When our daughter and son-in-law became engaged, our church required them to spend a few evenings with a “Mentor Couple” prior to the ceremony to examine the various aspects and challenges of marriage.
My husband and I were mildly affronted, as we obviously fancy ourselves their “Go-to Mentor Couple.”
Yet, we were never so offended as we were the evening they were assigned to discuss the topic of “Marital Conflict” with these well-meaning strangers.
After 33 years of marriage, 11 cross-country moves and 5 kids, my husband and I may not have written the book on marital conflict, but we certainly contributed a few chapters. Marital Conflict is our jam. We can mentor the hell out of our own adult children and their Intendeds in this area, thank you very much.
I’m not trying to suggest we’ve hosted as many fights as Madison Square Gardens, but we’ve had a spat or two. The most recent that springs to mind is the time my husband drove off and left me at our son’s high school graduation. He justified this action by claiming that I “stood around gabbing too long.” Everyone around us was brushing off crumbs when this Ginger snapped.
As such, I always feel a little validated when I hear about friends of ours in rock solid marriages experiencing conflict. Once at a joint family dinner with old college friends, the subject of marital strife arose and our friends’ daughter enthusiastically jumped into the conversation.
“I’ll never forget The Battle of The Crepe Myrtle Trees!”
Eager for every detail, I scooted my chair closer. Our Goddaughter proceeded to regale us with a delightful story about a time her dad got over-zealous with his new chain saw and pruned her mom’s prized Crepe Myrtles down to the nubs.
“She was furious!” she continued, “I’ve never seen her so mad!”
“What happened next?” I goaded.
“She said, ‘Get in the car Kelli, we’re going to Starbucks before I say something to your dad I can’t take back!'”
What a let-down. I expected more fireworks from my feisty friend. After all, she’s the one who taught me the term “A-hole” back in ’82. As hard as it may be to believe, at the tender age of 19, I’d never been exposed to this word. And maybe I didn’t know it at the time, but it would eventually become an essential part of my marital lexicon.
My friend has clearly mellowed over time.
Another friend, one of the kindest, most “chill” women I know, told us over lunch about a text her adult daughter sent in their family’s group-chat recently.
“Remember that food-fight you and Dad got into that one time?”
Her husband was quick to respond and reassured everyone that the episode “was all in fun” and no one was “actually mad,” but my friend went on to confide,
“Oh, I was mad all right. The nearest thing to me at the moment was a squeeze bottle of mustard, so I squirted him with it!”
Now that’s validating. If you can’t put your hands on actual Mustard Gas, I guess regular old table mustard will do in a pinch.
My Sister-in-law, who is a Realtor, told me that she attended a closing recently whereby a widower was selling his and his deceased wife’s home of 40+ years. As the older man signed on the dotted line, he teared up and mused,
“We had some great fights in that old house…”
I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony – all those days, weeks, months and years of building a home and a life together – it was their arguments that he commented on and seemed to miss the most.
Perhaps the rest just went without saying…but, if those walls could talk, I’m sure they’d say that couple loved each other.
The highly acclaimed movie, “Love Story,” (1970) starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal misled an entire generation with the phrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry…”.
Love means frequently having to say you’re sorry, and also “Pass the French’s please.”