Aesthetic Realism & Resentment in Marriage
of the most pernicious emotions in marriage is that of resentment. Along
with wanting to care for each other, wives and husbands have also gathered
complaints, angers, slights and have felt, sometimes, agonizingly, "What
happened to us? Why are we so angry with each other? Where are the tender
feelings we once had? Why don't we talk anymore?"
Eli Siegel, in his lecture The Furious Aesthetics of Marriage, describes how a husband can look at his wife and think, "[Dear], you worry more about me than anybody else in the world, perhaps more than my immediate family; but at the same time, your ways, with all their devotion, are not a means of my coming to authentic terms with the world."
Devotion is not enough, praise is not enough. What is needed, we have learned, is a deep, critical, kind desire to know another person--to want him to know you, and together to try to come "to authentic terms with the world" which includes caring for other people, and what they deserve.
Resentment Is a Subject
In the over 28 years There Are Wives has had the honor to teach what we know to be the kindest, most needed, most respectful and useful way of seeing marriage, we have seen hundreds of marriages become kinder, more passionate, more honest, including our own, and we feel intensely this education should be general knowledge throughout America.
We are very proud that there is a fundamental difference between the approach of Aesthetic Realism and what is said elsewhere. We told the class: "Rather than say as many panel shows today would--'Yes, you're misseen; look at men, they're all no good'--we will be asking: 'Ladies, is there something in us that is against our very lives: that prefers resentment to being pleased, that gets a satisfaction feeling that we are more sensitive, superior, and even that we are wrong caring for the man we married and that we should care only for ourselves?'"
At this point, we asked the women present to state resentments they have had so that we could look at them. Very shortly we had a list of 21! These are a representative number:
2. He says he is going to do something and he doesn't do it.
3. He is not sensitive enough or thoughtful enough in the way I should be thought of.
4. He doesn't care as much about our home as I do.
5. Forgetting my known likes. I've said I like something consistently and he forgets it.
6. He doesn't talk and doesn't want to.
7. There is a double standard--if he wants to buy something it's fine, but if I do, there has to be a discussion.
8. When we were dating he would buy me more things. And he was nicer then.
9. He takes things personally--if I'm upset about something else, instead of trying to understand, he'll get hurt.
10. He values his mother's opinion more than mine!
11. He assumes that I don't know certain things.
12. Selfishness--he is more interested in his projects and mine are secondary.
Usually a man, as married life goes on, and a woman too, gets to some enmity towards a person he's close to....The thing then is: what do we hope for as to the enmity? To hope that enmity goes on is ill will; it's also contempt.And he continued:
This is the thing: Aesthetic Realism says ill will on any of the twenty subjects that matter to human beings is a mistake. Criticism, which is not ill will, should take the place of ill will.This and other discussions enabled me to question myself and I am tremendously grateful that thinking about this has made possible a marriage now with my husband Arnold Perey which I feel is so much kinder and deeper than ever could have been. I love my husband for his criticism of me, and for the fact that he wants mine.
I know from deep experience we need to ask about any resentment we have: 1) Is it exact? and 2) If there is something we object to in another person, does it have to fester or can it become useful, change into criticism which is kind, so that we can respect our husbands and both of us can be stronger, closer, fairer to the whole world?
When a woman gathers resentments, triumphantly polishes and cherishes them like filthy jewels--her purpose, Aesthetic Realism makes very clear, is to have contempt, to justify having a case against her husband, and the whole world he represents.