The Best Argument(s) We’ve Ever Had (27 Month Update)

November 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Anyone who has been married for a long time knows that “married life” is quite a bit different than “dating life.”  Marriage is a relationship of total acceptance.  It is best to go into it knowing that your spouse has some traits that are truly wonderful … as well as some that are definitely not wonderful.  If the wrong partner has been chosen, the arguments grow and the acceptance shrinks.  Their refusal to listen, communicate, or address annoying habits can close the door on the relationship.

The worst disagreements are born out of the tiniest of reasons.  Even the best relationships contain huge fights over small things.  Couples fight over a lack of eye contact when listening, poor word choice when speaking, and especially the dreaded “perceived” failure to appreciate all the things that a partner has to put up with on a daily basis.  These small things stem from our inherent insecurity.  We want to feel important, loved, and taken care of… especially by those we have chosen to spend our life with.

Marriage is a lens that reveals the true deficiencies of human beings.  No matter how much we hate to argue, the temptation of starting a new one is one of the most seductive traps we face.  The human need to be right is nearly irresistible.

It may seem impossible to keep one’s mouth shut when dealing with a person who seems incapable of driving correctly, pulling their eyes away from the television, or cleaning the mess they made in the sink.

Success in marriage means deciding which deficiencies are worthy of pointing out and which should simply be tolerated.  It means coming to terms with the fact that no one is perfect and at least the person I am stuck with has some redeeming qualities.


The Nostalgia of Youth

If only we could revert back to the people we were when we were dating… as people who went out for dinner and then stayed out late because we didn’t want to part.  Things were so simple back then.  Conversations were not an inconvenience… they were a tool to get to know everything there was to know about each other.  The relationship focused on big things like beliefs, plans, and dreams.

It has been a long time since those days.  We may not even remember all of the crazy things we were willing to do in order to secure a second date.  Our best foot was put forward and we hid all of the annoying day-to-day habits we spent a lifetime acquiring.

In a marriage, each partner gradually accepts that things will never be perfect.  The wife may remain too judgmental and the husband too distant.  The idea of 24/7 wedded bliss fades into the reality of compromising make life “livable.”  He may never learn to put down the toilet seat, and she might be unaware of the angst that results from putting the toilet paper on backwards.


The Allure of a Reset Button

Suppose things could be different.  What if the arguments could end?  Consider what life would be like without disagreement.  What if there was a reset button on the relationship.  A button that would return us to a place before life became so monotonous… so simplistic.  What if there was a place where two people could refocus on hopes, dreams, and futures.

Before thinking that such a place would be paradise, consider the cost.  The habits that we detest in those we love can also be the characteristics that help define their personality.  Their inability to change these habits might be annoying, but it gives us something to talk about when we go out with our friends.

That reset button I mentioned earlier… the one that would turn back the relationship.  Our minds assume that the button comes in the form of enlightenment.  That better living came as the result of a conscious choice.  We automatically assume that resetting life would be 100% positive.  This potential situation is framed in a good light.  After all, the action(s) that led to better living must be positive, right?


Someone Pushed Our Reset Button, And…

…life has not been the same since.  All the day to day frustrations and worries were eliminated and we were able to focus on family, relationships, and life.  Arguments were replaced with plans of progress and discussions of the future.  As our life’s train rolled down the track, all eyes focused on the road ahead.  There was no time to regret the past… no energy for the superficial concerns of the present.

In many ways, my wife’s personality became closer to perfect.  The parts of her that might judge, argue, or hold grudges had been eliminated.  The psyche that was once so developed returned to a childlike state of curiosity.  Her eyes searched the walls and windows of her new surroundings for clues to what life had been like and what it might become.  Her senses interpreted the outside world as her mind looked for internal clues about the meaning of it all.

We had no desire to have our reset button pressed.  We were happy and healthy and living through the best years we had seen.  The uncertainty of young adulthood had passed… the decisions we made in our 20’s had allowed us to expand our family and breathe easier financially.

Life was never perfect.  In fact, anyone who would describe marriage as “perfect” has obviously not tried it.  Despite the occasional disagreements and typical everyday frustrations, our marriage was pretty darn good.  We agreed on much of what was important… and that life was too short to spend time worrying about the rest.


Return to Innocence

Anyone who takes a few minutes to watch a child laugh and play can appreciate the inherent joy that defines their youth.  As an adult, a similar “return to innocence” seems like the perfect recipe to get the most out of our days.  You might wonder how successfully capturing that innocence could possibly be a bad thing… until you consider the unintended consequences.

Jess’ return to innocence highlights the difficulties that accompany the potential benefit. Our reset button came in the form of stroke, heart attack, and DIC.  Instead of arguing over the whens and whats of everyday life, we were now focused on the tasks that would transform life from “bad” into “livable.”  Tasks like using a fork and knife, walking around the house independently, and feeling competent enough to discipline the children.  Each of these tasks moved beyond our capability immediately after the reset button had been pressed.

For the longest time, there were no arguments.  All the decisions in life now followed a different script.  Others set the arrangements and Jess went along.


The Starting Point:  Uncertainty

The greatest unintended consequence is the weight of uncertainty.  It is a heavy burden to be unsure of whether you will ever be able to complete even the most basic daily duties.  Life looks different through the lens of doubt.  It is difficult to lead one’s family when the mere thought of a stroll across the room comes with the terrible fear of falling.

When we look at children, we see them as little balls of energy who go through their days without a care in the world.  What we have forgotten is the stress and frustration of not being able to truly manage life.  It was always the adults who kept us under their wing(s) and protected us from our childhood naivety.  They nurtured our confidence and helped mold our worldview.  A return to innocence for an adult includes a return to feelings of uncertainty and naivety.  One cannot manage a modern family when they are unsure about managing themselves.


From Emotional to Assertive

While the frustration of recovery has been highlighted by the extreme limitations of damaged brain and body, Jess worked tirelessly to improve herself.  After 27 months, the physical improvements have slowed to a crawl.  Recent progress has been more evident in the realm of mental and emotional progress.

At about the 18 month mark, emotions bubbled to the surface.  Thoughts of why popped up all the time.  Life became a glorified game of “whack a mole” as one thought was diffused only to have new ones crop up unexpectedly.

More recently, Jess’ focus has shifted from feeling sorry for herself to renewing her pursuit of motherhood.  She has begun making more decisions for the family and arguing her positions with the tenacity of a mother who knows her role.  When faced with a disagreeing child, Jess’ mind can now process fast enough to back up her directives.  When the decision is one that is important to her, she can now assert her will upon a stubborn daughter.  Her directives can now be communicated with the sharp tongue of a Pittsburgh mom.


A Shining Moment

Up until recently, our disagreements were born from Jess’ uncertainty.  They often came when she operated as one piece of a complicated process.  After discussing what we are doing and how we are doing it, she might forget the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th step in the process.  One common example is getting the family in the car.  The worst possible development is forcing three kids to wait in the car while the adults walk back and forth to the bathroom, closet, or countertop to gather items needed for the trip.

Unbeknownst to those outside our house, Jess was quietly building confidence by taking more and more ownership of her own life.  Days now begin by getting up and walking downstairs all by herself.  They continue with thoughts of keeping the kids safe and the house clean.  Over time, managing more tasks has led to more confidence in herself and ownership of her life.

Her progress may have been masked to those who did not see all the little things she now takes on.  Even the kids and I have missed some of the subtle increases in her mettle.

Then one day, it happened.  It was the moment she disagreed with me and refused back down.   She had decided that my childcare arrangements were inadequate and determined to hold vigil at the house until we secured additional coverage.

It wasn’t so much what she said, it was the way she said it.  Her tongue constructed a sharp tone and her eyes steeled with resolve.  They say that most of our communication is done in the form of body language, and at this moment hers insisted that she would get her way.

For the first time in over two years, Jess won an argument.  She planted her flag on a hill and refused to yield.  It was a transformative display of courage… one that marked a clear contrast between the innocence of yesterday and the increased responsibility of tomorrow.

If you really believe in something, plant your flag upon a hill and refuse to yield.    


Best Arguments We’ve Ever Had

Since that first argument, Jessica has planted flags on other hills.  We do not argue as frequently as the average couple, but when we do I savor each word that comes out of her mouth.  The body language and conviction is that of someone who truly believes in what they are saying.  Life was worth living prior to this month, but the possibility of adult disagreement has added another layer to our relationship.

Frequent arguments are generally the result of an unhealthy relationship.  Too many of them are evidence that a couple is not reacting to the wants and needs of their partner.  The occasional argument, however, is a sign that two people have a distinct interest in the direction of their own life.  After two long years, Jessica finally has it in her to insist on holding her own reins no matter what the circumstances.


Quantifying the Unquantifiable

Not all progress can be measured with a count, stopwatch or weight.  Some improvements cannot be accurately quantified in terms that everyone can understand.  When the physical gains become harder to attain, the only alternative for continued progress is to pursue improvement in other directions.

When we look back at our lives, there are plenty of decisions that we might like to revisit.  We may wonder how life might have turned out if we had a do-over.  With all the faults and frustrations in our daily lives, it is easy to overlook all the things we do have.

A reset button may seem like something worth considering.  Friends and neighbors appear to have everything so put together… perhaps with another chance our life could be neat and clean as well.

Before deciding to think negatively about your current life, take a few moments and reflect on all the good things in it.  The arguments, disappointments, and failures have all contributed to making you into the person you are today.  Jessica has one single moment that changed her life, but the reality is that we all have had big moments where we needed to make big choices.  Each one of us has the opportunity to strive to be better today than we were yesterday.

It is our hope that the successes and failures of our life can encourage you to pursue great things in your own.


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3 Responses to “The Best Argument(s) We’ve Ever Had (27 Month Update)”
  1. jturka says:

    I read each of my updates to Jess prior to posting them here. One of her favorite parts was being described as a “Pittsburgh mom.” She is happy and proud to be able to live up to this standard.

  2. Lara says:

    You go girl! I love that you are holding your ground, planting flags, and being your own Pittsburgh mom! I’m proud of you for that and so much more! I could learn so much from you. I hope I can hook up with you again before the new year hits! I miss you! :)

  3. annie says:

    Plant that flag Jess! Watch out Turk and world! Great message.

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