This might be shaking the table a bit, but we’re in the era of Black American bishops quoting MLK at royal English weddings; so what the hey.
Marriage is a tricky thing. No matter what your views are about its sanctity and/or who should have access to it, the basic premise behind it is this: two people vow to become and live as one. (Unless you’re in a polygamous arrangement, which presents itself more like the head of the mythical creature Medusa than the face of the god Janus.) In either event, you’re tasked with the job of learning to live with someone other than yourself. There’s so much in this arrangement that can’t be anticipated, and it can lead to confusion and disillusion.
I was recently asked for my opinion about spouses – in this case, a wife – considering the enemies of her husband her enemies as well. My reflex was to respond in the affirmative.
“Yes, absolutely. If my husband doesn’t like them, then I can’t like ‘em either!”
In my house, my husband is allergic to fresh fish. Do I then serve him with a big plate of salmon at dinner? No! It’s toxic. We don’t bring toxic things into our marriage. As a result, I also no longer eat salmon at home.
Of course, no situation in this world is as simple as salmon, especially not an arrangement like marriage. This particular situation had tentacles to rival those of the Displacer Beast and on its face, was as difficult to make sense of. A puma with flagellum sprouting from its back? Come on!
The story is as follows:
Two women once went to middle school together, forming a friendship that wouldn’t necessarily stand the test of time, but one strong enough that would abandon the company of other friends in favor of each other’s company. After high school, they lost contact with each other, but by some stroke of luck, they ended up in the same university within two years of each other. They help each other with term papers, cry on one another’s shoulders, and shares her ramen when the other has none. One graduates and moves to another city. The other stays behind in the college town for work. They lose touch again. Fate colludes once more and they end up in the same city hundreds of miles away from their last meeting point! It would seem that these two women were destined to be in each other’s lives…and more the better for it. They truly enjoy each other’s company, and good people that you gel with are hard to find nowadays.
One reaches an important milestone: A man has asked her to marry him and she happily accepts. What good news! When it is time to create the wedding list, the bride-to-be puts down her friend’s name. Her fiancé wrinkles his nose.
“Shelby Jenkins*?” he asks.
His fiancée nods emphatically, explaining that Shelby has been a lifelong friend with home she has shared many important milestones. Well, Mr. Groom is having none of it.
“Shelby was a co-worker of mine at Acme Paper Company,” he says darkly. “I hated that b*tch. She can’t come to my wedding.”
The bride-to-be is aghast. She pleads for reason, reminding her beau that this is her wedding too. He puts his foot down and refuses to relent. After they are married, he insists that his wife cut off all contact with Shelby.
The two women haven’t spoken to each other since. It’s been 15 years.
Your mouth is agape, isn’t it? Close it! No, it’s fine. You can open it. I was just as shocked and horrified too.
I had no real advice for the woman asking me for a response. What do you say? All I could comment on was that this event demonstrates the very real casualties that come as a result of marriage…the type of casualties that individuals don’t often consider before saying I do. Sure, we know that we will lose many personal freedoms like going and staying out as long as you want to with little to no accountability, or having to share personal spaces like bath and bedrooms; however one does not generally consider that gaining a spouse could come with the loss of cherished things and people. The woman who made the choice to make her husband happy instead of insisting on her own happiness did just that: She made a painful choice. But it was hers to make.
Would I have done the same thing? I like to think of myself as independent of mind to say, “No. And to Hell with anyone who would force me to give up a friend who has helped me through tough times.” But again, it’s not so easy when we’re talking about a marriage.
The beautiful – and tragic – thing about (most) marriages is that it compels two distinct individuals to function as a single unit…or it least give the pretense of it. A house divided cannot stand, and compromise always means one party will lose more ground than the other for the sake of unity. This is not to be mistaken for harmony, which is the perfect blending of contrasting elements resulting in balance. Unity is a different horse entirely. Unity only requires that contrasting elements occupy the same space without conflict.
So here’s the question: If your spouse dislikes a person, are you under an obligation to dislike that person as well? What if your spouse is just a confrontational person in general? I imagine that adopting that position could be isolating for a person. What is the “offended” spouse’s responsibility if any in such a situation?