A Dad’s Point-of-View
A scenario: Two couples are going out for dinner together. As each couple is getting ready they have a typical marital fight. It escalates during the drive to the restaurant to meet the other couple. When they arrive, they each angrily slam the car door and storm into the restaurant. Upon seeing the other couple, happy faces appear, and they end up having a nice evening.
After the dinner, the following dialogue takes place in each car of the two couples. Reverse the husband or wife, since it makes no difference because this is not a gender-based concept/idea:
Debra: Well, that was a nice evening.
Bruce (grumbling): Yeah.
Debra: Did you see how Hank treated Susie?
Bruce (not paying attention): Huh?
Debra: He treated her like a goddess! Why can’t you be more like him?
Bruce (finally waking up): I’ll be like him when you look at me the way Susie looks at Hank, with love and respect.
Debra (grumbling): Harumpf…
Recognize yourself somewhere in this scenario? My simple question is: What would happen if these two couples actually shared the problems and/or arguments they were having with their friends? Might there be a scene like this:
Jim: Hey, it’s great to see you guys! How are you, Bruce and Debra?
Debra: Good to see you too, Hank (as she kisses Susie on the cheek).
Susie: I miss you two. How are things with the kids?
Bruce: Well, since you asked we’ve been struggling a bit lately.
Jim: Really, so have we. What’s going on?
Debra: Well, I think Bruce favors the boys over me and is spoiling them rotten.
Susie: Wow, we just argued about exactly that on the way here!
(Everyone laughs…a bit in discomfort).
Jim: It’s hard in a blended family to choose whom to support when everyone seems to want a piece of me!
Debra: I think the spouse should come first. After all, the kids are going to leave…then what?
Susie: I agree with Debra (gives a look at Hank).
Bruce: C’mon Susie, it’s not easy or simple.
Susie: I suppose you’re right (takes Hank’s hand in a conciliatory gesture).
Debra (looking at Bruce): I know you try, honey, I just feel left out some of the time.
Bruce: I’m sorry darling, but you know how much I Iove you, and the teen years are a bear!
Get it? Wouldn’t both couples feel better? I don’t care what the problem is. If we actually open up and stop pretending all is well and good, everyone will learn and benefit. The hot-button topics for most couples are the kids, money, and sex. I’d add a fourth: time spent together or one spouse working too much. Those two are really one thing as they obviously relate.
Let’s say, as unusual as it may be, that you and your spouse haven’t had sex in a while. Imagine that? Wouldn’t you take some comfort knowing that you’re not alone? We all know that many couples go through ups and downs with their intimacy. Maybe a hint or just commiseration with another couple would help? It won’t hurt and that is my main point!
If the problem is money, one couple may actually have concrete advice to offer. On any problem with kids, experience is always a great tool and the couple with older kids may have already gone through the problem that the other couple is currently experiencing.
Putting on a happy face has its place. Ironically, I think that the most important time for that – for couples and just for you – is when one is in a foul mood for no particular reason. People do not like being around grumps. So, put on a happy face. When your mood has passed, you’ll be better for it and not have subjected your spouse or anyone around you to that sour puss!
Why do we feel the need to keep our real lives secret from our friends? I heard a saying from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who quotes his mother as expressing, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know very well.” I love that quote and I think it’s so very true. Most of us would not trade our problems with anyone else’s. To keep going on with the sayings, I remember another where it’s said something to the effect that if people all throw their troubles into a big pile, they’d look them over, and take back their own.
That is why there is such value in opening up to friends. Being a bit sexist, I would assert that women tend to open up more easily to other women than men to each other. But couples are another thing altogether and I believe we’d all help each other a ton by just expressing the truth of our lives. It’s important to share the good too, since no one wants to go out and spend an evening whining…
Why not try it? Do you have ‘couple’ friends that you and your spouse/partner can open up and commiserate with? If so, what has been your experience?