Familiarity breeds contempt. This is likely to happen in a marriage.
Day in, day out you wake up to the same man, drooling beside you in deep sleep while you can hardly take a wink with his deep resounding snore coupled with wheezes bugging you through the night. Then he wonders why your face is all wrinkled up with frowns as he wakes up and sees you in the morning. Hardly energized, you have to face the challenges of parenthood with children practically screaming for attention, go through the same old tiring chores before hitting the road and welcome another stressful day at work. Most of the time you are at your wit’s end and wish there was some kind of remote control to give you a breather.
Press STOP. That’s more like it. Silence helps us catch up with our breath and refocus. This is not exactly the happy scenario you saw in your mind as the church bells joyfully pealed over the exchange of I dos. Something went wrong somewhere and it turned into a nasty habit. The sweet-nothings of the honeymoon days turned into sour-graping. The high praises turned into put downs. The attentiveness turned into deadpan silence. With resentment piling up, big fights start with the slightest provocation.
It is so easy to get lost in the middle of a messy life where the objective of the day is to score a hurt towards your spouse or wallow in self-pity if you get to the losing end. Where do the children figure in all these? They get caught in the crossfire.
Rudy and Jelly had to come to terms with the ugly realities of their marriage. Rudy is an only child who was used to having his way. Jelly is a head strong activist whose feministic views fuelled the insistence on her right to equality. After the whirlwind romance, the honeymoon ended when it barely started. The head-on collision of opinions graduated to bitter arguments and nearly escalated to violence. This went on until their first child was born. Blinded by deep-seated resentments, they usually forgot the innocent baby’s presence. At first, the child’s troubled wails were merely drowned by her parents’ loud screaming matches. The couple got to their senses as their daughter learned to talk. They got into another verbal brawl when their barely two year-old daughter tearfully pulled her mommy’s shirt and said, “Sorry Mommy, Sorry Daddy” in between sobs. Shaken, the high pitched row suddenly stopped. The parents’ hearts melted at the thought of how their innocent toddler took the blame for their anger.
This could not go on, they both decided. Swallowing their pride, Rudy and Jelly sought forgiveness from each other and promised not to let the ugly fights happen again. Habits die hard so it was with hard work for Rudy and Jelly to at least be nice to each other.
START WITH KIND WORDS. Preacher in Blue Jeans, Bro. Bo Sanchez puts weight on what you say, ““If you want to change your life, change your words. I believe that if you change your vocabulary, you change your life story.”
This goes along with the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies. If you tell your child how hard-headed he is at every given opportunity, expect that he will grow up rebellious. The same principle applies with couples. If you hype up on your spouse’s insensitivity every day, expect him to be indifferent to your needs and worse, that of your child’s.
Reverse the process. If Rudy and Jelly were once quick to nitpick, they now bite their tongues when the temptation is strong. Jelly would take a deep breath and make a mental account of all her husband’s good qualities.
She would then decide to choose to see the better side of him and replace the unsaid disdain with a praise or two.
FOLLOW THROUGH WITH ACTIONS. Note the word “decide”. It is a conscious effort to be a better person so that your partner will be a better spouse. Rudy did not just agree to choose kind utterances in dealing with his wife, he also initiated a tradition for them to honor each other during their “monthsery” celebrations.
After the cozy dinner, both of them go through a list of ten things to be thankful about each other. This practice boosted Rudy and Jelly’s morale and strive to be a better husband and wife. As a consequence, they become better parents.
Deb HIrschham, PhD, of goodtherapy.org affirms the positive effects of making your partner feel good about himself/herself. “Although opposites do attract, the fundamental, deep-down attraction comes from a reflection of oneself. Not only is this person validating you, but his very being (because it’s so much like yours) validates you all the more.”
Dr. Hirschham adds that this is not an easy task but it could be done, “If you don’t see this, you do have to plumb the depths to find it. It is not on the surface. The surface includes a host of differences, but deep down you’ll find the sameness.)”
END EACH DAY WITH LOVE. In her singlehood, Jelly has grown accustomed to giving the silent treatment when mad at someone. She carried this into her marriage much to her husband’s disappointment.
Rudy, on the other hand, would pester his wife thinking that this would settle their differences. Instead, Rudy’s peskiness annoyed Jelly and the cold treatment would escalate into a full blown word war.
After agreeing to attend a couple’s spiritual renewal seminar, Rudy and Jelly adhered to the Christian teaching, “When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.” (Ephisians 4:26).
It was initially difficult for Jelly to practice this teaching but with Rudy’s more loving approach, opening up about deep hurts and settling differences came easier. They both have peaceful slumbers as differences are settled at the end of the day.
Seven years into their marriage, Rudy and Jelly’s relationship is going stronger. Yes, there are still lapses and angry outbursts (but this time not in the presence of the children). As they learn to deepen each other’s love with respect and sensitivity to each other’s needs, they become better spouses and parents. And their little tot? She is growing into a well adjusted child, knowing that her Daddy’s love towards Mommy ensures all the security she needs in the world.
Written by Jasmine Barrios as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles.