This is Marriage 101
I’m reading the best book right now. It’s called Love and War and is written by married couple James Carville and Mary Matalin. Forget doing marriage counseling anymore. All I need to do is hand distressed couples this book and say, “This is marriage. If you have any expectations that it’s going to be dissimilar to this, get over them.”
James Carville was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager in the 1992 election victory over George H. W. Bush. Mary Matalin worked as Bush’s key strategist in the same election, and later became an assistant to George W. Bush after his win against Al Gore.
I’m kind of apolitical. Every once in a while I care about an issue. But for the most part I don’t watch the news, read the paper or follow politicians. My job is too heavy, my need for emotional decompression too great, and my “psychic therapist” ability to feel too keen to get too wrapped up in what is going on in the political world. But when my mom told me about this book, I just had to get it.
The Recipe for Happiness Isn’t the Same for Everyone
The book tells their story from each individual perspective, written in two different fonts to distinguish each voice. Even though they’re a bit long, I’ve got to quote two great passages from the book. Carville was more than a little upset at the way in which Bush became president after the recount in Florida and Matalin had just started her job as George W. Bush’s assistant in the white house. Matalin writes,
“Matty was five and Emerson was two when I started my big, beautiful, exciting White House dream job for two of the most honorable men and effective leaders I had ever known.
Every morning I cried in the predawn dark while I drove on the deserted highway into the city…I cried while I hung my wet head of hair out the window to dry. I cried while I tried to put on makeup at the stoplights. I cried at the reflection of my exhausted, conflicted face in the rearview mirror. My unhappiness was exasperated by James’s refusal to be even fleetingly happy for me—or remotely proud. Not even close. He was, in fact and in every deed, unsupportive and often downright unpleasant, when he wasn’t totally ignoring me. So I decided to pump up myself instead, hence all the weeping, which was all I could come up with.”
I laughed so hard reading those two paragraphs, because if you took her husband and children’s names out and replaced them with mine, that could have been taken from my own personal journal. I would have never thought I had so much in common with this woman. A 60 year old republican raised in a Chicago suburb. A political strategist turned CNN debate show host who had worked for our last three republican presidents. So funny that we seemed to start many of our days the exact same way.
This book makes me happy on so many levels. Here’s what she wrote about making her husband come to her swearing in as President Bush Jr.’s assistant,
Cruel and Selfish Psycho Wife
“I just stated in that way that precludes negotiation: ‘You’re coming.’ But then, as I raised my hand to take the oath, I looked out at his miserable mug and saw him completely unable to share in the enthusiasm of my day and surrounded on all sides by a sea of uber-conservatives, and I wished he hadn’t come. Instead of reveling in the special day, I hated myself for being such a cruel and selfish psycho wife.”
James Carville has many great things to say too, but I think, as a female and a mom, Mary’s voice just really resonated with me. The love these two have for each other is deeply apparent throughout the book. Love that overcomes the vastly different belief systems they have and the apposing ways in which they view the world and what it needs. Even though these two people are so different, and those differences have made their twenty-year marriage quite difficult…they still invite each other to their round table. They each want to make sure they have the best knights there. (The best dames, damn it!)
Who do you invite to your round table?