I met my husband in college. I was dating his roommate, who was my type of guy, I thought—small, fine boned, dark haired, skinny, serious. My husband-to-be was an enormous 6'5, 365lb, blond football playing man’s man, loud, rowdy—not my type at all! He had a motorbike. I was into sensitive, artistic kind of guys, who would be able to appreciate my quiet and rather shy nature. (No one would ever call me a ball of fire.) But he was a great friend, full of integrity and kindness, hardworking, funny. Later the “sensitive” roommate dumped me—for a feisty red haired older woman!—and who was right there with the comfort? And soon I noticed how nice those blue, blue eyes were, and those shoulders, and it was revealed that he was crazy about me, and it then it was all romance and delightful sex. My family loved him; we got married.
That seems like a very long time ago!
Our marriage was very traditional. We were involved in a Bible literalist church that taught that the husband should be head of the household, wife should be subject. That was pretty much what we saw in our parent’s marriages. We never thought to question it, we embraced it, and we thrived. By nature I was submissive, always had been. I have more gumption now, but inside I still feel like that shy girl with the desire to please and make people happy, a desire to give of myself. By nature, hubby was a natural leader. He was president of all kinds of clubs, and even now, he’s like that. We just happened to fall into a marriage philosophy that suited our natures, and I am thankful for that.
We have gone through lots of upheavals in life, where my husband would steer the boat through the calmest waters he could find, and I would paddle along for all I was worth.
Hubby was in a near fatal motorcycle accident, he has had long term serious back problems from this. He was in the hospital a month; the financial repercussions lasted for years. It also caused fertility issues, because he was on a catheter for so long he was scarred and had constant infections for a long time. Honeymoon over. Then his father died, quite unexpectedly, and his mother fell apart. We dealt with it. I got pregnant, finally, then bam! I got pregnant again, with twins. Three daughters under two years of age, more bills, ugly nursing bras, piles of diapers, joy and exhaustion.
I suspect that if he had tried to punish me for being grumpy or having a messy house during those years I would have blithely strangled him with a dirty cloth diaper, submissive nature or not. But we were a team, wrangling babies and bill collectors. My behavior was never the issue—I was not “bad” or reckless, or disrespectful, or undisciplined. Neither was he! We were each other's soft place in a hard world. We were often exhausted. One minute we would be snapping at each other, the next we would be giving each other back rubs. Life hadn’t really turned out to be quite what we had envisioned, but whose does?
A few years later we adopted the son of a teenaged relative, a delicate, needy infant. Our church was in a state of change, we were counseled not to take this imperfect child... That was the tip of an ugly iceberg for us. We took the baby; he had many developmental delays. He is now a bright healthy 14 year old, obsessed with motor vehicles (and far less moody than our daughters were at that age!) Hubby made the final decision on the adoption, and for awhile I was not sure if we would get that baby or not: he thought about it for days.
And bam! Another beautiful daughter, a surprise. During that time we left the church, which had changed into a legalistic group. Another big decision that hubby made, but I certainly voiced my concerns and unhappiness. We moved to a small town, another head of the household decision. Then all our parents got sick and died of one thing or another. More upheaval. Also inheritances. Many big decisions were made, and I wouldn’t really know which direction he would decide to lead us in, even though we would talk and talk about things, weighing them. I knew he thought long and hard about things. Sometimes a decision would be like walking into the mist....
Over the years then, he has made many decisions that directly affect my life (and work load), but since he is willing to paddle just as hard or even harder, I have never felt resentful or used. It is us against the world, in many instances. Or us paddling a canoe full of whining kids, into some fog.
Consequences, yes we’ve had those, but usually if one of us screws something up, we both end up paying, because our lives are so meshed together. It is hard to see your spouse paying for your foolish decision or thoughtless act, and we’ve both been there, but not often. He is the stricter parent, and this is an area of constant discussion. I do understand teenaged girls a little more than he does. I get to make all decorating decisions, because if it is brown, he likes it. I also set the standards for the tidiness of the house because he still has issues with the laundry hamper. I don’t nag, I know what my hair salon bill looks like, after all, and he puts up with that. Give and take.
If he was uncaring, or selfish, or ignored my needs, would this work? I don’t see how, because of the trust involved. If I were negligent or selfish, it also wouldn’t work. The current is just too fast; you need two strong oars rowing together to avoid the rocks. I don’t really see how any marriage can work if one partner is really troubled or selfish, if one does all the giving, another all the taking.
Would I have that sense of togetherness, we’re in this mess together, honey, if I saw myself as a problem to him, or he saw me that way, a problem in need of correction? I don’t think so. In fact, I think I’d be pretty devastated if he thought I was a problem in our marriage and needed to be punished—that seems so drastic to me. I was his dream girl, later the wife whom he loves, respects, trusts, relies on, and I see myself that way. It would be hard to change my thinking to see myself as a problem to him. That seems so foreign to me. I’m happy with my role, my part of the We Team, and our problems are not so much between the two of us, but what we face together.