Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 31, 2021

Resolution resolution

The word "resolution" is likely to be heard a lot today. The idea is to take stock and make - to quote the Oxford dictionary - "a firm decision to do or not to do something" to make our life better.

Like most married couples, husband Art and I have had moments that required making adjustments. Otherwise, wedded bliss can easily fall prey to seemingly small differences that initially go unnoticed.

Art mentioned a woman he once dated pointing out two differences in their families. In hers, preventive maintenance was a big part of taking care of their vehicles, whereas his family adhered to the "if it isn't broke, don�t fix it" principle. In regard to money, if finances were pinched, her family looked for ways to get more ... perhaps through a second job. But in Art's clan, when things were tight, cutting spending was the first order of business.

When our girls were in school, they commented that classmates thought we were rich because we vacationed in Europe frequently. What a laugh. If they only had taken note of the old cars we drove! Any time one of our vehicles was less than 10 years old, we considered it new! For us, a car is something to get us from here to there in reasonable comfort. We'd rather put the money saved toward traveling. In contrast, Art's dad had an employee who worked an 8-hour shift for him after finishing an 8-hour stint at a different job. Those 16-hour days allowed him to buy a new car every year, something he enjoyed so much that he considered the sacrifice worth it.

When Art and I met, I paid for almost everything by check, including stops at fast-food restaurants. In contrast, he paid with cash. It was a small thing, but when we married, we decided it was best to keep some of our money separate. Thirty-plus years later, Art has yet to write 1,000 checks and I�m past 10,000.

While both of us have gravitated to using credit cards or online payment methods, we use different cards, have separate checking accounts, and have divided who takes care of what. I handle home expenses and he pays those arising from his work. I pay our home property tax in installments, whereas Art pays the work and our cottage property taxes all at once. I pay my bills when I get to them, and he does his at the beginning of the month.

One of the reasons Art and I got along from the start was how similar our families were. Traditional gender-based roles were not pronounced. Our fathers handled the bills related to their work, but our mothers took care of the rest. Both our mothers were inclined to "run the show." Dad frequently bought mom new items of clothing - and he was good at it. In Art's home, his dad did all the grocery shopping - just as Art does for us.

Our families were alike when it came to things such as visiting friends. If someone was in the area and decided to drop in, they were always welcome. But many families think it inconsiderate if people don't call ahead. We feel expecting someone to "make an appointment" as being too formal.

We split responsibilities on some things. When we travel, Art handles everything related to the car and us getting there, but I pay when we stop to eat. He does all the driving, but if we don't have a reservation somewhere and we want to stop for the night, I'm the one who goes in to see if rooms are available at a hotel we've selected.

We were startled this past Thanksgiving when our kids said they don't snuggle with their spouses at bedtime. One pair said the temperature they find comfortable was too different and the other said there was a bed-hogging problem. Art and I consider snuggling an essential aspect of married life.

Linguist Deborah Tannen shared a related story we enjoy. When she was young, no man was interested in another date once he had been to her family home for a meal. She finally got up the courage to ask one past date why, and discovered it had to do with a family tradition. Her family believed a vigorous - meaning loud - discussion was a perfect complement to the meal. To foster debate, someone frequently took a contrary position on an issue. But her dates saw it differently. "Your family all hate each other!" the young man said.

These more-subtle differences in life habits might suggest that prospective marriage partners should first live together. These day-to-day matters could then surface and either be resolved or become deal breakers. But statistics show couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to later divorce than those who do not.

Personal habits and traits, whether we come by them naturally or are acquired over time, are frequently not very receptive to resolutions of the New Year's kind. The evidence suggests rigid rules are more likely to spawn resentment than success.

It may be wiser to resolve to use an alternate Oxford definition of resolution: "the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter." While this approach may not be effective in helping us lose 10 pounds or become more organized in the coming year, problems involving others need solutions that allow all involved to be who they need to be.

Today would have been our 33rd wedding anniversary, but a problem arose. My sister informed me she couldn't be there because she had just learned she was pregnant and December 31 was too close to her due date to travel. So we made a change that worked for everyone, re-scheduling our wedding earlier to July. We even joked about it, telling everyone we had to get married because my sister was pregnant!

We've found difference resolution beats a resolution every time.

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