Friday, September 9, 2011
The Lifetime Honeymoon
At work yesterday we had a small wedding shower for a young woman in the office. While enjoying the cake and chatting about her upcoming nuptials, I asked the experienced people in the room to comment on marriage - what makes it work, or what they have learned if their marriage didn't work - generally, any insight they can offer the bride to be. Interestingly, most people did not offer comments, but I had a couple. My comments were:
1. It's important to retain your individual identity in a marriage and not become fused into one entity - don't be attached at the hip. Continue being known as "Mary" and don't fall into the trap of being "Mary and John". Have your own interests, your own viewpoints and don't allow your identity to be swallowed up by the marital unit.
2. Contrary to what we've been taught, a good marriage is NOT hard work. If it's too much work, you've married the wrong person. The right person loves you as you are and doesn't try to change you into something you're not. The right person makes you MORE of the person you are, and doesn't diminish you. The right person "gets" you and thinks you are the cat's meow.
As soon as I finished expressing this opinion, one of my male colleagues - a young, married guy with 2 small kids - teased: "Yeah, but you don't have KIDS. Once a couple has kids, it all goes downhill. You have all this division of labor and there's constant fighting over who should be doing what." He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and then cracked, "For God's sake - Mandy and her husband are on a lifetime honeymoon!!!"
I replied that he is correct: children have a negative impact on marital satisfaction and in fact, research has borne this out. People just looked at me like oh, here she goes again.
I know for a fact that my marriage is happy thanks in large part to being childfree. The stressors that we have avoided in our marriage are too numerous to count. Just the financial strain alone of trying to raise children in this economy and consumerist culture would be enough to derail any marriage, let alone the many other pressures, demands and stressors that having children puts on a relationship. Hubby and I are focused on each other - on making each other happy - on creating special memories together - on sharing life's ups and downs and being a devoted support system for each other. We are not distracted and neglected by nature of having all of our our energy and attention channeled to needy, demanding third parties. We are not fighting over household tasks. Gender roles. Who does more. We are not stretched to the breaking point - on the verge of physical and psychological exhaustion trying to achieve the "have it all" lifestyle (which we all know in reality is the "do it all badly" lifestyle). We have all that we need. Each other. Our quiet oasis of a home. The pitter patter of furry little feet whose biggest demand is being cuddled and having a can cracked open twice a day.
Yes, we have jobs, and bills, and a mortgage. We work hard and time flies by too fast. And there's more we want to do than we have the money or time to do. Contrary to childfree stereotypes, our life is not one big lottery win and it's not Club Med. But yes, my coworker is right: put us next to any married couple with kids and our life looks like an all expense paid honeymoon.