Thursday, January 27, 2022

A Marriage Discussion

 The Ravishing Mrs. TB came in and sat down yesterday evening with a wine glass in her hand  as I was doing my evening round of the the InterWeb.  She sat down with the air of something to say (if you have been in any relationship long enough, you know the "air"), so I sat back and waited.  Sometimes these conversations can be something that has been anticipated, sometimes they can be out of the air.

"Do you remember X from my work" She asked.

I nodded.  X is someone I know tangentially through my wife - but then again due to the nature of my wife's work, I know a lot of her coworkers.

"Their marriage is breaking up"  she said.  "It is amicable separation, but it is sad".  A sip of wine, a sigh, then "It seems like a lot a marriages have been breaking up."

I nodded.  "It has been a rough two years"  I replied.

We chatted on a bit after that about our own marriage, but the thought stuck with me through the evening.

It has been a rough go for marriages, especially over the last two years. Note here I am not including various political and social reasons why marriages are not happening (because, of course, that is political and social and there are lovely sites that discuss those issues), but the marriages that have been in place for a while and are dissolving.

I do not write this without knowledge of the painfulness of this subject.  I have as many friends and acquaintances that have been through a marriage break up as have not and even in the recent past have walked with friends as they have been through it.  I have "caught up" with friends on Social Media only to find out that "when we last left our heroes" had changed a great deal since we last left our heroes.

I suppose on one hand every age has been a hard one to be married in, as there are some problems which are universal to the human experience throughout the ages (one wonders, for example, prior to the invention of the refrigerator, what was the ancient or medieval equivalent to "Who left a quarter cup of milk in the gallon container in the refrigerator?").  At the same time, there are specific problems to every age which are not shared by all of them. 

If I do a running list of the last two years, we had a divisive "election experience", economic disruption the likes of which I have not seen but twice or thrice in our lifetime, The Plague, and an overall general mood of "We should pretty much reconsider everything".  That is a lot, especially to pile on a relationship which may have for various reasons already been under some stress.

Spouses which had evolved relationships suddenly were having to evolve them again, from being separated for large portions of the day to being in the same place for large portions of the day.  Societal and political pressures may have strained relations; having children in the home with "school via e-mail"; and economics, which can create issues when strained at the best of times, can create a disagreement faster than almost anything.

A month of this might be endurable.  Six months, possibly.  We are now two years into this entire situation.

The odd thing - to me, at least - is that when I hit those points of stress, the first reaction that I will often have is not "I need to go back and reassess that primary relationship and see what I can do to fix it", it is too often "I need to double down on those things that are bringing me happiness and joy "- which is pretty often not the relationships I should be focusing on.

"The Great Reconsideration" (which I think is what this two year period from 2020-2022 should end up being called) has given people an opportunity - often enforced by circumstances - to look at their lives and ask hard questions.  Unfortunately, I wonder if we have become a people which asks first and foremost "what is good for me" rather than "what is good for the relationship"?

I am conscious when I comment at all about marriage that there are a standard set of statements one has to put in place:  people should not have to stay in abusive relationships, people should not have to stay in dangerous relationships, etc.  I hope (if you have been here long enough) the assumption is that I am not implying any of things by not making more of them.  And there are another set of people that have either gone through one round of marriage and said "No more for me" or have elected not to marry at all.  And there are many people who have had a "do over" which was a far better relationship than the first.  These, too, are valid ways of living - but again not what I am considering here.

I cannot speak clearly as to the long term outcomes and costs of this if it truly is a trend, other than the fact that it concerns me that creating an environment in which marriages struggle to survive has implications - and not terribly good ones - for the larger society as a whole.  If we are creating an environment in which significant relationships are harder and harder to maintain - and these the most voluntary of them - what does this imply for the larger society which ultimate benefits from stability but is creating an environment that destabilizes it?

I do not have answers to this, any more than I have answers to most of the other issues I ponder.  All I do know is that it has made me painfully conscious of my own relationships.

After all, if your wife sits down with "an air", it is usually a wise thing to listen.


  1. Anonymous4:58 AM

    Yes, Covid lockdowns have caused family relationship strains. Prolonged contact within household can cause minor annoyances to be blown out of proportion. What habit thought eccentric becomes major annoyance that causes a blowup. Having children about to leave the nest also causes anxiety, adding to the strain. Retiring from work place and living with the same conditions as Covid lockdown. Daunting.

    Communication and LISTENING to your partner's comments should go a long way in making things right.

    1. It bothers me at some level that we could have seen this coming, as we could have seen the very deep economic issues that have arisen due to lockdowns. Odd to think that only 150 years ago, most people being "in the home" would not have at all seemed unusual. I wonder, did the manage the situation better or were things just as bad?

  2. I'm in agreement though I would say it is a bit broader than just one's marriage. I think the world is making it harder to be a family. How I grew up in a family is MUCH different than how my children are growing up in our family no matter how much I struggle to make them similar. For better or for worse, that has changed things for all of us.

    1. Ed, completely agree. It was a best difficult before, but it feels like things have only gotten far more complicated. Our children are almost grown and out now - I can imagine how much more difficult it would be with younger children

  3. I think hard times really scrape the veneer off and show what is underneath. Larry Elder's dad really put it clearly: "He repeatedly offered my two brothers and me his lessons-learned mantras: "Hard work wins." "You get out of life want you put into it." "You cannot control the outcome, but you 100 percent control the effort." "When things go wrong — as they will — before blaming others go to the nearest mirror and ask yourself, 'Did I do everything possible to change the outcome?'" And finally: "No matter how hard you work or how good you are, bad things will happen. How you respond to those bad things will tell your mother and me whether we raised a man.""

    His last line, "how you respond...raised a man" really resonated with me. I knew from 'To Kill A Mockingbird' that I was one of the cleaners. I did the hard, thankless jobs that no one else would. I had to steel myself at times for what was in front of me. It is a good skill to have.

    But this loss of relationship was odd. More of a veneer scraping that I would have thought. I had an undiagnosed condition that surfaced during this mess. It helped me understand the why of my actions. I realized that I had "banked" goodwill and forgiveness for the future with someone who could not return that when needed. The realization I was in a one way relationship was... disappointing.

    I've come to realize that the timing of the "leaving" can be described as being left for dead. It is not bad to see clearly and completely, even if it is harsh and ugly. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE TO GO IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?? I was finally able to see where I was. It is no fun, but it is factual. I can live in reality easier than I can a fantasy.

    My desire is to be a good, Godly man, and not make shipwreck of my life or any one else's... With God's enabling, I can only control myself. Galatians 5:22-23

    1. STxAr, that is a great point. Hard times do scrape the veneer of of things - and there has been a great deal of scraping in the last two years. And much like a piece of furniture being refinished, once the process starts we really have no idea where it will go.

      I think a great many people are coming to realize the one-wayedness of many of their relationships, not just with the people they expected but with the people they did not expect.

      Reality is sometimes a hard place to live, but it is also the only place where we can actually accomplish anything.

  4. It is always easier to tear down than to build.
    It is always harder to tend to than to allow to decay.

    There are forces that would have rot and decay carry the day.
    Nobody said this was going to be easy.

    1. This was always my complaint Just So - it is far easier to "stop" an economy than to restart it, with all of the attendant issues.

      Forces that rot and decay often only want a certain "amount" of rot and decay - but it so quickly gets away from them that they, too, become its victims.

  5. Clear problems, and efforts to correct the problems, are what shapes a strong relationship. Cooperative efforts to a solution lead to strength, and an ultimate peace, with the satisfaction the problems is handled.

    We haven't had an avenue for solutions to the problems of the last two years. The isolation lead to feelings of being trapped, economic woes lead to the fear of losing everything secured over years of hard work, and the constant promotion of fear only increased the strain on relationships never exposed to problems without solutions.

    I think some just give up. The pet-peeves expand beyond being a small annoyance. That, and the apprehension of the future instills a fight, or flight, reaction. The feeling of security disappears, and that is an integral part of the foundation of a healthy marriage.

    This "pandemic" exposed our weaknesses. Most of all, it exposed the realization we have far less control of our destiny than ever before. That's enough to destroy a society, and the fear that developed is, also, destroying marriages.

    1. Jess, what a profound insight. We have not had an avenue for solutions for the last two years - or rather, any solution that did not go along with Our Political And Social Betters' (OPASB) ideas of what those solutions should be. And that in terms does lead to people "giving up" - I have to fight this myself often enough.

      I wonder - does the realization of less control of our destiny ultimately turn us towards those places we have solutions, or do we simply continue to dissolve?

  6. I agree with every commenter's view and discussions. I feel strongly that their can be fights or flights depending on the plights...???
    Being constrained is No Ones friend in my opinion. People/Couples, may Lash out under particular circumstances. I just hope that we're not living in a Giant Re-Education Camp in our own homes/country...???

    1. Wow. That comment will take some chewing on... man.... Giant ReEducation Camp... hmmmm...

    2. Boyd - "Flight or fight depending on the their plight" - that is a lovely thought I need to dwell on more.

      In one sense we are always in a "Giant Re-education Camp" as Our Political And Social Betters (OPASB) know "what is best for us". The reality is that it is up to us to push back (if you read here often, you know my idea of "push back" is in personal practice and conversations).


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