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.