Six months ago I married a wonderful man whom I had dated for six years. Our eyes were open going into this, but there are still many adjustments we are learning to make as we forge ahead into the unknown of the future. Just days after we returned from our honeymoon up until the present time, we’ve been surprised by how many people have expectantly asked us, “How’s married life?” At parties. At work. At church. Hanging with friends to watch a movie. During phone conversations with girlfriends. How’s married life?
The question caught me off guard because the more people kept asking, the more I began to feel like there is some sort of answer they must be looking for. I’ve heard newlywed couples say it’s magical, they’re having so much fun, they’re sooooo happy, or they are just loving married life, but for us the answer didn’t look or feel like that.
Married life is…the same, but with less space.
So we started telling people, “It feels the same, but with less space.” Because honestly, the heavens didn’t shift when we said “I do,” but our living situations sure did. My husband sold his house. He and his dog moved in with me and my two cats. Half my closet now has man clothes in it and the garden shed is full of power tools. He now lives in a home with embroidered lampshades and a cabinet full of antique teacups. We are both making some compromises. I lived alone for nine years and he lived in a man cave for just as long. We’d gotten used to a certain level of independence and space, which allowed the introverted parts of ourselves to unwind and bask in the glow of a TV screen or get lost in the pages of a good book with a snoozing cat nearby. Now it’s trickier, but we find those places within our little house.
Married life is…a study in learning to accept our vulnerabilities and chip in where we can.
I’ve always been a fan of equal partnership in a relationship. I do not want to be seen as someone who exists merely to vacuum floors and cook meals when I am married to a man who has two hands and can help with these tasks. However, we assumed the major undertaking of redoing our entire kitchen and dining area shortly after our wedding and the ideal of each contributing equally flew out the window. It was a crazy and utterly stupid thing to do, especially since we did nearly all the work ourselves.
One of the most frustrating parts of this remodeling project was the almost daily realization of my own personal physical limitations as a woman. I am unable to lift many heavy tools, let alone use them. I cannot independently lay a wood floor, or carry giant oak cabinets by my myself, or level a floor by nailing heavy beams to old existing joists, or use a big drill to attach drywall to a plaster ceiling…the list goes on. I was humbled by these tasks. Throughout the months of this project that stretched endlessly on, I realized that when I’m not handing him a screwdriver or a hammer, I can pick up food, keep the house clean, and tell my husband his hard work is paying off. This was perhaps more humbling even than not being able to properly operate a flooring nailer because I felt like I was unintentionally being squeezed into the traditional role of a 50s housewife. The understanding that came out of this is that there will be times when one of us will have to work really hard at something and the other one will need to fill in the gaps doing whatever is most required at that time, even if it’s as simple as picking up a meal. We now have a beautiful new kitchen built with love and honest hard work that both of us are excited to cook in.
Married life is…learning how to “sing like no one’s listening.”
Another one of the things I’ve experienced over the past six months is a general lack of creativity. As someone who loves to write (insert any introverted activity here – play music, knit, sing, paint, compose songs or poetry) the loss of time alone has quieted my voice. I am still hesitant to create in the same space as another person. I have moments where I wish that I could just pace around a room and talk to myself out loud until a thought becomes a coherent sentence, or play music at a volume that makes the walls shake, and dance like crazy.
My husband has always been supportive of my ideas and has never made me feel shut down, or like I didn’t have the freedom to speak my heart, but I haven’t yet mastered the balance of saying what I really want to say, unfiltered, without worrying what the people in my life will think. I do believe there are circumstances when out of respect for those we love, the things we have to say must for a time be said to them and them alone. There are also times when a situation we are dealing with might help another person in that same spot feel less isolated if it’s talked about openly. So I am learning to differentiate between conversations that must remain sacred and those that can be shared with others.
Married life is…holding up the moon.
My best friend recently reminded me of a quote by Marlena De Blasi that we used in our wedding ceremony…
“Living as a couple never means that each gets half. You must take turns at giving more than getting…there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch. One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other one can work at something. Usually that something is sinewy and full of spines. One goes inside the dark place while the other stays outside, holding up the moon.”
Already in this short span of time that we’ve been married, moments have come and gone where one of us was stressed out, carrying an emotional burden, spent, burned out, or just plain “done” with whatever was going on at the time. We are learning the dance during these times and it mostly involves stepping away while the other person can figure their stuff out, then coming back together and circling till we feel connected again. Just like with the kitchen remodel, there are times when one person is going to work hard while the other supports. I love this quote so much because it is a reminder to me that it’s ok when things aren’t equal, that I can let go of that notion and still be an independently minded woman who fiercely pursues her passions.
A friend of mine said that one of the reasons she married her husband is she knew that no doors would be closed to her by being with him. I think as women, it can be easy for us to be caught up in all the things we give up, or are expected to give up, when we get married, but maybe it’s less about giving up and more about holding up the moon because the time always comes where the men in our lives will have to do the very same for us.