I wonder sometimes about priorities when it comes to taking care of our “inner circle”. Everyone’s inner circle is different but when it comes down to it, we have to start with ourselves and the one we share our lives with. That’s the foundation and if we don’t start with the foundation, we’re in a lot of trouble. So what has to be done to take care of that shared circle, that space where two people exist together on this crazy journey. Well, there are the basic principles of honesty, kindness, friendship (being best friends hopefully), love, and nurturing. And while there cannot be a strong, amazing relationship without those principles, there’s something that gets missed too often. And that is protecting the circle.
I’ll give an example: A wife comes home from work and tells her husband about a conversation she had with a co-worker. In that conversation they got caught up talking about problems in relationships. The wife shared too much as she was frustrated from an argument she had with her husband that morning. The co-worker replies that she never did like the lady’s husband and she thinks he’s too demanding of the lady’s time. The wife let the comment go. She didn’t say anything. When she told her husband about the conversation, he was rightfully offended. The wife’s response to her husband was that it doesn’t really matter what her co-worker thinks and she doesn’t think he shouldn’t worry too much about it.
Another example, and one that happens TOO OFTEN: A husband talks to his mom about his problems with his wife. (Side note: Men, don’t ever do that!) The mom sides with her son and tells him that she is there for him. The relationship continues that way and, as is true in most in-law relationships, the mother-in-law doesn’t like her son’s wife. The wife tells her husband that he should not be going to his mom with their problems. She also reminds him that his mother isn’t respectful of her or their marriage. The husband responds that his mom is just that way and she doesn’t mean anything by it. He defends how wonderful his mom is. He lets his wife know that everyone loves his mom and that she just doesn’t understand their relationship. He wants his wife to understand “the situation” and not make a big deal out of it.
Both of these situations are detrimental to the marriage. The circle has to be fiercely protected in order for both partners to feel safe. In the first situation, the wife had a responsibility to take care of her husband’s feelings. She should have acknowledged that she should not have brought her co-worker into things while she was upset and that she should have said something to her co-worker when she talked negatively about her husband. Then, she should have told him that she will make it right, and do so. A nice talk with her co-worker saying that she shouldn’t have gotten her involved while she was so upset and that she knows she opened the door for her to make the comments she did but that she isn’t okay with it and she won’t be doing that again. That is taking care of the circle.
The second situation is much more intense and can cause marriages to fall apart. The husband should never go to his mom with problems with his wife. Sometimes mother-in-laws form opinions even if the husband doesn’t involve her though. Either way, if the mother-in-law is allowed to be negative, make negative comments, or be disrespectful, there are going to be problems. The husband defending his mother is an epic fail to no end. No woman wants her husband to defend his mother over her. It’s hurtful, it changes how she sees her husband, and it breaks the circle. On top of that, when the man allows any of that to happen with his mother, he is not setting boundaries which leads to future issues and more breaks in the circle. Not saying anything to his mother is as bad as agreeing with her. Eventually all of those breaks add up and there is no reparation.
It seems to me that too many times people tend to jump to the defense of others outside of the circle, leaving the one they share their life with hurt and unprotected. Not everyone does this of course. I have known people who defend their circle with everything they are. And they have happy, healthy relationships with their partner who is also their best friend. That’s because they know that the person they are sharing their life with is where things begin and end. That the person you share everything with, you go to bed with at night, you make future plans with, you grow old with, is priority above all else. In the end, it really doesn’t make sense to be any other way does it?