of the women they were dating. He actually had one boyfriend who didnt even work with him come over and talk to him, because the flowers were making the boyfriends girlfriend who worked with Jon complain to the boyfriend. Why didnt she get flowers from him?
The boyfriend said, Youre making me look bad. Tell your girlfriend to stop sending you flowers to work.
Jons reply, I dont make her do anything, and I like getting the flowers. You can get a five dollar bouquet of flowers from the grocery store across the street and give them to your girlfriend.
I have dated other men besides Jon where the big gesture wasnt as appreciated. It didnt fall as flat as it did with my first husband, but it made the men uncomfortable. Part of the lack of comfort came from the fact that I was dating men ten years, or more younger than myself the second time round, and I had more money and resources to do the big gesture than men in their twenties. ( I did try dating men in my own decade, but I had many of the same issues with them that Id had with my first husband. Ten years, or more younger and we got a long better. Jon is twelve years my junior.) I apparently made some men feel less manly, because I wanted to do the big romantic gesture and I did it better, or more expensively than they could. Again, go back to the whole idea of love means different things to different people, you have to respect that and figure it out. I knew I wanted to date a man that enjoyed getting flowers from me, so I did. I wanted to be rewarded for my romantic inclinations, my generous impulses, not feel punished for them. That goes back to the whole who washes the dishes question, well, who feels punished and more emotionally attached to the dishes? What do flowers at work mean to a man? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Find out, and respect their feelings. Thats really the key talk, communicate, and find ways to make you both feel happy and loved.
Strangely, Jon no longer likes getting flowers at work. This made me very sad, but the reason is that he works out of the house just like I do now. Flowers at work where he couldnt see me and touch me were reminders that he was loved and got to go home to me. Flowers at home/work seem useless to him, because I can just find him and hug and love on him in person. Why send flowers when were together during the day anyway? Once we talked it out it made sense, but it still made me sad that he no longer enjoys getting flowers. On the the other hand I love when he gets me flowers, so he does, because for me as I write alone in my office they are a reminder that I am loved. This is just one example of how things that made us both feel loved when we were dating have changed. You have to honor the changes in each other, as well as the things that stay the same.
Posted by LKH at 3:51:46 am on January 27, 2013