Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Men vs. Women, Part 8

It's been a while, I know. I've had a lot of stuff going on, but I'm back and hope to pick back up to my weekly schedule.

In continuation of the men vs. women blogs, today's post will be about loyalty in relationships. This one isn't attributable to men or women only. We all do this. This one won't be as humorous as the others as this is a huge issue in a lot of relationships, and when one isn't loyal to the other, it completely devalues the other person not only in his or her eyes, but in all others' eyes.

When we take a husband or a wife, we have vowed that we will put him or her above all others. In fact, while the vows differ from couple to couple, we stand before God and our friends and families and promise to us all "to take you as my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live."

That's crap. As any husband or wife will tell you, some days you just DO NOT cherish your spouse. When she's got PMS or he's being a lazy ass, sometimes the other spouse just wants to shake him or her until the head pops off. We don't, of course. . . but we think about it.

To be loyal is defined as "unswerving in allegiance." Now let's think about that. Unswerving in allegiance. Steady devotion. Unfaltering dedication. That's pretty serious stuff. With the exception of my son, I can't think of one person for whom I've had unfaltering dedication. I did with one other person at one point in time, but because his loyalty was elsewhere (from the beginning), I lost it, though I did try and try.

When a couple first begins dating, they have certain loyalties to their friends and family and career, etc. After they have been together for a while, their loyalties gradually change, until we are steadily devoted to the other person.

As adults, we all realize there are both good and bad forms of loyalty. When we are loyal to a friend who is committing an egregious act, we're exhibiting a bad form of loyalty. Society agrees this is bad and therefore, we have exacted punishment on those who remain loyal in the face of a crime, for example, with accessory crimes.

Personal loyalty is okay to a point, but in marriage, we *have* to be loyal to our partner even when it is contrary to our own self-interests. Sometimes, loyalty to your spouse is going to make others angry, especially those that don't have YOUR best interests at heart, so you're going to have to deal with some confrontation and hurt feelings from someone else. Some of you are saying, "So what? Who cares if someone else doesn't like it?" and some of you are saying, "But that's hard. I shouldn't have to choose." In a perfect world, everyone would love everyone else and everything would be sunshine and roses at all times. But for those of you that haven't noticed, we aren't living in a perfect world. Any world where adults exploit children on a daily basis is anything but perfect.

Women tend to be fiercely loyal to our families. Why do you think there are so many mother-in-law jokes? We have all heard complaints about meddling mothers-in-law. . . and the spouse who refuses to confront her. Historically, this issue has been with women and their mothers. Just like with childrearing, we don't get a textbook when we get married. Naturally, when a problem arises, women go to our mothers. And let's be honest, our mom's experience is from her own marriage(s). So unless you married someone EXACTLY like your father, she can only tell you what worked for her. What worked for her might infuriate your husband. Or it might be too subtle for him to even notice.

Men tend to be fiercely loyal to their friends. As I said in an earlier post, women do not make time for themselves like we should because we are keeping the house together. Men run off at a moment's notice to go hang with the boys. So who are men talking to about problems in your marriage? That's right, they're talking to the guys. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. At least you are talking to someone, though it does make sense to talk to someone who has at least been in an an adult relationship before, or even better, someone who is or has been married. At least they have some experience!

Where this loyalty becomes an issue is if all you do is bitch about your spouse to your mom/friends. . .all they hear is you bitching. . . they form negative opinions of your spouse. We're all guilty of this. For whatever reason, when we are happy, there's nothing to talk about with anyone. Maybe this is because no one wants to hear us gush on and on about our husband/wife like we are newlyweds. It's just not as entertaining when others can't give unsolicited advice. At any rate, once you open that door with your family/friends, then allow them to comment upon the person you have chosen, whether in public or in private, without repercussion, you cannot get it closed again.

In other words, you chose your spouse. You chose that person, over everyone else you have dated, because you find him or her to be special. Marriage is the only relationship we go into of our own free will that can't be duplicated. Think about that. You have one husband. One wife. When you said "I do," you promised her your loyalty. So letting your friends talk about what a bitch she is in a public forum, or even allowing your mom to say what an ass he is in private is unacceptable. And sure, your best friend is going to tell you that your husband is acting like a complete douchebag. And sure, you're going to say OMG, I know. You shouldn't, but you will. But when it is taken to another extreme, and your sister calls your wife an inappropriate name on her facebook, or your friends write long blogs about what a jackass your husband is, you absolutely cannot allow it. Not only are they insulting your partner, they are insulting you. And if you do allow it, the door is open and here's what is going to happen. I know this from experience.

1. You're showing your partner you have no respect for him or her, nor will you command respect from your "people."
2. You're showing your people you have no respect for your partner, so why should they?
3. You're showing your partner you have no respect for your people, so why should they?
4. You're showing your people you have no respect for yourself.
5. You're showing your partner you have no respect for yourself.
6. You are destroying your partner's trust and faith in you.

Then you have this vicious cycle that starts with one nasty comment from someone important to you and in the end, what happens? Everyone hates everyone else and you are stuck in the middle trying to make everyone happy. Had you been loyal to your partner and immediately confronted the offender either face to face or over the phone, things would have been much, much different. And maybe if you didn't know to do it then, if things continue to escalate the way they did in my relationship, you realize ignoring the situation isn't going to make it go away so you step up and put your foot down and stand by it. Trust is built on consistency and observation; if your track record doesn't change, your partner will not trust you. Nor should they, and believe me, kids, that hurt runs deep.

Eventually, the fact you have destroyed that trust will destroy the rest of your relationship. Oh, sure, it will seem like there are other issues because he or she will gripe about other things, but under the root of it all is that there is no trust, and without trust, there can be no marriage.

Do we chalk it up to a loss and divorce and hopefully move on without dragging this extra baggage with us? I guess that depends on what kind of person you are, or even what kind of person you want to be. The more time I spend thinking about marriage and people, the more I believe there is no transgression in a marriage that cannot be healed, if both parties are committed to saving the marriage. Most people are going to need therapy to get past things, but it can be healed.

Ladies and gents, in summary, there are two things about this post you need to take with you when you go:

1. If you cannot put your partner before your friends and family, do not get married. It is unfair to your partner and what if you bring a child/children into the world? You've now managed to screw up three lives.

2. If your partner cannot put you before his or her friends or family, do not get married. No matter how much has already been spent on a wedding, how much you love him or her, etc. We all deserve someone who makes us the number one.

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