Last week I finished reading: “No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I tried to Make it Better” by Elizabeth Weil. It is an interesting book, a quick read. She has a good marriage and just wonders if there are ways she can make it better. I am in the same boat, although I would not call my marriage good, I would call it exceptional. I know, I am biased, but I just have a great admiration for the communication that happens between my husband and me. Having said all that, there is always room for improvement in any relationship, so I like reading books that could shed light on how I might be able to look at things differently in my marriage and make it that much better.
So a little background. I was very independent when I met my husband. We met at work, and we both remember that we did not really like each other too much. He was too nice to me, and I did not trust that, and he did not like me because I was not nice enough. Go figure. After working very long days together, we got to know each other well, and when I left my job we realized that we missed each other and all the time we spent together. The rest, well, is history in the making. We met almost 11 years ago. We have now been married for almost 9 years. I struggled in the beginning to try to understand who I would be as a wife, while also a strong feminist and very independent. I was not going to be driven in the car (I would drive), I was going to talk to the mechanic about our car, we would share cooking and cleaning, etc.
Over time, we found a balance. He drives (he loves driving and I could care less about the actual driving part) I read and catch up with to-do’s on my phone, I get a report from him about the mechanic, and I no longer cook. Early on I screwed up making pesto and put in way too much garlic. He ate it and smelled for days. Call it love, but it was the beginning of his control of the kitchen. Now I love it and leave him alone when he cooks each night. It is his time. I am the baker. I make the sweet things and the yummy breads and goodies. It all works out. But, it does not mean that I do not wonder if I am balancing who I am independently with who I am in my marriage. Elizabeth and her husband have an agreement: No Cheating, No Dying. My husband and I have a similar strong agreement and have from the very beginning: No cheating, and our trust and honesty in each other is the utmost importance. These questions about balance between being a woman and independent and being a wife is why this quote from Elizabeth’s book resonated with me:
“I was an even less likely candidate than Dan for a wholly merged life. One of my more telling memories of myself as a young woman and of how unbending I was in love happened the evening a new boyfriend wanted to make me a cilantro-lime pesto, and instead of walking with him on that warm spring evening to buy limes, I suggested he run the errand alone. By the time I met Dan, at age twenty-eight, I’d shed some of that rigidity. I knew more about who I was, so I felt more comfortable being swayed. But nearly a decade into marriage, and sincerely hoping to remain married to Dan for many decades more, I did not understand how much I should be swayed by my husband. What algorithm should determine how much I tipped over into the warm bath of our union and how much of myself to keep separate, outside?” page 2.
It is a dilemma many of my married friends have discussed. I love my husband, have excruciatingly high standards for him, and as Elizabeth mentions of Dan, her husband, my husband is the center of my life. Where is the line of who we are as a person, as a woman, and where is that blending of our love for our husbands, our shared desires in marriage and life? I often find that when my husband is traveling I back away into myself. I am quieter and more introspective. Sometimes that is because he is so busy when he travels that we talk briefly sometimes only once a day. I think it is also because I have a different area of space around me when he is away. Maybe for some couples this is not an issue, maybe they lead such separate lives that each individual does not wonder which side of the line they have veered too far across, one that keeps them so remotely independent, or to the side of never being apart from their spouse.
How do you handle independence and closeness with your spouse? How do you ensure you are completely connected, yet also focusing on what makes you keep your groove, what makes you YOU? Would love to hear any insights!