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Monday
May312010

Training Wheels

Ours is a culture that buys the idea of offering support.... training wheels, internships, graduate advisers, computer manuals, cookbooks. There is a belief that if you help someone get started, they will write better dissertations and make lighter souffles. So where does the support show up in marriage? Who is modeling good communication skills and verbal appreciations?
 
Once, just because I was curious, I counted how many air breathing couples I witnessed interacting with each other in a positive way for a week. The conversation had to be longer than two sentences, to register on my low budget research project. I was shocked, but then again I wasn't. The total number of marital exchanges was... zero. 
 
Now granted I do not still live with my parents, who managed plenty of friendly interactions in between the bi polar driven ones. For many people childhood is the only place they ever had a front row seat on couple dynamics. If, by chance, their parent's marriage ranked in the top 20%, great. One role model is better than none. But if that marriage was rocky or dismantled, it leaves a gaping hole where memories of conflict resolution, affection and cooperation are supposed to take up residence.
 
But there are good marriages out there. They do not manage to get as much media attention as the Hollywood wife of the month club does. You have to look for them. I have found them on quiet walks in the cool of the evening, or touching heads in church. I have heard their laughter at wedding receptions, and seen their misty glances at graduations. Ironically, many of them do not really think of themselves as noteworthy. Their marriage is something that has grown up around them, carrying them above their own needs and failings.  They do not think of themselves as front page news any more than a person with a flabby but functioning body expects to be on the cover of Fitness magazine.
 
I invite you, if you have a marriage that keeps you smiling at least on an intermittent basis,  to go ahead and have a conversation in front of innocent bystanders. Talk  about why you fell in love, or how you resolve taking turns with the garbage, or something sweet your husband did for you. It may feel brazen. But then again you may have just helped a young bride, or future bridegroom learn how to balance without training wheels.