When I got married, I unwittingly divorced myself

wedWhen I got married, I unwittingly divorced myself. My husband and I exchanged vows a little over a year ago on Dec. 29, 2012. Long before I was married or even dating anyone, my paradigm of married life included the following: my future husband and I will get to do everything with each other, instead of doing things alone or with assorted friends. This facet of my idea of marriage has substantial truth and benefits, but it also created a very unrealistic set of expectations.

During our engagement period, people would ask us what we were most looking forward to about getting married. Our answers were one in the same: sharing life together! Now that we’ve experienced -at least once- every season as a married couple (including post-football season — an accomplishment in itself), I can cheerfully say that sharing life together is indeed what I enjoy most about marriage! But to say that now that we’re married we do essentially everything together is the paradoxically conflicting truth. Sometimes, we do nothing together because we disagree on what we want to do.

In light of the new year and people talking about resolutions, I began to think about what mine would be. Not necessarily “resolutions” per se, but figuring out what things I personally want to do more often. My answers were very simple like working out more, reading for pleasure, trying out new hobbies or new activities in general. It made me realize that these are things that used to be a part of my regular lifestyle. In the past, as an independent person, it was in my nature and liking to do whatever I pleased. I didn’t have to remember to do these things, and therefore I never found myself missing them. I was puzzled at this discovery. What happened? Why did I stop? After a bit of thought, I realized that after I got married, I stopped doing things independently of my husband. In other words, I only did these things if my husband did them with me. I think it took me so long (a year) to realize this because according to my paradigm about married life, this was normal. It was normal to not do things alone. It was normal to make plans with friends only if my husband could attend. News flash…When two people get married it doesn’t make them interested in doing everything their better half is interested in. And in no way it should! If this was the case, I would have adopted my husband’s enjoyment in watching multiple football games back to back, and he would have adopted my interest in spending hours in the kitchen experimenting with recipes.

Digging deeper:
I’m a complete extrovert. I love being on the go and getting out of the house; it gives me energy. Garrett is an introvert. Yes he enjoys hanging out with friends and going places, but not to the same extent as me. He is partial to quiet evenings at home more than I am. Naturally, this brought about some frustrating moments in our marriage — I want to fill spare time with activities but he wants to just choose a couple and then relax at home.

Here’s an example: The first time we were invited to go line dancing, Garrett opted to go even though he didn’t want to because he knew it would make me happy. But in the end, it wasn’t fun for him which didn’t make it very enjoyable for me either. Anytime we’ve been invited since then, we haven’t gone because it’s a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t situation. Until now, it didn’t occur to me that an option was for me to go without Garrett. I had established a pattern of not doing things if my husband didn’t want to do them with me. Whether it was something more elaborate like going line dancing, or something extremely basic, like reading for pleasure instead of watching TV after work. If Garrett didn’t, I didn’t. Katy Perry said it best in Roar: “I guess that I forgot I had a choice.” This has caused me to harbor some bitterness every time I didn’t do something when Garrett didn’t want to. But the issue wasn’t that my husband didn’t want to, the issue was that I thought I couldn’t/shouldn’t do it without him. I was abiding by my unrealistic paradigm of married life. Of course I want to experience everything with my husband. Of course I prefer to do things together. But to give up pursuing interests I once did independently simply because he doesn’t have the exact same interests, is to foolishly give up a part of me — part of the person who my husband was attracted to in the first place. My intent is not to now go and do whatever I please, whenever I please, regardless of my husband’s preferences. My intent is to find the right balance between life as a married couple and life as married individual, still pursuing interests that are independent of my husband.

I’m sharing this publicly because I hope it will enlighten anyone who might hold a similar ideology of married life as the one I held until now. We should appreciate our significant others different interests, not be upset or discontinue them when they don’t align. Today I woke up early to hit the gym before work; the last few nights I’ve read instead of watching as much TV; I coordinated a Bible study with two of my best girlfriends; and my friend and I recently signed up for a sewing class. As simple and ordinary that these choices are, it has rekindled personal happiness that has made me better instead of bitter.

Remember to choose to be true to yourself, as cliche as it is, even when it means doing things independent of your spouse or significant other. Encourage your spouse to do the same; is there anything he/she misses doing? Still make sacrifices for each other and take interest in each other’s interests. Most importantly, invite your spouse to join you in whatever independent activity you want to do. Maybe eventually it will become a special shared interest. And if not, that’s okay too. :)

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” -Oscar Wilde.

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