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.


Spectra said...

I have to agree with you on a lot of those points. My husband and I have never felt like our marriage is "work". We are best friends, like hanging out together, treat each other well, and can focus our time on each other without the stress of children. Plus, we have the disposable income to enjoy things we like without feeling guilty. It's definitely a nice lifestyle, isn't it?

Phoena said...

"Have your own interests, your own viewpoints"

And have your own facebook account! LOL That's one of my biggest pet peeves!

"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."

I totally agree!

My biggest advice to people who want to get married is "Don't keep score. If you want to keep score, play Scrabble, don't get married." I know way too many people who just want to play martyr about how much more they do than their spouse. I don't think those people are mature enough to be married.

Sanna said...

I am currently single, and for the most part I enjoy being just on my own. But one of the reasons I am childfree is that I don't want to share my partner with children. I want the person I love most in my life to be my partner, not my kids. I've always felt like once you have children, the focus goes off one another and turns onto the kids. Which, if you are a parent, is probably as it should be - but that's not what I want from life. I want a life of passion, and there's no room for kids in that equation.

CFVixen said...

Another excellent post. I totally agree with the part about a good marriage not being hard work. I never felt we had to work at our marriage. We just loved each other and being with each other. What's hard about that? Bills, careers, housework, etc. are part of LIFE. It really isn't marriage. You have those whether you are married or not. Bringing kids into a marriage, however, is something different. It's something the two of you created together, and it's ALL about responsibility and work.

I often DO feel like my DH and I are on a lifetime honeymoon. When I look back on the last 18 years of marriage (and 22 years of being together), I'm flabbergasted by how quickly it went. We've been together well over half of our lives, yet it still seems...well, for lack of a better word...FUN! We do lots of things to keep it that way, too (though I never saw it as "work"). We don't have "date nights," because any night can be a date night. We go out to eat. Out to movies. Out to parties. We socialize with family and friends. We bike and hike. We soak in the Jacuzzi together. We cook meals together. We enjoy traveling. And most importantly during all of these activities, we enjoy each other's company.

Not having to focus on our kids' needs (financially, emotionally, physically, etc.), gives us way more time to focus on what we find most important: each other.

Stephanie said...

My husband and I actually remarried. We thought we wanted a family and I was not able to get pregnant. Unsurprisingly, just trying to conceive put our marriage in a tailspin that resulted in divorce. Once we both figured out that we didn't want kids and were just going through the motions because we each thought it was what the other wanted, suddenly our passion and friendship was renewed. We are best friends and our focus is solely on each other, what more could you ask for? Having experienced just a taste of what parenthood could've been like, I'm very glad to have been spared what I consider to be a life devoid of passion and friendship.

Z said...

Excellent post. Sometimes, it seems that having kids is like throwing a hand grenade into a marraige. But I do think any relationship requires work. Maybe our definitions of work are different. By work, I mean that it is imortant to keep getting to know more and more about your partner, listen to your partner, grow with your partner,empathize and try to understand your partner's point of view and compromise with your partner. So I guess i consider those things "work" at times. However, god knows that it's so much easier to do those things when you don't have kids. It must be nearly imossible to work and grow in your relationship when you have children.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that marriage is easy, personally, but I think that has more to do with my independent and stubborn personality than it does to do with my relationship. I also don't agree that it's a lifetime honeymoon just because people choose not to have children. In fact, I struggle with whom to relate on this, as the people in my life with kids (the majority!) obviously have marital pressures (brought on my children, usually), and I am not close with any "coupled", childfree people who are above the age of 30. At my age (36), it would be nice to hear that yeah, marriage can be a challenge for ANYONE, not just the parenting folk of the world, and people are not freaks of nature or didn't necessarily marry the "wrong" person simply b/c they find marriage to be a challenge. My partner is one of my best friends, but that doesn't mean we are constantly feeling the first "flush" of love that we did 8 years ago. That is something that DOES require work, communication, and constant growth. As I said, though, I'm not an "easy" person to be married to, so I expected it to take some effort. :)
That said, another thought-provoking and discussion-provoking blog post! Thank you! :)

brettc said...

And there are some people that have kids to "fix" their marriage. I don't know how that thought process works.

My wife and I have been married 11 years in December and I agree that it has gone very quickly. I can't imagine dealing with all the stresses of a kid, especially the financial aspect. We would likely end up having one with medical or mental problems, which are strong possibilities with our family histories.

It's nice having extra money to put into savings or to go on vacations, etc. My boss went on a staycation this year. He told me what he did on it, and all I could think was "holy crap, what a sh*tty idea of a vacation". And of course, he has two young kids under 10.

We just came back from a week in PEI and it was great. Just us and the dog and didn't have to hear whining kids for a week. My wife is my best friend and we share the same twisted sense of humor. We'd really have to tone it down with kids, which would be a pretty crappy existence in my opinion.

Temujin said...

At the risk being "that guy," I would add something a little less poetic. Just ONE of the many reasons I chose not to have children is that I don't want to destroy my sex life. There. I said it out loud.

sara star said...

Unlike some of the other posters, my marriage is hard work sometimes. I love my husband very much, but the economy is very bad here and he has been out of work and going back to school just a the time in our lives I was imagining us starting to really live! These things are depressing and put us in bad moods sometimes. But just imagine the stress of this if we had kids?! It would be ten times as bad. I am grateful that I have the time energy and love to give my partner when he needs me through these hard times.

Erin said...

I'm a 26-year-old engaged female and I'm THRILLED to have found this blog. I've been in childcare for ten years and about to enter graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist. Through my experiences (which I could go on and on about), I've discovered that while I love children, I am not interested in having my own. My fiancee agrees and we are on the same page. I cannot take the motherhood martyrdom, condescending, entitled card mothers pull. Can't wait to follow this blog!!

Unknown said...

I completely agree with the point that marriage does NOT have to be a lot of HARD work. Yes, there are times that seem more difficult than others, but I believe the HARD WORK part is from couples with kids. My wife and I are childfree and currently enjoying the 17th year of our honeymoon. What's more, according to a 2008 US Census survey, childfree adults are a growing part of our society.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel sorry for the husbands of my friends who have children. I am definitely a feminist and a "girl's girl" so please make no mistake - I'm not a woman hating psycho. It just seems like the husband/father is often ignored and neglected, and when this happens society holds his wife in high esteem for being a wonderful mother. Gag.

My husband and I rarely fight. We love and respect each other and give one another tons of attention. We wouldn't have it any other way. Occasionally I am mildly jealous when a married-with-kids friend is going out for "Date Night" with their spouse if my own husband is working late. Then I remember that our whole LIFE is basically "Date Night", we can go out to dinner and a movie/play/etc several nights a week if we want, have uninterrupted "hotel sex" in our own bedroom or any room of the house, and so son.

I feel like we're both so loved and cherished in our marriage as well as by our friends and extended saddens me that some people really feel that children fill a void and provide the unconditional love they seek. We have that already.