Twenty-four years ago I went on my first date with Jerry Hogeweide. We were living in Hong Kong, both of us volunteers with the Christian organization, Youth With a Mission. I had been crushing on Jerry for months and was thrilled when he finally noticed me. He, introverted and shy, especially among women, had summoned the courage to invite me to go see a movie. That first date went well. Mostly.
As we left the theater in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district, we had to navigate our way through densely crowded sidewalks teeming with Hong Kong nightlife. Jerry’s step become quick, his pace a fury of urgency as if getting to the subway station was a matter of life and death. I walked as fast as my 5’4″ frame could carry me, but no matter how much I punched it, Jerry began to get further ahead of me. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps he was trying to lose me in the crowd. Maybe he wanted to dump me after just one date. This thought produced an ache in my chest as the possibility of rejection played out in my emotions. I slowed down my pace.
“Fine. If he wants to cut loose and get away from me, let him,” I thought with a mixture of irritation and hurt.
Jerry finally turned around. Seeing that I had fallen back into a sea of Chinese pedestrians, he stopped and waited. “Are you trying to get rid of me?” I asked.
His face said it all before he spoke. So did his feet as he rejoined me. Jerry shifted down from his full throttle stride to a leisurely pace to remain in step with me.
We spent all our free time together for the next four weeks. One afternoon, while enjoying a Saturday afternoon overlooking Hong Kong harbor from a terrace at Queens Pier, Jerry stunned me with a marriage proposal. We were married two months later.Yes. From our first date to our wedding day was a mere three month stretch. Yep.The man is a fast-moving human being.
As I write this post I am mindful of all kinds of directions I could go. I could write a tribute to Jerry and tell you the amazing person he is, a faithful husband and hard working partner, and a true waterman who has introduced me and our children to the sensual delights of playing in rivers and oceans. Or I could elaborate on my top three tips for staying married and building a partnership over the long haul. Or I could describe the many adventures we’ve been on as a couple and as a family. Instead, I want to review here on my blog the chronology of Throwing Things at My Husband when I Got Really, Really Mad at Him and how this reveals a maturation in my myself as a woman and as a wife.
Every marriage will experience conflict and every wife and husband will discover how to express and resolve those conflicts. Mine has been to throw things, my husband’s has been to duck. Our marriage has survived for more than two decades because of Jerry’s extraordinary skill to duck. Like I said, he’s a fast-moving man.
1988 First year of marriage. First throw. My wedding ring. I have no idea what the argument was about. Whatever it was, I got so angry that I pulled my ring off and hurled it at him. Ring survived. Jerry survived. So did our marriage. 1988– Later in that first year. Another throw. This time I went for harder artillery : a clock. Not just any clock, but a really nice bedside alarm clock that had been a wedding gift. Clock broke. Marriage did not.
1989 – 1998 Over the first decade of marriage I threw something at Jerry at least once a year. Various items that were within reach during the heat of an argument. Such items have included a fanny pack, a pile of folded laundry, the Bible (yes! at least twice over this time span), a pen, and a coffee cup, which let me assure you that though I did indeed throw a coffee cup at my husband the cup was empty and I merely hurled it in his direction…not straight at him. As a former softball player, I could have hit him if I wanted to. But I wasn’t that mad.
1999 – 2008 The second decade of our marriage saw a change in my throwing frequency. I was mastering more self-control and we were also arguing a whole lot less. Jerry only had to duck about once every two years, but man, when I did erupt with the temper tantrum of a four-year old, I let loose. There was the time I threw a full Big Gulp at him when we were on vacation and were a little lost. Just a little, for Jerry has an amazing sense of direction. He was driving, I was shotgun and our young children in the backseat. We were trying to find Moses Lake during our vacation. After stopping to get refreshments at a 7 – 11, Jerry was getting frustrated trying to find the lake and he was getting frustrated with me who was trying to tell him to go back to the 7 – 11 and ask for directions. Men! Somehow it escalated and BAM! I slung my Big Gulp into his arm. Soda splattered everywhere. Jerry growled through clenched teeth, “You’re cleaning that up!” We found the lake. Jerry jumped in and swam the stickiness away. I jumped in and cooled off. The kids jumped in and had fun despite their dysfunctional parents, and yes, I cleaned up the car before we hit the road again.
My husband and I have never considered divorce… murder sometimes, but never divorce. –Joyce Brothers
It was another two years before I flung something at Jerry again, an important detail for this highlights the progress I was making in growing out of my penchant for wifely tantrums. Though there was that bowl of noodles I threw at him in the kitchen. Of course I didn’t aim it right at him, just towards his general direction. Noodles splatted against the kitchen window and all over the floor. The bowl, a red crockery bowl which was a part of my favorite dish set – and let me add the only time I ever broke a dish in a throwing fit– shattered into shards. It was a mess, and moments later my best friend Kim showed up with her kids and my kids in tow. I had to hide the simmering rage as I cleaned up the mess, lying to her that, “Oh, just a little accident in the kitchen.” I later confided to her the truth of the mess to which she laughed and told me some of her stories!
That is the last time I ever threw something at my beloved husband.
I know that women reading this will have a range of responses. Some will smile and nod their head in recognition of their own conflict-scarred marriages. Some might be shocked, for such behavior in their own households is unheard of and would have cause to threaten holy matrimony if someone shucked a Bible at the other. And some might even wonder how my marriage has made it this far when I have behaved at times so unwifely.
I have concealed these facts about my marital relationship from most people. Marriage is a private affair. Plus, for so many, many years I tried hard to be a good, Christian wife and everybody knows that Christian wives do not throw bowls of noodles at the head of the home. I definitely did not share these details at the women’s prayer circles I traveled in. Thus, there was an accompanying level of shame and fear that my marriage was abnormal and headed for the boneyard of relationships.
Christian marriage books did not help. None of them mirrored the kind of conflict Jerry and I were staggering through and none of them offered solace for the individuation of marriage. We did not have a traditional Christian marriage and not a single Christian marriage book I read gave any kind of encouragement for the partnership we were building amidst our stormy periods. I was stymied for the longest while if our marriage and family was dysfunctional and if we contentment with Who We Are could be realized.
Nearing the second decade of our marriage I somehow discovered the work of Dr John Gottman, a love and marriage expert who has written a number of books. Dr Gottman’s insights and scientific findings from studying marriages and how couples resolve conflict deshamed me about my marriage and throwing fits. Gottman doesn’t advocate for physical outbursts like throwing books at your partner, but he does make clear that every couple will find what works for them in managing conflict and their style of effective communication. It was through Gottman that I realized my marriage is not severely dysfunctional as Christian books would suppose us to be. In fact, according to Gottman’s findings, Jerry and I have a strong partnership built on mutual respect, commitment and partnership. Do we argue? Good,says
Gottman who has a more than 90% accuracy rate in forecasting a couple’s divorce by observing How They Argue and Resolve Conflict. I discovered from his work that he has observed what he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, predictors to the demise of a marriage. They are 1) Criticism 2) Contempt 3) Defensivenss 4) Stonewalling . I won’t unpack them here, but I’ll tell you that reading his work about these four marriage killers helped me realize that our marriage was much healthier. Gottman has also developed what he calls a Love Map, which is simply a list of questions about personal details about the other to help catalog what you already know about your partner, as well as a tool to discover more details and stories about one another. Jerry and I took this tool on a kid-free trip one time and had a lot of fun reviewing what we knew about each other. Who was your best friend in high school? What car did you learn to drive in? What would be your dream vocation? Where did you learn to swim?
Gottman reassured me in so many ways that the storms our marriage has endured are normal and that some marriages are stormy and louder than others. We each create the intimate partnership that works for us and every marriage will go through seasons and cycles.
July 23, 2012 is the twenty-fourth anniversary of my wedding day to Jerry. We’ve weathered a lot. He’s weathered a lot being married to a feisty woman like me. I don’t throw stuff at him anymore.
Maybe it’s time to buy some new dishes. :)
Similar post: My Failed Christian Marriage
Are you a temperamental wife? Ever throw something at your partner? Share your confession here! Feel free to post a comment anonymously to protect your marriage’s privacy.