Sunday, January 27, 2013

Friends and Marital Loyalty

So I was going to leave a comment on this blog, but it was getting a bit ridiculously long for a blog comment when I thought, "Hey, you have your own blog, you know."

The primary point of the blog post is summed up in this sentence: Never say anything negative about your spouse to anyone. Ever. [The exceptions being God, in prayer; your bishop, a counselor or your spouse].  I would add that this includes the kind of jokes you make about your spouse.

It was refreshing to read this after an article I came across last week that had 15 tips for a successful marriage.  Most of the article was actually quite good--it sounded like it was written by someone who actually had a long-term successful marriage--but one tip made me laugh out loud, "Complain to his mom, not to yours".  Bad, bad advice, in my opinion.  You shouldn't be complaining to either of them.

One of the most wonderful blessings in our lives and our marriage has been that, during the most intense and challenging times in our lives, my husband's two closest friends happened to be the husbands of my two closest friends.  There were two couples we spent a lot of time with, and we were all close to each other--I worked with one of the men for some time while I was working outside our home part time, the other was my bishop while I was Young Women's president, and both of the sisters had at various points worked with my husband because of his callings, and we all love each other and have high opinions of each other.  All of us have very good marriages, something each couple puts a high priority on. Knowing that one of us had some frustration or agitation with our husband would never diminish the favorable opinion that the others had of that man as a husband, father and individual, but because there was such wonderful affection on all sides, there was never much temptation to complain or criticize. Because the people around you saw the best things about your spouse and appreciated those things, it made it easier for you to remember those things yourself.  It has been such a comfort in life to have friends who love my husband and are as forgiving of his flaws as they are of mine.  Neither of those sisters would've indulged me if at some point I started ranting or complaining about my husband--I'm sure they would've either changed the subject or, as politely as possible, excused themselves.  Had my husband started complaining about or criticizing me to his friends, I'm quite certain they simply would've stopped him mid sentence.  Spending time with our friends was edifying to, not erosive to, our relationship with each other.

I don't think I appreciated as much as I should what a blessing that was until I saw a contrast.  Many years ago, a friend of my husband's (now, sadly, a former friend, for many reasons) came to the house in the middle of the day.  To see me.  When he knew my husband wouldn't be there.  Big. Red. Flag. So inappropriate.  Also, completely bizarre.  I let him sit down, because, well, my impulse is always to be polite and accommodate people, and I certainly didn't suspect him of mendacious motives.  He sat down and proceeded to give me relationship advice, basically (this was rather amusing for a multitude of reasons I won't get in to).  At one point, despite my trying really hard to be polite, I actually laughed out loud at him.  Then, he succeeded in getting under my skin just before he left, when he turned and made a remark about how some joke that my husband had made about me at work that week had surprised him at how rude and over the line it was.  He also wouldn't tell me what the joke was (because that would've been a violation of my husband's trust, which clearly he was very concerned about [insert eye roll here]), and then left.  For about 10 minutes, I was very upset and rather disturbed.  I kept thinking to myself, "What on earth could he have said that this man thought was so over the line?!"  Suddenly it occurred to me: nothing.  Obviously, this dunce had to have wildly misinterpreted something.

When I stopped to evaluate it, I realized I knew my husband's character, I knew what kind of marriage we had, and I trusted my husband completely.  This guy got something wrong.  He'd gotten nearly everything else wrong that day, why would I think he was accurate here?  I trust my husband--he's given me every reason to, and no reason not to trust him.  So much did I trust my husband, that by the time he got home from work I had completely forgotten about it.  Several days later, something he said reminded me of that particularly bizarre portion or an entirely weird conversation, so I asked him what he thought the man was talking about.  He thought for several minutes, then remembered a joke he'd made the previous week that he thought may have been the catalyst.  And I laughed.  Because its a joke he would've been comfortable making in my presence.  And I would've laughed if he'd told it in front of a group of people.  We often show affection by teasing, and it was little more than that.

From that moment on, I began to be a lot more appreciative of that entirely-warranted trust I had in my husband.  But I also began to appreciate the trust I had in his friends, and in mine:  I knew that for the most part we had friends that would not indulge such destructive nonsense, who certainly wouldn't try to maximize the damage by sneaky go-rounds to the offended spouse.

If someone regularly indulges you in ranting and raving and complaining about your spouse, they are probably more interested in drama and entertainment than they are in your well-being.  Get ahold of your tongue.  Only spend significant amounts of time with people who bring out the best in you.  If someone else finds ways to pick on your spouse, defend when you're able, change the subject if you're having a hard time getting through, and if they won't drop it, drop them.  Real friends will want you to succeed and be happy--especially in the most important relationship in your life. 

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