I loved Ellie’s piece of marriage advice the other day with the mango. It was a very strong visual, and certainly true. Love is a beautiful thing, but handled carelessly, it is something that can be destroyed.
I think neglect falls under careless handling.
There are the immediate types of neglect that spring to mind. Not enough time spent together without kids hanging off of you. (BOY do I know that one.) And not enough sex. I think I’ve harped on sex on this blog before because I DO think it’s really important.
It’s an act you ONLY share with your spouse. A significant part of your relationship, and human interaction that you share with no one else. It’s something that sets your relationship with your husband/wife apart from all other relationships. So yeah, important.
There are other types of neglect though. And a big one I see is the neglect of communication. This came to mind for me when I was talking to a friend about something she views as a shortcoming of her husband’s. She said she’d tried so many things to get him to be more verbal in his praise of her looks. From dressing differently, to dressing up when he comes home from work, to not putting in effort at all. And it hadn’t worked.
The one thing I could think of to say was: Have you told him?
This was a sticking point for me in my marriage for a long time. No, I don’t WANT to have to tell my husband: I want flowers on my birthday. OR, I want you to tell me I’m beautiful. But here’s the thing, if we don’t lay out our expectations for our significant other, how can they realistically meet them?
I get that in our minds, some of these things should be no-brainers…but they clearly aren’t. Because if my husband KNEW he would upset me by NOT buying a card on my birthday, or that he could fix everything by simply putting in that extra effort…well, he’d buy the darn card.
I spent the first few years of my marriage in willful stubbornness. Thinking, if I have to ask for these things to get them, then they don’t mean as much. I shouldn’t have to ask.
*sighs heavily at past Maisey*
One time I actually said that to my husband: I want you to do x, but I don’t want to have to ask you to do x, because that ruins it. Because then you didn’t think of it.
Then I heard myself say it. And heard how…silly that sounded. I was expecting him to read my mind, then punishing us both when he didn’t.
It was such a funny argument I actually ended up writing it into a book. (shameless plug…this is from The Inherited Bride.)
“I don’t know that I have you figured out.”
It was such an honest, frustrated admission, one that shocked her. “I can’t wear Hassan’s ring,” she blurted.
“You don’t like it?”
“It’s a beautiful ring. It’s not my style, but it is beautiful. But I can’t wear it because I’m not marrying Hassan. It’s linked to him, not to you, and as long as I wear it I feel…I feel like I’m still engaged to him.”
“Why couldn’t you just say that?” He sounded even more exasperated now.
“Because if I say it, it doesn’t mean as much as if you just…figure it out.”
“It isn’t,” she insisted. “It’s like having to ask for flowers.”
“Which isn’t good either.”
“No. You want the other person to think of it, otherwise it has no meaning.”
They were getting close to the rigs now, the sound filling the air, overpowering the sound of the car’s motor, the scent of the crude coming through the air vents. The road they were on wound around the rigs, taking them behind the mountains, which did a good job of absorbing the bulk of the noise.
“Life would be simpler if you would just ask for things,” he muttered.
“That’s very male of you,” she said stiffly.
I present it as an example, because it was an Aha moment for me in my real life. Having to write out both sides of the argument made me understand. Yes, I still get the frustration of having to ask, but in that moment I had to understand my hero’s frustration…and the fact that my heroine’s stubbornness had complicated things needlessly.
There are all different kinds of neglect. Big kinds, and then little kinds. Like the kinds where you neglect to communicate something small and simple, that turns into a small wound. Then turns into a little grain of sand being rubbed against a wound, until it festers and gets infected, and turns into a huge problem. Until not telling your husband you need him to tell you you’re beautiful, turns into hurt and a feeling of total neglect coming from him. Until it turns into: you don’t think I’m beautiful.
If there’s something that’s been bothering you, I’ll pose this question: have you told him?
If there’s something you want that isn’t being given, have you asked him?
It won’t solve everything. It takes a long time for someone to change a pattern of behavior, if it is a pattern, and it won’t change overnight. Or rather, maybe it will, but then he’ll backslide. (I will say, I got a dozen roses, chocolate and a card proclaiming I was my husband’s lobster on our anniversary. He has learned well, but he did have to learn!) But if he wants to change, if he wants to fix things, then maybe he just needs some help being told HOW. If he doesn’t…that’s a different problem entirely, and for another post!
And then comes the hard part. The asking, what can I do? Where am I falling short for you? (I hate asking that question! Because then I have to listen to the answer!!)
I guess the bottom line of my post is this: Don’t forget to talk. Don’t be too prideful to ask for things. Or to ask what you can do to make things better to.