My friend Nikki is staying with us this week. She's been fun to have around despite her having to study for her finals (in fact, I'm quite sure I didn't help that any over the last few days when I've distracted her from studying with all my shiny objects). The other night, I was making Jack a cake after he had complained for a few days that he wanted cake and demanded that I make him one.
I find it's really beneficial to reward that kind of behavior.
"You're really nice to him," Nikki said as I was complaining that this was just going to teach him that whining pays off. "He had better be nice to you."
"Honestly? He is," I told her, thoughtfully. "He's way nicer to me than I am to him."
And it's true. He is nicer to me than I am to him.
Even though most of the time that I'm annoyed, I snap at him with a harsh tone, Jack barely ever raises his voice or speaks disrespectfully toward me. Though I often forget to do things when he asks because I don't make it a priority, Jack is constantly getting things done for us, such as paying our bills, waiting for people who need to fix things at our house, and even running my errands, like taking my car to get its oil changed. When I am being grumpy and no fun, he is working hard to make me laugh.
We rarely fight and I know that is due largely in part to the fact that he speaks kindly when I am not doing so, and he keeps our lives so organized that there is little left over which to argue.
I have several close friends who have ended up on their own after their husbands left them recently. Sometimes it was a tragedy wearing on their marriage. Sometimes it was a husband's addiction. Sometimes the pressure of differing faiths wore on the couple until they couldn't stay together any more.
Living in a world full of heartbreak and divorce has caused me to really look at the way I act in my marriage, and most of the time, I'm not happy with what I see.
I am rude. I am spiteful. I am mean. I fall short in just about every way. I am surprised he puts up with it.
I absolutely can not so arrogant to think that my husband will never leave me. I have too many friends who have been left when they were willing to work on their marriages to think that. But at the same time, I think that for a marriage to really work, you have to decide that divorce is never an option (and both of you have to commit to that).
Finding a balance between those attitudes is a strange thing.
My dad says the only difference between couples who got divorced and couples who stayed together was that when it was time to get divorced, the people who stayed together it just, didn't get divorced. It's not that it was never so bad that they could have; it's that both of them committed to getting through that hard time together.
"There were times that I thought maybe the only options were to either divorce your mom or kill her," my dad jokes, after having being married to her for more than 30 years.
Fortunately, he hasn't done either yet.
But all it takes is one of those partners not to commit to that and everything you worked for is gone. And I'm guessing that every harsh tone, every ignored request, and every avoided apology from a sinful, haughty wife will wear away at even the happiest marriage.
Even if her husband is pretty perfect.