Have you ever heard anyone describe marriage as easy? Probably not. Most people will tell you that marriage is work but is there a difference between that and tolerating a marriage?
My current guest, Sandy was married for twenty-three long years, many years spent trying to make it work and many years spent tolerating it. Here’s Sandy:
A lot of my marriage was tolerating.
A close friend who’s dying now was my saving grace. She was the person I went to every weekend to have some semblance of the Sabbath in a warm inviting environment and my kids practically lived at her house on the weekends. We used to walk over all the time.
I sought out ways to support myself and stopped looking to him for any kind of support on many levels for a very long part of our marriage.
My parents did that. When I was 16, I went up to my mom and asked, “Why are you married to my dad?” I did not understand why they would stay married and be screaming and yelling at each other every single day. I said, “Please get divorced.” I pleaded with her. I couldn’t stand that feeling of being in that environment.
I got married thinking it was for life as most people do and I didn’t realize a lot of things about my husband. When I look back there were definitely red flags, but I really thought that “I’m going to do something different. I’m going to break this chain of divorce and I’m going to stay married,” but I was losing pieces of myself in the process, because I just kept shutting down.
I tried so hard to be rational with him and tell him how harmful it would be to be parenting and to never be on the same page, the opposition and the undermining that would take place right in front of me. It was difficult.
We went to therapy several times. He never wanted to change. We had fights about where we were going to live, because he always wanted to live near his parents and I wanted to live in a Jewish community. His attachment to his parents was really unhealthy.
We actually lived for eight years in a community that he chose that was near his parents that had no Jewish community. I was it. Because of that I saw how important the whole foundation of my Judiasm was to raising my children, because I created an environment for my kids that was positive, that was filled with music and books. We had neighbors over and introduced holidays to them through the foods that I cooked and the way they decorated our house together. And we decorated their Christmas trees and there was something really lovely about having to rely on myself. I never gave that up and I did everything in my power to make it work for my kids and then it got to be too much.
There was so many things that were insurmountable. They were foundational things and I think that’s one of the main things I’ve learned is how to discern between, “What’s a foundational element to a relationship that absolutely has to be there and what are things that you can work on and grow?” When you don’t have those foundational elements you really can’t make it work. There’s too many things that are missing and you’re just always trying too hard to make something work.
I see a lot of that in business too. There are a lot of parallels. You attract the ideal client into your business and it’s a flow. You both get each other, you both want to work with each other. You attract the wrong person and they never value you. They never really understand why you charge what you charge. They don’t do the work. It’s very similar. So, start with the basics and I didn’t know what they were when we got married and some of the scripts changed.
Had we both moved at the same pace then it’s possible we could have grown together, but he’s not a rational person.
I’m a doer and I’m a thriver in tough situations. I really do well with adversity, but then it gets to a point where it’s just this uphill battle that’s just too much and I realized, “I just can’t do this.”
Ironically, at the end of our marriage, he went back to being Observant. He realized a number of things. One was that the observance of the Sabbath was something that he really did love and he went back to it.
I think there is a difference between working on a marriage and tolerating it.
Working on a marriage means being actively engaged, committed to making your relationship work, committed to working on resolving your issues. That means there’s discussion, negotiation, compromise, give and take.
Tolerating your marriage means still functioning to some degree as a couple but disengaging. It means working around the obstacles, finding the path of least resistance, avoiding confronting the issues, deflecting the disagreements. Think about how water flows down a hill, working its way around rocks and blockages. That’s tolerating.
At some point an element of ‘tolerating’ might creep into the ‘working on’ and gradually the ‘tolerating’ grows and as it grows you lose more and more of yourself because you no longer give voice to your needs, your views, your opinions, your values. Each time you decide something is not worth talking about, it’s a separation between you and your spouse and those separations build and build. The more you’re ‘tolerating’ your marriage, the harder it becomes to salvage it.
What do you think about working on your marriage and tolerating your marriage? What was your experience?
Sandy Weiner is a dating coach at Last First Date where she blogs about dating and offers coaching services for completing your online dating profile. You can also sign up for her free report: Top 3 Mistakes Midlife Daters Make.
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