This week we wanted to talk about valuing relationships. Because let’s face it, our culture does a pretty shitty job of setting us up to have healthy well-rounded adult relationships. (I mean, right? There’s got to be a reason that Twilight is so popular.) As it goes, romantic partnerships are exalted, while other important relationships, like the ones we have with our friends, communities, or heck just ourselves, end up completely undervalued. Meanwhile when it comes to romantic relationships, our cultural narrative is built around a relationship model that possibly doesn’t even exist, except to Nicholas Sparks.
So this week, we’re going to try and undo some of that work and talk about valuing relationships, on our own terms. We wanted to explore this idea from a variety of perspectives, not all of which the whole staff agrees with (so there’s a good chance you won’t either), but we’re hoping this week will promote interesting thought and debate. And now I’m going to turn the mic over to our very own Liz, with a bit of a manifesto on why her husband is not enough (and why that’s a good thing).
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
“How’s Tuesday work? Or, actually, I guess you’ll wanna bring your husband, right?”
An old friend and I chatted for another two minutes before settling on Tuesday night for a coffee date. I appreciate that she always thinks to ask about Josh, but it’s sort of unnecessary. As much as I love my husband, know what else I love? Getting some time away from him.
My partner’s been an amazing encouragement and help during a week that was unexpectedly rough. Maybe you’ve heard about that chick Sandy who’s stopping off in Philly for a few days? On top of prepping for her visit, there was one hell of a hectic work schedule, and then a mystery illness working its way through our house, all adding up to make a perfect storm (ha!) of stress, exhaustion, and missed deadlines.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but when I’m sick, I’m sort of a bitch. Add to that letting a few folks down (i.e., being forced to admit that I’m not perfect), and I’m absolutely unbearable.
Josh is, as mentioned, awesome at helping me through. But I can safely say he’s really not enough.
I just can’t imagine facing that crap and then dumping it all on one person alone. Using just one person as a sounding board, relying on him alone to lift my spirits, and finding all of my fulfillment in just him? I’d hate to be that guy. And I love my partner too much to ask that of him.
Luckily, there’s way more to my life than just my spouse. I have a terrific community of friends, family, and internet pals around me. I have work to expend my nervous energy, a stack of library books to help me unwind (Why Have Kids just came in, whoop!), and some overripe bananas to make into a comforting pie. There are actually several pieces of my life, other than my relationship with my husband, that add up to make me a happy, healthy lady (even in these unexpected rough spots). And I guess that seems sort of obvious, huh?
But it’s really not. When I think about the garbage we’re fed by romantic comedies, trashy TV, and Twilight (that stuff about “love conquering all,” and making someone your “everything”), valuing life outside of your romantic relationship is almost counter-cultural. Instead, making someone fall in love with you (and then keeping them interested) is exaggerated into the ultimate goal. More importantly, it becomes the only goal. When that happens, marriage becomes the determination of your worth as a person, and requires all of your focus and energy, leaving little for anything else. This doesn’t just damage married folks who are limited by expectations to have no other interest or outlet, but also single folks who are devalued as a result. Meanwhile, outside pursuits are neglected in favor of your relationship because, hey, nothing else matters as long as your marriage is great.
If my marriage were my everything (and as a result, my only thing) of course it would be hard. Of course it would take all of my focus. And of course I’d be completely dissatisfied with it, because, honestly what an unrealistic expectation. If my husband is “my rock,” what do I do when my husband’s a total dick? Assume that I failed at my singular purpose in life, I guess. (And couldn’t you say the same for everything? I could wrap my life around my kid or my career or my blog, and it would still be a whole lot of pressure for just one facet of my life). Putting my marriage under that same kind of pressure is not just bad for me, it’s bad for my husband and it’s bad for our partnership.
So I’m just glad it’s not that way. I’m happy to have friends to turn to when I need someone to agree that Walking Dead is stupid or to gossip with interest about Jessica Biel’s wedding dress. It only makes sense that a multifaceted person would require a multifaceted life. And really, my husband is just not enough.
Photo by: Corinne Krogh (APW Sponsor)