Sunday, 12 April 2015

Why I Can’t Stand Marriage Jokes

Have you heard the one about the married couple went out to a nice restaurant to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary? While driving home the wife saw a tear coming from her husband’s eye. “Are you happy that we have spent 50 splendid years together?” she said. He said, “No. I was just thinking about our wedding and how your father threatened me with a shotgun that is I didn’t marry you right then he would have me thrown in prison for 50 years. Tomorrow I could have been free!”
Or this one-
In heaven there were two lines. One said "Men who were bossed by their wives," and the other one said,"Men who weren't bossed by their wives". There was a big line for the first one, but then the man who was checking peoples name in the book of life saw one man in the other line. So he told the guys to wait. He asked the man why he was in that line. The man replied,"My wife told me to."

Funny, right?

Ha ha. Not really.

We’ve all heard the marriage jokes, and people can’t stop making them. Especially at weddings toasts and wedding mass homilies, engagements, anniversaries, and any other time love, romance, or marriage is mentioned. One of the odder times my friend R heard them was at the diocesan marriage preparation course during the talk ‘Marriage as a Sacrament’. Yeah.

When I hear jokes like that, I’m not sure how to react. I can’t force a laugh out. Not even a fake smile.

Because, guess what, MARRIAGE JOKES AREN’T FUNNY.

We all know that unhealthy marriages are not unusual. Husbands who are henpecked, passive, whose opinions aren’t considered important. Wives who nag, who try to control everything. Husbands and wives who regularly publicly mock each other’s weaknesses… as a joke. Husbands who turn to drink or other women to escape an unhappy home. Wives who HAVE to have the last word. The stereotypes do have an origin. The reason I can’t stand these jokes isn’t because they aren’t true at all. It’s because they are a sad reality… but not one to celebrate and be entertained by.

I believe that it’s possible to have more healthy and loving relationships. But our speech can either strengthen or weaken those relationships. Spouses know the best and the worst of each other. They can choose how they use that knowledge.

Constantly mocking your spouse or pointing out their weaknesses, or bringing up memories of times they made a fool of themselves (even if your characterization is funny, or has more than a ring of truth) is a way of telling them “That’s how I see you. As a weak, indecisive idiot.” “This is how I see you. As a bossy, insensitive, narrow-minded control freak.” Even if they laugh, the message has gone home. Most people already struggle with the way they see themselves. If the person closest to them sees the worst and labels them with their worst behaviour, it must be true. Worse, the relationship of love and mutual acceptance has weakened.

On the other hand, the sweetest, strongest relationships are the ones where you see spouses grab any opportunity to brag about their spouses, even if it’s at their own expense. “I locked myself out of the car (no big surprise there), and Joe not only came all the way to rescue me, he came up with the most ingenuous plan to do it!”And Joe unsuccessfully tries to hide his pleasure in both his own skills being acknowledged, as well as the praise of his wife. “I’ve never known anyone who could handle kids as sneakily and successfully as my Katie.” And Katie beams.

Maybe mutual praise isn’t as funny as snarky jabs, but sometimes one’s sharp tongue can deal painful and weakening cuts to an already difficult relationship.

I think one of the most beautiful ways spouses can love each other is to protect each other’s dignity from the world. Why yes, Lionel did get the family lost by refusing to read the map, as a result of which they are an hour late for the party, but Susan isn’t going to announce it to the hosts. Maybe Maya’s surprise birthday dinner got burnt, but Anil isn’t going to report that to everyone when he talks about how his birthday went.

One of the reasons I hate the marriage jokes is because they act as if unhealthy marriages are the norm, that it’s unrealistic or naïve to expect anything different from your relationships. They tell couples that if their marriages are like that, that’s just the way life is. You can’t change it, so laugh at it. I recently saw this article: 16 Annoying Things All Indian Husbands Do That Drive Their Wives Crazy. And I was like, hell, no.

We want something different. We don’t want to be nagging, controlling wives, and we don’t want passive, lazy husbands. And we want people to know that that is possible. Marriage jokes make me sad, because I believe that we were made for something more. But we can’t have it until we believe it’s possible.

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