The emotional rush of being in love and a couple, both figuratively and physically, ended about when the relationship texts proclaimed, that is, about 2 years after making our informal commitment to each other. Sure enough, we responded to the ancient call of nature and had our first child in 1962. Ingrid was of course welcomed, though not planned for. Marge very much wanted a second child, and Louise, was born in 1967. Our nuclear family was complete.
A decade has passed since our marriage, and we definitely were White Anglo Saxon and Protestant. We had our new home in the upscale suburbs, I had a job with PP&L I liked and made enough money that Marge did not have to even consider working. Marge made several friends in our area. We accepted our roles and acted our parts without regrets. However, the script was rather vague and called for much improvisation. I am sure both of us did the best we could, but even after a decade there was an invisible wall of tension.
This did not appear when we were dating, perhaps because we were still living separate lives in separate places. I don’t think either of us were really ready then for being together all the time. In 1970 we passed the decade mark of marriage, that in itself is a point many marriages did not reach. All in all, we were doing fairly well.
Marge left a copy of a letter to one of her girl friends in the Charismatic movement that deals with this. The date is October 1970. I don’t think she will mind sharing the part relating to us.
“Now, I have something important to talk about, and unless you have a bit of time and can think about this, read it later, OK? It is this: do you recall that once or twice when we talked some about husband-wife relationships last summer? Well, I finally got to where I can admit to a fear, unreasonable as it is, which comes between me and Bob, and it is all on my part, which is scared to death to let Bob in. It is like a private room, the last stronghold as it were of my private person, and I defend it against all intruders, which includes Bob who should not be classed as an intruder but is. Yet to truly make love with him, the two of us should become one, in that mysterious way, and yet my fearful reserving of this part of myself I cannot become one with him. I am afraid to let go of myself for fear I would be lost. Now, I am more free that I used to be which no doubt makes it easier for me to see this and to admit it, but I don’t know how to handle it now.”
Of course I was to some degree aware of this tension, but had no idea of what caused it or what I could do myself to ease it. Maybe the marriage was a mistake, but now we had two children to care for and Marge, though very smart, had no job skills. I had seriously thought of divorce long ago but didn’t go through with it. So, stay together for the children and hope things work out with time. We did that, though did not vocalize it, maybe we should have done so and come to a rational solution. I do not believe we were unique in this behavior.
There is a book that has sold a gazillion copies in one form or another “The Five Love Languages: by Gary Chapman. My bereavement therapist suggested it to me and I read it. It is pretty elementary. It assumes, as an example, the wife wants to hear words of affirmation as being a very loving gesture. Her husband is working on his computer or with his phone in his ear. He gives her expensive presents, which to him express love, but disappoints her. They are both confused and unhappy.
Each cares for and loves the other and unconsciously assumes that what is a loving gesture to him/her is exactly what partner wants. Their relationship experiences difficulty despite the best intentions of each partner acting on a faulty premise. They didn’t have a common love language vocabulary. The cure then is to follow the process in the book, with help if possible, to better understand each other. A process such as this might have been of some help to us in understanding each other decades ago.
That could work assuming words meant the same thing to each other and the process does not deal at all with, as in our case, Marge’s fear of loss. I do believe that marriage is a 50-50 partnership and Marge did not, perhaps could not, express her deep fears to me. From the letter above, and other sources I don’t believe she could. If so she would become vulnerable to being hurt. I was clueless, unaware of this fear, this dread, and did not have her ability to express myself to her in a way that was meaningful to her.
We played our WASP parts in a unconscious way. Marge sewed clothes, even when we were in college and made some cute things for the girls. She had learned to cook well. For my part I was the provider and took care of watching the finances, taking care of house maintenance, etc. Marge took care of the home and we were both good parents, I truly believe better parents than our own were. They did the best they could, we did the best we could.
Moving ahead a bit to another section of the Mind Prober software on Marge coping with stress:
“Stress makes M.F.’s life stormy. Pressures and disappointments are deeply felt by Ms. M.F. Expect to see her making her distress known to everyone around. She is likely to respond with emotional outbursts that come on like a storm, and then dry up soon afterward. After her emotional bluster is over, she’ll be back to her normal self. But be prepared for a rerun next time she feels pressure.”
The above quote is a reasonable self-description of Marge. The scenario above did occur, not every day but often enough that I was at a loss to understand what was the matter. The stress seems internal as described above in her letter to her friend about fear and loss but not knowing how to handle it.
On occasion after the storm was over Marge would sometimes try to explain it to me, but I had nothing in my background to understand what she was saying. We had differing love languages, and then some. I tried and nodded that I understood, but in truth I was clueless. We both wanted a better life together but there was a big chasm in our mutual misunderstandings.
I have done some more Google and YouTube research on this computer program copyrighted in 1984. It was sold as a game. I think this was to avoid any legal liability if it were misused as having therapeutic value. This was not a win/lose competitive game, just a tool for some self exploration and perhaps some fun with friends.
Upon re-reading this draft post, and earlier ones I now realize that I have given a one-sided description of Marge’s personality and style, but nothing about myself. The reason is that Marge kept records and I didn’t. I have found in searching for more info on the Mind Prober that the program very possibly is now available using current computer technology and available as a download or streaming version. If so, even at this date, taking the Mind Prober program myself could be a valuable exercise.
This post is getting lengthy so I will end with the promise to take the Mind Prober test myself if possible. Keep you posted.