Cully Perlman explains that, in his marriage, mending requires paying mindful and constant attention to improving himself.
A funny thing happened when I started writing this post. Instead of saving a document called “The Good Men Project,” I accidentally saved it as “The Good Mend Project.” Subconscious attempt at something?
I knew it was a serendipitous typo. What I had planned to write was absolutely related to “mending” or “fixing” or “improving”, at the very least, a particular aspect of my marriage.
I met my wife eight plus years ago in Seattle. Over those years, we courted, nearly separated, moved across the country, bought a house, got a dog, and had a beautiful baby girl who is now almost two. All good stuff. Like most—should I dare to guess all?—marriages and relationships, we’ve had our ups and downs, but never really anything in the past few years that I’d call a breaking point, anything that would lead to divorce.
I love my wife. My wife, as far as I can tell, loves me. We have goals, aspirations, passions, things we help each other achieve. And we use humor to brighten our days, usually very inappropriate humor.
My wife’s Korean while I am, for lack of a cooler definition, a Puerto Rican Jew. I’ll let you imagine the brutality such backgrounds can provide, humor-wise.
What troubles our marriage, or what I believe creates tension, has nothing to do with my wife but everything to do with me. Perhaps when I was younger, maybe I would have skirted responsibility, but I’m forty-one now and I’m able to own my shit. I’m able to realize who the problem is—who causes the disagreements, shouting matches or silence that lasts more than a few hours—and I’m usually able to step back, analyze, and more importantly, vocalize why I created or steered us into a conflict. After the fire burns itself out, I’m also able to apologize, which maybe doesn’t go down so well at the moment. Sooner or later, it’s is part of the healing and mending process.
And for me, it’s the mending that helps. My wife, at least in our relationship, is the steady one, the lighthouse, the voice of reason. I have issues. I blow up. The littlest thing can throw me off balance, raise my blood pressure, make me lose my cool. Really, when I’m trying to work or write or read, someone breathing too loud in the other room can set me off. I’m serious—I’ve lost my shit because someone was breathing too loud.
My wife is like the lion tamer, the horse whisperer or dog whisperer. She’s Dr. Frankenstein while I’m the hideous, erratic creature. In fits of rage, I’m always burning down cottages. And my wife, she’s always there to put my fires out. But she’s also improved the man I am, given me life just as Dr. Frankenstein has given his creature life.
But back to the concept of mending. I’m “mending” my relationship with my wife all the time. I mean, each and every day, in some form or fashion, in noticeable and not no noticeable ways, that’s what I’m doing. This — what you’re reading right now — is part of the mending. It’s my writing down exactly how important my wife is to me, how she makes me want to improve the type of husband I am, how she makes me understand that saying “sorry” isn’t always good enough.
Actually, I don’t think it ever really is.
Mending the little damages I do all the time—being inconsiderate, erratic, selfish, self-centered, hypocritical, critical, demeaning, narcissistic, impatient…you name it, I’ve been it—means working twice as much at the complete opposite of those things. It means being considerate to the best of my ability. It means creating some sense of consistency and stability. It means being generous—with my time, my understanding, my ability to empathize, see her feelings, needs and the things important to her. It means having patience when maybe patience is the thing I’m most lacking at a particular moment. It means being a human being to another human being in every way imaginable.
So I say sweet things to my wife. I send her emails. I send texts. Sometimes I send flowers (really, I need to do it more often). When I’m traveling abroad, like I am now, I think of her. I think, My wife, she’d like this knick knack, this shirt, this bag, this hot chocolate, this view of the castle, this whatever.
Mending, for me, isn’t about reacting to one particular wrong. Instead, mending is a continual process of improving, of bettering, not only the big, in-your-face, grievous wrongs, but also the little wrongs I do daily, all the missteps I make throughout the year.
It’s for the times she’s left me to my work rather than asking me to go to the store or to watch our daughter so that she can have a break too. It’s for the times she’s come home and cooked dinner and not even asked if maybe I could cook for a change. It’s for every little thing she does because she loves me and always thinks about us, not just herself.
I’m not perfect. My wife’s not perfect. We struggle with family, with bills, with the mundane tasks of everyday life — who doesn’t? My wife, though, struggles better. I’m thankful for that. I’m appreciative for that. And I’ll never take it for granted. I’ll never stop trying to catch up to her. In a way, that’s me showing my love for her. It’s how I mend the little things that are always breaking.
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