After 62 years and two marriages, Sprague Theobald teaches five lessons he’s learned from his time in the trenches of his relationships.
I haven’t a Ph.D., nor am I a candidate for one. I don’t have a Master’s and came “that” close (he said making the tiniest of spaces between his index finger and thumb) to getting my B.A. I’m not a yogi, a guru, a counselor and sit not on the mountain top, unless desperately trying to catch my breath after a strenuous one mile vertical hike. I’m not a man of letters, except those which comprise my name. I am, however, a man who, like all of us, tries to do his best to keep moving forward within what we’re given. I’m 62 years old and still learning. At the end of the day I rest my head on my pillow hoping that I’ve done a good job. As far as I’m concerned only a higher authority will ever know the answer to that.
I wish that I was writing this article from the standpoint of one of those who has been happily married for the past 35 years and that life with my mate gets better and better every day. I’m not and I haven’t. Having worked my way through a two failed marriages I take great consolation in the fact that life truly does indeed throw us some very curvy curve-balls. One of the marks of any sort of personal growth, for me at least, is the acceptance of these unexpected pitches and the hope to find the strength to commit myself over and over again as I try to work though them (with the allowance for a few self-directed temper tantrums in the guise of grumblings). Long way of saying I’ve been married a few times, have been in and out of counseling/therapy (I always look at it as money in the bank) and hope that I’ve not simply been happy to rest on the status quo but have kept, or tried to keep, changing. I have made wrong choices, I have acted badly, I’ve tried to be responsible for myself and actions but in the final analysis, I am human.
So, it’s with blind faith that I awake each morning and set out again to try and practice that which I’ve learned along the way, in this case, that which I’ve hopefully learned from my relationships, from the opposite sex.
Communications between Male / Females (which in my case includes ex-wives, girlfriends present and past, and daughters) have been referred to as a “war”, as a “battlefield” and as a chasm that will never truly be bridged. At times far too many put far too much negative spin on something that perhaps started with, “I wouldn’t eat that apple if I were you.” or, “Are you sure we should crawl out of this primordial ooze?” Yet from the advantage of my 62 years, when it comes to seeking help with the female/male conundrum I’m never at a lack for information and suggestions; walk dowe any Self-Help isle at your local book store or Amazon. What’s the plural of plethora?
A multitude of books have been written on how to understand our significant others. So many so that you can find any number that will guide and steer you right through your first date, into your courtship all the way up to and through your divorce. One trip down the isles of your favorite book store and you’ll learn that the literary word assures us that 1) We are not alone in our quest and 2) If you buy “me” all your relationship issues will be solved. Perhaps.
While each and every publication hopefully offers something different, unique, all good, I’d like to throw five things I learned while in the trenches. Five very simple things that work very well for me, but as they used to say, “Your mileage may vary.”
In no particular order of importance:
1) Listen. Listen, listen, listen.
Men, you can and do talk all day. If she’s giving you her trust and wants to share something with you, regardless how unimportant you may think it is, button it up and listen. I beseech you, do not betray her trust by not listening. Spoiler Alert: If she approaches to share something with you and you’re reading, do not hold your finger on the page to keep your place. Put the damn book or paper down.
2) Don’t justify or defend.
If she feels you were wrong about something, hear … her … out. Do not justify or defend your actions. If your actions were all that clean to begin with, they’d need no justification. Without interruption, let her explain her side of the potential misunderstanding, your time will come. Which leads me right into No.3:
3) There are two realities to every situation.
She asked that you pick her up at 1:30, you heard 2:30 (were you reading the paper at the time of the request?). She’s at the appointed meeting place at 1:30 and you show up an hour late. It should end right there, with the observance of a misunderstanding, for in every given disagreement or misunderstanding there are two, very real and equally appropriate “realities.” She said 1:30, you heard 2:30. No harm, no foul, no blame assigning (It’s a two-way street ladies).
4) Do NOT say, “You misunderstood.”
This has always been the A-No. 1., conversation killer with me. My saying “You misunderstood what I said” brings in an unforecasted and well-deserved ice age second to none. Even if you feel she truly has misunderstood, be the gentleman you are and simply say, “I’m sorry, I must have mislead you,” or, “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough.” and leave it there. Despite ourselves, somewhere along the line someone called each and every one of us a “gentleman.” Now’s the time to live up to that ranking.
5) Be competitive on the field…or in the ffice.
If “winning” an argument is that important to you, you may just have some larger issues to tend to. Nothing warms my heart more—nothing makes me feel more alive and human than reaching a couple’s compromise. It’s more than a meeting in the middle wherein we both win. By compromising and finding a working answer for a situation, my mate and I have created something brand new that we have never seen before. I could really stretch this out and say that by putting our determined heads together and coming up with a new and exciting answer or situation, we have created and given birth to something that is uniquely ours. I could say that but I won’t.
I know if you’ve gotten this far you’re thinking, “Easy for you to say, it’s just more fluff.” I wouldn’t blame you. And perhaps it is. Do I manage to remember my Five Rules each and every time? Hell no. I’m a man who can barley remember his sons’ birthday (he too, being a man, is usually a few days late for mine). But most of the time, in hindsight, I do remember them and see where I could have done things better. However, when I do remember one of the five? It’s like my 26 year-old son says, “Sweet!”
And remember this above all else; a gentleman has never heard a story twice.