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The Dirty Little Secret Happy Wives Keep
When it comes to being a great wife, my great aunt was an inspiration. She was the quintessential Japanese wife. In addition to fulfilling the usual wifely duties with aplomb, she quietly served her crotchety husband without voicing a single word of discontent. And to say he was not an easy man to live with would be a drastic understatement. Everyone marveled at her cheerfulness, industriousness, dedication and long-suffering. Today, she has two children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
One day, I asked her how in the world she managed to live with a difficult man and stay happily married for so long. She said something in broken English that shocked me: “Some days, I like shoot him.”
Comics quip,“Divorce is not an option. Murder, maybe.” And we laugh at that joke. But one of the dirty little secrets that happy wives keep is that there are days when your husband drives you to the edge of the law. Oh, we’re generally content with our spouses and marriages. He’s the love of our life and yadda yadda. But some days, we wish we could throttle him. Rare, if not mythical, is the happy wife who coos contentedly throughout the long years, never to entertain a single thought of frustration or anger toward her husband.
Living with unresolved resentment can be detrimental to your mind and body as well as your marriage, but most of the time those thoughts of aggravation, assault and homicide are fleeting. And silly. Psychologists might assert that these thoughts are not to be taken lightly and that they are serious signs of deep-seeded trouble. In some cases, it’s true.
Serious vs. silly
The ex-husband of a recently divorced friend of mine was a good example of serious resentment. They were married for over 20 years, most of them clearly unhappy. Unwilling to split half their assets or pay alimony and child support, he didn’t seek a divorce. But he stewed. And stewed. Until one day, he exploded with an ominous threat: “If you don’t watch out, you’ll end up like Laci Petersen!” He alluded to the murdered wife that had been in the news.
This was not something to ignore. She is safely divorced from this angry, resentful man who had a pattern of cynicism and anger toward life in general.
On the other hand, passing resentment is natural and benign. It occurs in close relationships and not only marriage. There are occasional conflicts between business partners, co-workers, family and friends. Healthy, mature people know how to get over the differences between them. Resentment or anger is worked out in the mind and let go. Is your anger or resentment a threat to your marriage? Here are questions to consider:
1.How frequently do you have feelings of anger or resentment toward your spouse? If you seem constantly or consistently resentful, you need to review the causes and come to terms with them. Are they issues you should learn to accept and tolerate or do they require compromise and counseling?
2.How heated is your anger? Feeling angry is natural. But if you find your anger reaches a rage-like level, you might consider seeking counseling. Do you have an anger management problem or is your rage a sign of how increasingly intolerable your situation is?
3.Has your anger escalated over the years? If so, you’re not able to let go of resentments and that is unhealthy.
4.Do you feel remorseful or silly afterward? Out-of-control or irrational thoughts sometimes are followed by remorse and guilt. Outlandish thoughts, on the other hand, usually make you giggle afterward. They were just plain silly and you’d never act upon them. (“I wanted to wring his neck!”)
5.Is your marital relationship generally happy and healthy? Threatening thoughts in an angry marriage should be taken seriously. They are a barometer of marital contentment—or lack of—and indicate the urgent need for help. However, happy marriages with only rare or occasional resentful thoughts that pass are fairly typical.
Happy spouses realize that in many cases, it’s better to keep the peace by the generations-old adage of “putting up and shutting up.” Some things just aren’t worth the trouble. But all the putting up and shutting up can get wearing. To keep things from blowing up, consider the following tips:
1.Pick your battles. You’d be surprised to learn how many marriages dissolve over small matters. Use conflicts as opportunities to grow, to learn patience, to be the better person.
2.Accept what you can’t change. No one is perfect and never will be, including ourselves. Why or why do we expect our partners to work toward perfection? We may not like all of our spouses’ traits—we might even disdain them—but it’s important to remember that there are plenty of traits we DO love about them and focus on those.
3.Realize that you aren’t perfect either. How would you like it if he constantly harped upon your faults and failings?
4.Vent to the right people. Venting is like letting out steam in a pressure cooker. It keeps you from building up silly thoughts until they become irrational thoughts. Use caution when choosing to whom you vent. Never vent to your spouse who can’t help but take your comments personally—they’re about him! Family and in-laws are absolutely the wrong people! Family and in-laws are too close to both of you and will choose sides and hold grudges. Friends as well. Counselors, clergy and online forums are safe and objective.
Another grand old lady with a happy, 50+ year marriage revealed to me her marital secret: “To have a long and happy marriage, you have to put up with a lot of crap.” It’s the best marital advice I’d ever heard and one day, I’ll have it cross-stitched to hang above my mantel. Have I myself ever had any fleeting thoughts about shooting my husband? Of course not. I’m a rational wife. After all, who’d have to clean up afterward?
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