Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds
By Sandra P. Aldrich
Published by Livingstone Books
Chapter One: Needed - a Marriage License Warning Label
At the altar, the bride and groom smile at each other, convinced their marriage will be sweeter and better than any they've witnessed. They repeat the vows the minister offers or pledge their love from their own hearts, and they mean every word. They open gifts, looking forward to using them in a home filled with joy and peace. Then they're off on a honeymoon not only to consummate their new union but also to rest after the intense wedding preparations.
Bless their hearts; they don't know that the real work is about to begin. And all too soon one - or both - will have this fleeting thought: But nobody told me it would be like this! If they don't know that sentiment crosses everyone's mind at one time or another, they may be tempted to bail out.
Remember the fairy tales of our childhood that usually ended with "and they lived happily ever after"? The stories featured the handsome prince and beautiful lady conquering problems that threatened to keep them apart - as though the main struggle was before the marriage and not the marriage itself. As children, we believed that once the couple had overcome all the obstacles-Snow White's poison-apple sleep and Cinderella's wicked stepsisters, for example-then the major battles were won, and the young lovers would live out the rest of their lives in sweet harmony, happily ever after.
Wrong. The real battles were just beginning. And one bright morning, even Snow White must have awakened early, stared over at the slack jaw of her snoring prince, and thought, Who is this man? And when Cinderella was pregnant with Prince Charming's baby, he undoubtedly stared at her swollen feet and wondered what had happened to those once perfect appendages that had sent him scouring the countryside for her. Nobody had warned them that swollen feet and snoring are normal parts of living "happily ever after."
Modern-day Hilda certainly needed warning labels on her marriage license. As a child, she felt she didn't fit anyplace. Her classmates had mocked her old-fashioned name, and at home her parents didn't quite know what to do with this daughter who was their middle-age surprise. But throughout her lonely teen years, Hilda held one thought close to her heart: Someday she'd meet someone who would truly love her.
That hope kept her company during high school and carried her into college. By then she had more sharply defined her future with her knight in shining armor, and at her job in the cafeteria dish room, she'd think about him. He would stroke her hair as he asked for the details of her day, and then they'd prepare dinner together before cuddling in front of the fireplace. In many of her mental scenarios, she'd stammer to him that she was talking about herself too much. But he would smile into her eyes, say he loved hearing the sound of her voice, and then kiss her eyelids and the sprinkling of freckles across her nose and say how much she meant to him. And even though she occasionally scolded herself that there was no such thing as a knight in shining armor, she still dared to dream.
Then one morning, Jim, one of the new workers, smiled at her across a stack of trays. At their scheduled break, he introduced himself and asked her name. She gave it, but stammered that she'd never really liked it. He looked bewildered. "That's my grandma's name. She's fun. You probably are, too."
Smitten, Hilda began to look forward to going to work. As they continued to chat on breaks, they discovered they both were business majors and enjoyed tennis. By the time Jim asked her to attend a campus movie with him, Hilda had already priced china at the local department store.
They had a rapid courtship and were married a week after graduation. Quickly they settled into a new apartment and plunged into challenging jobs. But something was missing for Hilda: Her "knight" didn't call her in the middle of his busy day, and he didn't stroke her hair in front of the fireplace, and he certainly didn't ask for details of her day, including the office gossip. And their Saturday morning tennis matches had given way to errand running and budget balancing. In fact, come to think of it, she wondered if they had anything in common. This certainly wasn't the way marriage was supposed to be.
Meanwhile, Jim was bewildered that Hilda didn't laugh at his silly jokes anymore and was becoming more and more critical of everything he did. In fact, come to think of it, she had really changed from the sweet girl who had won him over with her shy smile.
Had marriage changed them both that much?" Of course not. Hilda had married an image. And her "knight" didn't fit the picture of what husbands-especially hers-were supposed to do. And Jim had his own preconceived notions of what marriage should be like. Without meaning to, each mate had fallen short of the other's expectations...
Simple Reminders: From Chapter One - unfulfilled expectations pose one of marriage's greatest challenges.