Tag Archives: expectations

How’s married life?

I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. “How’s married life?” I’ve gotten it multiple times even today.

Sometimes it’s from a closer friend with genuine excitement for our marriage—typically someone who has watched our relationship grow from the beginning, whether here in California or long-distance. In this case, it’s less about the question, really, and more a continuing celebration of the fact that Jeremiah and I are together. They like us, they like us together, and thus our marriage is generally a fun topic to bring up, especially for our married friends.

Other times, “How’s married life?” is a substitute for “How’s it going?” I usually say “good” or “fine,” as I know they have little interest in details, though this probably makes me appear rather unenthusiastic to some. I often wonder how else they expect someone to respond. What would they actually do with honest answers like “We had a fight last night”? Or “We’re having tons of sex!”? Hence, the question brings me amusement, despite my slight annoyance that my individual well-being seems to have decreased in relevance to the world, at least for a few more months.

Lastly, there are those who are genuinely curious. “How is married life (really)?” This is a mixed group, including everyone from near strangers to bridesmaids, but it is almost exclusively single friends who ask. I like to talk about marriage, so I don’t really mind the question—but it’s not the easiest to answer meaningfully.

From my perspective, early “married life” is going to be quite similar to two things:

First, it is like the engagement period and dating relationship and ordinary friendship that came first. We married each other; we have a history together. Marriage is just a continuation of that past. It doesn’t feel sectioned off in a profound way. We are us, the us we always have been. Married life feels remarkably like the entirety of our relationship, perhaps especially because we tried to make fewer artificial distinctions before our wedding. For example, we started pooling financial resources and making financial decisions together at least three months “early” and established our joint bank accounts about a month or two in advance. While many people wait for months after the wedding to do this—or question whether they want to at all—I would recommend that everyone try to transition into marriage with similar practices.

Secondly, the first few months of married life feel quite similar to having a new roommate—though one you’ve already been friends with for a while. You already know something of each other’s habits. You’ve experienced conflict. You already often cook together, study together, run errands together, etc. When you’re living together full-time there are always new things you must negotiate. How do we do chores? (Er, do we do chores?) What about bedtime routines? Do we need to ask the other person before having someone over? In my experience, learning to live with Jeremiah is remarkably similar to learning to live with my college roommate Kate. There is nothing very interesting to describe, as much of what single people seem to be asking about are things they can already answer simply from living with another person.

With these two items taken care of, there are really only a few questions that seem to lurk below the surface:

“Is it what you expected?”
Yes, actually, it’s almost exactly what I expected. Is that weird?

“Is it what I as a single person expect?”
This obvious depends on the person, so I answer accordingly. While some people do have overly fluffy visions of marriage, on the whole I find that many people are too negative about marriage. Many see marriage as something risky to be put off. Others, trying to inject something positive into a culture of serial relationships, emphasize that marriage is hard—almost to the point that you wonder if marriage is any fun. If your expectation is that marriage sucks the life out of you, then no, it’s not what you expect, or at least it doesn’t need to be.

“Are you happy?”
Yes!

While sometimes I’ve been frustrated to answer the same question so often, the repetition—and especially the additional questions I’m sometimes asked by people in Group 3—has forced me to reflect on marriage in our society. We are certainly in an interesting place, when it comes to how we talk about marriage, how that differs based on context, etc. It leaves me with the sense that even among those with better preparation for marriage itself, few have the knowledge of real-life marriages (and engagements!) that might be a useful point of reference, even for those who never marry.

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My wack wedding

At risk of totally guaranteeing a total guilt trip from myself down the road, I’m inspired today to write about the very weird ways in which I hope to do my wedding (if I do indeed eventually marry in the next 1-152 yr).  What inspired this?  Did I watch Four Weddings and a Funeral?  Was I checking out bridal gown magazines?  Am I just one of those ring-obsessed women?  It actually came to me quite unexpectedly (in the last five minutes), browsing the World Vision web site, of all things.  There was an article about one couple’s honeymoon with the poor of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it took me back to a recent conversation with my roomie Tiffany that essentially amounted to, “I want a weird wedding.”  This is my first time making a lot of this public (and nothing’s set in stone), but prepare to feel inspired… or sorry for me because there probably aren’t a lot of men that will get into this.  (Even more difficult: convincing his mom.)

Let the fun begin!

Idea #1: A Service-Learning Honeymoon
Since the article is what inspired this, If one of us happens to be a social worker or environmental activist, this might not be the best idea.  I definitely want some quality sabbath.  However, hours at the beach, quite frankly, really bore me.  I’d love to go somewhere–anywhere–and really take time to see both touristy and non-touristy places and learn about the history, the culture, the problems, the delights, etc. of that area.  Whether or not we actually “do” something to serve the people there, I’d be sure we go as people and not just consumers.

Alternatively, we could save the money and take some time off from work and stay home–if being married is so exciting the first few weeks anyway, why do you need to add extra fireworks by going to an exotic location?  Let’s save that for when we’re sick of each other and some extra spice.  Or save it for the kids’ college (or an extra degree down the road… or the next time our economy collapses…) or give the money to something worthwhile.  And why have special memories in the Dominican Republic that we could have in the space we live and breath every day?  Who knows.  I’m open.  I don’t think we’re bad people if we decide to go to France, but I’m open to considering non-traditional options.

Idea #2: No engagement ring
I don’t think they’re sexist, per se, but as a feminist, I’m just not into them.  And there are all those conflict diamond issues.  If anyone ever buys me a diamond, it had better be one of those super-certified-conflict-free types.  But I don’t need a diamond ring.  I just don’t.  (And given that I so strongly don’t want one, I would actually probably turn down a man that offered me one, because he obviously doesn’t know me well enough to marry me!)

Idea #3: A Green Reception
I just don’t feel good about having all kinds of paper and plastic being used once and thrown away.  I’m all in favors of green picnics, potlucks, etc., so why should I be hypocritical when it comes to my wedding?  What will this mean?  At its most normal, it would mean we use a caterer that uses all real dishes, glasses, etc.  At its most extreme, it might mean we ask people to bring their own dishes–regular, casual, whatever dishes–and also commit to “sponsoring” out-of-towners that won’t have their own easily accessible.  I actually really like that idea, not only for the environmental reason, but also because it forces people to depend on each other rather than our just doing what’s convenient.  It makes the wedding more of a real community-building event.

Idea #3: Not-so-expensive clothes
As I’ve watched friends be bridesmaids, I’ve wondered, why the heck do we spend so much (and make our friends spend so much) on weddings?  I’m not judging anyone that wants a more traditional wedding, but I just feel there are so many important things in the world that need our money.  So there are several options: cheap stuff (relatively speaking).  Or even more interesting, why does everyone need to match?  Why can’t people wear things they already have?  Why can’t I just wear something from our first date or a special night?  Not only does wearing things you already have save money, resources, etc., but it also means your wedding is connected with you, your memories as a couple, as a community.  And there’s no trouble trying to find bridesmaid dresses that fit everyone’s bodies and budget.

Idea #4: Really yummy food
So everyone wants yummy food–that’s not so countercultural.  But I guess I figure my food choices are a bit less traditional for your average white American…  I would much rather have nammura or mango with sticky rice than traditional wedding cake.  And I’m much rather have lemongrass tofu and chicken curry and quiche and baked brie with figs than whatever most people eat at weddings.  I know I need to consider that Kate Jessups of the world (so maybe we’ll also have bagels with Munster cheese), but at my wedding, I want to have the kind of food that I actually make a habit of eating, the kind of food that feels like home.  Soymilk and coconut-something are both musts.  Yes, soymilk at a wedding.  We’ll have something for everyone, though.  (Though I don’t know that we’ll serve any kind of soda–I think I’m morally opposed.  Unless it’s Mexican soda.  And Diet Coke for Kate so she doesn’t go through withdrawal.)

Idea #5: Gifts to others
If there are things we need, great.  Let’s ask for them.  But there are certain things people just don’t need that they receive at weddings, even things they’ve put on their registry.  The fact is, we were both living before we got married.  Don’t we already have a few towels?  Don’t we have anything for the kitchen?  Maybe we could use a bit of help, but where we already own something, there’s no need to get something new and “better.”  Instead, it’d be nice to essentially have a “registry”-type system for giving to one of a few meaningful causes.  I’d love to use orgs that one of us has a special connection with (ex: InterVarsity) or something that relates to marriage in some vague way (Christians for Biblical Equality, a domestic violence shelter, or perhaps the option of buying someone out of sex slavery through International Justice Mission or World Vision–because as weird and unrelated as it sounds, if you think about it, being able to have sex when you want with the person you want is a blessing not everyone has, even in the U.S., where rape, abuse, and trafficking definitely happen).  I don’t want a wedding that’s all roses, and I’m not really afraid of bringing these things up.

Idea #6: Multiculturalism
This is not to say that various traditions must be integrated in cheesey ways.  I just don’t want it to feel so exclusively white.  Because that would make me sad.  And I shouldn’t be sad on my wedding day, right?  We’ll see what this actually ends up meaning.  If nothing else, music for the reception has got to be pretty eclectic.

I could make up some more if I were trying to be really radical.  I could also live without doing all of these.  The important thing to me is to take nothing for granted.  Again, we have such privilege.  Culture isn’t bad; it’s good.  Our wedding expectations are just a part of culture.  But sometimes opting out of culture is ok, too.  We can create new ways of doing things that do a better job honoring the humanity in ourselves and others.

I also need to have the right wedding pictures to convince my kids that I’m a true liberal.  :-P  Even if they think I’m a just crazy hippie, they gotta respect that, right?

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Filed under Marriage, Random Thoughts, Weddings