Guest Blogger, Theory & Essay

Postcards from the Other Side – Married Guy Existentialism

[One of my boys – a married one – felt the need to write something and offer it up. I figured that since we talk so much about relationships, but since neither The Champ nor I are married, it might be interesting to let a married man do the talking for a day. Enjoy!]

“the grass is greener where you water it”Big Sean

[Disclaimer:  Generalizations abound in this piece. If you are offended by labels, don’t read this. I’m no authority on the subject matter; I have no profound insight or even answers to my own everyday dilemmas, although I offer up plenty here.  The title is admittedly grandiose and arrogant, but I was just trying to draw you in from the throngs of way brighter and infinitely funnier people that are occasionally featured here. Matter of fact, the only reason I even have this forum is b/c one of the HNIC is basically family. ]

Now that that’s out the way, here’s my first pronouncement:  single folks don’t understand marriage, not for real. Most of you are probably really, really smart people but marriage for you, the institution, is only some abstraction, likely informed through viewing family, close friends, etc., etc.  I’m writing to offer clarity.

I have a few female friends that want to be married, but they think only in terms of conforming to norms and internalized, self-perpetuated pressure re: certain milestones they’re supposed to have already crossed.  What most don’t get, or at least focus on, is that marriage isn’t the destination or some magical elixir that’ll fix all of the problems in their relationships.  The notion that they/you couldn’t possibly understand until you’re on this side is that your current relationship, whatever that looks like, predicates the health of your future marriage.  Bottom line, I think our marriages unravel for essentially the same four reasons that your relationships do – 1) unmet/unarticulated expectations, 2) poor communication or lack of it altogether , 3) patience lapses and 4) pride.  I’m not even going to touch infidelity here.  Experts, like Steve Harvey [PJ Note: debateable…], make a fortune off of trying to explain that one, and even though I have thoughts, it would marginalize the subject to even attempt to address it here.

Second pronouncement — the “marriage” title only exacerbates the problems b/c, once you jump the broom, you’re expected, not by society but by your family and friends, to stay over it.  The pessimists, naysayers and doomsday prognosticators will quote you the figures that we all vaguely know about the statistical probability of divorce, but those numbers can’t pick up the qualitative, in that the vast majority of the failed marriages serving as the statistical inputs were fucked up in the first place and would’ve fallen apart without the omnipresent burden of “forever” that marriage is supposed to entail.  I think married people, guys in particular, are very reasonable about getting married – they’ve thought through the potential hindsights, thought about the many women they’re choosing to forgo and have initiated a review or already taken stock of the major issues (e.g., kids, religion, in-laws) in selecting their choice.  So when the marriage starts to develop those little fissures that turn into canyons, it’s because of the same little things that arise in all relationships that are impossible to vet at the outset.

Personal admission (for grounding purposes) – I slept in my car for the past two days because of a fight. I can offer up that it had nothing to do with any of those major considerations in getting married.  Even though I’m still raw from the experience, I can also unequivocally state that it was equally my fault that I ended up in the whip.  We fought over something, in retrospect, so damn stupid that it never should’ve risen to the level that it did, but because our emotional responses served to obscure the issue and frustrate the conversation, the situation eroded to the point that we couldn’t even speak to one another.  I know it’s hard to make sense of this without providing much more detail, but if I were to give anything more, it could potentially consume this entire piece and still not seem like the big deal that it ultimately became.  I’m happy to report that we’re working through it now, but the actual issue, as much as I’m minimizing it now, has definitely served as the inflection point for failed marriages that I know of — the beginning of that downward spiral to “irreconcilable differences”.  In relationships, if you can’t reach consensus on little shit, you just deal with it as long as you can and then you break up; in a marriage, if you can’t find a way to properly frame those same “little” issues, they transform into bigger indictments on commitment and, all of a sudden, the end is nigh and the magnitude of the relationship failure seems so large because it was supposed to be forever.

That’s why I want to pivot to relationship woes more generally.  The hallmarks of any piece like this are blanketed statements, supposedly culled from first-hand experience, that have broad, I Ching-like applicability. How could I possibly envision my work within the pantheon of the capital t thinkers on the subject, like the chick that wrote Dear Abby, the aforementioned Steve Harvey or the Mars/Venus author, without offering my own tome for better relationship/marital harmony?!!?

Here we arrive, simple & absolute instructions for men and the fairer sex on how to maintain relationship bliss; for guys- it’s straight forward, you have to start downloading to your woman, not your boys. Notice my admittedly clumsy attempt to come up with a fancy way to say ‘communicate’ and sound intelligent, but here’s the distinction: women think that we (guys) are ill-equipped to articulate emotional unsteadiness/discord.  The perception’s certainly understandable b/c it’s grounded in their interactions, but it’s also patently false…we talk about our issues, just not in the most cohesive fashion and not to you.  For every clueless, frustrated and fatigued female reader here, there’s her dude out there passively informing one of his homeboys about the impending doom of the relationship. Sure, he’s not thinking of the relationship’s failure when he tells his boy in fractured missives that he doesn’t like your family or that your best friend is an intrusive bitch or that he’s tired of hearing about how great that ninja that your other homegirl is dating or that you don’t cook enough or that both the frequency and variability in your sex life are subpar but he’s slowly eviscerating the relationship with each new observation. Understand that men tend to be impulsive in their decision to end shit, but not in the underlying reasons for the judgment – it’s the aggregation of all these little things that yields his seemingly snap judgment to break it off.

For ladies, I think the Evelyn Lozada-Chad Johnson circus is more instructive than we could’ve possibly imagined b/c we learned everything that we needed to know about women’s failures. Women simply have to learn to absorb more. Before I’m written off as a dumbass apologist, let me interject that I don’t mean physical blows.  I mean, I couldn’t possibly be more profound or eloquent than the soon-to-be former Mrs. Johnson herself, whom I presume has curbed her own belligerence, in informing us that domestic abuse is not ok.  But her problem — that I think plagues many, many women — is that throughout their relationship, and way before she had even begun to give his marriage proposal serious consideration, she hadn’t ascertained that he was the sort of ninja that could resort to the physical to resolve issues.  I don’t want to get too far in the thickets in tryin’ to draw a parallel here, especially b/c abusive proclivities aren’t always apparent at the outset, but the takeaway remains the same.   My charge for ladies to absorb more effectively, i.e. develop more insight and reflexiveness, is two-fold.  One, you have to figure out the puzzle earlier – for all of the complaints about his lack of communication, I guarantee he’s providing all sorts of nonverbal cues on his non-starters, like lightly resistant acquiescence to being around your friends that he doesn’t like, or seemingly innocuous suggestions about what he likes to eat or what banging dishes his boy’s girl makes.   Ladies have to pick up these signs and adjust without having to make an issue or, even better, a f*cking dialogue, out of it.  Second, absorption also requires an ability to fight that natural predisposition that some (read: all) of you possess to get in defensive posture when issues are actually communicated.  Here’s the deal, I believe that we (guys) know what our issues are, it’s just that sometimes we haven’t fully digested and deconstructed them in a manner that can withstand the withering challenge that you all sometimes offer up in response to the issues.  Rather than argue, often times guys will just deflect and sublimate their frustration, but just because he’s quiet doesn’t mean he’s come around to your thinking on the subject matter, he’s just filed it away and added it to your list of issues unresolved.  Note that this list, which he’ll never really divulge to you btw, will eventually undo the relationship.  Instead of the counteroffensive, I think that if you just listen to his problem without always offering criticism, maybe you’ll find a way to make sense out of it on your own terms and adjust in a manner that will actually make him happy, even if he doesn’t speak on it.

For married folks, I’ll let you in on a simple, resounding truth that has made my life as a married man infinitely easier – I don’t think the state of being ‘equally yoked’ actually exists.  We all are such dynamic people, with fully formed views on both pervasive and granular issues that a chasm could potentially exist with respect to any issue, even if we believe that we’re eye to eye in principle.  The differing views don’t come up when you broach the topic generally; no, just like with the fights about little stuff, the disconnect is way more nuanced than that and becomes apparent only in the moment.  Understanding that my marriage has the potential for an impregnable gap on any issue, what I’ve thankfully figured out is that for all the reasons we’ve chosen one another — what she brings to me, brings out of me and how she edifies me — are way more valuable than my compulsion to be ‘of one accord’ on stuff.

More straight forward, I just needed to shut up and learn to deal with the little things that we will disagree about every day for the rest of our lives since my life is infinitely more meaningful because she’s in it.  Before you jump the broom, can you live with the fact that the potential for bickering on every subject under the sun, not just the big ones, is not only possible but probable?  Without sounding too self-important, I think this is the realization that couples have to figure out, on their own terms, to traverse the bumps and bruises along the way, whether married or just together.  That’s it.  I haven’t written much here, yet I feel like I’ve illuminated the path to resolve the rancor in all relationships as well as provided you the irreproachable blueprint for a sustainable marriage.  You’re welcome.

Then again, what could I possibly know, given that I’ve been sleeping in my car for the past few days…

-JOHNNY KWEST

Tomorrow night, join Panama as he is one of the many co-hosts on The Blaqout Show brought to you by Beny Blaq on www.blis.fm (or better http://blisonline.streamon.fm) from 8-10pm EST! Panama will be breaking down what men hear and say!!! Join us tomorrow night!

And as always, this Saturday is the one-year anniversary of Reminisce! VSB will be live and in full effect mode (we used to have a crush on dawn from En Vogue). If you’re in DC come party with the folks at Liv Nightclub (11th and U Street, NW). Free entry with RSVP, open bar from 930 to 1030, and no dress code. It’s cheaper to come party with us!

Filed Under:
Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

More Like This