Marital Problems: Is Compromise Code for Giving In?

Posted on June 24, 2011 by

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marriage: compromise or giving in

This could have been me, dancing at a Phish concert with the bells on my shoes in Woodstock. But I didn't want to compromise.

I went to a Phish concert with my husband a few weeks ago.

I do not like Phish.

Let me explain. A few months ago, my husband, Andy, and I were going through a point of disconnect in our marriage. Some people call it a dry spot. Others call it a valley. We weren’t fighting. No bickering. No nothing. And that’s the problem. We were separate entities in the house, doing our chores, taking care of the kids, working, eating, sleeping and sometimes having sex. We were doing the bare minimum for our relationship. We acknowledged this was happening. It’s the nice element of my marriage–that my husband likes to talk. What are we going to do about this disconnect? Neither of us were sure.

Soon enough, I was traveling to Brimfield, MA for an antiques show with my sister-in-law, Melissa (she’s Andy’s brother, Rob’s, wife–follow?) who I happen to be very close with. “Andy and I aren’t connecting,” I said. “I’m worried.”

“Maybe you should go away for the weekend,” Melissa said. But we had just done that, and though it was a nice respite, it didn’t really change much.

“Andy wants to go to Woodstock with another couple to see Phish,” I said. “The plan is to take the kids and the other couple and Andy will take turns seeing Phish while I get to merrily chase the four children around by myself. Doesn’t that sound awesome?” I said this facetiously.

“What’s your problem with Woodstock?” she said. Nothing is wrong with Woodstock on an off weekend when the town isn’t flooded with dirty hippies because they’re in town seeing a Phish show. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a dirty hippie. I was a dirty hippie once and I embraced those years. My father still thinks I’m a dirty hippie. But since I couldn’t stand Phish or the dirty hippies that follow Phish, I put my foot down. Compromise, shmompromise, I thought.

“I’m not going to Woodstock so that Andy can see Phish. Sorry,” I said, and flipped my visor down in protest.

“Do you remember when I went to see Queensryche with Rob a few years ago?”

For those of you not in-the-know about Queensryche, they’re a heavy metal band from the 80s. Melissa got the award in Andy’s family for ‘best wife’ at the time. Melissa, a former fashion designer and serious NYC-fashionista, isn’t exactly a Queensryche fan. Know what I mean?

“You think I liked standing there, head banging with a bunch of 40-year-old, smelly burnouts for two hours straight?” she said.

“Doesn’t sound like an ideal evening,” I said.

But here’s the point. Rob asked her to go. He wanted to share this side of his life with her.

“I don’t think Andy wants me to see Phish with him, ” I said. And this was a hard realization for me. Andy, I suspected, wasn’t asking me to go see Phish because he wanted to experience the music with me, or share his world. No! I wasn’t even going to go to the concert. Andy was asking me to go for the weekend to be a… babysitter. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

That’s when Melissa revealed that she and Andy had been talking about our disconnect issue. He had told her that he wished I’d see more music with him. That I was so reluctant. And I was reluctant. When I fell in love with Andy, I loved that he had a life. Passions and dreams of his own. Friends that didn’t include me. Interests that didn’t include me. He was a sharp, secure, independent man. As time went on, I guess I was reluctant to invade on that aspect of his life–mostly because our musical tastes aren’t always the same. I like the White Stripes. He likes the Grateful Dead. It’s not always easy to meet in the middle. So we didn’t.

And then I remembered a friend complaining about having to support her husband’s interest in a small, Austin, TX-based music festival, the Flipside. It wasn’t that she was against this hippiefest (she loved music too), but because it took his attention away from their family and taking care of the kids, the whole thing became a hinderance. “At first, I was so into the Flipside. Okay, cool. Glad he has this interest. Good for him,” she said. “Then it’s like, oh, come on. More Flipside? Enough of the Flipside!” Still, when her husband asked her to go (the year before, she said no), she agreed. Why? She saw how connected he was, and she wanted to be engaged as well.

Sometimes marriage comes down to this: Sometimes you don’t want to see Queensryche, or go to the Flipside, or to a Phish concert. And then you go anyway. This is compromise. Or this is giving in. Or maybe it’s neither. Maybe this is simply about making your spouse happy for all of one minute. And in supporting someone you love, you’re becoming closer as a couple.

Of course, there are varying degrees of compromise. The truth is, going to a Phish show in Woodstock would have entirely compromised me. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. I would have been resentful. And saying no was ultimately fine. Andy accepted my decline. He got it. But it didn’t mean I had to cut out his interests altogether.

So with Melissa’s urging, I bought two tickets to see Phish at a small outdoor venue about 45 minutes from our house. “Wear your cutest maxi-dress,” Melissa said. “Have a glass of wine. Dance with all the hippies.”

When I surprised Andy with the tickets, he was shocked. “You? Phish?”

“It’s for us,” I said. “I promise not to make fun of too many people.”

Like a magic wand, it worked in reconnecting us. And we’ll dance like dirty hippies until the next compromise comes up.

(Image: gussifer | thecolorawesome.com)

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Posted in: Marriage