“Once more into the breach dear friends”
A classic quote from Shakespeare’s King Henry V act III. Referring to a battle set in France. He was trying to rally his troops to defend a hole in the wall that had been under siege over and over again. This would have required tremendous courage given the circumstances. Mike, what the hell does this have to do with marriage? That’s an impeccable question, I’m glad you asked. Marriage is not for the weak or the easily intimidated. The role of husband is a prestigious title reserved for those who are willing to face the unknown with courage and a spirit of determination to run towards a fire instead of away from it. The prize for this valor is the chance to inherit a life and existence that few ever realize because they quit too soon. We will talk today about facing the challenges of marriage and charging into the breach once more.
Are you calling me a punk?
No sir, a term such as this is exclusively reserved for the squeamish, the cowardly and the fearful. What I am calling you, is to action. Not the kind of action where you are instructed to ram your head into a brick wall and when it doesn’t budge you are aggressively encouraged to try harder. I’m calling you to the type of action that says “Hey that wall needs to go and I need to investigate and figure what it will take to make it go away.” This takes courage, I mean real unfiltered courage. Not the courage you displayed when your stupid friends dared you to ride your bike off the roof, onto the trampoline and into the pool. Nor is it the type of courage you were asked to display when you got dared to mix all of your school lunch together, milk included, into once big pile of slop and then eat it. Those shenanigans were childish.
The courage I’m talking about is the kind that allows you to admit that you made a mistake when you got her a new vacuum for her birthday because she was always muttering to herself that “something has got to change around here” as you lifted your feet up so she could get between the couch and coffee table. Better yet, it is the courage to not let your ego get the best of you when invited out to party with the fellas. You’ve got to remember that you have a family waiting at home. Instead you fall for the head-fake when some lonely biker at happy hour challenges you to an atomic hot wings eating contest. Sure you beat him and earned a t-shirt, but you always won several trips to the bathroom during a sold-out show that your wife has been waiting 6 months to see. Now every standing ovation could lead to a small disaster.
Fight or Flight
All creatures have a survival instinct that engages whenever a hostile situation erupts and there are only two choices available to you. You can engage and fight or if you are uncertain about victory you can retreat and run away. Many of us might say that we aren’t afraid of anyone or anything. Sounds great and looks really awesome on t-shirts, but I have always found it very interesting that the same guy that will jump in front of a bullet is too afraid to tell his wife that she hurt his feelings. Where did all the machismo go? I’ll tell you where it went. It’s on a thirty minute union break because dealing with our emotions wasn’t a part of our labor agreement. I’ve come to understand that men are no less emotional than women, they just express their feelings in a much different manner. Far too often men find themselves in a tough conversation with their wife and wrestle to find the words to express what is going on inside of them and so they press pause until they can find a safe and familiar place to release them. Professor Mike can you give us an example? Gladly!
These are some of the most frequent destinations for our bruised egos or battered emotions:
- The gym- here you can throw some weight and release some pressure then, spend 20 minutes in the mirror reassuring yourself that you are still a force of nature.
- The local Bar- In here you can tell your problems to the On-Site counselors Jack Daniels, Don Julio and Captain Morgan. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
- On-line gaming- Nothing helps you feel better about yourself than whooping some 12 year old in Singapore in a sudden death match of Halo or Call of Duty.
- The Homies- These guys always have your back and will defend you to the hilt, particularly since you only tell them half the story which is how much of a monster your wife is. Never mind what you did.
By now you get the point. Guys don’t break out wine and tissue, they break records down at the local rec-center fueled by disappointment and frustration.
How can we be better?
It has always been a matter of tradition for us to learn how to suppress our emotions and feelings like a hot fart during a sales meeting. If keeping them under the surface didn’t work there was always the very direct and effective use of force. Any guy who played high school football remembers that one time he got the fire knocked out of him and almost cried. The hazing that took place over the next three weeks would be atrocious. The lesson here is that no matter how much you are hurting, nobody cares or wants to know about it. This is one of many moments where we learn how to master the art of suffering in silence.
So how do we reprogram ourselves after such an intense practice? It won’t be easy but we have to understand what the reason and reward would be for doing such a thing. Through our silent suffering we gained membership into the club, which validated our identity as one of the tough guys. The problem is that this skillset doesn’t serve a marriage very well because your buddies never required you to be vulnerable except for when you’re drunk so they can write on your face while you’re passed out. A woman is ever waiting along-side her husband waiting to do something beautiful in his life but she needs to be able to plugin and connect. Too often we prevent that connection by having one of those baby-proof plug covers you see on electrical outlets and just like in real-life, getting that cover off is a pain in the ass. However, for those of us who manage to get that cap off and allow our wives access to our hearts, we tend to have a significantly better experience from day to day.
In closing, I want you to be encouraged that having courage in your marriage is essential to overcoming some of the challenges in marriage. There is no shame in telling your wife that her words are stinging you. There is no shame in owning up to a mistake and allowing her to be a part of the recovery. There is no shame in not knowing what the hell to do because you can find out together.
The only real shame here is not trying.