have a good marriage

While at a neighborhood party, Linda and I talked with several couples who on the surface seemed to have a good marriage, but we found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Every Labor Day our neighborhood has a block party in the cul-de-sac.  We roast a 200 pound pig and each family brings a covered dish to share with everyone.  They’re usually a pretty good time, though they certainly have mellowed out over the years.

Gone are the days when we would get a keg of beer, hire a band and party until 3 or 4 in the morning.  I don’t think anyone can stay up that late anymore and certainly our recuperative abilities aren’t what they used to be.

We have lived in our neighborhood for about 22 years, having built our home when our son was just a baby.  The makeup of our street has changed significantly over that time period as many of the original neighbors have moved on. 

The folks that have replaced the original “settlers” tend to generally be about 10-15 years younger than Linda and I.  Many have kids who are school-aged and are involved in extra-curricular activities just as our kids used to be.

These parties are usually pretty interesting too.  When you get a bunch of old married people together, there are always some good stories.  Each couple tends to split up the minute they arrive at the party and then the chirping begins.

Unfortunately, while at the party, Linda and I heard some marital tales that would indicate that there is potential trouble brewing for many of the couples on our block.  Many seem to like to talk and joke about stuff, but don’t seem to realize that there are real issues within their marriage that need to be addressed.

Some of what we heard at the party made us want to reach out, grab some throats and shake some sense into these people. But since we’re not on the “giving advice” level with most of them (nor was I drunk enough), we just listened or observed and shook our heads instead.  Linda and I sure had lots to talk about the next day though!

If only these people could see what we observed from the outside, they would realize they were heading down a potentially troubling path and make adjustments before they throw their relationships out the window.

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Here are a few examples of what we picked up (names have been changed)…

have a good marriageGeorge and Martha are parents to 4 kids all under the age of 14.  George works as an engineer while Martha is a stay-at-home mom and budding local politician.  Both are extremely intelligent and aren’t shy about letting you know it. 

Martha lost her high-paying job in the recession and now resents the fact that she has to stay at home all day with the kids.  She hands them off to George the moment he gets home from work.  George feels Martha is a bitchy, lazy nag and doesn’t mind working late to avoid her abrasive attitude.  Before he leaves for work each morning he makes breakfast and gets the kids ready for school – while Martha sleeps.  It was very apparent that this is a sore spot with him.

While Linda and I were telling someone how much we enjoyed our trip to Nashville last year, George chimed in that he was out that way on business recently and told Martha that he couldn’t make it home.  Instead he decided to hit the Nashville bars by himself.  He had a blast of course, but shhh…don’t tell Martha. 

The night before the block party George was at a neighbor’s (male) house hanging out with one of our divorced neighbors (female) and her divorced (female) friend, drinking moonshine and hot-tubbing until 2AM.  I doubt that Martha would want to hear about that either!

Donnie and Marie are parents to two twenty-something sons and are newly empty nesters.  Donnie works long and hard and travels 6 days a week for work – or so he says.  Since I work from home (and they live across the street), I’ve witnessed on several occasions where he stays at home and works all day and then leaves for out of town about 10 minutes before Marie comes home from work.   He will also leave on Sunday to travel just 2 hours for a business appointment that won’t occur until late Monday morning.  I wonder if they even enjoy each other’s company.

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When he is at home on the weekends they rarely do anything together as he typically heads out on his own to ride his bike, hang out at Starbucks or do whatever.  She spends her free time shopping or with her family.  Heck, they go to church each week but they take separate cars, for Pete’s sake!

Donnie and Marie feel they have nothing in common any more.  He loves the outdoors but hates sports.  She loves baseball and shopping.  She rags on him non-stop when he is out of town, while he seems oblivious to just about everything.

As I write this, he is in Jackson Hole (without her) on a week-long vacation.  Marie is not happy about this.  A month ago he was in Canada (again without her) on a fishing trip.    When they do take a vacation together, Marie’s mother usually comes along.  Ain’t that Romantic?

Linda and I have joked over the years that he must have another secret family somewhere else and we often wonder how they are going to survive when they retire and have to actually spend time together.

have a good marriageArchie and Edith are also younger parents with 4 kids under the age of 14.  Both work all day and then shuttle kids to and from activities all night.  They have not prepared a home-cooked meal in over two years.  They literally eat out every night.

We rarely see or speak with them as they are only outside long enough to shove their kids in the car.  For some reason, we never see their kids outside playing or riding bikes or anything else.   They told us that they rarely go out together alone nor do they do any other sort of activity together.  Everything they do involves their kids. Everything.

We do know that Edith is a bit of a princess and resents Archie because he is making her work and drive an older car so that they can make ends meet financially.  Perhaps that is the reason she does nothing around the house – inside or out.  This doesn’t sit well with Archie because he is a bit of a neat freak and really doesn’t have the time, nor the desire to do everything.

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Dick and Jane are parents to an 11-year-old son.  Jane is a teacher and first-class helicopter mom who spoils and coddles her son, yet really doesn’t want to do anything with him. She would rather go out shopping and bar-hopping with her friends, leaving Dick to shuttle their son around to football practice, school, etc.  – when he remembers, that is. 

They constantly battle over money.  In fact, they have always maintained separate bank accounts and each hides money from the other.  Jane is obsessed with money and resents Dick (who owns a small business) for not making enough of it.  He constantly “owes” her money for bills that he was supposed to pay from his bank account.   Dick is not good with money and has never really been able to keep steady employment.

Jane is always mad at Dick for buying something that she feels is frivolous yet has no problem clothes shopping three to four times a week and eating out almost nightly.

They rarely go out together and other than their honeymoon have never taken a vacation together – ever.

There you have it.  Obviously, we have had our own share of problems and have made enough mistakes in the past that we cannot judge our neighbors.  If I were a betting man though, I’d wager that some, if not all of these couples will have significant marital problems down the road (perhaps they already do) if they don’t start changing their ways.  Sure, I could be wrong, but I doubt it.  I really do hope I am wrong, but we’ve seen enough of this type of thing the last few years to think otherwise.

The one underlying theme that seemed to surface with these couples was RESENTMENT.  Each spouse seemed to resent the other for various reasons.  I suppose that is common enough in marriage that it should be expected to some extent, but these couples seemed to have an over abundance of it.

I hope that they can work through these resentments before they grow and fester into something much worse.



    12 replies to "The Block Party and What Not to Do to Have a Good Marriage"

    • DJ

      I know lots of people like those couples, too. It’s sad. But I also have a group of friends in my martial arts classes who are not. We are serious martial arts students and we all participate as couples. We socialize together, too, and we do not speak ill of our spouses. Maybe irritation shows sometimes, but not resentment. We take on projects as couples, and we vacation as couples, too.

      I don’t know if any of them has ever faced infidelity as Daniel and I have, but they all seem to be pretty good at taking care of their relationships. Are we just better at hiding it? Maybe we just meditate more than most??? Haha – I don’t know.

      • Doug

        DJ, I know what you mean. Linda and I rarely socialize with most of our neighbors -primarily the ones I mentioned. One or two parties a year and that’s it. Thankfully, most of the couples we do socialize with have good relationships – or at least hide the problems real good.

    • Broken2

      Doug…you guys must have a gift to get people to talk to you about those issues!
      Yesterday was an especially bad day for me as I ran across a note my husband wrote the OW it said “lonely boy wants girl” …I should have thrown it away 3 years ago but I forgot about it. I didn’t want to talk about it but eventually I did and he said something to me that applies to all of these people. He said I live my life for you and me now,,,,I didn’t live like that before and it’s a much happier way to live. I think that’s the issue. I hope your neighbors never have to feel the pain we all have felt but they are all headed down that path. Some will cheat (if not already) some will divorce and some will get to a place where they can be happy again.

      • Doug

        Not sure if it’s a gift or a curse! 😉 Sorry about your bad day as I”m sure that stirred up a lot of emotion for you. I like what your husband’s response was though and agree that some of our neighbors are walking a dangerous path. Thanks for the wise words!

    • battleborn

      Isn’t this really sad? Sad for two reasons. First because no one can “see” the problems of these couples except for those who have had an affair and secondly, the couples don’t even realize they are ripe for an affair, if some of them haven’t already begun one.

      I love to people watch and my neighbors have coffee clatches (sp). There are those of us who work and those who are stay at home moms. Puleez don’t expect to join one of their “clubs” if you stopped working. I find it interesting that they walk their children to the bus stop and they stand there for about an hour after the kids leave talking about God only knows what, then they scatter like mice. When their children come home, it’s the same thing only reversed.

      The funny part is that none of them socialize with each other outside of the am/pm meetings. I have more interaction with my neighbor than the coffee set. Maybe it’s because I have not been a stay at home mom so I will never understand what goes on, but it sure provides me with a different view of the world.

      Now, before anyone here thinks I am denegrating stay at home moms, I AM NOT! I dream of the day I can do that. Oct 27, 2016 retirement here I come!

      Sorry I have gotten off track, but the point of my post is that socialization amongst neighbors is always an interesting subject… oh what stories lie behind closed doors.

      • Doug

        Perhaps you’re right that we tend to notice these things more than others due to our experiences. Our neighborhood has had its share of divorces, affairs, etc and you’d think that perhaps these folks who have been around to witness these things would have more awareness within their own marriages. BTW…one of the affairs in our neighborhood started as a result of those morning bus stop meetings.

    • forcryin'outloud

      Doug and Linda – Do you live on my street? LOL!
      I’ve heard and witnessed much of what you speak of on my dead end street. It’s quite sad and amazing that it exists all around us.

      • Doug

        Possibly!! Not sure if we were always just oblivious to it before or what, but it does seem to be everywhere. We live in a typical mid-west suburban community and in addition to affairs and divorces, all sorts of other crap goes on. There was a man in another section of our neighborhood (about a mile away) that just got arrested for trying to meet up with a 13 year old girl (chatting online) for sex. He had also sent nude pictures of himself to her. Well, that 13 year old girl turned out to be a cop. This man just so happens to be married and the father of 4 kids, one of whom (an 18 year-old girl) is good friends with our daughters. In fact our daughters have spent the night at her house on numerous occasions in the past. Our daughters said her dad was a little weird and all but never said or did anything out of the usual towards them.

    • Roe

      Hi Doug

      Your story about the man in your neighborhood who got arrested is quite scary. I for one am guilty of my children sleeping out at neighbors houses but really how well do we know these people? Yet we trust them with our children. We don’t really know what happens behind closed doors. I am sure my neighbors think that I have the perfect marriage and perfect life as so it seems yet my husband had an affair. Reading your stories about your neighbors kind of touched a nerve for me because you can clearly see the dangerous road they are headed to. However my husbands infidelity caught me off guard. No my marriage was not perfect not even close but it was so much better than so many other people in my neighborhood. I too have neighbors with similar marriages as your neighbors. My husband and I seemed to be the one with the better marriage yet he had an affair this past year. I always ask myself. What went wrong?

      • Doug

        Thanks for sharing Roe. It is true that affairs can happen to even the seemingly best marriages. In the case of the man who was arrested…we thought we knew him/them well. I coached our girls soccer team with his wife and our son hung out for a bit with one of their sons and I coached the youngest boy in baseball. They seemed like a normal, close knit family.

    • CookieMomster

      Before my H’s EA I never thought much about the divorce rate of couples around me. I just thought it was typical of the times. I have so much more empathy now when I hear of others marital problems. I don’t even have to be close to the couple to feel their pain. Something that has become commonplace in our society is tearing people apart and I can only imagine the frustration of not being able to just shake these people and tlel them to wake the hell up before it’s too late!

    • Paula

      CookieMomster, I felt every single person’s pain during every single divorce I have been close to, and even pretty sad for “friends of friends.” The ones who decided mutually that their love had died, were still very, very sad, but the ones with infidelity, huge loss on their behalf, occasionally I think I hurt over broken marriages more than those divorcing! I know I did over my ex’s best friend’s marriage ending! They both moved on so quickly, and I was still grieving their loss, weirdo! I never saw it as a “sign of the times” as such, each couple was a pair of individuals who were experiencing deep pain. That said, I know I now feel it even more. Just two days ago, an old friend asked me to dinner, and confessed that her darling husband had been having an affair for three years, I won’t go into details, just to say she has had no way of moving forward at all, as nothing has been dealt with. She unloaded with me for the first time, the load she has been carrying was very heavy, and she said I was the first person who was able to understand any of it. I told her that no one, not your closest friends, not your loving family, not even your love of your life can possibly understand this until they have experienced it. We talked for hours, I listened (pretty good for this wordy girl, huh? LOL) hard, and with empathy and some gentle “tips” and encouragement. I just look around my friends and acquaintances and see train wrecks approaching, and I have asked myself if I was one – I asked this friend what we looked like from the outside before our personal armageddon – she said what I knew – we were good, really good. But it happened anyway.

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