Recently I saw Diane Sawyer’s special on the audiotapes that Jackie Kennedy made several months after her husband, John F. Kennedy died in Dallas. The tapes portrayed a young woman resisting burdening her husband by having him replaying his daily activities or offering any of her wise counsel. Instead she provided a loving and accepting environment, when he came to their personal quarters each evening. They did not discuss heavy issues. My husband and I discussed how satisfying that would have been for me as a partner and wife in our marriage. Later in the program, her daughter, Caroline Kennedy, described Jackie’s changes as she matured after her husband’s death. I was relieved to learn that she eventually became very much more her “own person” and involved in deeper pursuits. I wonder from whom she learned her “wifely duties?” I also wonder how much deeper their relationship together would have developed if Kennedy had lived?
One of the things that I know for sure is that it is important to look at how our parents related. You will frequently find yourselves falling into the same patterns or roles as your parents after you marry. It is an unconscious process that happens without really trying. As a child you watched and listened to your mother and father relate and recorded it all inside you. Maybe you have been the 21st century progressive couple before marriage, but watch now how you are doing things and saying things you never thought you would say and do in your relationship now that you are married.
This isn’t all bad. It is just one of the things each couple needs to learn from. If you become aware, you can then choose what patterns are helpful today and which ones to discard. As long as you stay unconscious or unaware these patterns will drive your behavior automatically. For example, if your parents were influenced by their parents 1950’s restraints, just choose what is helpful today (say devotion to the marriage) and discard what isn’t helpful (you make up this example).
In the end, Jackie Kennedy’s loving and genteel manner can’t be faulted. She loved her husband, children, family and country. I am just relieved that we got to enjoy all of her talents.