Love + Sex, Love

Why does society feed us these lies about a perfect marriage?

By the time I was twenty-three years old, I had absolutely no idea who I was and my life had completely fallen apart.

From the age of fourteen to twenty-three, I was single for a total of six months. In all of my relationships, I melded my life with my partner’s. I became obsessed with their interests, whether I liked them or not. I transformed my personality to fit their expectations. I became my partner’s perfect girlfriend.

With a few exceptions, most of the people I called friends were friends of my significant others who politely tolerated me.

By the time I was twenty-three years old, I had absolutely no idea who I was and my life had completely fallen apart.

[bctt tweet=”From the age of fourteen to twenty-three I was single for a total of six months.” username=”wearethetempest”]

While I began to pick up the shambles of my world, a trusted mentor suggested that I be single for a while. I stayed single and celibate for an entire year, and it was the most valuable self-revelatory gift I have ever given myself. When I didn’t feel the need to conform to anyone else’s expectations I began to find out who I was, or more accurately who I was not.

At the end of the year, I nervously re-entered the dating game.

I created an online dating profile and started chatting with a few people. I was wary of being in a relationship again. I didn’t want to lose my new found self in the high of a new fling. I didn’t want to move too fast and meld my life with someone else. Unfortunately, my previous relationship experience gave me no clues to maintaining my autonomy in a relationship. I was so scared of losing myself in the new relationship that I ended setting up ridiculous boundaries.

[bctt tweet=” I didn’t want to lose my new found self in the high of a new fling.” username=”wearethetempest”]

On our first few dates, I said things like, “I love competing in martial arts and martial arts will always come before you,” and “I can’t have you just calling me and wanting to know where I am all the time”. I refused to take on the label of “girlfriend.” I refused to spend the night. I refused to leave clothes or toiletries at his house. I made it clear that my life was my life and sometimes, but not always, he was allowed to play a role. In other words, I was a totally selfish asshole.

After this was pointed out to me, I promptly apologized and became his girlfriend for real, with a drawer in his dresser and everything.

Though I went about enforcing my autonomy in absolutely the wrong way, the fact that I had enforced my autonomy from the beginning became very important to our relationship. Though we always invited each other to participate in hobbies and interests, neither of us felt forced to participate if we didn’t want to.

[bctt tweet=”His utter lack of jealousy amazed me. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

He’s not a very social person and I am.

He has a few very close friends and they don’t hang out all that often. I have a much larger group of friends and we like to see each other frequently. He never complained about how often I was out with friends. I invited him to join us and tried not to complain that he rarely did. When he felt up to it, he did join us, and I appreciated his presence. I never felt like he was trying to co-opt my friendships. He was happy to be with us when he was and he was happy to be home alone.

His utter lack of jealousy amazed me. I would go out to the club with friends and get hit on constantly and he never cared. He never felt the need to come out with us to protect me or watch me to make sure I wasn’t misbehaving. He trusted me implicitly. I had never deserved that much trust in previous relationships, but this time I had earned it and he respected that by giving me all his trust.

Of course, we spent a lot of time together and had things in common. Most people have a song that’s “their song.” We have an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Tapestry” Season 6 Episode 15. We played board games together and learned that Scrabble could nearly ruin good relationships. We spent hours binge watching Game of Thrones to catch up before the third season aired. We share a love of traveling and took frequent trips to Montreal. We talked for hours about politics, science fiction, modern relationships, and every other conceivable topic.

[bctt tweet=”Most people have a song that’s ‘their song.’ We have an episode of Star Trek.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We found out what we liked together as a couple and individually as people and we were able to negotiate the boundaries of doing things together and doing things apart. He let me live my life and I let him live his. When we were together we loved being together, but when we were apart we were just fine too.

On September 19th, 2015, we stood in front of our family and friends and pledged to meld our lives until death do us part, but we also pledged to allow each other to continue to live and grow as individuals. Our marriage isn’t about being a unit, it’s about being two separate people who share their individual lives.

[bctt tweet=”Our marriage works precisely because we have our own, separate lives.” username=”wearethetempest”]

One of the lies that we’re fed about marriage is that the person you marry will be your everything. Your partner is expected to serve the role an entire community used to play. That’s not how my marriage works and that’s not how I ever want my marriage to work.

Our marriage works precisely because we have maintained our own, separate lives. It takes a lot of trust, communication, and really hard work.

Sometimes it doesn’t work as well as we want it to, like when I forget to tell him where I’m going to be and don’t call and he freaks out. Or when he gets dinner for himself totally forgetting that I want dinner too. Or when we have conflicting ideas of what constitutes enough quality time together.

That’s where the work comes in, and I’m willing to do that work so I can be myself rather than just someone’s wife.

And I’m willing to do it so he can be his own person, not just someone’s husband.