Saturday, August 01, 2009

From the inside

Back when I was single (a little over a year ago legally and three years ago in practice), I used to wonder what it would be like to be married. It seemed unfair that the general answer seemed to be "Every marriage is different." What the heck did that mean? Why couldn't anyone just give a clear answer as to what being married is like?

There's a single/married difference in how much information it is culturally acceptable to share. At least there's a difference in the expectation. We're allowed to ask a single person, "So, how's your love life?" or "So, are you seeing anyone these days?" with the expectation that the single person will spill it, at least some of it. We expect them to tell us if they're currently dating and if so, how serious it is, plus we expect basic information about the person they're dating.

It's obnoxious, but it might be fair if the single person were allowed to ask things like, "So, how are you and your husband getting along these days? Do you feel a real connection with him when you talk about what's important to you? Any fights lately?" But single people aren't allowed to even think of asking such things, unless they're talking to someone like their own sister.

Married people also sometimes ask single people about their sexual activity, either clearly or in a veiled, implied way. Again, this is just rude, unless the single person can also ask, "And you? Are you getting enough?"

At parties, over coffee, in water cooler conversation, everywhere, the lives of the single are much more accessible than the lives of the married. There's a curtain that hangs over the Married Experience and the only ones allowed behind it are the Married.

Screw that.

I remember hearing of a wife's response to the search for a husband. She considered all these women on the manhunt and she said, "All these girls want a husband so bad only because they've never had one." I was single and desperately lonely at the time and I thought, "That's right! I want a husband because I've never had one."

Now I have one. Now I know what she meant.

The only marriage I ever saw when I was growing up was my parents'. Because I thought my parents' marriage was representative of all marriage, it took me an extra twenty years to make it to the altar myself. I was terrified of getting married and by all reason I should still be a spinster right now.

But I've also struggled my whole life with self-esteem and I truly believed that unless a man was married to me, I had proof of my loserdom and failure. I desperately wanted to not be a failure in life and that drove my efforts to find a husband. I saw marriage as my badge of honor. It would stamp me as NORMAL and loveable.

Now it has. Now I don't need it to do that anymore. My husband knows that my low self-esteem was a critical part of my desire for wifehood. I've also told him that if/when this marriage ends in divorce or his death, I will probably not get married again. I liked being single. Living on my own worked great for my personality and values. I've managed to fit myself into this partnership, but there are ways I do not fit the married role. If I one day find myself on the aftermath side of this union, I can imagine resuming my solitary life and taking my time deciding if I want to get hitched again. Maybe I would, but I won't feel driven to it by doubt in my value. That gives me a lot of peace.

In a former post I wrote about the possibility of going on vacation without my husband and how generous I think he is to offer me that option. Since then, the reverse has happened. Bob's job gives him four weeks of vacation a year while mine gives me two. We've made the decision that makes sense: in August, Bob will take a week off to do whatever he wants. He might fish. He will visit family. He stay in a hotel part of the time and with his mother another part. He's looking forward to it.

And so am I. During that week I will re-live my spinster days: I'll nap on the sofa, leave my stuff on the floor by the front door, have the ENTIRE SPACE TO MYSELF, go to bed without waiting for someone else to get ready for bed, sleep with the bedroom door open. I might eat no meat at all and I will never once have him say in a restaurant, "Do you want dessert? Are you sure? Maybe I want dessert" and then have him torture me by ordering a dessert I was really trying to avoid (especially since he doesn't even like sweets!).

I think it's going to be great for both of us.

[I just read this post to him and he says he'll stop with the gratuitous dessert-ordering]


Regina said...

I realize this post poses the question of what being married is like, but doesn't answer it at all. I'm guilty of my own accusation! I'll answer it. I promise. I got sidetracked today.

Anonymous said...

Hi Regina,

As a newly married guy, I couldnt help but laugh at this line, "I might eat no meat at all" Is it just a male thing that we have to have meat in every meal? I m prety sure that my wife has said the same thing!

TomL said...

Not sure I understand how asking whether you have a guy at all is the same as asking whether the guy that you are known to have is being a meathead. It's hard to cast apersions on someone who doesn't actually exist.

On the one hand, the conversation is " you like him enough to marry him?" and on the other it's " you hate him enough to get a divorce?" One is about sharing good news, the other is about airing dirty laundry.

Obesio said...

How often do you and your husband make love?

Regina said...

Anonymous - Thanks for reading.

TomL - I disagree.

Obesio, I've missed you! It's good to hear from you. My point was that asking about someone's love life is often inappropriate and asking about someone's sex life is almost always inappropriate. But I appreciate your interest!

Obesio said...

How are we ever going to advance as a society without honest, open, healthy discussions of adult sexuality?

TomL said...

"So, how are you and your husband getting along these days? Do you feel a real connection with him when you talk about what's important to you? Any fights lately? ... Are you getting enough?"

Do (did) married people actually ask you things like that about your boyfriend, back before you tied the knot?

TomL said...

If I understand you correctly, your beef is that if you wanted to discuss your sex life, you'd be the one to bring it up; it's not anyone else's place to pry, be you single or otherwise. That's logical.

I disagree that the questions that you propose in response are in quite the same category as the ones you mention as having been asked of you, but I do agree that both categories are intrusive.

Regina said...

Obesio - We aren't going to advance as a society.

Tom L - Thank you.