Those were words my Grandmother said to me at one point during my 2nd marriage. Yeah, 2nd.
That’s not all she said. She said, “People who love each other do not talk to each other like you do.“
I thought she was an idiot. She swore up and down that she and my Grandfather never screamed at each other. They never called each other names. She said instead of brooding on how awful he was, or how he was failing me, I needed to be working on it. She also said that instead of telling anyone and everyone who would listen what a piece of crap he was, I should be talking to him about why.
I really thought she was dumb for it, I did. You know, because, when someone who has been married a little over twice as long as you’ve been alive tells you that your 2nd marriage is going to fail, and they tell you why, of course, they couldn’t possibly know what they’re talking about. She couldn’t understand what it was like to be passionate. She was old.
Today, I saw a comment that got me thinking. Today, I also lost a friendship, which also got me thinking.
The comment was on one of those viral guy blog posts where the author’s going on about how not to screw up your relationship, ala, don’t do what I did, do what I did not do. The person said that they wouldn’t be taking advice from someone who’d failed in his relationship and I cracked up. That person won’t want my advice, either, clearly, because, well, I’ve never “succeeded” at marriage. No. I’ve failed. 3 times. I’m only 35.
My grandmother was completely and 100% right. About all of it.
I don’t know it because I’ve succeeded. I know it, because I took the time to look. I took several years off of all dating, relationships, and sex. I didn’t want any distractions, and believe me, building a relationship with someone is a distracting that’s nearly impossible to overcome. I know that one, because well, I did try and fail. But I also tried and succeeded. Still a work in progress, just not a completely self centered jerk anymore. Note I said “completely”. I’m getting there. The big chunk is down.
I’m a failure at marriage, but I know why. My friends, who I love dearly, will protest loudly that I am too hard on myself, but the truth is: I was a selfish asshole looking for the easy way in all things. I was always looking for the upgrade, never looking at what I should have been. If you don’t want to be a failure at marriage, there are a few things that I can tell you about that. The first being, there’s only one person you’re going to be able to control and that is you. Because love is not control. It’s another c word I had a really hard time with: compromise. A lot of it.
I lost my friend today because she invited me on a backpacking expedition later in the year and all I said was: Let me talk it over with Kurt and get back to you, okay?
I was promptly treated to a foot long lecture that, well, paraphrased was pretty much: you’ve changed, you’re beat down, I can’t believe you have to get permission, doesn’t he do things all the time? The word pathetic was used. Patriarchy, as well. This, by someone who has on a number of occasions admitted to me that well, for her, love means she changes absolutely nothing about her life. The perfect one will get that, and mold himself to her will.
I said, “Yeah, I can’t imagine why you’re single.” and got un-friended and blocked pretty quickly. I didn’t mean she was single for being a feminist. I didn’t mean she was single for being concerned about a friend. I said so, because she couldn’t fathom why on earth I would want to talk to my partner about going on a 2 week long hiking trip in mountains about a thousand miles from here. Well, that and because she called me pathetic, and also indicated that maybe Kurt was beating me with his penis. P-whipped, just a different P.
Here are some things I came to know about where I screwed up, from me to you, a big failure at marriage who is now working on maybe one day succeeding. The biggest thing is: if you want to succeed, and that’s your goal, whether it be a long term commitment or actually being married: that person has to be your priority. Not venting your frustration to anyone and everyone- that’s good for you and a good friend, before you talk it out, but badmouthing your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your fiance, your spouse for everyone to see is a crappy thing to do, it’s hurtful, it’s not constructive, and more than that: you’re not talking to the right person, at all. Venting to someone else before hand so you get the venom out is a good idea, because when you do talk it out and I do believe this now: you don’t talk to people you love like that. By like that, I mean being a verbally abusive crap. (Not a type o. I meant crap.)
I could write out this huge list involving always courting them- which I agree with, always focusing on the good in them, not making them some kind of project, and not putting anyone else before that person- and I could go into how there’s a place in your heart that is just for that person (Or people, you know, depending on your relationship construct)- but the truth is, it all boils down to that one thing: that person is now your priority.
If you’re not working on being together for life, and being partners for life, maybe raising kids together and all that- fine, you don’t need to make every single person you date your number 1 priority. And god help you if you did or do wind up with someone like I was: because making them your priority doesn’t involve you. It involves everyone else. You’re first, they’re next. (Or God, if that’s your thing, and I know for quite a few of you, it is. For those of you it isn’t- that’s cool, too, whatever. Not that you need my validation, here.) If the other person isn’t making you a priority, they may not be on the same page. You can maybe fix that. Maybe you can’t. Again- only one person you can control. If you put you first, and someone’s asking you to accept things that are wholly unacceptable- then, it’s probably not going to work. If you’re the one doing it, the same thing applies.
I guess to take it down to the tl;dr of it all, I’d just quote my Grandmother again, and I am paraphrasing, though the head out of your ass was definitely all her:
You need to get your head out of your ass and realize that the problem you can fix isn’t him, it’s you. You either grow up and work on things without trying to hurt him or you end it.
Oh, and because this always happens: yes, your mileage will probably vary. However, being as this is my story and not yours, you should probably know that in my relationships, every single one of them from the time I started having them, I was a verbally abusive piece of crap. So, yes, trying to hurt, not trying to express myself or work on anything. I get it, you’re a special snowflake. People also often like to point out it couldn’t really have been all my fault. That’s true, but my exes not really my problem anymore, are they? Guess what? I still am.