Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part IV

Mirror image Fightin' Roos!

Here’s what might be the final installment of my series on marriage advice. I may add more, especially because I’m fixin’ to make a mess right here. It’s going to be a mess because I am about to say a couple of contradictory things.

Here’s the first thing.

Don’t give up.

If your marriage is going through a rough time, do not give up on it. Give it absolutely everything you have. Be willing to change your mind. Be willing to give it all your energy. Be willing to lay your body down to save it.

I’ve received a lot of letters about this blog series from friends and family who have been in the marital trenches. Both from people who have gotten a divorce and from those who managed to not only save their marriage, but find themselves in a better relationship with their spouse than ever before. Obviously, I cannot speak from experience, but hearing from those who were successful in saving their marriages was incredibly gratifying – proof positive that rebirth and redemption are possible.  To paraphrase, that marriage is a good thing and worth fighting for.

A friend shared a quote with me:

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”
– Madeleine L’Engle

Through grace, our failures can be redeemed.

If this isn’t a concept you’re familiar with, or one you buy into, I’d recommend contemplating it, researching it, coming to understand it. I can think of few truths less important than that one.

So to sum up point one – don’t give up. Fight with everything you have. Surrender yourself entirely to the endeavor. Hold nothing back. Your marriage is worth it.

Now for point two.

It is not the end of the world if you fail to save your marriage. You will continue. God will not love you any less because you failed. The people in your life who love you will not love you any less because you failed. And if you’re smart, you will not love yourself any less because you failed.

You will quickly learn that there is something worse than divorce. Namely, enduring a loveless marriage. If you’re smart, you will allow yourself to let go of all the things that are no longer your problem. Letting problems sail off into the wild blue yonder is pretty amazing, you guys. You’re going to go through a lot of hardship, getting divorced. You should take full advantage of every possible upside headed your way – and not feel badly about it. I’m guessing your sense of self-worth has probably been damaged. Here’s your chance to reclaim it. Moreover, this is your chance to become who you really are, unhindered by the 1,000 lbs. suit that is a dead marriage.

Here’s the thing – sometimes marriages die. Sometimes they’re dead on arrival. Sometimes it takes awhile.  Either way, it’s better to take off the 1,000 lbs. suit than to carry it for the rest of your life.

The above reflects my experience. Divorce can go down in a lot of different ways. One of those ways being engulfed in a massive amount of regret. I believe a marriage that has even a flicker of life left in it cannot be abandoned in good conscience. Because I fought as hard as I did, for as long as I did, as fully as I did, I am not plagued by regret. For that, I am thankful.

(Now, here comes a part that might be weird for you guys to read. I am going to give Evan some compliments. Don’t freak out, you guys. It’s going to be okay. Some of you may not like it, but I promise you, there is nothing self-loathing about this.)

I am also thankful that Evan took off the 1,000 lbs. suit. In doing so, he released me from the same. Truth is, I would never have stopped fighting. It’s just not in me. Especially given public perception of us as a couple, there was a price to be paid for being the bad guy. Moreover, in making that decision, he took charge of his own life and began a new relationship with honesty. In the end, if he could not find a way to love me, the most loving thing he could do was to set me free. Ultimately, successful relationships must be built on a bedrock of truth and honesty. Which is why Evan and I get along sooooooo much better now than we ever did in the past. Isn’t it ironic. Don’t ya think.

(One more time: If your marriage is going through a rough time, do not give up on it. Give it absolutely everything you have. Be willing to change your mind. Be willing to give it all your energy. Be willing to lay your body down to save it. Marriage is a good thing and worth fighting for.)

How to Survive the End of the World

Once your world has ended it will feel like there is a bowling ball in your stomach. This is normal.

Your friends will ask you to come take a walk with them. This will not help. You should go anyway.

When you wake up in the morning, sometimes you will wake up knowing. Sometimes you will wake up having forgotten. It is better to wake up knowing.

People will tell you how to feel. Do not listen to them. Especially do not listen to them if they tell you to feel angry and you do not, or if they tell you not to feel angry and you do.

You have taken care of your pets for years. Let them take care of you. They will do an excellent job.

People will tell you what to do. Listen to them with an open mind, but follow your own instincts. Your instincts are distinct from your fears. This is a good opportunity to learn the difference.

You will decide that you need company, so you will find people. As soon as you find them, you will realize that you need to be alone. Continue to move back and forth between company and solitude. Eventually, you will stop moving, but you will not sleep.

This may not be the first time your world has ended. Do not look to the past for clues about how to navigate the present. Every world is unique; they all end differently.

Take long walks with your dogs in the wilderness. Let yourself get lost. Climb mountains. Cross rivers. Do not worry that anything bad will happen to you. It will not. God is not that merciful.

There will come a day when you will forget that the world has ended for just a moment. You will laugh and then you will remember. This will hurt.

Sometimes you will feel like you’re doing well. This is good, because you are. Sometimes it will feel like you’re barely holding on. This is okay, because you are.

At a certain point, life will return to normal. Except it won’t. You have survived the end of the world. You are now living in a new one. It may never be as good as the one that has ended. It may be better. It will be different. And so will you.

Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part II

The Fightin' Roos of Marriage Destruction University!

Last time I posted to the Fanfreakingtastic blog, I talked about divorce, Marriage Destruction University (Home of the Fightin’ Roos!) and slicing meat. If you didn’t read it, please check the previous installation of Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part I before reading Part II.

If’n you don’t want to read a whole blog post, here’s a quick recap. If you’re right, than your spouse is wrong. Your spouse starts off Being Wrong about little things, but eventually, it turns into something else. Your spouse will internalize the message that He/She Is Wrong. This is bad news bears, you guys. You don’t want this. Seriously. You don’t want your spouse to feel that you think that He/She Is Wrong and certainly not because you’re super stoked about Being Right on a bunch of petty issues.

Also – if you feel like You Are Wrong, if you’ve internalized that message – watch out. Resentment is around the corner, if not already present. We know we are meant for better things than to be made to feel that we are wrong.

But here’s the deal.

Sometimes Things are Wrong.

When things are going in the wrong direction, there’s the temptation to “be kind” and not name the wrongness for what it is. I put “be kind” in quotes because it’s not kindness at all. Compassion may be a contributing motivator, but ultimately it’s fear that’s driving that bus.

Mike Birbiglia, a comic I’ve long admired, made a movie called Sleepwalk With Me. It’s well worth watching, especially if you’re a comedian. (Totally beside the point of this blog post – every time he speaks directly to camera it is a genius act of storytelling, moving the narrative forward and addressing a problematic protagonist. Super well done.) But I digress. Aside from being an inventive indie film about comedy, Sleepwalk With Me also beautifully captures the problem of “being kind” in lieu of being honest.

Another honest Mike I admire is Mike Tyson. After his recent press conference in which he confessed to falling off the wagon, Iron Mike sat down with Annoying Matt to address his sobriety and other issues. From the 2:50 to the 4:30 mark in this video Mike Tyson pretty well sums up everything I want to say in this blog post. I’ve long marveled at Mike Tyson’s amazing gift for honesty. It’s not an area I excel in, so I find it fascinating, as well as inspirational.

Anyway. Enough of honest celebrities and back to personal observation.

Here’s a thing, a general rule of thumb, if you will. The harder something is to say, the more it probably needs to be said.

Here’s another thing. You can’t reshuffle the deck until all the cards are out on the table. You can try and try and try and try to start over again, but if there are cards held back, you’re never going to play a fair game. It will be weighted to one side or the other – it will a rigged game. And that is an exhausting game to play. It’s exhausting for the person holding back the cards to keep the game straight and it’s exhausting for the person who doesn’t have all the cards and can’t figure out why the game isn’t working.

There are a lot of reasons to hold back cards. You might be afraid you’re going to hurt your spouse’s feelings. You might be afraid you’re going to make problems even worse. You might be afraid of your spouse’s anger. You might be afraid of your own anger. You might be afraid that talking about it will lead to exposure and then judgment from others. There are countless things to be afraid of – in yourself, in your spouse, in the possible future of your marriage, in how the outside world will view you.

Guess what, though? If you’re holding back cards, you’re already hurting your spouse’s feelings. You’re already making problems worse. You’re likely already being judged and you’re headed toward some pretty epic fights.

Which takes me back to my first point. Be kind. Not with quotes around it. Be kind for real. Part of being kind is being honest. Being vulnerable. Being like Mike Tyson. There is nothing that makes one more vulnerable than putting all your cards on the table. Because you’re holding them back to protect yourself, ultimately. You may think you’re protecting your spouse, or your marriage, but you’re not. You’re protecting you by trying to control the outcome.

Along with being right, I was a big believer in knowing the right way things should go. If they were going in the wrong direction, I was going to steer them straight. Even if it meant taking a ten pound wrench and forcing the stuck wheel in the direction I felt it should go.

Growing up, my mom used to say to me, “Let go and let God.”

Whenever she’d say that phrase, I’d feel myself exhale, letting some tension go along with it. There’s a lot of stress out there for people who are right and who are responsible for making sure things go in a righteous direction. I mean, that’s a big deal, you guys. But I did get the concept of letting go, at least on a smaller scale. It wasn’t until my third semester at Marriage Destruction U. that I got the idea that it applied to the big stuff, too. That it wasn’t my job to steer the whole wide world and everybody in it – just me. That my job was just to be kind and kindly honest. My job was to take all my cards and put them on the table, face up, knowing there would be ramifications for those face-up cards, but knowing that it was the right thing to do. Most importantly, it was my job to let go and let God and have faith in the outcome – even if it wasn’t the one I wanted.

(On another note, I confess to spending an inordinate amount of time looking at pictures of fighting kangaroos. Choosing just one to adorn this blog post was the hardest decision I made today.)

Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part 1

Marriage Destruction University's mascot, "The Fightin' Roo!"

Usually this blog is about song lyrics or wacky adventures or funny observations. Less often, it is about a dead cat or a dead dog or a dead horse. Today, we head off to uncharted waters to talk about a dead marriage. Sounds like fun, right? I know I’m excited about it. Chance of amazing? 100 percent.

For somebody who Facebooks the heck out of her life, sometimes Twitters and could be considered something of a social butterfly, I am a pretty private person. You can talk without saying anything, my friends. Don’t wanna brag, but I’m pretty good at it. An inconsequential chatter artiste of sorts. Anyway, point is, Evan and I aren’t together anymore. I know you’re like, “But, you’re together all the time on the Book Face…” And I’m all, “Yeah, we’re still friends. Yeah, a lot of people think it’s weird.” So anyway. There’s that.

So, you know how sometimes a kid goes off to college and they come back and they’ve obviously had a conversion experience because all this new information has been forcibly jammed into their brain and now they’re a zealot who won’t shut up about all they’ve learned?

I’m totally like that, you guys. I’ve just stayed quiet. Nobody likes zealots. Nobody likes advice. I don’t like advice. Moreover, advice doesn’t do anything. Nothing changes until it is ready to change. And maybe you don’t need to change. Maybe you’re golden. I don’t know. What I am trying to get at it is, this is about me. And catharsis. Catharsis I am foisting upon you because you’re my friend. If you’re really sweet, you can nod and smile and say, “That was really good advice. Thanks, man.”

Basically, I feel like I have four pieces of advice to give. Here is Marriage Advice You Don’t Want, Part 1.

So, during my first semester away at Marriage Destruction U. (Mascot: This Kangaroo) I learned the meaning of some advice that was given to me years prior. My Uncle Frank, who was a deacon in the Catholic Church, and a man who performed a lot of marriage ceremonies and counseled a lot of couples, sat me down after I got engaged. “Carrie,” he said, “I want to give you some advice. I want to tell you the most important piece of advice I give all the couples I counsel.”

“Okay,” I said, feeling like I really didn’t need any advice at all. (I was 26, you guys. I already knew everything. Duh.)

My Uncle Frank then said, “Be kind to one another.”

So help me God, what I thought but did not say was, “Yeah…but sometimes Evan’s wrong…” (I know, I know. Right now you’re thinking, “Hmmm…maybe this divorce isn’t as surprising as we first thought…”)

While I did not verbalize my first thought, I did offer a more diplomatic rebuttal to Uncle Frank’s advice. He, very kindly, I might add, insisted on his position, repeating, “Be kind. That’s the most important thing. Be kind.” The conversation lasted awhile and it made a big impression on me. The advice struck me as inherently radical as well as incorrect. It struck me as somehow dishonest and passive. Being brutally straightforward struck me as more important than being kind, as well as the importance of sticking to one’s guns when one is right. You can’t allow yourself to be railroaded, don’t you know. You have to be tough and strong and fight for what’s right. Also, I was right a lot. Like, all the time. It was one of my better qualities. I wanted to show it off a lot.

But there was also a deep unease within me. I had a lot of respect and love for my Uncle Frank, a man with a lot of hard won wisdom. On a certain level, almost conscious but not quite, I intuited that if Uncle Frank’s advice was right, then I was very wrong, indeed. Hence my need to vociferously defend my position and why that conversation stayed with me. It happened ten years ago, now. My Uncle Frank is no longer with us. But I remember where I sat, where he sat, what he wore, what time it was, and all that was said.

As the years unspooled, that conversation, seemingly an independent agent within my own mind, worked it’s way through my resistance. After about eight years, it emerged victorious over my previously held opinions. But by that point, an awful lot of damage had been done.

What I eventually realized is that being kind is a deeper form of being right. Make no mistake, there are things worth standing up for in your marriage. Absolutely. But not the petty crap. Here’s the other secret. It’s almost all petty crap. Over and over again, life presents two paths – you can be right, and tell your spouse that they sliced the meat incorrectly because they should go with or against the grain or at an angle or however it is you think it should be done, or you can be kind, and tell your spouse thank you for slicing the meat.

We are hardest on the ones we love the most. It’s human nature and that’s not going to change. The people closest to us are the ones who are going to take the shrapnel. That’s what they signed up for. It’s what you signed up for. You can’t eliminate it, but you can soften it, by creating the habit of being kind, instead of being right.

Change

Found this image of a banner for a Victorian flea circus, and I had to redo Fanfreakingtastic in its image.

Fanfreakingtastic! It’s had a makeover. I’ll never forget, when Fanfreakingtastic first debuted, more than a year ago, and my beloved BOTASTIC said, “Really? Pink? Orange? Little stars?” I replied, “Yeah! Little stars!” Botastic said, “Huh.” So I was like, “What’s wrong with little stars?!?” And Botastic was all, “I just figured you go with, you know, autumn colors or something.”

Botastic had a point. I’d put together the original Fanfreakintastic whilst in a particularly happy mood, whilst particularly enraptured with a pair of pink and orange sandles I’d bought. True story.

So, I present to you something reflective of the Victorian dark grunge freak show that is more reflective of my usual mindset? Question mark because, not sure if it’s ACTUALLY more reflective of my normative state, but it’s definitely a state I visit at least somewhat frequently. Rather like Georgia or North Carolina.

Also new to the Fanfreakingtastic site – the Equus category, where one can find all horse-related links. A friend recently made the point that there was no one place to go for all horsiness. Now there is.

Hope you like the new look! If you don’t, I’m sorry. I’m done fighting with WordPress for the time being. I’m sure I’ll get back in the ring again eventually. Change is good for soul, after all.