How To Live Happily With A Grumpy Husband

I met Mary when I was a kid and she continued to appear in fits and starts throughout my life. She was a very glamorous woman with a sharp wit and the occasional potty mouth which I found totally captivating coming out of the perfectly painted lips of such a striking and sophisticated older ‘lady’.

As far I know, Mary spent the bulk of her adult life devoted to her husband Ian, who headed up a big corporate company. She also raised two healthy and happy children. They enjoyed a more than comfortable lifestyle in an affluent suburb of Melbourne and life generally moved along at a manageable pace without too much stress – for Mary anyway, it took a lot to ruffle her feathers.

The thing I noticed most about Mary was her calm and positive temperament, which was likely due to her growing up in a stable and loving family and tight knit community (which she talked about one time at my neighbours). Unfortunately for Ian though, his upbringing was not that ideal and that is what probably cultivated his short fused temperament and, as Mary let slip over a couple of Gin & Tonics one night, he was also an “old fashioned chauvinist”who expected his wife and children to ‘fall in to line’ at every step”. Quite frankly, I found him to be a complete grump and avoided him as best I could.

As I grew older (and interested in human behaviour and psychology) I began to notice Ian’s prickly outbursts more and, if truth be told I occasionally eaves-dropped on conversations between Mary and my neighbour and one afternoon I heard Mary confess that Ian was, “at times extremely challenging to live with”. Soon after that I boldly asked Mary how she managed to live so happily with a man who seemed so grumpy and her reply was – “oh darling, I take very little notice of Ian’s grumpiness and he’s really only like that when we’re out. He’d hate anyone to know this but he gets a bit anxious when he’s out of his work or home environment, it’s just out of his comfort zone, he’d prefer not to go out at all actually but I make sure we do and even though it’s hard for him to relax I know he sort of enjoys it and, most importantly it’s good for both of us. I can assure you that the ‘at home Ian’ is a kind and loving man and, it might be hard to believe but he can be very funny too, I’m just the lucky duck who gets to experience him at his best”.

What a wife, what a friend, what an attitude. Mary understood and supported Ian’s anxiety and did her best to not let it dampen her enjoyment of life. She always exuded a positive spirit and was unwavering in her devotion to Ian, which aligned with her value of ‘loyalty’. Mary accepted Ian’s challenging parts and treasured all his goodness – she managed to cultivate a loving balance of compassion and tolerance.

This may all sound easy rolling off the screen in a few paragraphs but it would have been a herculean effort for both of them to keep up with, year after year, for multiple decades. We all know marriage takes enormous effort, but when anxiety is present a lot of the time it can be twice as testing. – the blessing for Ian and Mary was that Mary was the calm to his storm. They were married for 54 years and over time I came to realise that Ian loved Mary more than life itself, which was totally understandable, Mary was a rare gem.



Image by Nathalia Bariani




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