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Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Marriage Legacy

And what if you die today?

Probably won't happen. The chances are excellent that, even if you're in one of our more dangerous professions, you'll come home tonight, safe and sound, and you'll be free to heal the silly arguments and petty selfish acts that saddened your spouse, and made you wonder, "Why did I do that?"

But one day, you'll be wrong, and the last thing you said, the last thing you did, will form the largest part of the legacy you leave of your life together.

We're bombarded bu talk of legacies - the values you leave your children, and the financial planning you can do to make sure that the estate that you can't take with you will speak for the person you were in this life.

But what about the most important relationship you'll ever have, with the person who pledged his or her life to yours, who shares your hopes and heartbreaks?

It's not about the grand gestures. It's about shutting up.

How many arguments start with, "You know, I didn't want to mention this, but..."

And how any tears have flowed from those words? Tears you saw, of anger and pain, and the tears shed privately, of hurt and of sorrow that things between you just don't live up to the vision you both had when you said, "I do"?

Well, here's a tip. If you "didn't want to mention it", don't. Unless it's a matter of life and death, of moral or financial disaster, let it alone.

"But...I have a right to speak out!"

Sure. But you also have the obligation to protect your spouse, and your marriage, from the dissatisfaction that you may temporarily feel, from the meanness and desire to pay back perceived slights that are a part of any shared life.

Can you even remember the causes of your last three arguments?

Probably not, but your spouse remembers the hurt, and the feeling of a nice day suddenly gone horribly wrong.

And one day - that nice day will be the last one you ever share. There will come a day when you can't make it up, when the last thing you say will have to stand.

That's the most important legacy you can leave.

It takes discipline, weighing every word before it comes out, and looking downrange at the collateral damage that will ensue if you let fly.

It flies in the face of everything we're told about marriage, that it's the place where you can say anything. Flies in the face of that 'wisdom', because that wisdom's a lie, formed in recent years from the deep yearning we all have to be able to live without consequences.

It contradicts the "in your face" culture, that tells us that it's right and proper to say what's on your mind, and downright unhealthy to "hold it in". That may be applicable to infants who have yet to be toilet trained, but that's about the limit.

And it ignores your implicit demand that you be accepted for what you are, warts and all, without reservation. The "right" to a place where you can let your hair down, take off the mask that keeps you from pouring coffee into a co-worker's computer or toss a dead rat into your stuck-up neighbor's swimming pool.

You have to be better, and stronger, than all of that.

"Unrealistic!", you're thinking? "I'll just be a doormat, and he or she will walk all over me!"

Hmmm. "Turn the other cheek." "Blessed are the meek." "Blessed are the peacemakers." Sounds like the words of a weakling, eh?

Let that weakness be your legacy of indomitable strength.

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