Martin and I have been married for 11 years and some months, most of our adult lives. Like any couple, we have moments of severe dissonance, when we look at one another and see strangers, or even enemies. Sometimes it’s a decision one of us makes, sometimes it’s disciplining the kids, sometimes it’s the way money is spent or time allocated. It can affect our relationship with the outside world, or be a purely internal disagreement.
It’s always painful.
The one of us observing, and reacting to, the word or deed in question may feel excluded, overridden, or disenfranchised. The consequences of a wrong choice may seem overwhelming and disastrous. The agent, meanwhile, will feel betrayed and defensive at having a good faith decision questioned.
Resolving these disagreements, finding common ground, and dealing with the risk of error are some of the most difficult tasks in any partnership. It’s hard to listen to the objections of the overridden spouse; it’s even harder to live with what seems to be a wrong choice by your partner. And maintaining the discipline to avoid recriminations or smugness (depending on how the controversial decision comes out) is yet another perennial task. Martin and I rarely achieve perfection in all these areas; we usually reach adequacy.
A small proportion of married people rarely face the challenge, either because they don’t disagree or because they rigidly delegate responsibility. But for the vast majority of married couples, this is the source of such trouble, such strife and such grief, that they lose, for a time, the joy of their union and shared purpose Some can’t overcome the alienation and start to see their partner as an opponent. That, of course, is the road to divorce court.
We who stay married endure these trials because we are richer with one another than alone, even when we are at odds. We work at marriage because we made a commitment, and because we share so much that cannot ever truly be separated. And when the quarrel ends, we savour the sweets of our union all the more because they are earned, not given, and because they are the greater for it.
Does all that make sense?
Right. Now read Republicans and Democrats in there instead of a married couple. The problems that plague my country in the aftermath of the election are the same as any couple in trouble: miscommunication, mistrust, and the sneaking suspicion that the other party isn’t striving for the greater good. But even more than a marriage, a nation is all but indissoluble. We are one land and must learn to live together. The same principles of compromise, communication and determination that make a marriage work are needed to make the nation work.
Now go to it, guys.