Wednesday, July 9, 2014

'Til Death Do Us Part


My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. My siblings and I threw a party for them for the big event.  We were all involved in the planning process, and it was a bit stressful (particularly since we are pretty much all socially retarded/party-reluctant people). But all in all things went pretty well, my parents were pretty happy with the outcome, and it is a relief to have it done.

My parents are in their early seventies. I am not sure when it started happening, but BOY do they bicker a lot. Let me rephrase that -- no matter what my dad says, my mom snaps at him. When my dad tries to hug my mom she pushes him away. When he kisses her she pulls back. When he compliments her she rolls her eyes.  When he asks her a question she snaps, snarls or yells a response. It is rather awful to witness -- it is like they both live in a constant state of irritation/exasperation -- and I don't know how they can stand it.

I am not around my parents very often, so I don't know if the behavior I witnessed on this latest trip is typical or atypical.  Maybe the tension was just high surrounding the big event?  Maybe this kind of thing only happens when my mom has an audience?  Maybe?  I don't know.  All I know is that I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in a relationship where I was attacking or being attacked CONSTANTLY. Ugh!

I would like to think one can make a conscious decision to AVOID being so awful to their mate, but maybe that is wishful thinking? Maybe after a while you just say what you think, consequences and appearances be damned.

The boyfriend and I don't normally argue very often (then again we haven't been together 50 years -- we've been together about 3 years).  We took a trip down to San Diego for the 4th of July holiday. On the drive down, I was telling him about my bickering parents and how awful it was to be around that kind of activity.  Well no sooner had I told him this than many, many things started going wrong on our little getaway trip. It was frustrating. Very, very frustrating.  We started in on the bickering thing.  NOT FUN.  Not pleasant.   Bleh!

My little sister has been married for sixteen years. We were discussing my parents' situation and lamenting the fact that to our eyes they oftentimes appear to have an adversarial relationship. My sister said she thought the key to a successful relationship was having a team effort -- a "we're in this together" kind of approach. I like that concept. Part of me wants to pass that advice along to my parents, but I don't want to get yelled at.



Marla said...

My parents had been married for almost 48 years when my dad died. He had worked a lot and my mom was often on her own, dealing with kids and home, and when he retired they became inseparable, but like your parents, to me it seemed they bickered all the time, and irritated each other to no end. I often wondered how they could stand each other, and thought I couldn't ever live in a relationship like that. I lived about an hour away from them, and once, I happened to be in a grocery store about halfway in between when I heard familiar voices from the next aisle. At first I couldn't place them, but then it dawned on me - it was my parents! They were debating the merits of the coffee brands on sale and what coupons they had, and yes, they were bickering but I also heard love, comfort and smiles in their voices. I snuck around the corner and watched them before they saw me and was filled with love. When I said hi, my dad blinked at me and looked disoriented for a second, like seeing your teacher in the mall and not being able to recognize them out of context. Then we all laughed, checked out and shared a pop leaning against the car before we went our separate ways. It changed my thinking about the bickering forever. Meanwhile, the longest relationship I've ever had was 7 years, and I only managed to stay married to my husband was 3.

Felicia said...

You just described my parents' relationship to a tee. It's been my whole life but didn't start really bothering my until I was an adult. It's actually one of the hundreds of reasons why my mom and I aren't speaking right now.

50 years is A LOT. I actually can't even fathom looking at someone's face for 50 minutes, let alone 50 years!! I suppose not every relationship can be roses & rainbows and things could be very different behind closed doors. But wouldn't you want to be happy at that age and say fuck it to the rest? I suppose it would be hard to shed someone from your life after so long. Congrats on being able to organize a party with your siblings though, HAHA!

girlunwinding said...

it is your parents dynamic and is working for them so just leave it. trust me. It's not for everyone but after 50 years it's hard to get one person on board, let alone two people.

Just look at them as an example of what you don't want your relationship to look like in the future and be as conscious of it as you can.

27 years speaking here. It's tough, man. Anyone tells you different they are full of shit. But in the end, it's like that big project you completed; you look back on it and say, "shit yeah, I did that!!"

Congrats to your parents for holding it together. That's magic baby, no matter what it might look like to the naked untrained eye.

KaH said...

Huge congrats to your parents. I hate bickering. This past 4th weekend I stayed with my bf's mom and her husband (in their 70s as well) and all his mom does is yell at her husband. Constantly. He ignores it (or turns off his hearing aides). It becomes frustrating to watch her be so unhappy especially when she is getting older and life is short. In her defense he is pretty unhelpful and wimpy so he is always sick/needs something and she is super active and social. I said to bf that I can't watch this and find it so hard to be around, but what can you do. Then, this past week I was watching the real housewives of oc (don't judge)and one couple just go at it all the time. Over nonsense. It makes me so uncomfortable because they are just picking (and the woman is nutso), but still I am thinking omg, is that what is in store? It did make me think though. You have to pick your battles. Sometimes I get so irritated with the bf that I will pick and pick until it blows up... I need to stop.

Lorena said...

Well, I guess by now its kind of "normal" to them… which of course does not justify the actions but you begin to understand.
I think its wonderful you party-retarded-kids did this for your folks ;)
AND… I cannot believe its been 3 years already, you and the bf :o)

little luxury list said...

It must be hard seeing them bicker all the time. I think that it's in part people expecting their partners to "know better" and do things a certain way because they have been told so over the years. There also could be genuine reasons for the propensity to snap at each other - maybe it really was the stress of the party? We also tend to take out our own little miseries on those we love most. I guess it's convenient to complain/pile onto someone who is right there all the time!

Anyway, very cool that you and the boyfriend have already gone 3 years (it seems like yesterday!). Awareness and communication are part of avoiding constant bickering and at least you both seem to be open about this!

cerebral e said...

This all sounds very familiar. My mum is really mean to my dad like that too.

fabulousjunk said...

You know, I have been noticing the same thing with my aunts and uncles. It seems my uncles can do no right, and no matter what they say or do, it turns into my aunts snapping at them. I think they kind of like it. Treat 'em mean keep 'em keene.

I also think maybe it has to do with age? I'm sure your parents haven't always been like that... (??) I hope your trip to San Diego turned out OK despite the small arguements. (Those things happen.. believe me)

Anne said...

Hmmm, I wonder what set off this bickering. From what you described it sounded mainly like your mother is the disagreeable one. My parents started, not bickering, not arguing, but I would call it fighting verbally later in their years but it was due to my father's anger problems. So it was him harassing her, picking faults with her. It was harder and harder to watch. I found myself avoiding going to see them because I just couldn't stand that kind of stress. I want to tell him to stop it and I did a few times...course it didn't help.

I know when people get older they either get mellow or cranky and suspicious. My father inlaw got mellow and my dad is no longer his easy going younger self.