Marnie on MARRIAGE!

Sep 4, 2013 by

Marnie on MARRIAGE!



                             Marnie Macauley


What do you do when the honeymoon’s over? You’ve heard parents say, “Play nicely, children.” To couples, I say … “Fight nicely.”


DEAR MARNIE: Whenever my husband and I fight, nothing gets resolved. The problem is still there, and then I feel more anger because he won’t talk to me about it …


HI MARNIE: Maybe I’m not cut out for the relationship thing. The problem is arguing. My wife and I have been married a year, and we go at it at least twice a week until one of us walks out …


MARNIE: After a disagreement, we won’t speak for days until things cool off because of the things we’ve said! And even after, I’m still furious … (END ITAL)


Getting Smart About Anger!      

You’ve just returned from two weeks at the Honeymoon Hilton where you were so wiggy with love you even thought his clothes’ clutter was cute. Flash forward two months. Instead of sharing sweat socks, you’re now conjuring visions of 14-wheelers lumbering across his mountain of dirty ones (not to mention his face).

“How can this be?” you wonder. Oh, it can be. Anger is a lot like temporary insanity. When in a rabid state, we’re capable of using a verbal hit list on our loved ones that we wouldn’t think of using on a mugger. Threats! Maledictions! Name-calling! Then there’s that silent thing. Can we lop the beast? No. Be we can tame, train and aim it so you don’t bury the hatchet – in your mate’s soul.


– The Insult: “Are you a moron?” “You’re lazy, and you always will be!” Ever heard anyone say, “Wow, thanks for the helpful hint”? Even when couched as constructive criticism, insults are character assaults. Not only do they send the victim (whoops, mate) fleeing like the Roadrunner, you’ve sealed it. As one newlywed told me, “If she already thinks I’m a bum, I may as well enjoy it.”


– Hitting Below the Belt: This is the one-two punch following an insult that gets the victim where she hurts. “Not only was that dumb, you’re gaining weight.” In the extreme, these are abusive.


– The Melodrama: “You always  ignore me!” “You never think of my feelings!” Like salad spinners, these extremes, instead of problem-solving, lock you into, “Yes, I do!” followed by “No, you don’t!” followed by a fight over each example and exception.


– The Laundry List: “Not only did you come home late again, but you forgot to take out the garbage, and your sister hates me.” This telegraphs the message that nothing is right with your world will accomplish nothing but overwhelming both of you.


– It’s the Little Things: I’ve never seen a perfect meatloaf, never mind marriage. Picking at each little violation will turn you into a bigger violator – of your mate’s human rights.


– The Mini-series: Extending the drama beyond agreed-upon limits may force a win, but can you trust agreements made because your mate would give up a kidney to get out of there? Like confessions under duress, they don’t hold up.


– Without exception, fighting is never physical.



– Fight Time: Limit the argument. Agree to a time period, say five minutes, where you can each vent uninterrupted. No “buts,” “you dids” or “you saids” while the other is spouting. Each gets a turn.


– Call the Act: Talk behavior, not character, and how it affects you. “When you were three hours late, I was worried sick. It upset me terribly, and that makes me furious. What can we do about it?” Tip: Using the word “I” as in “I felt” helps you stay on track and moves the soundtrack from liability to responsibility.


– Stay on Point: If you’re fighting about the budget, keep it to the bucks. Save the “your mother’s a harpy” theme for another time. Keep it clear. Keep it clean.


– Prioritize Your Poison: Is it more important that he hang up his shorts – or pay the bills on time? Choose your battles with care. (Read: The Big Things.) Marriage is not a Hollywood makeover. Living with the little things is part of the deal.


– Manage the Little Things: Either let the small stuff go, work them out or negotiate. She’s into watching black-and-white game shows till 2 a.m? Get earplugs. The toothpaste is open and crusty? Get your own. You pick up his shorts; he gasses up (the car).


– Decide What’s Fair: Resolve  something.  Leave the argument with a decision, a compromise, a strategy, a problem solved, no matter how small. What you want is to create a victory together. You crawl there by truthfully answering the simple question, what’s fair? That requires hearing and negotiating.


Marriage is Mama Nature’s Great Roller Coaster. When you’re up, it’s life’s headiest ride, but oh those curves. Learning to ride them out safely is key to surviving long after those ice swans have melted.

–       –       –      –


Marnie Macauley

WARNING readers! I’m about to bleat so batten down and don the shades.  After years of mailbags overflowing with make-break wedding issues such as “HER SIDE gets five extra people?!”  and “Are money trees OK so we can get the condo instead of candle-snuffers?” I’ve spent a lot of time stuffing my mouth with buttercream to muzzle myself.

Here we are, running, leaping, planning like demented Roadrunners over minute details that would drive the IRS to wolf tequila shooters.  Should we go with the fish or the chicken?  Are kids over 12 yes’s or no’s.  Where do we seat dotty aunt Leona?   DECISIONS DECISIONS DECISIONS.  All this while we puff like blowfish from smiling at the strangers who are to be “family” – pssst – even if they’re not “our kind of people.”

What strikes me is how spectacularly “ept” we are at seating arrangements and how frequently inept we are at choosing who we should be sitting next to for the rest of our lives.

I’ve always  believed “Great Relationship Choices 101” should be a mandatory school subject starting in elementary with “Great Playmates” all the way through “Great RelationShops” in High School.   It beats woodworking.  How many of us know how to carve a bread box, but haven’t a clue how to choose a mate to break bread with – as friends – never mind life partners.  Of course, the very best halls of learning are those between the living rooms and kitchens of our childhood.  And the very best teachers … ? Parents.  But alas, many are better at choosing napkin rings than their own relationships – and making wise choices.

Yet, choices and how to make them are essential.  You see, life’s a custom job.  There’s no one “right” mate, but there is a right way and a wrong way to pick them – and treat them.


So now I’m offering up a Pre-Nupt Prescription of my own for intendeds:


Do you Hereby agree to ……..

*Take this Human Being As He or She Is?  How often have you heard an intended say, “I adore him, but that little habit …. robbing banks … don’t worry,  I’ll change that once we’re back from Aruba.”  No, you won’t.  Kidding aside, agree to walk in with a no holds barred acceptance of each other’s personhood.  Sure we marry “potential.”  But your mate has to be complete –  “soup” –  when you wed.  Except for a little pepper, you don’t marry to mess with the basic ingredients.


*Care Enough to Want the Very Best for Your Mate?  You are each the proverbial wind, gently propelling one another to fly on the wings of his/her dreams, no matter how high.  You’re each other’s biggest fan.   MARNIE’S RULE: Never the twain shall compete.

*Provide SafeHarbor in Word and Deed?  The world has always been one scary jungle. The demons may change but they’re just as terrifying today with massive money shakes, political and  industrial trust-busters, mad media, never mind mad people who explode bystanders.  Our couplehoods need not be heaven, but a haven. One that demands civility, respect – and most of all our mates must  be a safe respository for our trust.


*Give up Great Expectations for Good Enough Results? Before you get all wiggy on me,  I’m not saying “settle,” I’m saying, get over perfection.  I’ve never seen a perfect meatball, never mind a perfect marriage.  In a lifetime, expect your mate hood to go through climactic changes – from deserts to valleys to peaks to, yes, black holes.  Remember, Mama Nature isn’t a numbskull. If we were all cavorting in perpetual idiotic carnal bliss … we’d all be idiots without a job … and densely populated.


*Believe in Each Other?   OK, you get it. Life will turn imperfect now and then.  (There’ll  be times you’ll picture your mate, head down in a vat of truly ripe Limberger.)  Count on it.  But, you have faith in each other to honor and commit to your coupling, now and in the future.  Staying power means hanging in through the struggles as well as the joys.  It’s the “suffering” and surviving that makes the journey real.


*Care Enough to Want the Very Best for You?   Do you enjoy talking about the tough stuff?  Can you unlock your personal  closet (C’mon, we all have one) and trust your mate-bestbud with that hellish night you …………………  ?  Do you feel safe being apart without fearing you’re pulling apart?   Does your world seem better, more exciting, more loving, braver, kinder and more fun facing the Big Adventure and the Big Busts together?   Yes?  Good.


*Be there because you want to be, rather than need to be?   “We two form a multitude” is a famous phrase, not “we two form a whole.”   Marry to add, not fill holes – in you. Committment requires choice.  Wise choices require the freedom to chose, unfettered by old raggy baggage.   Living together is tough enough without trying to fix, mend or prove your worth to ghosts of loves past.


There you have it.  My Pre-Nupt Prescription. If you can commit to the above, may the doves soar in peace over your ice swans.  No?  Take two readings and if your waves remain on different lengths – please please don’t call each other in the morning.





DEAR MARNIE: What has happened to the morals of marriage? Seems like everywhere I look, everyone is on their second or third marriage. I was taught that marriage should be a one-time deal. Nowadays, people divorce for little or ridiculous things! It’s very sad to see couples like this. I am going to stay single. It’s too risky to get married these days. I can’t believe how carried away this divorce thing is going. People are treating marriage just like dating! I find this to be very sad. – TigerShark

MARNIE SAYS: In the spirit of practicing what I refuse to preach, I can deliver the best answer from a simple song made famous in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” Picture it: 1905,  an endangered village in Russia. A poor milkman, Tevye, and wife, Golde, raising five daughters who talk of “love” instead of “arranged matches.” Tevye, bound by tradition, wonders about this changing world. In a poignant moment, he turns to his wife of 25 years and sheepishly asks … “Do you love me?”  His startled wife, Golde, thinks he has indigestion. But Tevye persists. Through the lyric, we hear the couple, whose match was arranged, describe their duties, their troubles … their life, until … listen …

GOLDE: For 25 years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?

TEVYE : Then you love me!

GOLDE: I suppose I do.

TEVYE: And I suppose I love you, too.

TEVYE & GOLDE: It doesn’t change a thing. But even so – after 25 years, it’s nice to know.

There it is. In song. It’s about a word that carries more raw power than Oprah’s entire self-help shelf: “expectation.” Tevye and Golde milked cows together – and survived. Love was a bonus. MARNIE’s not underselling love, just our foolish expectations.

– Quit expecting perfection. It doesn’t exist.

– Quit expecting others to fill all your needs. Not their job.

– Quit expecting perpetual bliss. You’ll look silly.

– Quit expecting life to be easy. Even rose gardens can freeze.

– And … quit expecting doom. Perhaps the only thing sadder than foolish or even negative expectations – are none at all. Roar, Tiger! Even in pain, it’s the sound of life.


I wish to thank Jerry Bock Enterprises and Richard Ticktin. “Do you Love Me,” from Fiddler on the Roof, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.






photo credit: Vineet Radhakrishnan via photopin cc

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