You’ve heard all of the jokes about marriage. Heather Gray wants you to join her in changing the conversation.
Did you hear the one that says “Marriage is a relationship in which one person is always right and the other is the husband”? Memes like this fill our newsfeeds daily. Making digs about marriage, or our spouses, can be good for a quick laugh and can reduce our tension but we have to be careful. Marriage is hard enough and joking about it, or our spouses, is an incredibly slippery slope.
Misery loves company. That quick one-liner can get us a few “likes” or “retweets” and suddenly, we’re getting attention. That attention starts to feel like validation and encouragement and so we continue. Faster than we realize, the lens through which we are looking at our marriages shifts. Something that started out as a sarcastic one-liner suddenly has us cataloguing what’s missing in our relationships. We start to see what we don’t have. We started listing off unmet needs and petty grievances. Little resentments build and become the filter through which we see our relationships.
Once that filter is on our lens, it’s hard to take off. We confuse the filter for protection. We’re now on guard, aware, and suspicious. There’s vulnerability in taking off that lens and who wants that? Instead, we look at our lives and our marriages with intent to “prove” our new view. We go looking for “evidence”. Trust in our partner and in our relationships may start to deteriorate. We’re no longer team players. We’ve become adversaries and it’s to each his/her own. We use that anger and resentment as permission to stop thinking of the other person and the fire gets fueled and there-in lies the problem. With little provocation, small concerns become larger causes of marital tension.
Lately, I’ve been observing that it is easier for women to get away with the public one-liners than it is for men. I am not at all saying that men don’t make the digs either. I know their sarcastic quips can eat away at relationships, too. They just have a harder time getting away with it. Can you imagine the bashing a husband would get if he complained about coming home to a messy house or a kid whose diaper needed to be changed? Think of the outcry he’d get if he complained about his wife shopping away his hard-earned money. Culturally, it’s still ok for women to say such things for a cheap laugh but men get blasted.
This is one of the major reasons why I think husbands get a bad rap. The stereotypes of the uninvolved, beer drinking, sports watching, kid-neglecting husbands are still allowed to float around our newsfeeds. The stereotypes aren’t challenged and silence is perceived as agreement.
I’ve also observed how hard it is for others to respect when a husband has been praised or when marriage is talked about in a positive light. Those comments get quickly shut down, dismissed, or belittled. I mentioned in passing to someone just last week that I was looking forward to my husband’s vacation so that we could have time together without the stress of clock-watching. The response I got was one that I often get: “Just give it time. You’ve only been married for four years. You’ll get sick of each other soon enough. Then, you’ll be counting down until he goes back to work.”
I don’t know why this person felt the need to rain on my parade but I do know it can be hard to hear when other people are happy in their marriages. Hearing someone praised, loved, or respected forces us to look at ourselves and sometimes we see what’s lacking. It’s easier to mock the positivity we see in others than face the changes we may need to make, ourselves.
The Good Men Project is changing how we talk about marriage. It’s not easy having the tough talks. Busting stereotypes doesn’t happen overnight. Those one-liners are much easier.
However, change will be happening here. Want to join the conversation by submitting a piece? Pitch us your idea and join the GMP writing team. Are you in a marriage with a same sex partner? We’d love to add your voice and your experiences to the conversation about marriage. The old stereotypes of Mars and Venus have certainly shifted and we want your story here.
I look forward to the conversations to come.