Having been married now for 17 years or so I am pleased to say I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’m making some really interesting discoveries about how I’m wired and how Dave’s wired, which is great. What’s even better is that rather than comparing how our wiring differs and then lamenting that, I seem to be functioning on a more effective level.
I’m giving up the long held visual of me trying desperately to open up his brain and change it’s current flow from negative to positive or cross connections so that he might actually get his clothes into the hamper that is less than a foot from where he gets dressed. I’m giving this up because you know what I figured out? It’s not about wires, it’s about oyster crackers.
You see, I make a dish called Cincinnati Chili and Dave loves it. If you’ve not experienced Cincinnati Chili then go right now, google it and make it happen. And I’m not just saying that because I’m from Cincinnati…well, maybe it’s because I’m from Cincinnati.
This dish is not so much “chili” as it is “chili spaghetti” to be fair. The watery chili is eaten on a bed of spaghetti topped with a layer of kidney beans and finely shredded cheddar cheese on top. You can also add raw onions but that’s not really my bag. Locals in the Cincy area wouldn’t consider eating it without a dish of oyster crackers on the side. Dave doesn’t think the dish is complete without the oyster crackers. Me, I could take ’em or leave ’em. I rarely buy them first off because I always forget and secondly because my kids always get into them and finish off the box before we have a chance to use them in the meal. So, it falls to the bottom of the list and I don’t think much of it until we’re eating and Dave’ll ask.
Truth be told, it wasn’t until this year that I actually had the presence of mind to pay attention to this small detail of our lives. He always asks if we have them. I nearly always say no, then think nothing of it. I noticed this and so the next time I was at the store I bought some and hid them from the kids. When he asked for them that night for dinner, I was glad to say we had some and got them out. I noted his reaction. True, sheer gratitude. I’d venture to say it might have even made his day.
This small thing I did, to pay attention to something that I think anyone would brush off as unimportant given that I’m this frenetic, homeschooling writer mother, keeping the homefires burning and all that. Oyster crackers are no big deal.
Then I realized this thing…it’s no big deal to me and more than likely it’s really no big deal to Dave and yet, it’s this small thing that means a lot. Symbolically, metaphorically, it’s the oyster crackers that speak louder than most anything else.
You might say to yourself right here, “well that’s easy then, buy the stinkin oyster crackers and be done with it.” Sadly, it goes deeper than that in me. I made the odd discovery as I walked down the aisle of the store and looked at those oyster crackers that I did not WANT to buy them. I had some weird resentment holding me back. Those oyster crackers will singing a little tune and being all innocent and yet I did not really want to buy them. I was astounded to realize that I was holding the oyster crackers hostage in some way, using them, perhaps subconsciously as bargaining chips in our relationship. You may think i’m making too much of oyster crackers. I am probably making too much of them. It’s not just the crackers, you know. It’s all those small things, all the times I give in to my passive aggressive, “take that” impulses.
It’s my own wiring that needs mending, frankly it’s the only wiring I have full and complete access to, when we come right down to it. I can only change my own actions, my own words, my own expectations so every time I make a choice toward love, no matter how small it is, I am inviting that change.
The secret of a good marriage is oyster crackers, people. It’s the small things, it just is.