Sunday, May 24, 2009

Love and Marriage

For those of you out there who are starting to believe that marriage sucks, that it always ends unhappily, that the mere fact that Drew Peterson could find four women who wanted to marry him indicates an inherent problem with the institution: don't throw out the baby with the banns.

Yes, it appears to be true that marriage is in trouble. The stats on marriage are not hopeful: The divorce rate (3.6 per 1000) is half that of the marriage rate (7.5 per 1000), according to the CDC. (And why this is a statistic that the Centers for Disease Control collects, I have no idea.)

Please note: This does NOT mean that half of all marriages end in divorce. It means that half as many divorces occur every year as marriages--but that's not the same thing. Do I need to spell it out? Fine. If 1000 people get married, and 500 people get divorced, the divorces don't only come from the 1000 new marriages, but from all current existing marriages. Get it?

So articles like this and this are just not getting it right. This NY Times piece posits that "the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates." Nevertheless, as The Straight Dope points out, the stats are not good on the marriage survival rate even when they are interpreted logically.

Marriage is hard work even when you're married to a near-perfect specimen, as I am; and the problem is, most of us don't want to work that hard.

Fortunately, Mr. Peevie is willing to work very, very hard to make our marriage blissful; and so far (cross your fingers) he has not indicated that he will be seeking to replace me with a younger, cuter, lower-maintenance model. (Version, not runway.)

Here's a teensy anecdote that illustrates how sometimes, one person is giving, patient and peace-making, and the other person tends slightly toward cluelessness, over-reaction, misinterpretation, and general irascibility:

The day started with ten "Mommies" before 7:30 a.m. "Mommy, can you get me breakfast?" "Mommy, I need help with my math homework!" (Note: I don't do well on math after 10 a.m., let alone before 8 a.m.) "Mommy, what's the temperature going to be?" "Mommy, come look at my ginormous poop!" etc., etc.

Between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., the "Mommies" expanded exponentially, as though there were 16 kids in the house and not just three. I was sick and tired, SICK and TIRED, of people needing something from me.

Then Mr. Peevie came home late after running a 3.5 mile race downtown and snagging some BBQ at the DePaul post-race chow tent. One of the first things he said were these words: "Did you wash any darks today?"

An innocent question, no? But what I heard was, "I need something from you. I need you to make sure my dark socks are clean." What I heard, my therapist cleverly pointed out to me, was, "Mommy!"

I detonated. "Everybody needs a piece of me!" I snapped. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I did wash darks today. In fact, I washed four frickin' loads of laundry, plus two loads of dishes, plus..."

Poor Mr. Peevie just looked at me. "E. Peevie, I just want to know..." he started.

"Yes, I washed your damn clothes!" I martyred, "and I'll go downstairs right this very second to make sure they're done in the dryer!"

Mr. Peevie, God bless him, chose not to repay evil with evil. This is what makes a marriage work: one person being a peacemaker when the other person is unreasonable and a teensy bit insane.

"Honey," he said gently, "I really just wanted to know the answer to the question. I'm not asking you to do anything for me." Talk about a soft answer turning away wrath! This guy lives the Bible, Old Testament and New, every day with me. Marriage is hard work--for him; but for me, it's easy. (Most of the time.)

His words threw sand on the blazing campfire of my hostility, and finally, I heard what he was really saying instead of what I heard through the filter of the irritating context of my day.

"Um, yes, I did wash darks today," I said cautiously. "I don't remember if the last load is in the washer or the dryer, though."

"OK," said my hero, "Thanks. I'll go check in the laundry room." See how easy that was?

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage. --Robert Anderson, Solitaire and Double Solitaire

Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century. ~Mark Twain

Happy 25th anniversary, sweetheart. (Almost two weeks late...)


Meg said...

Eve, you are a brilliant writer.

E. Peevie said...

And you are my new best friend.