Now look, I’m not going to get dragged (or drag anyone else, for that matter) into the political discussions right now. If you choose to argue based on the designed playbook the politicians to keep us angry and fighting, that says a lot. While I used to get into that battleground and roll around in the mud, I’m going to try to have better things to do with my peace and sanity. Also, it’s a rare post I talk about my wife other than in passing and this will be one. That relationship is off limits in terms of my writing and recovery… but this is one of those times where the two crossed and the story matters to my recovery immensely.
And that leads me to Jordan Peterson. My wife and I have been married for almost 25 years. Together for 27. Even in recovery, there’s a lot of room for resentment and unresolved problems to build up in that time – for both my wife and I. For years I’ve listened to either talk radio or music on the way into and home from work. About an hour and a half a day. About three weeks ago, I came to the realization that I could possibly use that time constructively when Jordan Peterson’s lectures started popping up on my YouTube home screen. And, as it turns out, I needed what came from the positive things he talks about for a person to be better.
Last week, my wife had set it up to go to see a concert with her cousin. I’d expressed a desire to take her to that show way back in December so we could go on a special out of town date months before but she dawdled in getting the tickets. While I appreciate Tool, I’m not a massive fan, but my wife’s gone with me to see bands that I loved so I figured I’d do the same for her… but nothing happened with it so I didn’t think much of it until, three days before the concert, she woke me up and asked if I minded if she went with her cousin (they’re both big fans of the band) and stay with her aunt overnight.
That hurt. Bad. Here’s the real kick in the pants; my wife would rather go to a concert with a cousin than on a date with me. Now, I could have taken that choice out on my wife, but that’s about as constructive as dynamite. I played a part in her choice and for that part I am responsible. That’s also the only part I can do anything about fixing.
Anyway, I spoke with our youngest daughter in the morning, the day before the concert, and she said that her mom had told her to find a friend to stay with because she was going to ask me to go with her to the concert and we’d be gone overnight. My hopes were buoyed. Right up until I got home and my wife said that she’d talked to Josie and thought about asking me to go but changed her mind.
F***. Double the pain. I prayed a lot.
My marriage to my wife isn’t a commitment to my wife. I view it as a commitment to God. My wife benefits from that commitment… so things were crashing down and I had to find a way back from that mess. It was on the way into work at 5:30 am that I decided to listen to a few videos that interested me on YouTube. Now, I don’t watch anything while I’m driving but I do listen and the third video in was this one:
The morning of the concert, my wife called and said her cousin’s girlfriend had come down with a serious illness and he wasn’t going to be able to make the show. She asked if I’d go with her.
Now, there comes a time when doing the right thing for a marriage is very hard. I was hurt and wanted to do some damage. I wanted my wife to feel the hurt she put me through. For all of two seconds. The silence on my end must have been something… but I broke it by agreeing to go. We said a few more words and I hung up and got ready to head home.
I listened to a couple of more videos on the way home, including the one I’d linked to above. In fact, I listened to one in which Peterson suggested, for the sake of the relationship, just table all of the bad crap until the next day so you can remember what it’s like to have fun before you go into the negotiation phase. That seemed pretty relevant, along with negotiating for peace by doing the least damage possible. My wife and I never fight like that. We always go for maximum carnage to win.
Well, within five minutes of being on the road we were already at each other and I suggested we table everything and just have a good time. We could pick the discussion up on the way home. My wife countered with ‘how about I take you home and go by myself’. Now, this was one of those ‘can we come back from a really bad decision in tactics’ moments for me. We took the next 45 minutes to work through it and by the time we were halfway to the concert, we’d gotten things to a place we could be agreeable.
As we approached Grand Rapids, my wife asked if I wanted to find a Qdoba. I offered for something a little more high-end as we’d be in the big city. I said, ‘let’s make a night of it’. She called her cousin to ask for suggestions and I called a friend I work with who lives just north of the city. He provided two options a couple of blocks from the venue. One was a high-end pizza joint a friend owned and the other was an upscale seafood and steak restaurant. My wife expressed doubt about the seafood part so I checked out the menu on line and it looked fairly diverse… so I reserved a table for fifteen minutes as we were parking the car. We still had two hours before doors at the concert.
We walked into Leo’s and I was surprised they let us in. It was really nice. We were seated and given menus… and the look on my wife’s face was not good. It was seafood heavy – the online menu looked a little more diverse. They did have an amazing looking brie appetizer that my wife ordered right away… and when the waiter came out with the specials and, even though there was a $74 steak on the menu, we both ordered the Fish & Chips. I know what you’re thinking – and I know I need to have my head examined, but that just sounded good. The cheese appetizer was astonishingly good and my wife’s mood lifted noticeably. She had her moment where she could have blown up the whole night in a rage but opted for peace instead. And the Fish & Chips, with homemade tarter sauce that should have been illegal, were astonishingly good. It was one of those, ‘oh yeah? how much better can a high-end place make fish & chips?’ moments. As it turns out, quite a bit better. We both laughed after taking our first bite.
And just like that, the mood shifted. We stayed on the positive the rest of the night and even opted to drive home rather than stay in Grand Rapids. The next morning I played hooky and we talked about how to ride the wave of decency we’d found ourselves on. We went out to breakfast and had a fantastic day together. I shared a couple of the clips I’d watched with my wife and we’ve been working for a better place ever since. It’s been more than a week, now and we haven’t fallen back into our old, destructive ways. Things genuinely feel better. I don’t want to take that too far, but it at least feels like we’ve got something to build on – actually, that’s a great way to put it.
Point is, I’m putting that video, and doing the least amount of damage possible down as the second-best marriage advice I’ve ever received.