Adult or Tall Child? How Your Past Influences Your Marriage
- 2006 2 May
When Harry S. Truman graduated from high school, he anticipated a favored young teacher's traditional kiss. When his turn came, she dismissed him with "You don't deserve a kiss." Years later, when he became President of the United States, he asked one of his aides, a long-time friend and graduate of that same class, if he thought the teacher would give him a kiss now.
As a former educator, I'm appalled by the teacher's lack of professionalism, wantonness, and downright disregard for a student's self-worth. But the story illustrates how we hold the hurts of youth close even during adulthood.
When I first married, I didn't know adults were, in many ways, just tall children. I thought once I'd achieved grown-up status, I would automatically do "grown-up" things. It took me awhile to learn that all too often, we adults carry our pasts into our futures.
At wedding ceremonies, I watch for the lighting of the unity candle. As the couple each take a lit candle and join their flames to light a larger candle, I hold my breath. Will they naively blow out their individual candles? If they do not extinguish them, I think they are realistic and understand they are bringing separate backgrounds into this committed relationship.
A friend disagrees. She says blowing out the individual candles is a symbol of God making two into one. In life's little irony, it didn't happen like that at her own wedding. Someone tried to help by lighting the unity candle before the ceremony, which resulted in the wick being buried in the wax. The bride and groom spent what seemed like an eternity trying to light the thing, until finally the frustrated groom yanked it off the stand and dug the wick out so they could light it. Then it promptly extinguished itself! What a perfect illustration of the struggle for unity each married couple will face.
Believe me; you bring who you are to marriage, so understanding your mate's history is vital. For example, Albert has several advanced degrees and is fluent in French and German in addition to English, but to his wife's frustration, he refuses to do even simple household repairs, preferring "to leave such things to the experts."
When they were first married, Roz tried to get him interested in maintenance, beginning with gentle nudges: "Honey, the faucet is dripping. While you're out today, would it be possible to stop by the hardware store? I'd love to have this taken care of before the Taylors come for dinner."
When Albert continued to ignore the drips, Roz found her frustration turning into nagging: "When are you going to fix the faucet? I told you about it a week ago, and I'm tired of the Chinese Water Torture." From there it was an attempt to shame him: "I can't believe you have three postgraduate degrees and could be dropped into Paris and sound as though you have lived there all your life, but you still can't take care of a drip."
Roz even went to the hardware store and purchased the needed supplies and a handyman book, which she displayed on the kitchen counter. Albert ignored it all. Finally, Roz read the step-by-step directions as she replaced the faucet washer, grumbling all the while.
The following weekend, Albert and Roz were at his parents' for dinner. During the salad course, Roz discovered the pepper mill was jammed, so she handed it to Albert, asking for help. Immediately his father said, "Better give that to me. Old 'Fumble Fingers' won't be able to fix it. I've never seen a kid as useless around the house as he was."
Without a word, Albert handed the mill over while Roz stared at the bland expression on her husband's face. Suddenly her cheeks burned with the memory of the harsh things she had said to him about the faucet. It had been his lack of confidence keeping him from taking care of the problem! Her insight helped her understand his insecurity and she determined to stop demanding he fit her expectations. Isn't that a worthwhile goal for us all?
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds -- and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.