The Crucible of Marriage
"Just be prepared. You two are going to have a very difficult first year of marriage." Well-meaning friends repeatedly expressed their concern during our engagement and early months of marriage. We spent a great deal of that first year on high alert. Was this "the fight" that would catapult us into crisis? Was tonight's disinterest in making love the beginning of a trend?
In retrospect, the first year was not so difficult. (It was year 10, FYI.) We had the to-be-expected negotiations (Wait! I'm supposed to take care of the oil changes?), compromises (Could we consider not going to your parents for all the holidays this year?), and disappointments (You have to work late on our anniversary?). We laid down the ground rules for arguments and learned how to give each other space. We also caught glimpses of just how broken we were. Maybe that's what those friends had seen and forecast in their doomsday prophecies.
A bit of background. Our childhoods had more similarities than differences: blue-collar families of five from the Northeast, chaotic, religious but not spiritual, and equal parts dys and functional. We became followers of Jesus, independently, in 1980.
The many differences between us become visible at the family dinner table. My family is Anglo/Saxon, his Italian. In my home, everyone had a turn to speak and when one person was talking, everyone else listened. His family was an opera where the curtain never came down. Everyone talked at once and whoever had the loudest voice won the right to be heard. I was shocked when I first visited. In the Littell house, fights led to icy silence and were generally avoided. The Greco house saw fighting as a means of connecting.
Though my husband and I endeavored to heal from our family of origin wounds pre-marriage, we truly had no idea how expansive and deep those wounds actually were. I had learned to become a perfect, invisible woman. I survived by meeting all my own needs or denying that I had them. When upset or angry, I retreated, afraid of losing my self-control in a moment of passion. No surprise, as he was growing up, he learned to pull the attention to himself in order to be seen and heard. His tendency was to dominate in conversations or arguments. I was all self-control, to a fault. He had little self-control, to a fault. (We are both smart people, but we never saw that speed bump until we were four feet in the air.)