Isn’t it a pleasure to be around couples who obviously seem happy with each other? In contrast, isn’t it unpleasant, uncomfortable, to be around couples who are constantly making belittling remarks and complaining about their partners?
I don’t know which is worse — when the person being belittled just sits there, taking it quietly, or when he or she lashes back, matching accusation with accusation.
When I’m listening to someone give an opinion in public, I often glance at his or her partner to see how they’re reacting. I am always admirous (OK, admirous isn’t really a word but it should be.) I am always admirous when I see the partner is listening attentively, nodding, perhaps, even agreeing. If there is disagreement, it’s nice when the disagree-er does it with affection and respect and, most appreciated, with humor.
Because, of course, there will be disagreements unless one of the couple is totally dominated or has no opinions — and we don’t want to be around them either.
When we are forced to listen to a spouse bitterly recite the faults of her mate (and it seems to me women are more often guilty of this than men) we think: “Why did this woman ever take this man? Certainly not for better or worse because she obviously can’t see any “better” in him.
One theory is that the faults she saw before marriage she was certain she could correct as soon as they exchanged rings. Well, we know from reading Dear Abby, from observation and from experience, that we can’t change anybody about anything — not habits, not beliefs. Nagging, criticism, helpful — even loving — advice: all useless. A person can only change himself and he has to want to change. He, or she, won’t stop drinking, smoking or watching Fox news unless he makes the decision himself. You can’t nag or humiliate an adult into eating snails or collard greens or change her political affiliation unless she decides herself, “OK, I guess I’m ready now.”
And people do decide to change. My husband came into our marriage with the prevailing attitude of that day: Women cooked and washed the dishes while the men read the newspaper. Women expected men to do the yard work, scare off burglars, remove dead animals and change the oil in the car.
But as times changed, as women’s lib pointed out certain inequalities, as we became wage earners too, my husband changed. Soon he was cheerfully cooking breakfast, making the salad for dinner, doing most of the heavy cleaning.
I confess, though, I never volunteered to take care of dead animals, burglars or learned to change the oil.
On the other hand, neither I, his mother, his three sons or his doctor every persuaded him to stop smoking. Eventually, we quit trying.
We are lucky when we have couples for friends who appreciate each other’s talents, accomplishments and ideas, even when they disagree, and quietly tolerate their shortcomings. They obviously enjoy each other and are a joy to be around — and we should treasure them and hang on to them.
Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.