What does a wife look like?

Sometimes when people find out that I’m married, they say things like “You don’t seem like you’d be married” or “I never would have guessed you have a husband”. I laugh it off but can’t help but wonder- what do they think a wife is supposed to look like? I assume a great deal of it has to with my age. If I’m not in my lawyer suit, I get mistaken for someone up to 10 years younger (thanks for the great genes, Mom!). Anyways, it got me thinking about people’s opinions on marriage in general. I believe that marriage isn’t for everyone. But at the same time, marriage gets a bad rap. In 2015, people still seem to think that marriage has to look like June and Ward Cleaver. Why?

I’ve been married two years, and I’m still the same person. Have my priorities changed? Of course. Tex is my husband, and spending time with him is non-negotiable for me. But that does’t mean I gave up everything that didn’t revolve around him. Because we met in college and most of our circle consists of friends who know us both, we usually socialize as a couple. But that doesn’t mean I spend the whole night cuddling him in the corner (although I’m not ashamed to grab a hug and a quick smooch when I feel like it). When he wants to hang at the bar with his homeboys, I’m cool with it. I take advantage of having the apartment to myself and watch the reality shows he hates, give myself a pedicure, or just enjoy the silence and a good book. Unfortunately I don’t have any girlfriends who live less than an hour away from me, but I still keep in touch. Tex is my rock but he can’t be my entire life.

We just do what works for us. A woman in my building was scandalized by the fact that I don’t always wear my wedding band. Neither does Tex. It’s not a diss- I love my rings. But I’ve never been much into jewelry and I work in a really small office where everyone knows I’m married. If I have to fend off a random guy at the grocery store from time to time, so be it. WE know we’re married and a piece of metal doesn’t affect our commitment level. I knew he was the one years before he put a ring on it; that just made it official to the rest of the world. We do our own thing. He does most of the house cleaning; I do the cooking and manage the finances. lt works and if it stops working, we’ll figure it out.

Marriage isn’t a death sentence. I enjoy being a wife as much as I enjoy being a sister, a friend, an attorney. It’s another part of my life. And it can look like whatever I want it to.

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What women want

With some women you almost have to be a mind reader!

With some women you almost have to be a mind reader!

The other night we went out for Mexican food and margaritas, and then had a little kickback. Of course, when you have a bunch of young men and women who are slightly tipsy and talking after midnight, the conversation turned to sex and dating. Nothing too racy but still my mind was blown. I’m a bit of a. . . traditionalist*, so there was a lot of pearl-clutching on my end. What was really interesting to me was the differing attitudes toward communication. There was an interesting resistance on the part of the ladies (other than me) to straightforwardly asking for what you want, in or out of the bedroom. “I don’t like directing,” said one. “I like to do things that make the guy think this is what he wanted to do, and it was his idea,” said the other. Really though? As Tex pointed it out, it’s not an ineffective or totally unreasonable way to go about living your life. It does get results. But it just seems so silly and stupid to me! How is it work to ask for you want? I do that as naturally as breathing. Maybe it’s just because I’m a youngest child, but I took all those cliche’s about closed mouths and squeaky wheels to heart. Once I heard Matthew 7:7 it was a done deal. I was going to ask, seek and knock like it was my business!

Basically, I’m simple. I’m not very good at dissembling, plus I’m impatient so candor is just more efficient! And to me, it just comes off as condescending, bordering on disrespectful, to try to direct someone’s actions without them realizing it. Nothing is more attractive to me than a man who knows his own mind. My goal was always to find a man who wanted the same things I did, so that eventually I wouldn’t need to always ask him for things. It would start to happen naturally through our reciprocal affection and desire to please one another. To put it metaphorically, I’m an open book. I practically come with an instruction manual! If you don’t bother to read it, it wasn’t meant to be. But I certainly don’t expect you to be able to read it in braille, or write it without being able to ask me any questions.

I don’t want to come off as a smug wife who thinks she knows what’s best for the poor single ladies by virtue of the ring on her finger. However, I’ve always had a strong sense that no matter what your other preferences, open and honest communications are a necessary piece of a successful relationship. And again, isn’t it just easier? Maybe I’m being naive, I haven’t dated actively for 5 years so who knows. What do you think?

*Some would call me a prude, but I disagree. I have a healthy relationship with my own sexuality, I just don’t particularly care to see or hear about anyone else’s :-/

Divorce is for rich people

[Now would be a good time to remind you all that I AM NOT A LAWYER AND THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. This is purely my own opinion and should not be relied upon in any legal situation!]

What is the value of a marriage? Should we take into account:

-The intangible cost of sacrificing the complete autonomy of singlehood, and

-Increase/decrease in earning potential as incurred by a working/nonworking spouse

-Money saved through tax breaks & sharing of the household bills

Whenever a celebrity couple splits, people get up in arms over how much money the man has to pay in child support and alimony. “Baby clothes don’t cost $10,000 a month.” “She shouldn’t be able to live off that man the rest of her life.” Etc, etc. It’s really annoying to me because I don’t think that child support and most alimony are usually unreasonable.

As far as child support, I take a hard line stance for sure. Women don’t make babies alone and if a man is able bodied, why shouldn’t he be compelled to support the people he helped bring into the world? I don’t care how bitter the divorce was, or how much you hate your ex, NOTHING should get in the way of providing for your child. Not your dislike for ex, or your remarriage, or anything else. (Oh, and by the way- paying your child support is not a substitute for spending time with your children!) Where alimony is concerned, it’s just “cheaper to keep her.” Think about the type of lifestyle you want to have and choose your mate accordingly! Penelope Trunk wrote brilliantly about how to pick a wife and how to pick a husband if you want to have kids. It’s very practical and debunks our cultural narrative that marriage is solely about love. If you want to have a full-time stay at home spouse, be prepared to shell out alimony in the event of a divorce because the court recognizes that staying out of the job market is an economic sacrifice that negatively impacts your future earning potential. When you marry someone (educated or not) and allow them to be a homemaker, you are taking on the responsibility for their standard of living. They keep the house and kids orderly, you bring home the money that pays the bills. That is the implied contractual agreement. Alimony, in a sense, is paying back the benefit you’ve received during their marriage from the other person’s sacrifice.

Divorce can be devastating not just emotionally, but financially. During my externship in the fall, I sat in on divorce court and it really drove home to me how expensive divorce is. Attorneys cost a grip but in this economy, a lot of people are just barely able to make it because of the savings, benefits and economies of scale that living together as a married couple provides. After a divorce, both parties end up living on less than half of what they were living off of together, and if you didn’t have a huge income to begin with that’s a serious problem. Regular folks have more to lose than celebrities, and I think more people should talk about  prenups. Notice I said “talk about” instead of “get”. That’s because the real root of the issue is that not enough people talk about money before they get married, despite it being one of the top causes for divorce. Discussing your credit score, how many kids you want to have, and how you might handle relocating for your career isn’t cute or fun or sexy, but it’s necessary. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Let's hear it for the boys

Last night at the DNC, Michelle Obama gave a fantastic, inspiring speech. She paid tribute to her own father as well as Barack. Today the blogs and media were all abuzz about it. I read a couple of articles that said the difference between Michelle’s and Ann Romney’s speeches was that Michelle talked about raising children as if it were family work, and not women’s work. Huh.

It seems to me that a father’s contributions to family life are somewhat undervalued. I believe that two parents are better than one. This isn’t a criticism of single parents–divorce is an unfortunate reality. But it’s like people don’t want to acknowledge that having only one parent can be a disadvantage. Notice the use of the word “can”–I don’t presume that every child and every family are the same. Where there is violence, molestation or abuse, there’s no question the child is better off not having that parent around. But it’s hard for people who have never seen a nuclear family, or an equitable relationship modeled to create the same in their own lives.

My dad and I don’t always get along, but I have learned a lot from him and I know that if I need something he will be there for me. I could live life unafraid of being unloved or never meeting someone who would protect and cherish me. And if I hadn’t had that, I might have settled for less than what I deserve. I used to get told a lot that Tex spoiled me rotten, or that I expected too much from my romantic partners. I figure, why not set the bar high and see who can reach it? I am always saddened by women who settle for shiftless men (and vice versa, to be quite honest). If the person in your life doesn’t want to go above and beyond for you, then what’s the point?

Alpha vs. Beta: Here's one for the nice guys

Beta males are unfairly maligned in today’s society. They’ve gotten a  rep for being spineless doormats who can’t escape from the friend box long enough to get laid, much less get a girlfriend. However, our understanding of social rank in the animal kingdom is a little off. We all know that alpha males are the top dog, thanks to The Lion King. But, here’s the true order of things:

A beta animal is an animal that will act as a new alpha animal if the old alpha dies. In some species of birds, the males pair up in twos when courting, the beta male aiding the alpha male. The beta male does not generally get to mate with the female birds, but if the alpha dies, he takes over the alpha’s females, becoming the new alpha.

Omega (usually rendered ω-male) is an antonym used to refer to the lowest caste of the hierarchical society. An omega is subordinated to all others in the community. The omega is commonly the last allowed to eat.”– Alpha (ethology), from Wikipedia

Beta males have borne the unfair brunt of our derision all this time when it’s really the Omega males that you want to stay away from. The fact is, Beta males are the ideal mates. Alpha males come with problems. Men want to be him, so they constantly challenge his primacy. Women want to be with him, so his mate is always fighting off encroachments. And let’s face it, their egos are a force to be reckoned with. But Beta males have a dose desirability and competence without all the drama. They aren’t doing stupid stuff to prove their masculinity, the groupie levels are much reduced, and they probably won’t mind helping you with the housework.

Unfortunately, biological directives drive much of our relationship decision making. During the childbearing years, women are irresistibly attracted men who have the hallmarks of success in the animal kingdom—height/size, strength, aggression, and ability to provide. Men who don’t display these traits to the fullest extent are passed over for the ones who do. When fertility starts to drop and women’s hormones calm down enough for them to realize that logically, the guy who can get you knocked up the fastest may not be the best long term father and life partner, Beta males start to look much more attractive. It’s a rare woman who realizes early on that Alpha males can be more trouble than they’re worth.

Nobody says this, but…

Good relationships are a lot of work.

Not the kind of work that leaves you cranky and drained, but work nonetheless. I was shooting the breeze with my mom today and reflecting on the fact that things change when you get engaged. You look at relationships differently and people look at you differently. For instance, when it comes to dating woes I just keep my mouth shut because someone will inevitably remark, “That’s easy for you to say cuz you got a man!”

*le sigh*

I’m learning more and more as I get older that when people complain, 99% of the time they don’t want a solution or a new perspective, but validation of their feelings. I don’t do pity parties so I just shut up, which keeps me from being subjected to the same stories over and over. Women tend to act like relationships are just this magical fairy tale romance that clothes your life in glitter and rainbows. And I’ll admit, it is like sometimes. Every once in a while I’ll look at Tex or think about him and feel like my heart could burst with love for him.

Most of the time, things aren’t nearly so dramatic. And since we don’t see each other every day, we have to communicate ALL the time. Some people don’t think an hour’s drive qualifies as long distance, but really it does. There is no sulking until he gets the point because he might not see me for two weeks to get the point. When I get upset, I can be very cordial. I will speak calmly and evenly while seething inside and you wouldn’t know it unless you can see the subtle tensing of my facial expressions and body language. You can’t hug it out over the phone and there is no makeup sex (well I suppose there could be, but no, thank you).

My parents always told me never to be jealous of anyone else because everyone comes with their own gifts and problems in life. Better for you to have the ones that you know how to deal with. I fully admit that I am blessed to have met my future husband so early in life. I’m just as surprised as any of you! It was a whole lot of serendipity that put us in the right place, at the right time to be together. Also true, on the whole I’m pretty good at anything academic. But you know what I would love to be? A creative genius–one of those people who oozes art, poetry, and music, with perfect pitch and virtuoso talent. I would love to have charisma–to be the person who never met a stranger and can’t even imagine what an awkward pause is like, who is never at a loss for words and loved by everybody. I would love to be a sophisticate–the woman with the body and face that turns heads, eclectically elegant style and perfectly coiffed hair who can work magic with a makeup brush.

But I’m not any of those people. I can play decently well on the viola, I’ve written some poems that weren’t cringe inducing, I can socialize without falling over myself in self-consciousness and I’ll probably never be a victim of What Not to Wear. I don’t have everything I wish for, but nobody can have everything. God gives us challenges so that we can better appreciate the blessings. I wouldn’t want any of those things if it meant I had to wait another 10, 20, 20 years to meet Tex or never meet him at all. This is why I hate to be the object of anyone’s envy–the road to seemingly having it all together wasn’t quick or fun. I spent a lot of nights up late writing prayers in my notebook, wondering why I couldn’t just breeze through life like everyone else. But it got me to where I am today so I can’t be mad at it.

If the grass is greener on the other side, you can bet the water bill is through the roof…