I was sitting on the couch last night trying to plow through some work emails (work emails are my Sisyphean task) when my husband set up the ironing board and began to very carefully iron our daughter’s latest Perler bead creations. At one point something happened and some of the beads spilled out (because the preferred state of the Perler bead is “recently spilled”) and, after some mild swearing, he began to painstakingly reassemble her design.
I watched him and couldn’t help but think about how funny marriage can be.
When I was in college, I wrote a list of about 50 things that I wanted my future husband to have or be. Because I was 18 years old and had never been in a serious relationship, my list was both utterly shallow (he must be over 6 feet tall! He should have broad shoulders!) and completely naive (he’ll never have loved someone before me! He’ll love all the exact same books that I do!). I tucked the list into my Bible and prayed nightly for my future husband. Yes, I went to a Christian college. This is what we did instead of drinking and fornicating.
Before I was married, I was pretty certain that the key to marital happiness was having lots of things in common and your husband being taller than you. Even when I met my not-exactly-six-foot tall future husband and realized that I was in love with someone who was not what my list had in mind, I still didn’t know enough to ask myself questions about the things that actually make my marriage work:
- Will this man be the kind of father who takes care of the things that are precious to the kids? Not that Perler beads won’t make him swear and groan in frustration when they inevitably spill all over the floor, but when the kids create something that feels beautiful to them, will he see their delight and help them make their thing, whatever their thing is?
- Will this person honestly and sincerely still be attracted to me when my body at 38 looks very different than my body at 28?
- Will I almost never have to do laundry if I marry this person?
- Will this person say “No problem, take as much time as you need” when I call him, again, to tell him that I’m going to be home late for work? More importantly, will this man be fundamentally okay with being the primary parent most of the time? With my job being the driving force behind many of the decisions we make, like where to live and how to handle childcare for the kids?
- Will we both be okay that the list of overlapping TV shows, movies, music, and books that we both love — or even like — is fairly short?
I’ve been thinking a lot about lately about how who I married has changed my life. On Friday, I’m supposed to be giving a talk to a bunch of grad students about my career success* and I find that when I think about my path, who I married feels as important to me as the graduate degrees I’ve picked up along the way. I currently have a slide in my presentation that reflects that “choose your partner well” is one of my top three pieces of career advice and part of me wonders if that is weird advice to give in 2017 (does it sound a little Mad Men-ish?). But a bigger part of me feels like this is advice that I’m really including for the female students in the room and that there is value in saying out loud what so many of us know to be true: if you want a big job, choose a partner who is comfortable being the caboose so you can be the engine.
I can’t remember when or if my husband and I talked before we were married about this or if I just
got lucky made a good choice. I 100% never had anyone else tell me that I should ask my future husband if he wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. At 18 or even 24, I don’t know if I knew myself well enough to know that this would end up being a really important question to me. But maybe my job is to be the person who tells the next generation of women in my field to ask that question…
*It feels weird to write “my career success” because a lifetime of absorbing the good girl lessons of “be quiet, be humble, don’t brag” makes saying that feel weird. But I’m good at my job and I’m working on being more comfortable acknowledging that.
In case you missed it, the swimsuit article is here .
Nine suits of varying styles and not a single boring one in the bunch!