Archive for June, 2010

June 22, 2010

Family Bridges’ response to “The case against marriage” article in “Newsweek” of 06/11/10

By Nadia Persun, Ph.D. and Alicia La Hoz, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologists and Managing Partners of Family Bridges

Newsweek recently posted an article online entitled “The Case Against Marriage” – here’s our response to the article. (You can view the original Newsweek article at: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/06/11/i-don-t.html)

I guess I could have been just sitting on the couch with him one way ten years ago, watching a sitcom and sipping nice chilled Chardonnay. Feeling loving and sentimental, I’d just tell him in the spur of the moment: “Hey, I’ve been thinking about us. I love you and want to stay with you, hopefully for good.” He’d agree to my casual proposition: we wanted to be together. Wearing jeans, we’d exchange our informal vows and skip dealing with legalities, costs, and ado of a gown and a tuxedo party. However, we’ve opted out of the “promise of the couch” option and had a small wedding ceremony with friends and family supporting and celebrating our decision, thus creating memories and traditions that we now cherish and share with our children. Many things were to follow: becoming better friends, learning to share, compromise, and forgive, and figuring out that marriage is not easy but worth of effort.

Yes, I could support myself financially. After graduate school, I’ve landed a job that is both, fun and well-paying. However, I needed him to cheer me up through the hurdles of being a student and share both, delights and problems, of launching and building my career. He is my family, supporting and cheerleading, in thick and thin. Yes, I could probably get away without some of his help in the house. I do have expensive appliances in the house that make chores easier. However, my top of the line washer and dryer don’t give me a back rub when my muscles are sore, and my high end French door fridge does not listen and cheer me up when I feel sad.  I don’t believe that modernization and affluence can replace deep human need for a life time partnership with commitment and stability coming with marriage.

No, I did not have guarantees when marrying him that later I am not going to meet another “better suited” partner. I just genuinely liked him and desired to be together. So much that I vowed to make him a member of my family. Just like I’ve never attempted to exchange my sister during our disagreements for another, easier to get along-with human, I’ve extended the same no-expiration and no- exchange policy to him. No, I have never considered formal celebrations and tangible tokens of connection, such as rings, a wedding, and a marriage license, as redundant. I’ve heard cynical comments about marriage being just a piece of paper. However, history and experience show that some papers (think of the Constitution) are timeless, priceless, and capable of providing an irreplaceable foundation for creation of stability, deep meaning, and greatness.

Yes, there any many choices these days. It’s easy to get cynical and overwhelmed by variety, struggling with finding patience and ability to manage stress of life-long decisions. Just like many become shopping bulimics, buying, returning, exchanging, and upgrading goods in the land of material abundance, some try to apply same principles to intangible commodities, such as love and commitment, only getting increasingly overwhelmed, confused, and discouraged. Genuine love is not about staying together during a transient period of coincidental convergence of interests, ending upon expiration of passion and patience. Untainted definition of marriage includes life time commitment and loyalty, along with creation and preservation of a family tradition. It’s hard, and sometimes it does not work out. But you are darn lucky if it does. Why promote and foster marriage resentment? How about getting better at relational skills, overcoming marriage phobia, and learning to contend with and appreciate both, labor and fruits of grand yet great life decisions?

June 9, 2010

Husbands and Dads, Loving and Loved

Contributed by Nadia Persun, PhD

I was so angry at him this morning, after our senseless spurt of fighting at 8 am. We both leave for work stewing over our prideful sense of self righteousness, without releasing any words of apology. I, being right of course, solemnly promise myself to carry my bellyache forever, if needed, but not apologize first.  During my drive to work, I can’t help but conduct in my head an amateur ping pong match of the two opposing teams: his good versus bad points.

Wham! His good quality number one: very funny. He makes me laugh at things, at myself, and at him.  He has that amazing ability to take himself seriously but does not impose this attitude on others.

Boom! His bad quality number one: super laid back. He can switch off his brain and tune out all of the short and long term worries that permanently reside in my mind. He can just lose himself in the cushiony softness of his favorite chair, stretch out his long legs, and listen to music or watch sports. Meanwhile, droppings of the recently removed clothing articles are collapsed on the floor, shaped like little ready to erupt volcanoes. I usually pick them up, preventing spilling of lava, which of course would stem from my fury, not from a wrinkled pair of jeans on the floor. Parents of young children, we live in a permanent state of clutter. It triumphantly stares at us from all of the corners of our house. Actually, it mainly stares and winks at me, since I am the most likely person in the house to make eye contact with it. How can he just be sitting there like a Zen Buddhist? Maybe I am just jealous.

Racket swings back. His good quality number two: loves me and thinks I am cute and smart. He picks the oddest times to tell me these nice things. He’d comment on my looks when I am still wearing my pajamas in the morning and have pillow traces on my face. Or he tells me that I am smart, knowing darn well my deadly flaw of often missing out on the crucial plot parts in a movie, so that he has to re-explain the whole story. Or he forgives the fact that I am directionally challenged. In the 10 years of our marriage, he is the one to sort out maps, deal with furniture or toy assembly instructions, and handle numbers and other nasty perks of “adult paperwork.” Personally, I find these traits of mine annoying, not charming. But he does not. Clearly, a major swing in his favor.

Bang! His bad quality number two: postpones dealing with problems until they glare right at him. Or until I glare right in his eyes, stating the problems, raising the questions, and facilitating some crisis resolution plan. I guess it’s related to him being laid back. So, I don’t know if it counts as a separate point. Maybe I have to come up with something else, quickly, or the match swings in his favor, and I have to concede and apologize first.

However, instead of a quick comeback, another major observation streams into my consciousness, and ultimately makes me lose the match: he is a great dad. My kids follow him like little ducklings. Together, they make up their own “knock knock” and other silly jokes and laugh hysterically at their dumb inventions. They also have their informal “members only” Peanut Butter/Jelly and Grilled Cheese sandwich club. Their sandwiches are made according to some specific “patented” method that makes it taste just right. I don’t know the method and could never nail the science of PBJ or grilled sandwich making. Consequently, I am mostly allowed to observe and have a bite. Many little, simple, and silly daily things. They make each other happy. In return, it makes me happy too: eavesdropping on their jokes, watching them play games, the rules of which I don’t understand, and getting over the existence of some “manly” secrets in my household, to which I am not privy. Great dad: a major point in his favor.

My ride is over. I almost miss my turn, busily summarizing the match final count and getting over being a loser. At the same time, I am drained of my fury. I no longer care to be a winner. Deep in my heart, I know that even if he were to lose at my ping pong battle, I would still keep him, and pick him all over again, despite his bad points and because of his bad points. Happy Father’s Day to him, and to all other imperfect guys out there, loving and loved.

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