March 23, 2014

Marriage: a compromise, or a gift?

When we marry, do we lose ourselves, or do we gain a companion?

I recently read an article in a back issue of Real Simple magazine that instantly ruffled my feathers. The first line of the article, written by Cathi Hanauer, reads, "One of my biggest fears about getting married was that, by becoming a wife, I would gradually lose my toughness and independence."

When my feathers are ruffled by something I read, I either slam it closed or read on. This time I read on.

Hanauer, as it turns out, is quite a lot like myself. She is "five feet one in thick socks," able to "smack a football or outrun a boy," and lacks "a certain fear gene." In her 20s, she "lived alone, ate alone, traveled solo, and happily took care of herself." While I never really lived alone, I loved (and still do) eating alone, and when I was just 19 I flew to Australia by myself to backpack in the bush.

The author went on to say that after almost 20 years of marriage, the strong and independent person that she used to be has turned into what she always feared - a waffle-making bandaid applier who relies on her husband to fill the cars with gas.

At this point in the article I was ready to retort, "But Mrs. Hanauer, you aren't less of a person because you no longer change light bulbs! You are freed up to do other things, and do them well. You and your husband are a team, you know. If you both did all the same things independently of one another, you'd waste the opportunity marriage affords for people to be twice as productive in one lifetime."

But I needn't have worried, for it turns out that Mrs. Hanauer does know, and she says so. Her article concludes with the thought, "being part of a team doesn't mean I'm lazy or can't do something myself. It just means that, right now, I'm lucky enough not to have to."

I agree.

To illustrate this point, I'll make myself vulnerable by posting something I've never posted online before. My muscles.
I've had these since I was a kid, beating the boys in arm-wrestling on the playground and popping my chin over the pull-up bar much to my brothers' dismay. I do absolutely nothing to keep these around. I show them now to prove that being married doesn't mean I need to be led by the arm, but rather, I get to be. There's a difference.