Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: marriage

Horse and Carriage or Unfinished Symphony

I had to laugh (out loud on the train)! For My Dad, Kevin Whalan’s latest blog,opens with the same words as the following speech, written and delivered in 2001,  while I was going through…

“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage “

Well, you don’t see that any more do you?

Do I mean horse and carriage or love and marriage?

There is a hidden pandemic of loneliness occurring right now.

It’s called second and third marriage or permanent singlehood.

Actually it’s really divorce.

Most marriages fail. Most second or third marriages fail. Most divorces fail too!

What is the triumph of hope over experience? A second marriage!

But all is not lost! Like flowers in the desert after a rain shower, a new industry has sprouted to upend this trend.

Books, radio shows, tapes, videos, courses, even laws and of course marriage counsellors are lining up to help you and your loved one out of your marriage! I have checked out some of these resources. Unfortunately, few have been helpful.

But I did find something. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you take away what’s left, whatever remains, no matter how strange it is, is the answer.

Or what I might call Whalan’s law of failure, success is the path you take when all else has failed!

My neighbour loaned me a book. The basic idea of that book was that the man is the problem. And if he helped around the house a little bit more: let’s just set the scene…

The wife has gone out somewhere or is working and has come home late. The husband has just finished washing up and is putting away the dishes. He’s a bit bald, maybe a bit of a paunch, but tonight to the wife, he has never looked more attractive.  When she comes home, she is so glad to see him… scene cuts to the flames burning fiercely in the fireplace.

So you men, if you wash up marital bliss waits. Maybe even a second honeymoon. I wonder what do I get for doing the washing and my own ironing too?

One other book, which I bought and attracts dust, also says the man is the problem. If the man stopped going to the footy or cricket, stopped watching TV, didn’t go out with his friends, gave up his favourite hobbies then marital bliss awaits. Just spend more time with your wife and family.

But I ask you, what man has enough time to do all of this and the housework as well?

And suppose women are the problem.

Yet another book says the above. Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife: A Practical guide to finding intimacy, passion and peace with a man”. Luckily for me I haven’t read it even silently or aloud to my wife or coloured in the pictures.

For instance her advice is for the woman to stop nagging the man, even covering her mouth with duct tape to do so. She should say, “Whatever you say, dear? “ Talk about the inaudible language of love!

The woman should always say “Yes” and be available for the man. What does this mean? Maybe I should get the book…

The woman should never ever tell the man he is wrong. Does this mean that I’m always right! I can’t remember that time!

Or as I saw in a leaflet which prided itself as a prescription for marital bliss. It suggested that when the husband came home from work, the wife should have all the children lined up to greet him all squeaky clean and neatly dressed. The wife should be perfumed and also neatly dressed, made up etc. She should do all the cooking and housework and hang on every word the husband says.

Obviously, the wife does not work and the children are robotic. Not even in the Brady Bunch, could they make this happen. Even with Alice and Carol Brady slaving away…

It seems ridiculous that Ms Doyle can write a book saying the way to marital bliss is to let the husband do as he pleases.  Please no cheering men, for if what she says is true, men are Neanderthals with a no thickening veneer of civilisation and have to be appeased.

It always seems to me that its either the man is the Conqueror and the wife Surrendered. The women’s liberationists hate that and rightly so!

Or the other way around. The man is submissive and the woman a conqueror.

Maybe there’s a market for a book called the Surrendered Man. It would probably sell to the sensitive new age guys (you know, the ones with boyfriends) and I would have the other copy.

Maybe we should live like accountants, counting up and valuing every task and redeeming them for prizes. Like a game show.

Is there no common ground between men and women except mutual selfishness? Its that the answer?

Or is there not another way?

Maybe there’s a market for a book, video series, etc, called the Surrendered Spouse where both husband and wife promise to live for each other alone.

Maybe they could commit to mutual respect and work together and find that two people can do more together than each alone!

Maybe instead of trying to change each other for selfish gain, they could just change themselves one day at a time.

My point is that the only person you can change in your marriage or any part of your life is yourself. How is up to you !

That takes more courage than slavishly following a reverse tit for tat marriage manual.

Perhaps then marriage (And Life Itself) be an unfinished symphony!

Vulnerability is the Endless Way Back

Twitter is like someone  sitting next to you while you write. And as soon as you look up, she winks at you. Then you go back to writing again. Until you stop and she winks at you again.  Until you put down the pen or stylus and return the look.  For you realise that she has been waiting for you. And when you do, you have to stop yourself from staring. For something new has appeared.

As happened to me when I looked up after Twitter winked at me. That Twitter eye catcher was Trust, and the Only Fruitful Response to Betrayal in Intimate Relationships Maria Popova’s review of Martha Nussbaum’s book, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (public library).

I can only rely upon the book excerpts in the blog. And similarly to the blog, my experience was eerily similar.  Except I’m now staring aghast at this new thing I’ve learned.

Yes I was betrayed. My trust was utterly vapourised. And me being me, I told myself it was my own fault for being so vulnerable. And not being watchful enough.

Yet vulnerability as that blog above states is the way back. For me, the other ways didn’t work.  If there are better ways, I’d be happy to  learn.

I falsely thought I had forgiven the betrayals.  No I had simply coloured over the incidents. And yet I remember many things clearly, for instance, the pattern and colour of my baby high chair.  Until four years later when the perpetrator recalled them. Then my life was a video replay of the content that I won’t divulge here. When challenged, the perpetrator denied them completely. I was still focussed on the act rather than being angry at the person who did it as Nussbaum states.

That betrayal still constantly denied,  found me and made its home in me. Have you ever had anger turn in on itself and feed itself? Still my response was repression, ignoring the video replay in my mind and the taunts in my ears the best I could. Nussbaum refers to my feelings as a status injury, which made me an ex-husband well before I separated!

Then three years later, she admitted the betrayal was true! I still recall the date, the time of day, the light that afternoon, the trees in the driveway, where the car was, where she was standing, where I was standing and how I reacted. I chose suppression. I said nothing and walked away. I had to.

But this time the anger was different. It wanted truth over revenge. It took me eight or nine months. Until I confronted her. She denied it again. This and every other time I had focussed on the first incident. That night, for the first time, I described the exact details of the second incident including the danger I experienced. There was no response. For all defences had collapsed.

This time, no answer was an admission of truth. She knew it too. Afterwards, I would joke to myself that like the spies say, “Everybody talks”, that is everyone tells the truth eventually. Yet the truth can also be told by omission. For what had been excluded had finally formed the real picture.

After the admission, came the explanation. I shook my head and walked away from that too.  It was a contradiction of present words versus previous actions! I can laugh at its inanity now. Then I was too sad. When I was angry afterwards, I had nothing to feed now I had found out the truth. And being angry just made me tired and sad. I suppose I had met the truth at last.

That was the way out. And in time I left.

But the problem with grief is that it is so easy to keep it at a distance. I was simply afraid that if I didn’t it would overwhelm me and crush me. Then I would have to admit I was vulnerable.

Which it did. It took another relationship for that. And this is where Maria Popova’s  blog devastates me. For one cannot ignore grief. I had read about grief in Kluber-Ross On Death and Dying, but I never really had it happen to me.

Grief? It’s the wave taller than you that flips you and lifts you then throws you down to the sea floor until you become sand.

It leaves you with nothing. But I knew that. I just didn’t want to experience it!

From nothing, all I could do was renew. I think what I was doing was Kintsugi reassembling broken pottery with gold!

That was the way back. I did what I needed to renew and review. From that nothing, I studied, I wrote, I walked, I listened to music, I had people appear and help me, I made friends and I started a charity. Every day I looked for joy. And nearly all the time, I found it although I was still unexpectedly surprised!

I consider myself lucky that I could get through. Not all of us can. It is better to admit vulnerability and ask for help. I have done, I still do, although I find it challenging. The road is not ending anytime soon.  And as I have found there are switchbacks and recurrences.

So often, one forgets those times and are then unprepared for its recurrence. And still unprepared to recall the resilience that saved.  Besides I don’t like fairy tale endings. Living happily ever after almost certainly is death by boredom!

Now that I’m out of the fairy tale, there is learning ahead. I learnt and am still learning to trust myself. I learnt and am still learning to accept my vulnerabilities. Then I learnt and am still learning to forgive myself.  It sounds so trite and easy but it’s ruddy well not!  I have not always succeeded either and there are relapses. That’s what the self-help books don’t tell you. The road is endless.

In there, somewhere, I don’t know where exactly, I learnt to forgive the betrayer, the betrayal and free myself. And leave them to deal with it.

In truth as Nussbaum writes, all of this runs closely together. For I had chosen all this. I was therefore responsible for the negative consequences. I know better why I chose it and I’m the wiser (not yet wise) for it.

I’m also responsible for the positive consequences which is, once you get through the worst, you know what you can get through, then you look back and discover life has given you a bonus. That was last week’s truth.

Now I’m left with today’s truth. Betrayal, misusing trust and taking advantage of the vulnerable is too difficult a life to bear isn’t it? Yet such behaviours are an admission of vulnerability from the perpetrators too.

For them, the road hasn’t yet begun. For me it has yet to finish.

 

Sex and Vacuuming : A Game of Mutual Selfishness

Kathy Lette’s If Your Wife Doesn’t Want Sex Then Try Doing the Vacuumming article echoes the Annabel Crabb‘s The Wife Drought re having it all and needing a wife.

Like the old expression, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage“, there isn’t much of that anymore.

Yes, unfortunately, I’ve heard this all before.

In the throes of a disintegrating marriage, I turned to reading books many of which made the same recommendations.

The prescribed panacea was that if a man did more housework or spent less time with his mates, marital bliss awaits.

In truth I did step up and I fervently believe that men should (see Having It All). But there’s no guarantee of reciprocation. Not that reciprocation was my motivation.

Unfortunately, the opposite argument is of course is that the woman should do more. As set out by Laura Doyle in her book the Surrendered Wife where women need to step up so the man can step down. Again there’s the implicit guarantee of reciprocation.

These viewpoints seem to treat marriage as some sort of reality show (Wife Swap perhaps?). Marriage is seen as a game where you amass points for doing the right thing, are penalised for doing the wrong thing and receive or forgo prizes. Marriage in this light seen as territorial and transactional with winners and losers.

My real problem with all of this is that both viewpoints are both motivated by the guarantee or expectation of reciprocation. If I do this, I get that and if you do this, you get that.

What that creates is a relationship based on mutual selfishness. Both partners keep score and amass points and expect to be rewarded. The problems occur over keeping track of the points, rewards, penalties and prizes. From my personal experience after arguing over that there’s little energy left for vacuuming or sex.

Nor does it foster much love. Nor create an environment that fosters compassion and generosity.

So what’s left from this? My dull insight is this. Perhaps we could try an unselfish love for oneself and for others for a change? Perhaps we could create an environment of compassion and generosity?

 

 

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