What If Your Beliefs Aren’t the Same?

The other day, my husband and I set about finding four kid-sized life jackets for a sailing trip we’re taking this coming weekend. Dan bought four at Target, spending about $100.

Always budget-conscious and aware that we’ll use these just once, I balked at the price. “Seriously? You couldn’t shop around?”

He back-tracked and agreed that it was a pretty steep price for one day of Lake Michigan fun. And thus launched one of our regular arguments (every couple has their mainstays) about how I feel so stressed about making ends meet and he seems very carefree and I wish we were on the same page.

Well, we are, really; we just express it differently. Dan keeps it inside and works toward solutions. I want to talk it out and share my aching feelings for him to assuage. Typical male-female tug-of-war.

It’s not that we can’t afford $100 for life jackets. It’s just that we have four kids and lots of activities and needs and bills and groceries to buy and anywhere I can cut corners, I will. I want to travel with the kids. I want to buy new clothes – and not only at Marshall’s. I want to retire some day and not have to work until my deathbed.

So doing a little price-comparison for life jackets couldn’t hurt. I did a quick Google search and found less expensive life jackets in several places. The cheapest were at Wal-Mart.

Now, my union-advocate husband won’t step foot in Wal-Mart no matter how much you pay him. He just won’t support the corrupt company, not only because of how terribly they treat their employees, but for a host of other reasons as well.

I share his concern and his indignance. We simply do not patronize Wal-Mart and go to great lengths to avoid doing so.

When I mentioned that Wal-Mart had the lowest price on life jackets, Dan’s face went cold. “You’re not buying them from Wal-Mart,” he said.

My first-born strong personality stood up. “Oh, I’m not, am I? You can’t tell me where to shop.”

This went round several times before he bowed out and said, “Fine.” Not accepting the option of shopping at Wal-Mart, but rather accepting that I make my decisions and he makes his.

Except, is that right? When you’re married, what IS the protocol on these soapbox issues?

My husband is part of a family of very strong liberal opinions. I am as liberal as they are but having been on a more conservative side earlier in my life, I have come to a point at the age of 42 when I accept every person’s right to believe what is right for them and to act upon it – without judging or pushing others toward their camp.

That last point is really important. I hate it when people have such strong opinions that if anyone disagrees, the other person must be totally, completely wrong. Life isn’t that cut and dry. We cling to our opinions and our platforms for our own salvation, and the minute we start to insist that our perspective is for the salvation of everyone else on the planet is the minute we have lost a foothold in reality.

None of this really matters, you know. Shop here, don’t shop here, who cares. We believe because to care this strongly tells us we are alive.

So the question is: is a good marriage built on respecting those drop-dead ideals of your spouse or insisting on your independence?

It’s a rhetorical question. All I’ll say is that I didn’t buy the life jackets at Wal-Mart.

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