If you ask my mom for one — just one — piece of marriage advise, she’ll tell you, “Don’t go to bed angry. Work it out so that you can wake up in the morning and start over… fresh.”
As an engaged young woman, I couldn’t see how this pertained to me, because I would certainly never get angry at my handsome knight in shining armor. In fact, my grandmother told pretty much everyone in the family that she was worried Nate and I wouldn’t be able to make it… because we didn’t fight enough.
“It’s not normal,” she’d say.
We had been together for four years and hadn’t fought once. I was proud of the record, but it wasn’t like I was hiding some internal feelings that were ready to arrupt. He and I were just easy-going. We cared about the other’s feelings. I couldn’t imagine one of us raising our voices at the other.
And then we got married…
We had been blissfully wed for a week and a half when Nate and I went grocery shopping together. I had this image of he and I dancing through the produce aisles filled with fresh veggies and then waltzing over to the bakery where we would find the perfect whole grain breads. He, on the other hand, headed straight for the pudding cups and brownie mixes. And thus said food products somehow found their way into the shopping carriage (thanks to Nate) and then were slyly hidden behind a box of crackers (thanks to me). It was like playing hide and seek with food, and gocery shopping took a lot longer than it should have.
So when we finally made it out of the store and I realized that we were super close to having an argument, I relinquished my grocery shopping rights and told him that he could go after work, as he had suggested. This would help us avoid an argument. But I never told him how I really felt. I was too scared that maybe voices would be raised or that maybe he would think me silly. I mean, who gets hurt while grocery shopping with their husband? I was totally just being too sensitive.
So I hid what I really felt, instead of talking it out and maybe coming to some sort of healthy food / snack food resolution. And while I didn’t go to bed angry, I did go to bed feeling frustrated. And honestly, that’s the same thing. Because Nate didn’t have a clue. And while I felt as though we were having a fight, he was singing into a comb trying to make me laugh.
And so began almost a year of this behavior. When something hurt me, I wouldn’t tell him. I’d just smile and laugh and pretend that everything was okay. He thought married life was the best thing since sliced bread. I was beginning to think that marriage — while worth it — was going to be harder than I had thought. Sometimes I felt as though we weren’t as close as we had been when we were dating. Somehow, our relationship didn’t seem as deep.
While I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, I soon realized that it was all because I was hiding my true feelings from Nate. While I was super happy and in love, I didn’t communicate with Nate when he said or did something that bothered me. I just swallowed my hurt and pretended to be okay. And if you know how different men and women are, then you know that there will be times when one partner hurts the other… even without meaning to.
You know how the big joke is that women are from venus and men are from mars? Well, that would mean that we’re from the same solar system. I’m thinking we’re from different galaxies.
There are the little things… Like gift buying.
Men think practical. For our first Christmas as a dating couple, Nate wanted to buy me a veggie steamer, because he knew I liked eating healthy. A veggie steamer! Now I can appreciate practical things and I’m not at all against getting new things for my kitchen… but a veggie steamer for a Christmas present after we had been dating one year? That wouldn’t have gone down well. Women, on the other hand, tend to lean towards sentimental. While I was on vacation with my family, I bought Nate a migit-sized mug from Maine as a souvenir. I just knew he’d love to look at it every day and think of me. Nate, on the other hand, was thinking, “Why in the world would they make a mug that’s too small to drink coffee out of? This thing is only good for catching dust.”
It wasn’t about training Nate to buy me more sentimental gifts, nor was it about Nate teaching me how to shop for a guy. In fact, it wasn’t even about breaking up and finding someone else who had a clue. It was about communication. We just needed to talk.
And then there are the bigger things.
Men see in black and white. When Nate says, “I really need a vacation, because life has been too much of a routine lately,” he means that he really needs a vacation because life has really been too routine lately. Women read between the lines and see very color of the rainbow. Because I’ll hear, “Wow, I really need a vacation, because my wife is boring, she always cooks the same meals, and she just isn’t as interesting as she used to be. Oh, yeah, and she’s fat.”
Slight exaggeration there, but you know what I’m getting at. We don’t always hear what’s being said as much as we read into what’s being said. And when I hear that, instead of clarifying with him what he meant (or even admitting how silly I am by telling him that what he said actually hurt me somehow), I might just smile, laugh, and pretend that everything is okay. And suddenly, it’s bed time and Nate is falling asleep right away. But I’m tossing and turning, feeling too upset and lonely to sleep. In those cases, I’m going to sleep in anger… even though we didn’t even have a fight!
This whole communication thing isn’t all that easy. Trust me. We’re still working at it. But it’s so worth it. Because in the end, you’re being real with the one you love… and that will only make you closer. And maybe someday we’ll be so good at it that it’ll actually be as though we’re from the same planet — Earth. 😉