A Good Home

The Ten Commandments: Marriage

And now for a completely different kind of blog post!

Maybe it’s COVID, maybe it’s just the time we live in, but several of my acquaintances have ended their marriages recently. It makes me appreciate my own marriage even more.

It also got me thinking about the marriage relationship – traditional or otherwise.

Marriage can be a crucible. What other relationship calls for us to share the same bedroom, bank accounts, property and our very lives “till death do us part”?

Along the way, we can learn lessons about nurturing an important relationship. Here are my top ten. Feel welcome to add!

1: Empathize: Love is a great foundation, but respect and understanding of the other person can help you go the distance. Try to place yourself in your partner’s shoes when things get tough.

2: You don’t have to win every argument. Sometimes, it’s more important to listen and say “I hear you” while giving yourself time to think about the other person’s point/anger. If you feel yourself getting furious, it may be time to step away. Leave the room.

3: You should be honest about everything – except whether s/he’s looking too fat!

4: Appreciate the other person’s strengths while graciously shoring up his/her weaknesses. Never humiliate your partner over his weaknesses. We do not come to a marriage fully formed – and no-one is perfect.

5: Affection and praise should outweigh criticism. You may sometimes have to remind yourself of all the things you loved about her in the first place, and the good things your partner has done. Three of my acquaintances who recently separated/divorced said their spouses criticised a lot and gave little affection. “There was no love”, said one. Another said: “It became a toxic relationship.”

6: Marriage is a cross-cultural endeavour. Understand that you are marrying a partner, but he has a family with its own culture – that intangible thing that goes far beyond visible traditions like the food they cook. What lies below the waterline includes accepted gender roles, the family’s history, the birth-rank of each child, the roles each person performs in that family and how valued each person feels.

7: You may have to find a way to show respect to your spouse’s family members even if he’s told you all the ways in which they hurt him earlier in life. This is a tough one. You don’t have to love them, but if he’s forgiven them, or found a way to work around those hurts, you can’t be the one left holding a grudge.

8: Don’t be afraid to get counselling on some child-raising tools and shared discussion of differences. Children are a blessing, yes. Know that parenting also puts untold pressure on a young marriage. This is where the different styles of child-raising come in. Each spouse brings different ideas about how to raise children – often built on what they hated or loved (or both) about their own upbringing. Is she a more authoritarian parent? Do you take a more developmental approach?

9: Financial ignorance/differing attitudes can strain a relationship. Many young couples in North America dream of owning that first house, for example, but aren’t prepared for it. But with a house come a mortgage, taxes, necessary repairs and updates, utility bills, etc. etc. and it’s always more than you planned. (Regarding repairs: my daughters both got and used their toolboxes when they got their first homes – something I admire, since I always left repairs to my husband!)

10: Finally, remember to laugh. Laugh about something. A bit of humour can change a mood or turn away wrath – bringing the element of surprise to an argument, reminding both parties that no matter how intensely you may argue, you still like and enjoy each other.

And yes – after decades of marriage, I still sometimes need to remind myself of some of these. Something to do with being fallible, different, and human. To close, I’ll quote my blogger friend Michel Fauquet, who says marriage “is a constant act of faith and love until the end of life here”.

What would you add to this list?

A Good Home

Meet Rosie Riviera-Lopez

The most challenging thing about painting is knowing when to stop,” says Rosie Riviera-Lopez, an artist and educator who recently moved to a small town in Northumberland County, east of Toronto.

I did this interview for the Northumberland Festival of the Arts. (Link below)

A Good Home

Emancipation Day comes to Canada

Robby Robin's Journey

There’s so much happening in our little corner of Canada this weekend.

You might say that in New Brunswick we are being emancipated from the emergency restrictions put in place to combat COVID.  Starting yesterday, the province that cut off non-essential travel not just with Maine but also with all provinces west of here way back in March of last year, is now fully open to Canadians from across the country, with no border checks, registration requirements, or COVID tests.  Yikes, that will be a bit unnerving.  Masking and social distancing will now be up to individual establishments and individuals to determine.  That will take some figuring out.  One day in, most people are wearing their masks in most indoor places. Personally, I hope it stays that way.

NBmask

Tomorrow is New Brunswick Day, a statutory provincial holiday when we all get a summer day off to appreciate how lucky we…

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A Good Home

Days off in South Africa – Part 1

Reposting this.  It still gives me chills…

While training TV journalists at the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg, my colleague Marie and I were offered a weekend loan of a friend’s cottage a few hours drive away.

We could hardly wait.

While there, we planned to visit another friend at his farm.

There, we’d see something extraordinary.

~~

Just before leaving work that Friday, I ran into a journalist I knew.

“Don’t go, Cynthia” she warned.  “A lot of hardcore racists live in that area.”

I shivered.

It was the mid-1990’s and Mandela’s ANC had recently won the election, putting a public end to apartheid. But Marie and I were Canadians who didn’t know the country well.

And now, someone who did was urging me to cancel the trip.

Not Marie. Just me.

~~

The difference in our skin colour had never been an issue between us. Not in Canada and not in South Africa.

Marie and I shared a small apartment near the SABC building in Johannesburg.  We shopped, cooked, ate supper, laughed, missed our families,  planned the next day’s work together. Though I was the leader on this project, Marie and I were friends and equals, colleagues at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we both held prominent leadership roles.

~~

Of course we were aware of race – we were in South Africa, after all.

“I was so proud of you today,” Marie had told me after our first day at work at the SABC.

I’d been thinking the same thing — about her. About how privileged I was to have this wise, thoughtful, brilliant woman as my partner on this ground-breaking project.

“It was great to be there and to see the impact you had on everyone,” she said.

Ah.

~~

A senior South African journalist, Sylvia Vollenhoven, had explained it on a phone call to my home in Canada one night.

“We’re glad you’re sending your team, Cynthia. But you also need to come here yourself. It’s important to us.” 

She paused.

“You’re a woman. And you’re Black. And you’re in charge of all this.” 

Ah.

~~

Not wanting South Africa’s racial divisions to hang between Marie and me, I did a very foolish thing that weekend.

In a place where race was everything, I said nothing about the warning.

I did not want it to disrupt this trip.

~~

Driving along lonely roads, we consulted our map occasionally, but I was too quiet, lost in fearful thoughts that I didn’t share.

I should have, of course.

My silence was an elephant sitting in the car between us.

The trip was already disrupted.

~~

 Dedicated to my friend and former training partner Marie Wilson.  Working with you and our S. African colleagues at a crucial time in the country’s history ranks as one of the great privileges of my life.

PART 2 HERE