Al and I had the biggest fight the other day. Everything’s good now, but wow, we travelled the streetcar through every major problem in our marriage, flinging accusations like Stanley and Stella and generally doing all the things that marriage counselors advise against. Like bringing up past transgressions. And we did it in public! I didn’t even care that people were listening. Three older ladies at the next table in particular had avid ears peeled.
Those three ladies were probably very happy to be out and about without husbands and I am okay letting them feel smug at my expense. Truth is, you cannot be married for 29 years and never hop on that streetcar. Well, I cannot, but perhaps you are an enlightened master of love and marriage is not a problem you need to work on. If that’s true, I’m so happy for you.
My desire for more autonomy created the chaos. I’d given up all control several years ago so I could write and meditate in peace. In church, my minister said “The way to have a happy marriage is to treat your partner the way you want to be treated.” Sounded like good advice, and because my heart’s desire is that Al say yes to every single thing I wish, I tried to do that for him. Even when the minister ran off with his secretary, leaving his wife to tend his bewildered flock, I persisted in being a perpetual “yes” woman, although I started going to yoga on Sundays instead of church.
But saying yes and treating people as you wish to be treated has to work both ways, and it doesn’t always happen like that. There are people quite willing to let you be their dog, if you’re okay with that. In marriage, a hypothetical marriage, not my own, ahem, maybe one partner, someone like Stanley Kowalski, believes he is the dominant person in the marriage, he will take every “yes” for granted. I say ‘yes’ a lot because it is so much easier than having another argument about whatever.
I still believe in treating everyone, not just your mate, the way you would like to be treated. Until they take advantage of that, then it’s time to step off the streetcar. When it has come to a complete stop, of course.