Big Wedding, Small Budget

Marriage Rules

on February 14, 2013

One thing that’s been interesting during this engagement period is how much more aware I’ve become about the cultural conversation around marriage. I’m sure you’ve all heard the comments and stories, too. Once you’re married, it seems, wives become impossible-to-please nags, husbands become dumb, clueless jerks, and no one has sex anymore. According to, well, the world in general, the minute the ring is on my finger no one can be happy anymore. A baby immediately follows and we slip into the proscribed gender roles immediately. Then that’s it. It’s just us forever, with him bemoaning the lack of opportunity to be with everyone else and with me bemoaning the lack of attention from my husband.

Ew. Just, ew. If this is what we really thought marriage is, we certainly wouldn’t be signing up. The thing is we (and everyone else) can make our marriage whatever we want. We could have a marriage exactly like the one I described above. We could stop hanging out with all of our friends and only hang out with each other. We could only travel together. We could stop using the singular and only say, “we” or “us.”

That kind of marriage might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for us. I assume we’ll have a marriage where we remain fairly independent, as we’re both happier that way. We definitely will continue to travel alone; we both enjoy the treat of having the house all to ourselves sometimes. We’ll remain on totally different work and sleep schedules; it’s a necessity for our jobs and we also both like the measure of independence it gives us.

Our marriage can look any way we want it to. Internally, we can structure it with whatever rules and norms we choose. And I think the cultural conversation can be very damaging, especially to those of us who want to have a less traditional kind of marriage. It only makes room for one thing. And setting those kinds of expectations stops couples from working to create the best marriage for them. It’s not easy to question and evaluate the worth of established cultural norms. But it’s almost always worth it.

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