You ever take a step back from your life and realize you’re totally slacking in one very important area, your marriage? That’s what happened to me recently.
When it came to hubby, I noticed I was being impatient, critical and inattentive. I had become too engrossed in work, texting, the news, and Facebook. As a result, I’d been neglecting him and our relationship.
Was this normal, or the beginning of an irreparable rift? Would we eventually become so disconnected that he would want to “consciously uncouple,” a phrase made famous this week by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin? Would he soon want a better wife, one who plucked her eyebrows regularly, cooked dinner more than once a month and was more adventurous in the sack?
Feeling slightly panicked, I decided to do an experiment. For a week, I would be at hubby's beck and call. I would prepare his meals, fulfill all of his physical needs and be wholly generous in mind and spirit. I wanted to see if I could put my needs aside to meet all, or at least many, of his.
The next morning, I set to work. Typically, hubby wakes up our kiddo and gets her ready for school, but this time I did. I prepared his breakfast. I asked him if he wanted coffee and about his schedule for the day. I listened attentively to his answers. If he was perplexed about my newfound enthusiasm, he didn’t let on. He seemed pleased. Whew, I thought. This week would be a breeze.
But it quickly got harder, way harder, to be at his beck and call. Though we hadn’t exchanged a word about my experiment, at some point hubby sensed he could completely slack off without a peep from me. In no time at all, I was doing everything: all the household chores, kid-related tasks, plus sex on demand. I did all of it all eagerly, without a trace of resentment.
Honestly, it was among the most challenging four days of my life.
Yep, that’s right. It only took four days until I exploded. It happened late one evening, as hubby was reading in bed and I was swiffering. “Can you come over and close the door?” he asked pleasantly, expecting that I would happily oblige. That was it. I’d had enough.
“Do you have hands that work? Do you have legs that work?” I screamed. “I am not your slave. I was not put on this earth to serve you. I have been cleaning and cooking and having sex and shaving my armpits regularly and I cannot take this anymore. CLOSE THE DAMN DOOR YOURSELF.”
Soon I heard an almost imperceptible creak from the mattress. Seconds later, the bedroom door closed quietly. Uh oh. That’s it. I blew it. We are definitely headed towards Paltrow-Martinville.
For the next hour or so I stewed. Then I felt guilty and even a little bit scared. If I couldn’t be one of those sweet and supportive wives, would he eventually tire of me and want someone new? Could love really last forever? More specifically, could someone really love me forever?
My fears were only heightened after reading Hannah Rosin's article, Why We Cheat,” which was published on Slate a couple of days ago. Rosin interviews Esther Perel, our modern day Dr. Ruth, who posits that deeply transformative, intertwined and monogamous lifelong marriages are no more than a pipe dream. Get too close? Expect one person to seek separation, just for the thrill of it.
"We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become.”
According to Perel, partners who strive for that elusive goal called happiness are leaving themselves open to one person having an affair, or at the very least dull sex. You see why I’m so confused? If I become who I think my husband needs, he'll get bored with me and look for excitement elsewhere. If I don't change he'll stop loving me because I've become a critical, grouchy nag. Basically, I'm screwed either way.
So I've decided to take a new approach, which is to stop living in fear of imminent disaster, stop reading Esther Perel and just enjoy myself. Marriage is a crapshoot. Hubby and I got engaged five months after our first date and married six months later. I didn’t know his birthday or how to spell his middle name. At that point I wasn't sure we'd stay married for a year, let alone a lifetime.
Yet here we are, over a decade later. Ten years of learning, laughing, arguing, and sometimes wanting to run far, far away. But we stick it out because the good we see in each other and our marriage far outweighs the bad. What this experiment has helped me realize is that hubby doesn’t want a perfect wife who will fetch him his slippers. He wants me, with all of my many imperfections.
Eventually he emerged from the bedroom and I told him about the experiment I’d been conducting without his knowledge. Hubby laughed as he realized why I’d been acting so strangely. Since then, he’s back to doing most of the cooking and getting the kid ready for school in the morning. I'm still grouchy, though he tells me he doesn't even notice.
And despite Perel's dire predictions about getting too close, I feel so deeply in love with hubby right now I can hardly keep my hands off of him. Guess that's the thing about experiments – and marriage. Sometimes you never know what you'll discover.
Filed under: In the Loop