Tag Archives: happy marriage

The Private Language Of Marriage

I read an article in the International Herald Tribune last Friday that really struck a chord. It was an essay by writer Joan Wickersham about the ways in which longtime couples develop their own private lexicons with which to communicate with one another.

She talks about this dynamic within the rubric of marriage, but her point applies to any long-term partnership. What’s crucial is that you’re together long enough to have a shared experience that which then evolves into a catch phrase that only the two of you can understand.

By way of example, Wickersham recounts the story of how – right after she married her husband – she got a job in a bank which she hated. Even though her husband had a job that he liked, he convinced her to quit her job (and he his) so that they could move somewhere else and both be happy. From there on out, “It’s like the bank” became their stock way to describe any situation that was especially bleak and dismal. Wickersham has another great story about the phrase “We’re just not serrated knife people” and what it came to mean within the context of their marriage.

My husband and I have been together for nearly 17 years and I know exactly what she means. I’m one of those people who’s obsessed with schedules. Once – on a trip to visit my husband’s parents in Atlanta – I perseverated for hours over whether, upon landing at Hartsfield Airport, we ought to go directly to his parents’ home or stop by and visit a friend first and risk being late. To this day, whenever I begin obsessing about our travel schedule, my husband will look at me and say: “Should we just go home or should we stop at Douglas Jackson’s?” (Not his real name.) It’s code for: Are you really going to go on about this all night?

Similarly, we’ve also incorporated a phrase to describe that feeling you get when you anticipate that someone is going to disagree with you. My husband and I met in graduate school and one of our early bonding experiences was over our feelings about a mutual acquaintance (we’ll call him Simon Collins.) Simon Collins was the kind of person who – no matter what you said – instinctively responded with something negative. I haven’t seen or talked to Simon in years. Nor has my husband. But whenever one of us raises a topic that might possibly prompt criticism, we preface it by saying “No Simon Collins!”  to disarm the other person from any knee-jerk disapproval.

Neither of these phrases would mean anything to anyone but the two of us. And that’s the point.

I’ve written before about some of the things that make for a happy marriage/partnership: having shared interests; establishing a division of labor. But Wickersham’s column reminded me of one more crucial ingredient – feeling like a team. There are lots of ways to do this, but having a private language – a “civilization of two” as she puts it – is one of the principle ways that you can reinforce that bond.

How about you? What strange and impenetrable shorthands have you and your partner devised to communicate with one another?

I’d love to hear them…

Image: portrait of a happy couple – day 358 or Project 365 by purplemattfish via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Confront Pain

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I went to see a neurologist last week. I suffer from migraines. And while they aren’t nearly as bad as those endured by some of my friends – i.e. I don’t vomit, I’m not light-sensitive, etc. – they aren’t pleasant.

I really should have done this awhile ago. My migraines have been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity for several years now. But you know how it is:  you need to go see your G.P./primary care doctor, get a referral, and then block out the time to actually deal with the problem, rather than just suffering through.

But because I really didn’t want to overdose on Ibuprofen, I finally took the plunge and went to see a specialist. (I also finally broke down and went to see the dentist about a different but equally persistent problem I’ve been having with my teeth.)

If – like me – you’re avoidance-prone where pain is concerned, here are five reasons not to ignore the problem any longer:

1. It won’t go away on its own. Rather, it will just get worse. In the case of my teeth, it turns out that I wasn’t just clenching – as I’d long believed – but grinding. The dentist could actually show me where I’d worn down my front right canine tooth so that it was no longer pointy, but flattened out from grinding so much over time. That’s not good, especially since we all know that smiles are key to a happy marriage.

2. The fix is often quite simple. I think one reason that many of us put off going to the doctor to address an ongoing problem is that we fear that the fix will either not exist (why bother?) or be too complicated (requiring many more time-consuming doctor’s office visits.) And sometimes that’s true. But a lot of times, you just need a new medication (or mouth guard). That proved true for me in both cases. So it’s actually more efficient to go early to the doctor, rather than spending all that money on painkillers that don’t actually do the trick.

3. Pain feeds on itself. I have a pretty high threshold for pain. Which is why I tend to wait until a limb falls off before I go and see a doctor. (Even as I write this, I have a pain I’m ignoring in my upper left shoulder – a reminder that I ought to be stretching!) But even if it’s manageable, pain tends to feed on itself. It makes you tense. You become irritable. It’s distracting. You sleep less well. (The National Sleep Foundation reports that 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers experience sleep problems). So it’s better just to take the plunge and eliminate the pain effectively once and for all.

4. It can lead to other positive changes in your life. As you know, I’m a big believer in yoga for all sorts of reasons. But in addition to the fact that my life coach told me to do it, another reason that I do yoga is that physical therapist I saw for my Piriformis Syndrome told me that he thought it would help. I’d already done yoga when I saw him, but had stopped because of the pain in my, um…ass. He reminded me that yoga would actually help control that pain, not aggravate it. So I resumed yoga, and it turns out he was right.

5. You get ideas for blog posts. When I was in the neurologist’s office last week, we talked about what I do for a living. I actually joked with him that he should “Stay tuned for a post on visiting the Neurologist.” Et voilà!

Image: Headache by ehaver via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

(Another) Secret To A Happy Marriage: Have A Division Of Labor

I’ve posted before about what makes for a happy marriage. (Answer: Have common interests.)

I’ve also posted on five tips for staying monogamous.

But this morning I had another epiphany about what makes for a successful long-term partnership: set up an appropriate division of labor.

I realized this about an hour ago when two things happened simultaneously:

a. my cell phone failed to charge properly (again) and

b. I couldn’t locate a tool bar for a new social networking program I’d just set up on my computer.

It’s not that I couldn’t have tried to fix either of these problems on my own. I’m not a technophobe. As an avid blogger, Facebook friend and now Twitter-er, I’m all about technology these days.

It’s just that when something technical goes wrong with a household object – be it the remote control for the VCR or a lightbulb – my first instinct, in the words of my late Irish grandmother, is “to call the man.”

But that’s not always the best strategy. Because “the man” is not only usually quite expensive, he’s also often unnecessary. Rather, these problems are often easily solved if one is just willing to sit down for a few minutes and think things through. Or read the instruction manual (which, in my case, usually gets tossed in a “to be read” pile, never “to be read.”)

Which is where my husband comes in. One of the (many!) reasons I’m glad that I married him is that he is (a.) technologically astute (b.) very helpful and, crucially (c.) incredibly patient. So when my joint technological dilemmas presented themselves this morning, he immediately came upstairs and had them both under control in a matter of minutes.

All of which is to say that in our marital division of labor, my husband is the technological advisor.

He’s also the aesthetic consultant. The son of an architect, he has a really good eye. He always knows what colors match, which piece of furniture ought to go where, and how high a particular painting ought to hang. Me? I’m just not all that visual. (Don’t believe me? Read this post under “comfort zone.” Nuff said.)

But lest you think that this is an entirely one-sided arrangement, let me assure you that I also pull my weight in this relationship. I’m in charge of anything time-sensitive.

So, for example, I recently got an email from an old friend who’d (apparently) been trying to get in touch with us for several weeks. She’d initially emailed my husband to ask if we were free for dinner one night in November when she’d be passing through London. When he didn’t respond, she emailed him again to be sure he’d gotten the first query.

My first reaction was:  why didn’t she email me first? Doesn’t she *know* that I’m the Chief Scheduler? Apparently not. But my husband does. Which is why – once he actually got to the second email – he immediately forwarded it to me.

Done.

So now I’m curious…what’s your division of labor?

*****

In case you’re interested, here’s yesterday’s post on PoliticsDaily.com about Five Things We Learned At The European Summit.

Image: Blue Lightbulb by Curious_Zed via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl