30 years ago I married my first wife. She became my unwife 10 years ago. 3 years ago I married my current wife. The reason I mention this is because this quote is both true and not true.

In my first marriage it was probably less true than more. My wife at the time probably should have said more, not less. She hid her feelings and thoughts, either because she didn’t think they were worthy of being paid attention to, or she feared my response. There were other reasons as well, I am sure. I, on the other hand, probably should have said less. I should have listened more and less quickly turned to defending or arguing.

Now I am remarried for 3 years. I have had to relearn some of the same lessons by making the same mistakes, but overall our problems are more in keeping with this quote than not. It might make for a bit more contention at times, but it also makes for a more real marriage. ‘Real’ meaning we see what it is, it isn’t hidden behind a facade or a misleading set of statements. We know where repairs are needed and can work on them. We might ignore the need for the repairs, hoping they take care of themselves, but we eventually come to realize we need to do the repairing. You can’t do that if the actual problem is hidden since you would never know it needed repair in the first place.

The key is to not let those unsaid things stew and simmer and reach a boiling point with a tight lid on. You have to let some of the thoughts out, but you need to discern which ones should be left to die, which ones should be fed, which ones should be ignored. It isn’t an easy process, but in the end the quote is true. Say important things, say them with a loving and caring heart. Don’t say the mean-spirited and petty things, let those die.

Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman

“Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving about three or four things a day left unsaid.” – Harlan Miller

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