I had an instant visceral reaction and let me say, it wasn't good. I went back to reread (or, rather, finish reading) Smith's post this morning and I'm feeling a little bit better about it, I guess, but there are two main points I want to counter.
First: Let's address this future children business
I didn't marry for a family. Well, actually, I did, because I was already knocked up when we did the vow stuff. But that's not why I married. That I was having a family was a secondary experience that came along the way. I married my spouse because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. And I would be an egotistical fool if I said I stayed married to him for his benefit. Please. I stay married to him for the bacon. And because I'm sweet on him. I'm lucky enough that he remains sweet on me.
But I want to address this family thing because it reminds me of an ugly time in my not to distant past when we weren't sure we'd ever have more kids and my friends who are still struggling to create the family they imagine. They married their spouse because they loved their spouse - their spouse was not a stepping stone to a family with kids. They are a family.
Because some people never get the children, marriage isn't about the children. I guess it's lucky that you can imagine a universe where your marriage will be a family with kids. I've been that lucky as well. But not everybody is as lucky as we are. Please let's not couch this whole marriage business in the idea that marriage is about a family with kids.
|A fun (and stinky and mess-making) addition, yes, but families are made in many ways.|
Secondly: Marriage isn't for you
Look, I've only been married for 12 1/2 years, so I'm not going to claim to be an expert. My husband and I have known each other for over 20 and I happen to think we're pretty okay about this marriage business though, and so I want to share something that gets us someplace.
Marriage isn't about you. Except sometimes it is. Sometimes marriage is for me and about me. Initially, it was about our kid, because she was the impetus that brought us to "Oh shit, we should probably make this official" but it's not always about those guys either. Sometimes it's all about them, sometimes it's all about him, sometimes it's all about me, and sometimes it's all about our extended families. When my stepdad died, marriage was about me. It's the thing that got me out of bed in the morning and without my husband's 99%, I'm not sure I would have made it. When my husband struck out on his own and started a new company, our marriage was in some ways about him - about supporting his endeavor. Overall it's going to even out, I think, because we try very hard to ensure that it's me and him not me OR him. That in as many ways as possible, marriage is for both of us.
When I was in college, I had a professor who was a marriage therapist married to a marriage therapist. She taught us that the idea that marriage is 50/50 is bullshit. Marriage, she explained, is sometimes 50/50. It's sometimes 60/40 or 10/90 or 30/70 or all of those other mathy combinations that take us to 100. If, overwhelmingly, marriage is all about your spouse, she explained, that might be trouble. And I've seen that play out in the people I know. Of course if both partners abide Mr. Smith's scenario, making marriage all about their partner's happiness, then, generally speaking, from the 50 foot view, things should even out. Assuming that everyone knows the rules.
But sometimes they don't. Sometimes one partner does everything and the other does nothing and it's not fair to either of them. If we teach about marriage as being about BOTH of us - about the mathy stuff that my professor taught us - it's a much better way, I think, of articulating it.
Upon reflection, I'm not sure I disagree with his overall viewpoint so much as the specific way he communicated it. I get it. It's not an easy Walmart return, this marriage business. I don't want it to be. But I also don't want people running around thinking their marriages fell apart because they weren't enough about their spouse or because their spouse failed to make it enough about them.
Maybe, in the end, just maybe Love doesn't always say "What can I give." Maybe Love sometimes feels comfortable and supported enough to say "I need" without being afraid of being called selfish.
|Or, actually, marriage is about loving someone who understands my need to paint Geek-themed peeps.|