Monday, April 4, 2011

More Than Halfway

Tom's mom, aunt, and sister visited us over the weekend. On Saturday night, we were all just relaxing at our house, and chatting about this and that. Somehow, we got on the subject of marriage, love and relationships. We were each discussing how we'd met, fell for, or married our respective sweeties, and reflecting on things we'd learned from it all.

At one point, Tom made an interesting observation. He said that before we were married, he was able to prepare himself somewhat for all the major sacrifices that marriage would entail. He knew he wouldn't be able to do such-and-such with friends on a Tuesday night anymore, or to just buy something on a whim whenever he wanted, or to stay up all night playing guitar and then crash on the couch every night. And he could prepare himself for those sacrifices, and take the time to understand why they were necessary.

But once we were married, he said, he saw that there were so many little things - things he never could have expected or prepared for - that proved so unexpectedly difficult for him to give up, and not to complain about. "Like eating low fat mayo," he said, "because that's what Christine buys at the store." (haha. Well, it's healthier, so I'll probably keep doing that). He also brought up how he'd always preferred later "European style" dinnertimes of 8:00 or so. He said it was frustrating for him that I don't like to eat that late, and always prepare dinner for 6:00, right when he gets home for work. This is a familiar issue, because it's one we've talked about many times. But he went on to explain how he's really started to see the advantages to a 6:00 dinnertime, and it helps him to be a lot more productive at home. In other words, he considers it a worthy sacrifice, and no longer feels any resentment about it. I didn't even realize his attitude had changed that much, until I heard him telling the story to other people (I feel like this happens often!). But it's certainly reassuring to know.

I've found myself in a very similar situation these past couple of days. Just as Tom pointed out, I think that before marriage, most people are ready for the major things they will have to give up. I knew even then that I would need to give away my super-feminine decorations (such as my many gorgeous prints of half-naked Pre-Raphaelite women!), that I'd have to cook more meaty dinners, and to accept that Tom's pots and pans and (ugly) chairs had as much right as my own did to make up the furnishings of our home. I was willing to merge all our possessions and our habits, and had already spent a lot of time considering how that could be done smoothly and fairly. But when it came to the completely unimportant issue of merging our stupid mp3 files from our computers, I practically lost it.

Both Tom and I really enjoy music, and have large mp3 collections on our computers (all ripped from cds or purchased online, not illegally downloaded!). Anytime either of us uses the computer, we have music playing on iTunes in the background. When we were married, Tom was using a barely-functioning, on-its-last-legs laptop. And I had a fresh young one-year-old desktop. It was clear whose machine was going to turn into the "family computer." Right away, even before we were finished unpacking, Tom wanted to transfer all his music onto my computer (oops, I mean...our computer...). I had never even considered that he would want to do that, and frankly, I freaked out. I immediately went into a long list of reasons (a list which has been repeated and argued over many times since) for why we could NOT merge our music files!

My points were all pretty weak, but the prominent ones were these: I always listen to my iTunes on shuffle, and I didn't want a lot of Tom's crappy songs thrown into the mix; my iPod only held 30gigs, which was just how much music I owned, and it would be the most major pain in the butt ever to have to handpick which music was allowed to go on it each time I hooked it up for a sync with the computer; I had spent hours upon hours perfecting my naming/filing system, and Tom's music would come in and be all different and mess everything up.

We argued about this for months and months. We entertained the idea of running both computers through a network, and "sharing" our iTunes libraries. That way, we could access both libraries of music from either computer, while still keeping the files separate. But our poor computer know-how prevented us from ever figuring out how to do it. And then Tom's laptop finally crapped out completely, so it wasn't even an option anymore.

For months now, he's had his external harddrive, filled with his music (some stuff very good, some that I hate), sitting upstairs by my our computer. Every few weeks, Tom looks over at his harddrive, and raises an eyebrow at me. And then makes a comment about how marriage means we have to share everything, even the parts we don't like. And I usually just kinda pout and don't answer.

But this weekend, he finally did it. He transferred over all his music to the computer. He didn't force it on me, and I admire that. At the same time, I didn't say as I should have, "hey honey. I know you really miss being able to listen to your own music. You're right, this computer belongs to both of us now. I might have to deal with listening to some songs I don't like sometimes, but it's not a big deal. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for your happiness. Please go ahead and put your files onto the computer." This would probably make a better story if I had said something like that, but that wouldn't be real life. What really happened was that I became convinced - perhaps begrudgingly, but at least honestly - that Tom had a point. And without ever really saying it aloud, let him know it was okay for him to transfer over the music.

So now all our music is happily mingling in one gigantic iTunes library. And yes, for the past two days, his songs have been coming on when I listen to shuffle mode. And sometimes I skip past them. But how much trouble is that for me, really? He's very happy to have access to his own music again, and that's what should matter to me. I'm glad he was so patient with me

We ended that marriage conversation of Saturday night with a couple of ideas to reflect on. After listening to Tom share the story about the mayo and the early dinnertime, Tom's mom said, "marriage is not supposed to be 50-50, but 100-100." And his aunt added, "yes. It's meeting each other more than halfway."


  1. What an awesome post!

    There are actually some small things that I can foresee--for example, we will probably get the kind of bread Keith likes, with all the little nuts and seeds and flakes of oatmeal in it, even though I dislike it. But of course, it's exactly the small things that you can't predict, and that will end up being the main stuff of self-sacrifice.

  2. Oh man, Christine! I totally could have told you how to make iTunes playlists etc before moving in Tom's music. That way you could have set up your iPod to only use music from that playlist, used that playlist to shuffle, etc.

    But the larger point is a good one. :)

    For me, I think the bigger thing is, we always know all the things that we do and all the things that we give up, but we don't always notice all the things that our spouse is giving up and doing for us. So if you both try to match up what you're giving to what you THINK you're receiving, it becomes a spiral downwards, with both people doing less and less.

    You'll always know that, say, you picked up the dirty bowl or the piece of trash and said nothing, but you won't always know the time that HE did it.

  3. Great post! Yeah, aren't the things we don't want to compromise on funny? And it really can be nice when you hear your husband say something you didn't realize to other people - like a pleasant surprise!

  4. beautiful post, christine! my husband and i are still college students and while we were engaged, we got a lot of advice about how we should postpone our marriage until after graduation because we would have to "give up" so much to get married - like living with our best friends for a few more years. the weird thing is, we haven't minded giving up those big things ONE BIT. but little things like adam not really eating bell peppers anymore because i can't stand them (and do all the cooking) have caused a lot more friction!

  5. Wonderful post. I needed to read this. I've been a little (okay, a lot) selfish lately.