Just Mumble

Some years ago, I clipped a favorite cartoon by Koren, and I keep it on my desk. It shows two middle aged couples visiting in the living room of one of their homes, with a huge hairy monster looming behind the smiling hosts seated together on a couch. The wife addresses their friends sitting opposite, who are staring at the monster, and says: We deal with it by talking about it.

This is a concept I hold dear, the idea of coping with our demons by talking about them with those we trust, thereby lessening their power to effect our lives. Surely this is the best way to foster understanding and intimacy.

Professionally, I often urge clients to face and perhaps question their fears or concerns about the future, bring them out in the open, and share different perspectives and opinions with friends or loved ones.

So, it was with some surprise that I recently came across some opposite views that I find appealing.

I wish I could, but cannot remember the source of these words I quickly scribbled on the pad I keep by my bed: Curiously, it helped us not to talk things out. Confusion cannot be challenged if there is no finality. In a marriage there is always tomorrow, the apology, the explanation of bad behavior, the kiss.

Weeks later when I gathered up my collection of bedside notes and reread this quote, I realized more fully the wisdom it held. Those whose relationships have survived long term have all probably learned this lesson, to pick and choose which incidents, which thoughts or daydreams, which monsters need to be talked about and which are best left to confusion, to uncertainty, to apology, or just to the kiss.

And here’s another strategy.

When Colbert King, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and deputy editor of the editorial page of the Washington Post was asked about his wife of over 50 years, King commented: We have a mixed marriage, she’s a registered Republican, and I’m a Democrat.

Actually, King and his wife, Gwendolyn King, both held a number of high government positions, he as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Carter administration, she as a Deputy Assistant to Ronald Reagan and as Director of the Social Security Administration under George H.W. Bush.

When interviewed and asked how he handles their disagreements. King, who will soon be 76, responded that he just goes with the flow and added: You have to learn how to mumble if you’re going to keep the marriage going . . . that you don’t have arguments . . . because if you‘ve got to say it  . . . five years from now when you’re about to brush your teeth, she’s going to get the last word . . . I don’t disagree with my wife about anything, I just enjoy the moments.

So, perhaps there are times to throw a blanket over the monster, cultivate confusion, and mumble.