Book Review and Subsequent Marriage-Improvement Reflections – Lessons Two and Three

Gathering all the loose bookmarks into a single blog post became problematic – hence multiple posts. As a reminder, this is about Elizabeth Weil’s book No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried to Make it Better and its impact on my own newlywed mind.

A secondary struggle that caught me off guard was the dichotomy of being the Emily I was all along with the wife Emily. I never imagined that it would be so different being married, from being engaged or in the serious relationship we were in for years! Something in Charles’ mind was undergoing subtle changes too – and this seriously affected my self esteem. I was used to being in charge – not dictator-like, but certainly well-informed and able to decide things on my own. Suddenly, all my decisions required  a second pass – and vice versa.

2. Being married means there are no decisions that YOU can make alone, if the outcome will affect your spouse in any way. Especially financial decisions.

I inevitably found, as most do, that this second pass was a great thing. It forced me to be less selfish – first of all, this was now really “our” money. And unlike most traditional couples, I make more of it. So it was always a challenge, even when dating, not to point out this fact and use it to my advantage. In my marriage, my spouse’s feelings HAD TO come before mine when it came to money – that’s how men are wired. In my best guy-friend’s marriage, his way is the highway – to the extreme. I am thankful my husband Charles is open minded about my opinions regarding money or any other topic I wish to discuss (unless it involves lots of girl drama or quoting people’s words instead of summarizing into a “Just The Facts, Ma’am” synopsis).

Bottom line: being able to table big decisions for “discussion” has been a great benefit to our financial situation overall. Being able to count on one another to make decisions together, and not blaze ahead on our own, leaving the other to deal with fallout, as one of my best female friend’s husband did to her just before filing for divorce… priceless.

4. You can observe and report… but don’t blame it on the parents.

Elizabeth Weil went to many therapists during the course of writing the book, and one emphasized the need for examining relationships with our parents and how the baggage of these relationships now affects our marriage. The exercises were intense on visualization and speaking to the visualized versions of our parents, as well as listing out love and hate type feelings we’ve had and applying the results to your spouse’s features.

Now believe me, I’ve had 26 years to imagine the “kind of guy I would marry,” and Charles is not it. However, whenever I meet one of those guys, I usually feel a pretty intense feeling of disgust in the pit of my stomach. The fact is, I don’t think we are “supposed” to marry a type. I think we are inclined to look for features that we’re comfortable with in terms of survival. If we grew up in a moody household, we look for brooding types. If we grew up in a gregarious, spill your guts on the table and then hug-it-out-bitch, you’re probably not going to be attracted to the standoffish, quiet guy. (At least not at first glance.)

The best revelation out of this chapter is this:

“Dan [Weil’s husband] gave me what I needed most: He knew who I was. I used to joke that this was the reason people marry: to have someone who can observe your family at close enough range to help you figure out who you and they are.” P.91

Wow! That is so true. We’ve all heard the relentless “in-law” complaints, and we all have our own. But that statement there really resonated with me. There are things about Charles that I could never understand without having observed his parents at close range. Ditto with his siblings. But he is his own person, and nothing that he is today can be the responsibility of either of his parents. He’s a self-made man. His tendencies toward the family issues are his own tendencies – the second you lump your husband in with his “crazy mother,” you are done, sister. Just don’t do it. It’s not fair and it’s not true.

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