I clearly remember walking the beach as a little girl and the thrill of discovering a huge and beautiful shell.
It was empty, but that didn’t matter. I’d rinse it, standing knee deep in the small waves rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean. Then, holding it to my ear, I would hear the magic of the ocean. A distant singing. Reassuring, endless, going on and on.
But there was nothing inside my beautiful shell.
IT HAD NO SUBSTANCE.
Only a memory of what once was. That distant song, a reminder that it hadn’t really died. That in some magical way that bygone time, when it was young and full of life, still lingered.
Somehow I think marriage is like that. The shell is full when you start but it empties out. You’re
both working hard, creating the best life you can for your family. “US” time becomes a luxury.
Kids grow up and leave home. And you realize, or think, your shell is empty. All you have is memories. And maybe not all of them are good.
You have options. You always have options.
Create new memories. Start small. An early morning walk. Dinner out once a week. Maybe at McDonalds when that was all you could afford. When you created the first of your memories.
But still –
“Perhaps that was the ultimate loneliness, not the bereavement of death, but the isolation of failure to share in life, to find yourself linked to the shell of your dreams when the substance has gone.” (Anne Perry – Brunswick Gardens.)
Some time ago I wrote about “70% is Good Enough.” And these last few weeks I’ve been forced to take a close look at that statement. Read: 70% is Good Enough
What do I really mean when I say “dig deep inside yourself for the other 30%?” Remembering that 70% is:
when you agree about everything;
and the sun is shining,
the baby’s not crying,
the car or dishwasher or lawn mower or whatever has not broken down;
the new puppy hasn’t got sick;
your mother-in-law hasn’t called (yet);
I could have so much fun making a list like this.
The remaining 30% could include, but is not limited to:
listen more than you talk;
really listen, not checking your phone at the same time;
realize that you might be wrong;
accept it when you are;
apologize immediately, not an hour later or tomorrow;
apologize even you don’t think you need to;
pick your battles; some you’ll never win;
accept that fact;
pick the time when you want to talk about something controversial;
realize that is NEVER after a few drinks, or during;
BTW save your comments and reprimands for when you are alone; NEVER in front of others;
remember that nothing defuses a situation quicker than an apology;
always but always give more than you take.
REMEMBER that you are fundamentally different.
I’m not talking about personalities and interests. I’m talking about Men being from Mars and Women being from Venus.
We think differently. We respond differently. We process stuff differently.
I had to remind myself of that these past weeks as I fought my way through Grief, both old and new.
The one person I could NOT TALK to was the person closest to me. The 70% guy.
What he could do, and did, was hold me. And in that moment my marriage was 100%.