Marital Bonding… or not
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Do you ever feel like the relationship you and your husband have is… unlike any other marriage relationship? And not in a good way. What I mean is: do you ever feel like the way your husband and you interact with each other is… unusual? As in: weird? Like there must be something wrong with the two of you because you can’t seem to get on the same page the way so many other married couples apparently can? Basically, what I’m getting at is: do you ever feel like you and your husband are freaks?
I just had a minute-long conversation with my friend’s husband about how the two of them interact when they go on a hike together… And it was so very comforting to me. He and his wife had just finished a hike together when I showed up and I asked him how their hike went. He responded, looking slightly sideways at me like he wasn’t sure he could trust me with this information, “Well… T and I have different philosophies on hiking together.” Intrigued, I asked “Oh yeah? What is your philosophy?” To which he confided that when he is on a hike he just wants to enjoy the outdoors and fresh air in silence, whereas his wife wants to “barrel away” in a vigorous pace uphill while talking philosophically about deep issues.…
That sounds familiar.
My husband and I both (separately) absolutely love being outside and going up in the hills for an hour or two or three at a time. So there have been a few times where we had childcare lined up and thought “Hey, why don’t we to go out together and get some wonderful marital bonding accomplished?” (That was probably my suggestion, not his, for the record.)
But we soon realized that he and I are totally incompatible when it comes to going on a hike together. We have totally different desires and expectations of a jaunt in the hills. J, when he goes up, often straps on a weight vest and runs uphill at what I would consider top speed. He doesn’t wave at anybody he passes and often times when he gets to the really steep part he will stop and grab a ginormous boulder and run that up and down the hillside a few times “to get an extra burn” or “for some extra mental toughness.” I, on the other hand, take my wonderful, dopey dog with me and plow up the hill at a brisk walking pace. The thought of running makes me nauseous— if burning calories is a concern, I would always much rather go a longer distance at a moderately challenging pace rather than sprint for a shorter distance. And while I love the peaceful solitude of my times in the hills with my dog, I also love going up the hill with a friend and chatting nonstop about all of the difficulties, challenges, oddities, and blessings of our lives and relationships. I relish those times. My soul comes alive during those times.
So on the few (as in two) times J and I attempted to head up the hill together… it wasn’t what I would call… “enjoyable.” Neither of us were pleased with the pace—I can’t keep up with his run and he hates walking as fast as my natural hiking pace. So our speed is never satisfactory to us both. And the conversations we have? Ummm… they… totally suck. But only because they pretty much don’t exist.
Me: “So how was your week at work?”
[5 minutes later]
Me: “Are you looking forward to doing anything this summer?”
Him: “Not really.”
Me: “Well, do you want to try to take the kids anywhere for a weekend or something?”
Him: “Whatever you want. Just tell me what time I have to take off work.”
Me: “But is there anything you want us to do or anything?”
Him: “Not that I can think of.”
[10 more minutes of silence]
Me: “Don’t you think it’s kind of weird that we’re not talking at all?”
Him: (looking shocked) “Is there something you want to talk about?”
Me: “Nothing in particular. It just seems really weird to be right next to you for all this time and not talk about anything. I can’t even remember a time there was silence while I hiked with one of my friends.”
Him: “Oh… really? Well… what do you and your friends talk about when you’re on hikes together?”
Me: “Uh… I don’t know… anything. Everything. Nothing in particular. We just talk. We don’t have a plan or anything. We just talk about whatever.”
Him: (still looking perplexed) “Okay… well what do you want to talk about?”
Me: “I don’t know. Anything. What about you? What do you want to talk about?”
Him: “Well… uh… nothing.”
(That is, of course, a hypothetical conversation. It has been over 4 years since he and I have attempted to hike together because it’s never been successful in the past. So I actually can’t remember anything specific that we said back in the old days… But that was the basic gist of it.)
Thank God that, apparently, according to T’s husband, we aren’t the only freaks who are conversationally incompatible when we finally get a chance to hang out together in the great outdoors.
* * *
What about you?
Do you ever compare your relationships to others you see and feel like you are coming up short? Have you ever had a particularly refreshing experience by finding out that you are not alone?
Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comment section below.