Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
January 15, 2001
Still curious after 38 years
McMillans have learned to keep communication lines open
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Julie and Keith McMillan have been married 38 years. They don't know each other completely yet and they hope they never do.
"I don't think you will ever completely know the other person," said Julie. "Always stay curious about each other, that will keep you in tune with each other.
Keith added, "If you think you know everything, you'll stop asking . . . then you stop talking."
According to the McMillans, if you know everything there is to know about your spouse, you fall into a complacent rut finishing each other's sentences, predicting each other's answers and all this stops the communication.
The McMillans speak of marriage with some knowledge, not only because they've been married for almost four decades but because they've been through the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly, and aren't afraid to share it with the couples in the marriage preparation course at St. Charles Parish.
"Thirty-eight years ago, when you married you got married for life," Julie said.
But life has changed and divorce is not only an option it has become a norm with an estimated 50 per cent of marriages breaking up, said the McMillans.
Divorce was not a concern in the McMillan household, but it didn't mean they were always living happily ever after. Like all married couples, they struggled with money management, communication and conflict resolution.
After 17 years of marriage and four children, the McMillans found themselves coasting. She gave 120 per cent to the children and he gave the same effort to his job. This left nothing for the marriage.
Sometimes Keith felt like the outsider who was only involved with the family at dinner time.
"I thought it was noble to be a good mother," Julie said. "Can you be more noble than a mother who gives everything for her children?
"We tell the young couples, 'Don't make your children number one - your spouse is number one.'"
The McMillans credit a Marriage Encounter weekend for helping them rediscover each other.
Though they would never imagine divorce, their life together now would not be the same had it not been for that weekend. Instead of doing things as a couple they would have been immersing themselves in individual activities.
The couple initiated the marriage preparation course at St. Charles six years ago. They give new couples advice on everything from sharing finances to communication skills. Couples are also introduced to the spiritual side of marriage.
"There's lots of negatives (people see) about marriage," Julie said. "We try to give them a new view of marriage."
Marriage isn't about being tied to a ball and chain. The jokes that marriage is associated to being tied down shine an ugly light on a sacred union. The stereotype that life ends after you're married is also often joked about.
A marriage goes through periods of disillusionment, said the McMillans. If the first year is the honeymoon period, the third or fourth year may seem like the end of the honeymoon.
Usually at this time children come into the picture or couples become so complacent they stop communicating, said the McMillans. When the communication doesn't pick up again, couples begin going their separate ways - what doesn't end up in divorce, becomes a lonely marriage where couples simply co-exist.
"When you co-exist, you have to fill it with activities," said Julie. "You have to have your bowling league or movie night with the girls. You stop doing things as a couple."
Fighting is also an important part of a happy marriage, said the McMillans.
"The more intertwined you are in your relationship, the more you fight," Julie said. "Once you're a doormat, saying 'Yes, dear' to everything or agreeing with the other person, you lose communication."
The McMillans don't sugarcoat their marriage. They tell their marriage prep class the sometimes brutal truth.
Keith talks about dreading to drive the 10 blocks to the hotel where the Marriage Encounter weekend was taking place because he would have to spend a weekend actually talking to his wife. The weekend was an anniversary present and it was one of the best experiences of their lives.
"We have yet to see anything at all which is better than Marriage Encounter," he said.
The McMillans also give the class a crash course on sexuality. There are always puzzled looks when they introduce the topic of sex.
"We talk about sexuality as a gift from God versus a '90s activity," Julie said. "Some of them have been sexually active. I ask them if they'd be comfortable with Jesus at the foot of their bed when they're making love. They should be.
"If you have nothing else (but sex) to bind you together, you're in trouble."
Keith added, "We want them to know that sexuality is not just physical sex."
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