bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marriage is a rubber band--deal with it

Marriage is a rubber band—there—I said it.

And not in a “suffering the welt of a pop” kind of way.
This is not meant to be a deep discussion of marriage. It’s born out of my own day-to-day experience as well as the experiences of interacting in several dozen marriages of friends and family. Some of these observations have been of ongoing successes. Some of them have been of failures.

Ok, I’m already treading on dangerous territory because you might infer from my statement of “some have been failures” that I’m about to leap into a twisted rant about the eViLs of divorce and the uNhOliNeSs of giving up on a spouse.

That is NOT my direction. Far be it for me to determine what is best for all marriages under all sets of circumstances. The only marriage I can speak with any kind of authority on is my own. And even that analysis is one-sided. My wife invariably sees things from a different perspective than I do.

Ok, I’m tiring of the disclaimers. Infer what you want. Marriage is still a rubber band—deal with it.

The rubber band binds us together. It is flexible (thank God) and it smells like rubber (which is completely irrelevant).

The tension of the rubber band is caused by 1 of 3 different scenarios:
  1. Spouses are moving in opposite directions.
  2. One spouse is moving away while the other stays anchored.
  3. A third force (work, kids, inappropriate relationship, finances, etc.) pulls at the band.

We are dealing with the forces of tension daily. It’s one of the reasons that sex is such a critical part of managing the rubber band. Whether it’s romantic and exciting or routine and boring, when we are sexually active with our spouse it’s the only time that we put the rubber band aside for a moment and come together. Everyone needs that tension release whether it’s for 5 minutes or 45. If it takes you more than 45 minutes then you aren’t doing it right.

Also, let’s define “sexually active” just for kicks. Someone that engages in physical activity only twice a month is not, under any circumstances, considered physically active. Similarly, if sex with your partner occurs about as frequently as a full moon then you, my friend, are NOT sexually ACTIVE. Get with the program!

Also, if you or your spouse always seems to be waiting for the tension of  the rubber band to subside in order to value or enjoy the sex, you’re missing the point. You’ve got the cart in front of the horse. Again, get with the program!

Spouses Moving in Opposite Directions:

What’s your example?

Mine is when my wife says, “I’d really like to have my entire family here for Thanksgiving.” My response could should be, “Okay, honey, let’s talk about what that would look like.”

More than likely my response is more like a scene from the move “300”—“Let them come! For in the end, we all must die just as we have lived! On that day, I will either hold my shield or be carried upon it!”

I am a very transparent individual. You always know where you stand with me. I don’t often hold back. I can put severe tension on that rubber band very very quickly. I suck…

One Spouse Moving—Other Spouse Anchored:

Maybe the anchoring isn’t a choice. Kids can anchor one spouse while the other moves freely. Work can anchor. Finances can anchor. Extended family can anchor. Lots of things (both good and bad) can anchor. Some anchoring can be healthy. Some anchoring can be unhealthy.

Either way, the tension of the rubber band can be managed as long as the freely moving spouse doesn’t pull too far away from the other. Some pull away might be good, but stretching it to its limits for prolonged periods of time weakens the band.

Remember, one spouse doesn’t want to maintain appropriate routine for the kids while the other is running all over the place or doing nothing at all. This situation can play itself out in a myriad of ways. Use your imagination…this affects both men and women and is NOT a primarily male disposition. We all do this in one way or another.

My example? First year of marriage my wife and I worked different hours. I was a 9 to 5’er. She was 2 to 10. So, what? I’m supposed to come home and wait on her for 5 hours pining away the minutes until my darling wife returned home to my loving arms? Uh, no… I would hit the pool hall, baseball game (we lived 2 miles from a MLB park), or favorite watering hole with my buddies. I was always home by 10. On a good night, I was mildly buzzed. On a not-so-good night, well……

Again, I sucked. I pulled tension on that rubber band 5 days a week and expected our time together on the weekends to be blissful and joyous. This was going to be great if I could just get the wife to get on board with my plan of pretty much doing whatever the hell I wanted to all week long. Thankfully, she never even head-faked at understanding that plan. She’s definitely got some Spartan in her too.

Third Finger at the Band:

This one seems to be a choice thing even when we don’t realize we’ve made the choice or that there was ever a choice to be made.

Work pulls and pulls and pulls and financial obligation makes us accept this ever increasing pull. What I’d like to say here is that money isn’t everything and neither is work so quit letting these things add tension to your rubber band. However, what I will say is that these things are a reality we all have to deal with in the real world and the tension must be compensated for by closing ranks with your spouse. As tension increases and until tension can be diminished, two points of the triangle must come together to avoid breakage.

The same thing applies to kids, outside activities, organizational involvements, and other activities.

Inappropriate relationships are an entirely different animal altogether. The devastating effect of inappropriate relationships as an influential force on the rubber band is exacerbated by the inability of spouses to draw closer to one another as long as one spouse allows the outside relationship to continue. These types of relationships aren’t always sexual affairs. They can manifest themselves in a myriad of ways.

My example is pretty vanilla so don’t get all excited. Give me some breathing room here.

///Deep Breath…….and breath out///

I had an affair with Skoal for the first 9 years of our marriage. Now, in all fairness Skoal had been with me for 9 years before we got married. What?! It was a matter of seniority. She knew I dipped when she met me and I never promised to quit before we got married.

Let me explain why this was an inappropriate relationship for me. It wasn’t as much that I was a tobacco user. It was that dipping was a taboo subject for my wife.

“I promise to love, honor, and cherish you all the days of my life, but don’t even think about talking about my dipping tobacco because that’s all mine. You stay the hell away from that!”

“You know I’d throw myself in front of a bus to save you, baby, but I do not discuss my Skoal with you, remember.”

“I would read to you from our notebook every day if you suffered from Alzheimer’s just so I could spend those special days with you when you remembered who I was and our life together, but if you speak of my Skoal again I will throw a walleyed fit just like I did last time.”

{Inappropriate relationship}

Of course, if you find yourself engaging in a better friendship with someone other than your spouse on a regular basis (emotional cheating) or you are boinking someone other than your spouse, that would work as an example too.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Managing the Rubber Band:

No secrets here. Find a way to shift when the tension builds. Don’t try to see how far the band can stretch before it snaps. Manage the band. Don’t let it cut off your circulation. It’s not the band's fault that your finger is purple. Manage the band. When 18 fingers are all pulling at the band from different directions and the two of you are situated as close to one another as you can get, that’s a good thing. That is oneness.

If your spouse is anchored for no other reason than stubbornness—unwilling to converse and adjust and compromise—then kick them in the ass. No, I’m serious (not physically unless you’re my wife). I mean get up in their grill and force the issue. “You’re being a stubborn jackass and I won’t have it. Compromise is not a one way street, dumbass.”

If your kids are pulling at the band for no other reason than to get their way then kick their ass too while you’re in the ass-kicking mood. Partner with your spouse and do some metaphorical ass-kicking. It can be your new hobby that you share with one another. “If you want to take on Mom then you gotta get through me first. I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you OUT.” This is called “going Cosby on the kids.”

If the both of you are moving in different directions as if you are independent souls enjoying full autonomy from one another, then just stop it. No, I mean it. Resentment is ruthless. It will sneak in and it will jack you up.

Remember that person you said you loved with all your heart? You can wind up sitting with friends a few years later talking all about what a piece of shit they are. The weird thing is that you might love them til the very last moment and then, suddenly, when the divorce papers are filed and you look over their demands with your attorney all the filters inside your heart will flick off revealing what a truly horrible person they were. But you’d grown accustomed to the immense tension on the rubber band so much so that your finger grew callouses.

What’s the Freakin’ Goal?

I think the goal is NOT just to adjust to the tension on the rubber band generated by life. Likewise, I do NOT think the goal is to avoid all tension on the band. I think the goal is to work as a unit to manage the band through all different seasons of tension with an eye toward the 65 years we should all intend to manage this very same band.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the rubber band is much more flexible or stretchy in the first 10 years of marriage. I think that’s a design feature. It flexes well and snaps back to its original size. It is resilient even when we don’t think it’s all that resilient.

Don’t treat your rubber band as if you intend on replacing it in 10 years even if you do. Likewise, don’t accept long term extremes of tension on your band if there’s something you can do about it.

Marriage is a rubber band—there—I said it.