Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why I Haven't Written More about Marriage

I am about equally interested in marriage and parenting, but I blog so much more about parenting and little R. Partly this is because being a mother is new to me (since I've only been doing it for 19 months), while B and I have been together for 14 (I think, sorry we are both lame and don't quite remember) years.

Mostly, though, it's because I have a hard time writing about marriage. I wrote before that I find parenting pretty straightforward. It's difficult, yes, but not complicated. The basic rule is that at all times, in every circumstance, you as the parent must be on your best behavior: patient, firm but just, thoughtful, intensely interested in every nuance, and most of all endlessly loving. Think the common description of God, and there you go. (One reason why it's difficult is because no one can pull this off consistently.) Failure is naturally common, but at least you know what you're supposed to be doing.

With marriage, I honestly have no idea. I am not sure what behavior would qualify me as a "good wife" (or what B should do, to be a "good husband"). We each know what we want the other to do of course, but are our expectations reasonable? I don't know. People are very unlikely to be honest about their expectations, even to themselves, so asking others won't get you very far. And at this point in time there's really no culturally sanctioned expectations: everything depends on who you ask. I wouldn't ask R for her definition of a "good mother" (which would probably include eating gummy bears for every meal, no diaper changes ever, and the inability to ever say no), but I ask B to define my "job" as wife all the time. Seems like a terrible idea of course, but lacking another definition I'm not sure how else to go about it.

The other trouble with discussing marriage is that everything has history. There's always a backstory: whenever B says something, it draws on the many years of experience we've had with each other for emotional tone, meaning that there's no such thing as a simple comment. Just a simple signal or a particular word can make both of us laugh, or start arguing, because it brings up a host of related experiences.

So if I recounted a sample interaction between the two of us, it by itself would tell you almost nothing. B saying X might mean X, or it might mean "I hate you", or "You are my ideal woman", or "Do you love me?", or "You drive me crazy". You would have to have knowledge of the dozens of prior interactions on the topic to know the real answer. Apparently shockingly insensitive behavior might not be, really, and apparently kind behavior might actually have a sadistic agenda (I have done both to B).

But I do find it frustrating that there is so little personal information available about marriages. Thousands of people write incredibly in-depth book-long screeds about being a parent (or mother, especially), and every emotional, physical and philosophical nuance of that journey. But I have read very few examples of the same for marriage, and yet it's one of the most important and long-lasting (the longest, if things go well) relationships in most people's lives.

I should try to write more often about it, if only to try to define what a good wife is (and isn't).


  1. Have you read The Five Love Languages? I keep meaning to post about it. It's a great book on marriage!

    1. I can't remember for sure, but I don't think so (though I've heard about them before). Must check if the library has a copy.

  2. I bet if you apply the same rules to parenting, it'd stand: do what's best for the other person even if it's not the easiest thing for you, be patient, be forgiving, blah blah blah. Although...we all know I am so not a marriage expert.