THE 50/50 FALLACY AND OTHER LESSONS ON MARRIAGE
I was having a conversation with my husband the other day and I realized we’ve been together almost 11 years now, nearly 7 of them married. It still amazes me, considering I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d get married. My own mother told me she didn’t “like such jokes” when I announced my engagement. The woman didn’t think I was serious up until she saw my ring, and probably didn’t believe it was really happening until she saw me in my dress and heard me say “I do”. She said the same thing when I told her I was pregnant. I think I scarred her with my dating history.
Sometimes it still feels a little surreal. Referring to myself as someone’s wife and claiming someone as my husband. It’s crazy to me, because I always thought I’d end up chronically single but casually dating, and that I’d eventually find myself in a very fluid, non-conforming long-term relationship in my 40’s, one without all the restrictions and expectations placed on people when they, get married younger.
But here I am, and I’d love to share a few of the (harder) lessons I’ve learned along the way, based on both personal and friends’ experiences:
- Marriage is not the wedding – Weddings are cool and everything if you’re into them, but they are not the marriage, and the kind of ceremony you have (large or small) will likely have nothing to do with the kind of marriage you have – unless of course it’s a serious source of tension, which will then carry over to your marriage if you don’t check it early. So, stop obsessing over how Instagram-ready your wedding will be. Focus on what comes after. Even better, use whatever resources you have at your disposal to build and set the foundation for your marriage, not feed people and take pictures then go back to counting coins. I counted coins and it was not sexy – and at about 170 people my wedding was relatively small and simple, we just weren’t ready for that kind of expense. I still feel that we should have done something for ourselves with that money.
Side note: one of my girls has a theory: “The larger and more conspicuous the wedding, the bigger the problems that relationship is hiding.” Karibuni sakafuni, you may debate, haha!
- Marriage is not an achievement – I’ve said this before. It’s not the grand prize at the end of the finish line. I know many babes fantasize about it and are bona fide members of the “Lord when” club, but marriage is not a trophy, and the title of “wife” is not something to be dangled in everyone’s faces; to be used to create an “us” versus “them”. It’s the beginning of a lot of work you have no idea about but will soon experience intimately.
- “Wife” is just one thing you are – Your whole identity should not revolve around being someone’s wife. You may be a wife, but you are so many other complex things other than Mrs. So and So. It would actually be a tragedy if you were not.
- People change, people grow, and so should you – the person you started dating and got married to in your 20s is unlikely to be exactly the same person 5, 10 years later. People grow, and what they like or dislike will change; what is important to them and what isn’t will change. They can grow closer to you, further away from you, in parallel to your own growth, faster, slower, in reverse, but they grow. I only hope you can grow together, because the opposite can be frustrating.
- Let the man be the man, or you will have to be your own man in your relationship – the thing about being an independent woman is that you get so used to doing everything for yourself that it can be hard to step back and let the man do stuff for you. This can be a result of upbringing, or as a trauma response to the disappointment of not having people come through for you. But when someone is willing to have your back, let them. Because being in a relationship where you have to rely on yourself for everything is pointless and makes the other person a liability – not a partner. So let him change the bulb, fuel your car, buy you the damn car, pay for your hair, solve your problems, stand up for you and everything in between. Not because you can’t do it yourself, but because it feels good to have someone do nice things for you and take care of you like a man should, as the provider and protector. Being an independent woman is overrated sometimes. Be dependent – but have your own.
- 50/50 is a big, fat lie – Be warned. When I got married, we weren’t earning much and I thought it would be cute to split all the bills 50/50. I was ok with it for a long time, but as the baby came and I got busier at work and still had to put in the mental and emotional labour of running the home, and as my idea of what I wanted in my relationship to look like changed, I became resentful of the whole arrangement because I was footing half the bills but still doing the additional work that kept our home running. I know it’s a touchy topic but here’s my advice: let the man pay the bills. If not all of them, all the larger ones, and then chip in if you want to (or if you must). I am not against married women helping out with the bills but that’s what they should be doing: h.e.l.p.i.n.g. Because you’ll be doing a lot of work that cannot be quantified and which you will not be paid for – hello childcare, husband care and house management! Plus after years of going halfsies, there’s a likelihood that it’ll begin to feel like you’re his boy at the bar splitting the bill after drinks and that does not do anything for your romance if all you really want is to feel taken care of by your man.
- Dynamics change, be prepared for that – Life in general is uncertain, and you can’t be prepared for everything. Loss of income, illness, that fat Black Tax, will all impact the financial decisions in your household, so you need to discuss them and be prepared to fill the gap. And if you find yourself, as the woman, in a better position to support the household, then do it with grace, without emasculating the man. Give him time to get back on his feet (may it not be indefinite though). The male ego is especially fragile when it comes to money – but it’s also not your job to protect that ego; a man should be able to protect that with or without money.
- You can love and respect your spouse without being a pushover – It’s ok to disagree with your person, and to be honest, dissenting opinions make for interesting conversations. This doesn’t mean you should argue for argument’s sake (be smart about it), but neither does it mean you should keep quiet when you have a valid point to avoid disagreeing with your person, respectfully.
- You will fight; fight fair – This is inevitable. If you never, ever disagree or fight over something, from the most mundane things to the bigger issues, then one of you is either pretending or has checked out. Where there is passion there is also sometimes tension – learn to manage it. Do not subject your person to fights in public. Learn to fight with your eyes and those uniquely Kenyan mouth gestures then save the real fight for the privacy of your home – where you must not let the neighbours know your shit.
- Space is important – I think it’s important to spend time away from each other, so you can learn to miss each other. Working from home has made this especially important to me because we’ve been sitting across from each other for almost two years now and I’ve come to appreciate the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. So book that girls’ trip, take a weekend away, get some alone time. It’ll be good for you.
- The spark will die, but you can revive it if you both want it enough – We all want the flame of our love to burn wildly and when you’re newly married you can’t imagine a life with a husband you’re not madly in love with. But you will come down from that newlywed high and when that happens, you’ll have days when you’ll look at your husband and wonder what possessed you to marry him in the first place. Life will get in the way, and you will feel like housemates at some point, but then one day you might look at him and it’ll all make sense and you’ll want to put effort once again – and you should. If he matches your effort, the flame can be rekindled.
- Therapy is good for you, and it’s necessary – And therapy works best if you start doing it before things get really bad, because even your therapist can only do so much.
- Sometimes relationships just don’t work, and that’s ok – There is no shame in your relationship not working. These things can end for any number of reasons so if you do your best and it still runs its course, let it. Then should you choose to go into another relationship, take all these lessons and all the others you’ve learned and make your next relationship work for you. Unhappiness will not be your portion.
And all happy, whole, successful women (and men), married or not, say AMEN!
Did you like this post? Got any lessons you’d like to share? Then why don’t you hop on over to the comment section and share your thoughts and lessons. Lastly, subscribe to receive updates on the latest content every (other) week – and don’t be afraid to share this post. Sharing is sexy 😉
The Cultured Cow