We’ve been married for more than a year and a half, and I still get this question often:
“So how’s married life?!”
Most people expect a pat answer like, “It’s wonderful!” Or something more in line with all the Pinterest-y photos that illustrate the highlight reels of most newlyweds on social media: “We’re six months into forever and I’m falling more in love with my hubs every day!”
I like to answer with complete honesty:
“Well, it’s tough. We’re moved into our new house and we LOVE it, but we’re getting tired of unpacking and organizing. Actually, I have no problem tackling boxes every night, but my husband is tired of it. He’d rather veg in front of Netflix, so I’ve had to start badgering him to help me clean up. He wants me to relax and spend time with him, and I get it. I don’t want to be completely Martha, but this household isn’t going to run itself. I want to get the house the way we want it, you know? Usually we end up arguing about it, and one of us stomps off in anger. But at least we stay in the house, rather than hop in the car and drive away for an hour to blow off steam like we used to. I’m so tired of arguing over everything. How much time I spend with my friends. How he falls asleep on the couch half the time instead of snuggling in bed with me. How I can’t deal with his family any more. Marriage is tough.”
Then, if the questioner is married as well and hasn’t backed away in fear, I ask:
“Was your marriage this hard at first?”
So far, no one’s been able to give me a definite answer, though they are empathetic. One friend told me it was five years before she and her husband seemed on the same wavelength. Another dear friend said she and her husband still have little tiffs, and they’ve been married almost 20 years. People and their desires evolve over time, and keeping up with your spouse’s changing desires can be a lot like trying to firmly stand on shifting ground.
What has been most difficult – the thing that marriage has flipped over, spun vigorously, and spit back at me in unrecognizable form – is managing my time. An old friend lamented during a catch-up phone call last weekend, “Being single is fine during the week, but lonely on weekends. I want to be married to love someone fully but also to have companionship.”
Here’s what the weekend of a single girl looks like:
Sleep in a little. Wake up, walk to the farmer’s market and spend time leisurely browsing local and expensive food and other items you don’t need but have plenty of disposable income on which to burn. Decide against a 4-ounce bottle of local wildflower gluten-free vegan kosher honey, but buy a lavender sachet from the local (well, it’s within the state) farm where free-range dancing goats fertilize the flowers because it smells pretty. Take the dog for a long run and stop at that cool hipster coffee shop you’ve been meaning to try along your route because it smells really good, you love the interior shiplap and want to soak that in; plus, you and Fido could use a break. People-watch for half an hour because, man candy spotting. Finish your run, return home to your apartment where nothing moves unless you move it, and it’s always as clean as you want it to be. Turn on Netflix while you nibble a PB&J and some leftover mac n’ cheese. That homemade mac n’ cheese is still there because no one else is home to steal it. Read a chapter of your latest library book. Have plenty of time to get ready for dinner out with girlfriends. After dinner, stay out until 1 a.m.for drinks at the beachside pool area of that chic hotel where everyone’s going these days. Fall into bed, content to sleep in tomorrow and have another leisurely day to yourself.
Now here’s what my married weekend looks like:
Husband has been waking up at 5 a.m. for work lately, so he’s up by 6. He goes downstairs and entertains himself for a little bit, but within 15 minutes I smell smoke from the bacon he’s burnt on the stove, so I’m up too, thinking I need to call 911. Husband has cooked me bacon, too, so we enjoy coffee and bacon in our PJs while scrolling through our phones. I spot a pic of my single friend at the farmer’s market and remember that I want to visit it, too, but Husband and I really need to unpack some more and sweep the floors – the dust bunnies are beginning to hop between rooms. I don’t have any disposable income anyway, because I’m broke from moving for the third time in 18 months. We spend the morning cleaning house, then we remember that we need to sort out all our new bills — utilities, insurance, mortgage payments, moving expenses.
When we’re done, I’d really like a nap but I end up just laying on the couch for an hour while Husband shows me all these “funny” videos he’s been scrolling through in between chores. I just HAVE to see another Army unit blow up some object at a demo range; the diameter of that explosion is EPIC! Next, we change our clothes so Husband can continue teaching me how to ride a motorcycle. I spend an hour in a parking lot practicing the clutch and brake, and the accelerator. I choose to lay down his bike instead of crashing into the Kohl’s storefront, and end up with a gnarly scraped elbow and a puncture wound on my shin. We go home, disinfect, and bandage. I go for a walk instead of a run with the dogs because my shin is too tender to run. I guess I’ll start training for that 10K next weekend. I can’t stop at that cute coffee house that smells so good because it’s already 4 p.m. and Husband wants to go to dinner and a movie. (I’ve already told my girlfriends that I can’t join them for dinner tonight; it’s Saturday night and I really shouldn’t abandon my husband.)
I go home, shower, skip drying my hair because now it’s 5:30 and the movie starts at 6. It’s a good movie, but when it’s over around 8:30 we decide to just go home to eat because we’d rather spend our money on home improvement stuff. I don’t feel like cooking, and the mac n’ cheese I made yesterday is already gone because Husband ate the leftovers for pre-breakfast while
scorching frying the bacon this morning. Husband doesn’t cook anything more complicated than ramen, so that’s what we eat while watching another episode of House of Cards. Husband falls asleep on the couch. I go upstairs to bed soon after, wanting to read a chapter of my book but my elbow is throbbing and I’m tired, so I nod off instead. That library book is due tomorrow; I guess I’ll put another hold on it and hope I can check it out again soon. Husband comes upstairs around 1 a.m. and snuggles me until he’s up at 6 a.m. again.
So, how’s married life?
It’s tough, not only because you’re trying to get along with another person all the time, but you’re trying not to completely lose who you were and what you enjoyed doing in life when you were single. I want to take an interest in his hobbies, and I want to spend Saturday night with him, but that comes at a cost to my personal time and interests.
It’s tough because we bring different daily priorities and schedules to this marriage. He needs to wake up early for work; I need to respect his schedule. I’m type-A and want all work done right away, but it’s also important to spend time focused on us and enjoying just being together.
“But is there also joy, unexpected joy, like everyone says there is within marriage?” my friend asks.
Yes. There is plenty of joy. When Husband brings me bacon in bed, I put the singed smell of our kitchen out of mind. When the 50th iFunny video he shows is actually, really funny, we giggle together — then bust out a line from the video four hours later and giggle again. When he helps me up the stairs and tenderly administers first aid to my bleeding, busted elbow, I smile and vow that I will get back on that motorcycle for him. When he calls me at work to tell me he’s already taken care of the evening’s chores so we can relax tonight, I thank him, and we do whatever he wants. When I kiss his face while he snoozes on the couch instead of poking him to wake up and come to bed — I know he’ll come upstairs soon.
I probably could respond with a short “It’s great” when people ask how married life is. I could refrain from going into too much detail, especially those uncomfortable details that remind the listener that newlywed life can be a huge, and sometimes painful, adjustment. Sometimes I do answer “It’s nice;” co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers being polite don’t need to know these details. But with friends, family, and especially with other newlyweds, I want to be honest. I want those I trust to know what issues I’m navigating so I can lean on their experience, and I want other married friends to know they can be honest with me, and lean on me.
So how’s married life?
It’s tough. But we’re 20 months into forever, and we’re getting better at marriage every day.