Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

The Marriage Question

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couple-holding-hands

I think it’s time for me to put into words a topic that always receives much question and scrutiny in daily life: relationships and marriage. We live most of our adult lives looking for, learning from and being in relationships or marriages, we talk about the intricacies of them at length with our friends and family, and we dedicate at least ¼ of our media consumption on celebrity relationships, marriages, and particularly breakups.

We humans love war, blood, bad news and especially breakups. Love them. We feed off the emotional carnage of romantic heartbreak. I have a sort of half-assed theory that because, for the first time in all of history, humans have acquired such a comfortable, civil world with such a comparatively healthy, long life, we have everything we need, don’t have to hunt for food anymore or fight each other to the death in arenas for the entertainment of Kings, we instead feed our animalistic desire for blood with emotional death. We watch it unfold on reality television shows and in the lives of our celebrity royalty. In a way it really turns the tables. But that’s for another post, I think.

So we all naturally crave the drama of life, and watching it happen in other people’s relationships is one of our favorites. I’m sure many of you readers have experienced watching a close friend or family member go through a bad relationship…or, probably more accurately, what you yourself consider a bad relationship. You feel badly for them, but at the same time you hope they’ll smarten up and leave or that the other person will eventually change for the better. You’re probably a caring enough person to hope for the happiness of all involved, but, deep down inside, you’re still utterly fascinated by watching the whole thing unfold, no matter which way it goes. Go ahead, you can admit it. Drama is addicting. That’s why they always say it’s so hard to turn away from a train wreck. Or from that girl climbing onto chairs at the wedding and dancing seductively with the Best Man so she can make her ex-boyfriend jealous, as he sits across the room nursing a beer and pretending not to notice. They’re both the same thing, really.

I myself am guilty as well of being fascinated by the inner workings of human relationships. For reasons unbeknownst to me, people like to vent to me. Who knows, maybe it’s because I look like I’ve been through it all and couldn’t possibly have anything to judge them for! Heh. Might be true. But in all seriousness, I have found myself judging sometimes. It’s a hard thing to turn off. It’s way too easy to find myself rooting for the wrong side, or imagining that I’d have handled their situation better. With that said, I probably lend a lot more forgiveness overall to people’s actions in their relationships than most would (or so my husband Shawn often tells me). And that’s mostly because I have endured a whole lot of undue scrutiny in my life, and I don’t like the idea of passing on to others what I don’t like happening to me. You know, Golden Rule and all that. I’ll never say I’m perfect at it – I’ve had my share of asshole moments, but I digress.

What brought this rambling subject up to the surface today is the feeling that my marriage has been very much put under a magnifying glass in the wake of meeting new and different people. Mind you, I certainly understand why: even though we are married and share the same house, Shawn and I have completely different interests that barely, if ever, overlap. Sure, we both have art jobs that require us to work from home, thus we understand each other deeply on a creative level and we get to spend most weekdays in the same building. Also, we owe our relationship in part to our equal love of conversation: for the 11 or so years since we met, we have never run out of topics, and we love to ponder them together while sipping on cups of hazelnut-flavored coffee and relaxing on our cozy, taupe-colored couch. We share similar views about people and relationships in general. We see women and men as equals and although we each have our personal flaws and annoyances, we both generally feel that things are fair and just between us most of the time. We agree on the things we consider important: what we want our lives and our future to look like, how we value family, what we need from a partner, how we choose to spend our money, et cetera. And probably the most fundamental item that Shawn and I agree on is our absolute need for freedom and independence within our marriage.

We each struggled in past relationships for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of this one thing. I was so independent in my previous relationship that I grew out of it emotionally, always spending time with my own friends while he stayed home and sulked because he didn’t know how to reel me in. Shawn had two long-term relationships with women who wanted more mutually dependent relationships than what he could give them, and as a result he felt stifled and always at odds with their needs.

When we became friends, Shawn and I spotted that independent flair in one another. We were both not into being leaders, would never be followers, but would rather carve our own paths and leave them for others to join or not. With that frame of mind, Shawn has taken his love for comics, art and movies and crafted a unique niche for himself in the costuming/comic con/FX world that few others, if any, have ever done before or since. I am proud of him, I respect and support him in everything he does, would help him succeed in any way I could, and I think he is the best man I have ever known. But he goes to most ComicCons by himself because he has his own friends there, and because it allows him to fully explore his interests without feeling the need to keep me entertained.

And I have my own separate things going on, too. My big one, of course, is that I love to run. I spend many hours a week taking the dog out for a run or going with friends for an entire Saturday. I spend hundreds of dollars a year on races, and go on run-related weekend trips to see friends, many of whom he has never met (but heard a ton about during our morning coffee conversations). I am also a lover of the written word so I spend a good deal of time creating this blog, which he sometimes reads and sometimes doesn’t. And I honestly don’t mind either way, especially considering that most of what I write on here, I’ve already told him. But he supports all of my efforts and is genuinely proud of all my accomplishments, and I don’t need him to wait at the finish line at any of my races in order to believe that. Besides, if he was at the race, what would I have to talk to him about the next morning over coffee?

Recently I’ve joined a fun new activity, hashing. I’ve met some amazing, beautiful, funny and seriously fantastic people, who love to run and share my penchant for beer and fun. Many hashers are married and their spouses are hashers, too. It doesn’t really surprise me the number of times I’ve been asked, “Does your husband hash, too?” followed by, “No? Why not?” I dislike this line of questioning, but it does often remind me that our relationship is not the norm. Instead it is quite unique: we don’t participate in many of the same interests, but we still get along, love each other and appreciate the freedom to do our own thing. I understand that quite often when two people in a marriage seem to be spending a lot of time apart, it’s because deep down they want to be apart permanently. It certainly turned out to be true of my last relationship, anyway.

I go back and forth between caring and not caring about anyone’s opinion on this. My independent streak often affords me the luxury of letting lots of things slide off my back, because I don’t feel I need to have people sign their approval on my life. But sometimes when this type of conversation starts I want to reach out and start explaining the dynamics of a marriage that can survive two people not doing everything together. I want to get them to see the good that I see in it, encourage them to understand that not every relationship is the same on the inside. But gratuitous explanation just reeks of a desperate attempt to justify fallacy. For example, ever read 26 Facebook status updates in a row from someone lauding their oh-so-perfect marriage with their hunny-bunny, still so deeply in love after all these (3) years…and then see their relationship status change to “single” a month later? Yeah.

So how I answer those questions is much like how I answer people who ask me if I have kids: I give a truthful, simple answer, and then leave it at that. Do you have kids? No, no kids. Why don’t you want kids? They’re just not for us. Does your husband run with you? Nope. Why not? We do different things. Don’t you want him to come support you at the {insert big race name}? He does support me, just not by standing at the finish line.

Maybe Shawn and I are completely different, completely weird people, but one of the most important qualities for each of us to have in our lives is freedom. Hell, I even had a bird tattooed on my back to symbolize this desire (to the chagrin of my then-boyfriend, who had expected me to get his permission before marking up my body). The bottom line is that we both want and need to live a happy, free life without being held back by our partners, and we both know how to love someone who needs their own version of freedom. In my opinion, the most important thing you can give your partner is the one thing they want most. You should give it wholeheartedly, while expecting the same in return. It might be respect, trust, loyalty, attentiveness, freedom, devotion, intimacy or whatever. And if you cannot or will not give that one thing to your partner, then it may be harder than it is worth to keep them around.

I’m not here to say that I’ve got an oh-so-perfect marriage with my hunny-bunny. Or that your relationship is less than perfect than ours because it’s different. Just like any marriage we have our good days and bad days. But, like my amazing sage of a best friend Kathy always says:

Marriage is a choice that you make every single day. You wake up each morning next to the same person, and you make the choice to live with, live for and love them, all over again.

So, it’s my choice to be happy, and I applaud myself for choosing it again today.

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8 thoughts on “The Marriage Question

  1. OMG, another one… Shawn doesn’t have a lesbian sister does he? You guys totally have the kind of relationship I want and think I may even be ready for.

    • Lesbian sister? Don’t think so. He has (well, we have) several lesbian friends though, does that count? :p

      It’s refreshing to hear for once that my relationship isn’t weird to everyone. 🙂

  2. In LOVE with this post.

    My husband and I have been friends for 14 years, together for 7, married for almost 1 year in May. We live very different lives and have incredibly different interests. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone. He had a hard time in the first year dealing with all these new names and not seeing the faces. He has not interest in running. Not his thing. But he supports from home.

    Thank you again for sharing your insights!

  3. Spottedimages stole the words from my head, but the years are slightly different for me. 🙂 It’s nice to read about others going through the same barrage of questioning of why you and your significant other aren’t joined at the hips at all times.

    To me, there seems to be a loss of identity when couples choose to do absolutely everything together. Or one is not being honest with oneself or one’s significant other. What’s going to happen when the relationship ends?

    Hashing has always piqued my interest, but I haven’t built up the courage to join any hashers.

    • I’ve got nothing against couples who happen to have the same interests and do everything together. If it works, it works. The whole identity loss, well that’s a whole other story…

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