When One Is Not Enough

“How’s Tuesday work? Or, actually, I guess you’ll wanna bring your husband, right?”

“Hm. Meh.”

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

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  • Poeticplatypus

    This is so true. Even though I am not married it isn’t healthy to put everything on your spouse to be your everything. Personally this could set someone up for disappointment when the picture in your head does not match reality.

  • Lauren

    My fiancé is usually my rock and a pretty sturdy foundation to cling to. But then we decided that if I needed a rock, it’s because I was being a barnacle. You know: tough, pointy, impossible to get rid of and likely to cut you. The analogy works both ways – so I’m sometimes the rock and sometimes he’s the barnacle.

    • Crayfish Kate

      Being a marine biologist, I absolutely LOVE this analogy! So fitting, I’m going to be using this one in the future :-)

  • My introverted self has some fairly conflicted feelings about this. My husband is the main social relationship in my life, and I like it that way. (We’re both introverts, so it works both ways.) We do both make a point of having outside friendships, both individually and together, because we’re never going to be each other’s everything. I’m never going to be the person he goes to first to discuss hunting or fishing, and he’s never going to be my philosophy buddy or favourite shopping companion.

    But the emotional energy we have to devote to the relationships outside each other and our immediate families is somewhat limited. I in particular find that it’s a lot of well, work, to maintain all the friendships that are important to me and to balance my needs for quiet time with my friends’ needs for my time and sharing my social time around.

    • Ana

      Fellow introvert here! I agree with you – though my partner is an extravert so she needs to be sure to have those extra social relationships outside ours (and we have a nice set-up for that). I simply don’t have much emotional energy to give others – the idea of having a stressful week coupled with being sick makes me want to curl up alone on the couch, not call a friend for coffee. My perception is that most things extraverts would need to bounce off their friends/their partner, I’m doing in my own head. My “take-away” from this article is to make sure I’m making time to spend time reflecting alone and on my own (solitary) pursuits – and not to feel pressured to make any one person or any one thing the complete center of my universe.

      If my life we a romantic comedy it would be a whole lot of me alone, on the couch, drinking tea and reading a book.

      • Liz

        Yes, exactly! “….to make sure I’m making time to spend time reflecting alone and on my own (solitary) pursuits – and not to feel pressured to make any one person or any one thing the complete center of my universe.”

      • Laura

        It actually works out really well for me that my husband is an extrovert–he can go see his friends, and I can get my much-needed introvert time!

    • Becca

      I’m much the same way. As an introvert I don’t have too many relationships outside of my romantic one, and I’m cool with that. If anything, the relationship I really need is the one I have with myself… occasionally I just need to be away from everyone for a while, including fiance, friends and family. Like Ana says above, I do lots of reading and tea drinking when I’m not interacting with my fiance.

      • Cleo

        “As an introvert I don’t have too many relationships outside of my romantic one, and I’m cool with that. If anything, the relationship I really need is the one I have with myself”


        I like scheduling dates with myself, where I take a book to a restaurant (and read while eating) and then treat myself to a movie that my guy doesn’t want to see too (not that hard) and that I know my friends wouldn’t be super excited about seeing. It’s always such a refreshing few hours.

        • Caroline

          Dates with myself are the best! I get to go to the city which my partners hate and most of my friends enjoy in different ways than I do (clubbing vs. umm not) and go to the kind of restaurant I like best and order whatever I want and people watch or read. It’s fabulous. Or go spend hours in a cool bookstore. I love dates with myself.

        • Kess

          I love ‘dates with myself’ – kind of have to as my SO is currently 500 miles away, so I can’t go out with him, and like many very strongly expressed introverts, I don’t really have friends that I ‘go out with’. (I’ve got friends from various actives, but I don’t ‘hang out’)

          My personal favorite is going for a nice long walk in the snow, coming back home, making myself a cup of cocoa, curling up in an afghan, and either reading or watching whatever TV show I’m currently obsessed with.

          I haven’t quite got the ‘going out to a restaurant alone’ date down yet as I live in a small college town (where I know many, many people because of my job) and I’m still attempting to get over the ‘going out to eat by yourself? Oh man, you must be a loser/so lonely’ issues.

          • The dining alone thing is really not as scary as people make it seem. My stepmom is in absolute awe that I can go to the movies, or eat in a pub or in a fine bistro all by my onesies. I like it; I get to focus on the food, talk to the wait staff if I want, and I always have a book along so I can duck into my community of storybook characters or prose filled ideologies if I feel lonely AND not worry about being rude to anyone if that is what I want to do. Also, it’s can be a lot less stressful – I know some people love fighting over the cheque or debating dessert, but sometimes, you don’t want to justify the pie or worry about your math skills in splitting a bill two or three or four ways. It’s not something I’d love to do every single day, but it’s kind of a nice treat to dine alone.

          • I love taking myself out to eat. I started out with lunch dates because by nature they are more casual and prone to being taken alone in the middle of the workday, but there is a fabulous brewery restaurant in a Japanese garden that I’ve been taking early dinner/happy hour at. It’s so nice to enjoy a craft beer and beautiful scenery.

    • I agree completely, I definitely prefer alone time to social time. I have a few extremely close friends scattered throughout the country, and the activities my peers engage in (I am 23 and a year out of college, lots of clubs and Vegas trips) are in no way appealing to me, so the majority of my social interaction is skateboarding and mountain biking with my partner. I am extremely introverted and he is an extrovert (who stresses out if he hasn’t had enough time to see friends) which is a blessing since we live together in a 500 sq. ft. apartment. I love it when he goes off with his friends and I have the whole place to myself to listen to music, work on my crochet projects, catch up on my National Geographic and Modern Family, and cook.

    • I’m a total introvert too. :) That was why I loved that Liz listed out not only people, but activities and stuff that can help a person feel fulfilled in different ways. I may not be the kind of person to set up lunch dates all the time, but finding something new to bake, reading some neat book about psychology, or doodling a cartoon I’m proud of are absolutely important parts of feeling well-rounded and satisfied for me.

  • kathleen

    I felt funny about this for a while, as I found that what I so love about my closest friendships I wasn’t getting from my (then boyfriend, now) husband. I found that I was having very different types of conversations with my girlfriends vs my partner- both healthy and interesting and helpful, but pretty different. I spoke with both my best friend and my husband about it, and they said the exact same thing- thank goodness, and how lucky. It’s great that I have really different intellectual and emotional needs served by those closest to me- if I had decided on a partner who mimicked what my best friends gave me, I’d be missing out on a great and different perspective.

    This became clear when my dad had a serious heart attack recently- I had amazing, helpful conversations with my best friend and my partner, and they were very very different, and both very very needed.

    • Kara

      Yup. Vital, but different. For example, my husband cannot possibly fathom my uncertainty about stuff…because he isn’t, ever. My closest friends do. My husband will listen patiently and hold my hand and recognize my confusion as what it is, but he’s completely confused about how to help me process through it in a way that’s helpful to me. Hence, the vital role of some very important girlfriends.

  • I agree – sometimes when my partner & I are having an issue I like to talk it out with someone else first (usually my mom) to gauge whether I’m being loony or not. My partner and I also don’t have 100% of our interest in common (which I like!) so sometimes I need to take my chatter elsewhere. I think it balances us.

    “It only makes sense that a multifaceted person would require a multifaceted life” yes!

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  • Moe

    As I got more serious with my then soon-to-be husband and we were heading towards marriage it became an opportune time to ‘clean house’ of friendships that weren’t working. There were friendships based on values I didn’t subscribe to anymore. I never really did enjoy clubbing, staying out late in bars anyways… There was on relationship that ended because I began to realize the boundaries were not healthy ones, my guy gave me the courage (the balls) to speak up and walk away.

    Now, a few months into a new marriage the friendships that had solid foundations are still there. It is harder to keep up everyone, including family. I’ve found that the friends who are also a friend to my marriage and not pouty, whiny, or bratty about there being less if me to go around are the friends I still want.

    There is a certain liberty in finding a healthy balance between being a wife and still being a girl-friend.

    • Laura

      I second the idea of social pruning as needed – it helps the other, stronger relationships stay healthy and continue to grow (the plant analogy is straightforward here – not that I really know anything about plants).

      I think doing this is crucial to growing up and moving forward with life as it comes to you. Sometimes the pruning can happen naturally, but other times you have to be active about it (as noted above). And I think it’s usually for the best. But the process does make me sad a little, I’ll admit. It makes me feel slightly like I’m a friend failure, when I think about it hard enough. But, day to day, my social life feels balanced and manageable and stable.

      It seems a bit like, once you’ve found a partner, you can be pickier with the rest of your social life. Because maybe your +1 doesn’t give you *everything* you need, but they should cover a lot of the bases, no?

      • Moe

        Pruning is an excellent way to describe it, especially in relation to growth and development.

        There is some sadness when relationsips run their course. I once heard it summarized as this: Don’t be sad when you part ways with people. They weren’t bad people, and you aren’t a failure. They just aren’t going the same places as you.

  • PAW

    I think this is one of the best things to take from older concepts of marriage: rely on a community of family and friends for emotional support, instead of just one’s spouse. My husband chose language in our wedding service that would reflect that, and we both maintain a network of friendships and family that help us stay rounded and sane.

    For me, it comes down to this: I may be very independent, very in my own head, talk a lot with my friends and family, and cultivate interests outside my marriage, but my husband is the one I come home to and talk to about it over dinner or while we’re snuggling in bed. And for other people, the balance falls differently.

    • meg

      It’s true, and I hadn’t thought about it specifically in those terms. The idea of marriage being your be-all-end-all relationship, and being isolated from community is a fairly modern idea. It used to be that it was harder to *survive* without a wider community to support you (also, we couldn’t just hole up with our TV’s all night). And I think that’s perhaps not the best modern invention we’ve ever come up with.

      • PAW

        Exactly. I think it’s been a fairly natural transition as people have become more mobile, but it’s not so helpful for emotional health!

    • PAW

      That would be, “my husband AND I chose language in the wedding service.” Oy.

  • rys

    I’m super-excited about this week!

    Thank you, Liz, for this lovely post. Especially for these sentences, “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.”

    I’ve probably said it before, but I’ve spent a lot of time and emotional energy fighting against this notion of marriage as the sole measure of my (single) adult worth, and it’s hard to rock that boat. It’s because of close friends, most of whom are married themselves, not only reassuring me that I have value but also making time for me (sometimes me alone and sometimes with others), that most of the time I am able to resist giving in to the cultural narrative of marriage=valued member of society. Deep friendships–that started in different periods of my life and have changed as we’ve grown, adapted, evolved–are the bedrock of my life. When asked about maintaining these friendships, especially as my friends are scattered across the country and globe, my simple response is “I invest in people,” and those investments pay dividends over and over and over again.

    • meg

      We have some posts on single-dom later this week, and I REALLY want you to weigh in. I have complicated feelings…

      But yes to everything you’ve said here.

      I’ve been thinking a lot of late, because of comment conversations, about the makeup of our friend group. And it’s just a total mix: married people, single people, long term relationships, kids, no kids, and way more. But more than that, I finally figured out that’s how I grew up. I realized after a childfree post that ever since I was a kid, I’ve always known a lot of adults that chose not to have kids, so I thought that was just within the spectrum of totally normal human experience. I never even thought it was notable (which goes to show you the power of exposing people to things when they’re tiny). I guess find it troubling that a social circle like that is somehow considered outside the norm at this cultural moment? Why do we want to surround ourselves with people just like us, or value one way of living over another? I don’t know. I don’t have any huge and articulate takeaways at the moment, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot, thanks to you guys and your smart comments :)

      • rys

        I’m certainly looking forward to those posts!

        I think you’re right that exposure to lots of different types of people (in all sorts of ways) matters tremendously. One thing I dislike about a lot of singles rhetoric is that the “solution” is to spend time and seek solace with your single buddies. Yet that too assumes that categorizing people by their dating/marital status is somehow the way to be comfortable with yourself (and/or find a partner) when it’s that very metric that creates the problem. (It also tends to assume that all singles want to go to the club and drink/dance the night away which, eh, is not so true in my humble experience.)

        Life is richer, more vibrant, and more fulfilling when surrounded by people who live different lives — sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Communities are stronger when they are inclusive — of people from different backgrounds, with different priorities, of different ages, of different needs, etc. Building those communities, with sensitivities to all the various needs and desires of people within then, seems to me fundamental. I think the challenge, though, is finding ways to create and sustain those communities in ways that cultivate reciprocity so that that everyone feels they’re giving and taking, offering and receiving.

        • Not Sarah

          I *hate* the assumption that “all singles want to go to the club and drink/dance the night away”!!!

          I had a coworker contrast his life at my age (then 22) and his life now and I want _neither_ of those lives. I don’t want to be out drinking the night away, taking the last train from NYC out to where I live (that was him), but I don’t want his life now of a wife, kids, and a house in the suburbs either. Where is the recognition of that balance?

          The hard part for me about being single was that work is already too much socialization, so going out and meeting people was HARD. I think I might have met the guy I’m going to marry and I love having someone else to sit around on a lazy Saturday with.

        • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

          I also have to say that when I was feeling lonely or sorry for myself about being single, I went looking for the company of a married couple that I’m great friends with! So, in your face cultural narrative! haha

      • One More Sara

        It also has to do with how the parents treat these people. I have one uncle who chooses to remain unmarried (or live with his girlfriend/partner), and an aunt who is married, but she and my uncle chose not to have kids. My parents talked about my unmarried uncle in a way it was clear to me that they did not agree with his choice. They also explained to us a lot why my aunt and uncle didn’t have kids. Instead of just saying “that’s how some people live,” my mom would give me long explanations. She probably didn’t notice what she was doing, but as a little person, I understood that being unmarried or childless wasn’t normal, and it was okay, as long as you had a good reason. I think in these situations, the best way for parents to model acceptance is to do just that. Accept the adults wholly (not just to their face), and if kids ask questions, maybe explain that it is a choice to get married or not and your uncle chose not to, and then just move on. If you don’t make a big deal about it, it won’t be a big deal to your kids.

        • meg

          That’s fascinating. Thinking about it, I just don’t think anyone ever commented on it at all when I was little, or acted like it was notable. Some people were married, some were not, some had kids, some didn’t. Since no one commented on it, I just figured it was like everything else: some plants have flowers, some don’t! Some plants are tall and some plants are small! Whatever, what’s for dinner?

  • Copper

    “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.”

    This feels like one of those cultural prejudices that hurts everybody. For married people, they feel undue pressure to for their marriage to be Perfect. Then, god forbid it isn’t, they become Failures. Or even if their marriage is a total rocking success, suddenly they’re expected to be less invested in their jobs or other interests. And it makes single people Failures by definition. It contributes to the wedding hysteria, to the idea of marriage as a goal over good relationships as a goal, the expectation that marriage will make every problem get better, the letdown when of course it doesn’t… just so much hurt and stress created by the concept of marriage as your be-all, end-all.

    And frankly, to get all gendery on it, do men face this expectation? Do they expect/are they expected to, get everything in their world out of their wives? Or is this something projected onto and by women, a leftover from the days when a woman’s citizenship, social standing, and political voice, was channeled through her husband, and she was just an extension of him?

    • meg

      I think that’s an interesting question, and an open question in my mind. I think men to face weird pressures around marriage and family life, but they are different. I can’t nail them all down (and I’m going to go mixed gender couples here, because we’re talking stereotypes), but I think they include things like ‘the assumption they’ll resent their wives,’ and ‘the assumption they’ll sacrifice everything including family relationships to be the breadwinner for their kids.’

      I’m not sure men are expected or encouraged to have vibrant lives outside of marriage? Though they are expected to RESENT their marriage more (how healthy).

      I would like some guys to weigh in, please!

      • Liz

        I’ve been thinking about this comment for a bit, and I think you hit on it, Meg. Guys are expected to have marriage absorb their entire lives, but in a negative sense. It’s like marriage is the eventuality that takes over, and guys are reluctantly dragged along by it. Equal and opposite to women, who are expected to chase down marriage and throw everything into making it “work.”

      • Becca

        Yep, that’s the gist I’ve gotten from married acquaintances and society in general, that men are expected to resent their marriages and constantly miss their bachelorhoods. I’m glad you said this because it’s something I’ve always noticed yet couldn’t quite put a name to. Women are supposed to gain a great deal from marriage; men are supposed to lose a great deal.

        • Copper

          Ah, I should always trust you guys to hit on the complementary stereotype, the guy (and I’m thinking Paul Rudd in Knocked Up here) who needs to escape from his smothering wife.

          That just sucks for everybody. What if women don’t gain as much as we’re expected to: does that make our marriages bad? And what if men don’t resent as much as they are expected to: does that make them bad men? UGH. So yes to keeping and nurturing other relationships, because it helps keep you both sane. Because if marriage = living in a world where I’m totally dependent on my guy for all emotional support, and he’s just trying to get the heck away from my suffocating embrace, I want no part of that.

        • meg

          Also, if/when men are expected to sacrifice their happiness for their marriage and family life… that creates just as unhealthy dynamic as women who sacrifice self for family life. It’s not pleasant for anyone.

        • Which is funny, because there’s been plenty of research that shows the exact opposite in terms of emotional and health terms. Men benefit from marriage whereas women can really lose out in those aspects. It’s not a model of marriage that I would want to live, and I’d like to think that my husband and I benefit equally in our partnership. But it’s interesting that the cultural narrative expects men to resent their marriages and women to be completely fulfilled by them.

          • meg

            Indeed, totally true. The research is not at all ambiguous here.

      • dragonzflame

        There is definitely that perception of men being smothered by marriage. (I’m not a guy, but I’ve noticed it all my life.) I’m not sure if it’s an expectation exactly, but you know, English (especially British English) abounds with some quite disgusting nicknames to describe your wife: ‘the ball and chain’, ‘Trouble and strife’ (from Cockney rhyming slang), ‘her indoors’, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’, and just ‘The Wife’. There aren’t nearly as many for husbands (I can’t think of any actually), and they’re certainly not as pejorative as any of those.

        But why? Why should marriage be an ultimate goal for women, but the end of everything for men? And if a wife really is nothing more than trouble and strife, why the hell bother?

      • I’m so glad you brought this up! My boyfriend feels this pressure all the time from coworkers and guys at the gym. He gets so frustrated because they are always telling him about how I’ll become “the old ball-and-chain” and express shock and amazement when I don’t get mad at him for little things, ensuring him that when we’re married things will be different. In his head they are making a choice to be miserable and not embracing the amazing supportive partnership and best friend a wife can be.

        • dragonzflame

          Best illustrated by the stag night… ‘better do all the things now because IT’S YOUR LAST NIGHT OF FREEDOM’.

          Why are wives supposed to be shrewish impediments to men’s happiness instead of one half of a team?

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        This just reminded me of several conversations I’ve had with my dad about spouses who stay at home, equality between men and women etc. Neither of us, likely, have a complete understanding since he’s guy whose never stayed at home, and I’m a grad student (we don’t have the first hand experiences). However dads comment was ‘Men have a job, women have a choice’. I think, while it sounded a little bitter at the time, that it illustrates that society at large doesnt yet demonstrate a lot of repect for a man unless they have a career outside the home. He felt that society was less likely to get on a woman’s case regardless of their decision. I cant really speak to the truth of that, but it does speak to one of the pressures that can be felt by men.

  • Amanda

    Nothing hits this idea home harder than being a twin. My then (years ago) boyfriends – they could never be my everything. Because my sister was. My now husband – he can’t be everything, either, because both he and my sister play vital, critical, central roles in my life (I promised my twin on my wedding day that I would try for things between her and I to stay as much the same as possible). It’s a interesting balancing act that sometimes takes hard work, but most of the time falls effortlessly into place – thankfully (and maybe because of) they like each other so much. I often wonder about the folks who only have each other in a relationship… I don’t think it’s wrong at all, it’s just something I fundamentally cannot understand. I am so thankful for being in the position of having two best friends.

  • Jenni

    This is a really good point. You need more than your partner (or kid, or job) in your life to make you happy. You need a community. This is brought home to me this week as I sit in the house while he’s on travel for work. I wish I knew how to build relationships in this new place where I only know my partner and a few of his friends. I need some girl-talk coffee dates!

    I guess my take-away is to be open and searching for opportunities to develop other ‘facets’.

    • Moving and starting over is hard. Hang in there..

      (And volunteering was one way I was able to make a few friends of “my own” when I first moved to my husband’s country. Then later, I started working here and made some more friends through work. But it takes time… I wish you well!)

  • This reminds me of some advice my mom gave me prior to marriage. She told me to remember that my husband isn’t my girlfriend. I need girlfriends to chat with, analyze relationship with, sometimes have a good cry and that those friendships would be different than the one with my husband. I think of it as diversifying support, which makes your support system stronger. I think it takes a lot of self awareness to realize that s significant other isn’t enough for you. By walking through our marriage, I’ve really come to value community. I think it does take a village to engage and grow with on a personal level.

    • meg

      “She told me to remember that my husband isn’t my girlfriend.”

      Mmmm. Always hit home by talking about some random thing with your partner and then looking up and realizing, “Oh. You REALLY do not give a shit about this.” And then calling a friend.

      • Breck

        Absolutely. My Pinterest board for the imaginary Halloween party I’m having? Not for the boyfriend.

      • Moe

        Imagine my shock and dismay when my husband revealed he didn’t care to watch celebrity news shows with me.

        • meg

          Though it’s possible David likes Project Runway more than I do. Marry metrosexual kids ;) It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Yes to all of this!

    I dearly love my FH, but he cannot be ‘my everything.’ I need my friends who I chat in Russian with, the friends I can nerd-out over political systems and mapping software with, my good friends with whom I can talk through the frustrating emotions from the week with… I could try all of these things with my FH, but it’d be no fun for him, leading to frustation for both of us. Not to mention that I need the time for myself (as an introvert) to pursue my own interests and spend time recharging. I am so blessed to have a wonderful community of friends, and we all support and need each other. Marriage doesn’t change that.

    Liz said it so well:
    “It only makes sense that a multifaceted person would require a multifaceted life.”


  • Lisa

    Yes! I’ve been saying for years that you need to have different relationships in your life to fulfill different emotional needs. Obviously a spouse should fulfill some of your major needs, a lot of the time. But it’s fine (even necessary) to have other people that you go to for some things. Expecting one person to be able to fulfill every emotional need that you have is unreasonable and puts a lot of pressure on that person. Plus if your goal is to find a partner who can be your “everything,” you may never find a person like that!

  • APWFan

    YES to this post!! My fiance and I are both only children, and I’m much more social than he is. Some people don’t seem to understand why we don’t do Every Single Activity together, and my friends often ask where he is if I don’t bring him to things. The thing is, he doesn’t see why his being more introverted should prevent me from doing what I want to do, even if he doesn’t want to go to something. At the same time, his introversion encourages me to also value time alone or time with just the two of us, and realize that I don’t have to attend Every Single Thing I’m Invited To. And our time apart doesn’t mean that our time together isn’t quality. Anyway, we’re both solid people and I never identified with expressions like “he completes me.” I value my friendships and professional life so much. This is a great post to read while planning our wedding. :) Thank you.

    • Cleo

      “my friends often ask where he is if I don’t bring him to things. The thing is, he doesn’t see why his being more introverted should prevent me from doing what I want to do, even if he doesn’t want to go to something.”

      Yes! We’re both introverted (he more than I), so when I do choose to go out, most of the time, he’d rather not. We have a deal where he will come with me to things I deem IMPORTANT (weddings, some parties, family things) and I, in return, will only call things IMPORTANT when they are.

      My friends don’t get it and one of them even told me that she thinks he doesn’t respect me because of it. But she has a boyfriend who lives for parties and is always excited to help her prep and plan, which is something she has on her shortlist of requirements for a partner (so my relationship paradigm is completely different from hers anyway)

  • Carrie

    My husband and I have realized that it’s actively bad for our relationship if one or both of us doesn’t have any separate social life, activities, or interests. If two people spend all their time together, no matter how much they love each other and enjoy each other’s company, they will get bored and irritated with each other.

    And frankly, they’ll run out of things to talk about. You’ve got to have something to bring to the relationship, and going out and having your own experiences means you have fresh, new things to share with each other. It keeps us interested in each other.

    So we are both always explicitly encouraging each other to go out with friends after work, to do that weekend volunteering, to go to that photo group meetup, etc. We’re both much happier people that way, and that makes our marriage much happier.

  • Emily

    I recently told someone that Ian and I take solo out-of-town trips to visit friends, and this person lost their mind. “You guys don’t vacation together??? That’s so saaaaaaad!!!” Is it? Because we eat most meals together, watch TV together, go to the movies together, fight over the covers together, 24/7/52, and sometimes it’s nice to spend time with someone else. And that doesn’t make us bad people, or mean that we’re not in love with each other, or forecast our impending divorce. Calm down, weirdo.

    Also, THIS: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.

    • Carrie

      Hahaha yeah. Before we got married, my husband took a solo vacation to Nevada and.Southern California. He had some use-it-or-lose-it vacation time at work, and really needed some time away from work to de-stress. I couldn’t get away from school, so I encouraged him to just go. He decided to drive from Vegas to San Diego, do some desert photography, and finish up by attending the wedding of some friends we hadn’t thought we’d be able to get to. He loves exploring and having adventures on his own, so I knew he’d have fun.

      When I mentioned to my mom he was on vacation by himself, she FREAKED. OUT. I had to explain at length that we weren’t having any problems, he wasn’t trying to get away from me, it was really just that he desperately needed a vacation and I couldn’t get away to join him, and yes, I was really completely okay with this and did not feel weird about it.

      We travel together plenty and enjoy it. But seriously, we can travel separately without it implying that anything is wrong.

      • Meredith

        True Story. I went on vacation last year for 4 days to Mexico by myself. It. was. Awesome. But people were really confused by it. My SO couldn’t get time off and I had vacation time to use up. That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      • This is every November for me. My husband is a pretty serious hunter and loves going up to the family trailer, shivering in the cold and sitting up in a tree with a rifle. All of which sound like torture to me. I’d be miserable there and he’d be miserable not going, which in turn would make me miserable by nature of having a miserable husband around the home. So we send him on a solo hunt trip a couple of times a year and our relationship is definitely the better for it.

        And when he’s gone I get a little time to devote either to myself and some personal projects and being lazy and enjoy my time to myself or I spend a little more of my time with friends while he’s gone. We’d never be happy spending all of our vacation time separately, but it’s an important way for us to spend some of our vacation.

    • Copper

      I remember taking a weekend trip back to my hometown and running into a girl from my high school. She asked if I was seeing anyone and I said yes, and when it came out that I’d made the trip without my then-bf, she was horrified, declaring “I would NEVER leave my man by himself for that long!” I couldn’t tell whether she thought “her man” wouldn’t know what to do without her, or if she assumed he would cheat. Either way, crazy notion to me.

    • Jashshea

      I do not understand this – all of my friends do solo travel whether it’s business or pleasure. My parents didn’t vacation often at all when we were younger and will typically go away together, but they’ll both do guys or girls wknds here and there.

      I LOVE solo vacations – we even went on solo internationals a few years ago! He’s outdoorsy-er than I am (which means he actually likes to be outside) and wanted to do a 3 day hike to Machu Picchu. I wanted to drink wine in Portugal. When people questioned it, I just said – “We’re both going to P-countries, close enough.”

      Alternatively, we’re pretty much all up in each other’s business when we’re at home, so I think we really need the occasional time away.

    • David has gone on a couple of trips with a guy friend that involve 5 sporting events in 3 days. Now, I’m happy to watch a hockey game or two, but god lord, that sounds like a terrible vacation to me. So he and G fly off to some random sports weekend, and I fly off to hang out with my sister or girlfriends somewhere else and we all have great long weekends.

      He is my absolute favourite travel partner, and the only one that I have no ceiling cap on how long we’re happy with for, unlike my sister, where the limit is about 4 days, tops. But just because he is my favourite doesn’t mean he has to be the only [travel partner / confidant / best friend / person to talk to] in my life.

      • Me too:
        “He is my absolute favourite travel partner, and the only one that I have no ceiling cap on how long we’re happy with for…”
        “…But just because he is my favourite doesn’t mean he has to be the only [travel partner / confidant / best friend / person to talk to] in my life.”

  • “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.”

    “Why Have Kids” is AWESOME. Just read it this weekend. :)

  • Ashlie

    This is a REALLY great post. It made me think of an earlier post I read here about why your spouse should not be expected to also fill the role of best friend. This also gets back to something that was very important to me to do before getting married, which was make sure I have the tools to know who I am separate from my relationships. I feel like figuring out who I am is something that will be lifelong work, but knowing how to define yourself without your relationship attachments is something that’s crucial to learn early on in order to be happy and have successful relationships.

    And, I guess I”ll be reading “Why Have Kids” now!

  • Totally agree with everything you said. I really learned this when I moved to a new city where I new almost no one besides my husband. It was a fun adventure and has brought us closer, but it was tough not having close friends and community around “to agree that Walking Dead is stupid or to gossip with interest about Jessica Biel’s wedding dress.” Truth is, as awesome as I think my husband is, he sucks at gossiping (and he thinks the Walking Dead is “watchable” – what??).

  • Katie

    Oh my god, when I read the line “If my husband is “my rock,” what do I do when my husband’s a total dick?” I burst out laughing! So true and so refreshing, thank you.

  • Teresa

    Reading this post is “oh awesome, I’m so glad I subscribe to this blog” sorta moments. A lot of people don’t get this… I have this streak, that I get from my mom, where if I’m having a really shitty time, i.e. when I had to change groups where I was doing my thesis project and throw away a year of work, I NEED to have someone to talk to that doesn’t just say “it will be okay” or “that sucks” but will elaborate on everything with me. My future husband isn’t always that person. And that’s okay. That’s great! I continually am surprised at how wonderful my girlfriends and other friends are to me, and I wouldn’t be okay without them. There. I said it. I know my future husband wouldn’t feel fulfilled in his need to talk about videogames and technology if he just had me. It’s okay!

  • CAM

    This is exactly what I didn’t know I needed to hear this week. I am getting married in a few months, and somehow getting invested (financially and emotionally) in the wedding planning process has unleashed a whole passel of insecurities and fears that I didn’t know I had (What if this doesn’t work out? What if I screw it up?). Reading this post, I felt something tight easing in my chest: “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. ” I hadn’t even realizing that I was doing this until I read those words. A significant part of my pre-wedding anxiety is stemming from exactly this: what if it doesn’t work out, and what does that say about me and my worth as a human being? What if my husband is not enough (or, conversely, I am not enough for him)? So thanks for saying that its ok to “not be enough,” as it were. As usual, you said exactly what this jittery bride needed to hear :)

  • As a poly person with two spousal-equivalents, this is something that was one of the underlying reasons why poly works for me; not only is the pressure on one person to be your Everything is removed, but the pressure on ME to be someone’s Everything is also obliterated. Because I don’t want to be anybody’s Everything.

    I’m (yet another in the chorus of) introvert, and space/time away from even my partners is incredibly important to my sanity. Luckily, I married 2 extroverts, so I send them off to parties, and I stay home and read in the bathtub. It’s Awesome.)

    • Copper

      It’s kind of funny how many introverts there are here, huh? The subject matter of this post would’ve made me assume that it’d be primarily extroverts that feel the need for lots of people in their lives, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see all the introverts coming out of the woodwork. :)

  • Nora

    yes yes yes! although there are a lot of gems i’ve learned from my mother, this was one of the best: “i love your dad, but he can’t be my whole life”. because to my mother, it is exactly this: relying on one person for everything is just silly. also, just like in everything, people are better at some things than others. And thank goodness for that.

  • natalie

    I have struggled so much with this since being married. Therapy has helped a lot, though, and much of what I have learned to do has helped me be a better person—-not just for my partner, but for myself. My husband works long long days as a lawyer and my depression has been a drain (to say the least) on him the last 4 months of our marriage. Add some financial strain and an insecure wife (me) and you have yourself a pretty unhealthy situation.

    I have always put myself under enormous pressure to cook for him, maintain an impeccable house, and have all the dishes done by dinnertime. I would not allow myself to have a night out with a friend, because I felt like I should ‘be there for my husband when he gets home from work.’ This is the model that my family used growing up and it’s actually eerie how I kind of adopted it without realizing.

    Thing is, Tom encourages me to take time for myself—to spend time alone or out with friends—because he knows I need support and other outlets besides our relationship. I had friends before I was married and we spent time together, so why should that change after marriage? Seriously, I feel like I need even more support now that I’m married….I need my friends to reassure me that we still have a mutual support connection despite my marital status. If you take care of yourself and your outside interests, it keeps things fresh and interesting with your husband/wife…and you MUST maintain your support system, because you need them, and they need YOU.

  • natalie

    Also, one thing I have learned is that your spouse can only provide so much emotional and mental support…sometimes you need a third party (or a professional) to help you sort through your challenges…I have treated my husband like a therapist and have relied on him to fill that role (because, hey, we live together; I see him at least once in a 12 hour period so what could be easier?) But as my depression has worsened, I see that having professional help is the only way to go. I have tried to be more aware of what this does to my marriage in terms of putting him under insurmountable pressure to ‘solve my problems…’ it’s unrealistic and it makes things very one-sided sometimes.

  • Post like this one make getting married less scary. Occasionally I am struck with thoughts of, “Am I sure that he’s THE ONE for me? What if this, what if that…”

    Our wedding is in 36 days and it’s so nice to hear someone else say what I’ve always been thinking. I don’t need (or want) to spend all of my time with my fiance, nor do I want him to accompany me everywhere I go. I get excited when he’ll be out of town for the weekend and I get the house to myself, or when I plan a girls night out. Before we got together I didn’t spend all of my time with just one person or doing just one thing, so why should I now that I’m getting married? I have a lot of interests and he doesn’t share all of them with me. I have a lot of friends and just because he gets along with all of them doesn’t mean that he should always be with me when I hang out with them.

    I am marrying him because I want him to be in my life forever, I want to build a family with him, and I think our life together will be a great adventure. That doesn’t mean he’s the only person who makes me happy or that he’s never going to do things that make me unhappy. He’s just as human as I am and I’m sure as hell not perfect, so why should I expect him to be?

  • Carrie

    Everyone of these I open is fantastic! I hate that everyone assumes that my new husband has to be invited or that I won’t be interested in doing girls night in now that I’m married. I have been with him for 6 years & it was never like this in the past, but I keeping getting the response of, “your married now, we understand things are going to be different.” :(