Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Marriages and a Movie Rec

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that there is a long history of reverse psychology in my family. My favorite example is when my sister Jessica, disturbed by the fact that my mother’s fifth child was a boy (despite Jessica’s ardent prayers), decided to try a little reverse psychology on the Man Upstairs. And, Lo and Behold, it worked! My sister Anna, #6, was a girl!

Little Anna got married a few weeks ago. Seeing young love is a beautiful thing and the desire to see that love endure brings me to some serious reflections, coupled with the fact that divorce has been on my mind a lot lately. (No, this is not a confession—it’s not on my “to do” list). But a couple in my parish is getting divorced, and because they live in a rather tight-knit neighborhood, their difficulties are felt by many. So is an old friend, whose wife left him and their three kids.  Said old friend’s brother, in discussing the situation, noted “Marriage is hard.”  And it is—but it’s also beautiful, a fact which gets obscured too easily when things are hard.

A few months ago, Colin and I randomly watched a movie on TV. Not sure how we chose it—but it ended up being surprisingly good. It was called A Boyfriend for My Wife and it was made in Argentina (Un novio para mi mujer, 2008). The premise is that a man is married to an uber-crabby woman. He wants to separate, but never seems to find a good moment. So a friends suggests that he get his wife to leave him by hiring a famous local seducer. And the rest follows…somewhat predictably but not entirely.   I recently realized that it’s a really good example of some of the strategies Michelle Weiner Davis suggests in her book Divorce Busting.

Reading the Heath Brothers’stuff (the excellent Made to Stick and then the even-better Switch) led me to their recommended books, including Weiner-Davis’. Her approach is useful for anyone who ever feels stuck in patterns of behavior with a spouse—though I could see her principles applying really well to child-rearing as well. (Full disclosure note: I covered this with my daughter’s book-sock while reading at the gym. Didn’t want to raise too many eyebrows…)

Basically, she takes a very practical, not-particularly-Freudian model to addressing marriage problems. Low on analysis, high on the outcome-focus. What do you want from your spouse? Vague things like “she will be more affectionate” or “he will be more sensitive?” won’t cut it. You need to get specific:  “She will kiss me when I come home from work” or “He will ask me how I’m feeling.”  Weiner-Davis is all the more persuasive (to me, anyway) because she started off with a pro-divorce position but saw so many people dealing with the same issues, plus new ones, after they got divorced that she changed her view. She now thinks that the vast majority of marriages can be saved.  Among her genius approaches:
1) YOU can do something about the difficulties in your marriage –you don’t need to wait for your spouse, who may not see the problem or the need to change
2) Marriage is like a see-saw. So where one person pushes, another backs off. Lessening your pushing or pulling can make a huge difference.
3) If what you’re doing now doesn’t work, try something new! Amazing how often we realize some approach doesn’t work…but keep on doing it anyway. Switch it up!

So, in essence, I highly recommend her book. Quick, easy read!

And if you’re feeling too tired to read, try watching that Argentine movie. Pretty good, even if there are subtitles.


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