My parents have been married for almost 50 years—my brother almost 20. Yet it wasn’t until 2013 that I realized marriage wasn’t 50/50. Why didn’t they tell me that?
I remember dreaming about the day I would get married. In fact, I remember panicking at 30 years old because I was nowhere close to being married. I thought I knew what #relationshipgoals were, but I had no clue what that entailed.
My husband and I were married in our early 30s. We each worked full-time, had established careers, and brought something to the table. He and I attended premarital counseling, where we discussed how many kids we wanted, where we wanted to raise them, and our professional goals. Yes, I remember my vows and meant every word, but something about it just didn’t seem fair. This was supposed to be a partnership; was it unreasonable to always expect an equal division of responsibilities?
When the honeymoon stage was over, we were settled into our routines. Those little things that used to not bother us too much started to get on our nerves. We wanted to start a family, but we had challenges because I was over 30. (If you have ever used an ovulation calendar or fertility app, then you know the stress that planning everything puts on a couple.) Two years later, we welcomed our first child. This is when I began to feel like I had been bamboozled.
I never realized how uneven marriage was until I became a wife and mother. The words from a close friend seemed like a reality, “Once you get married and have a baby, your life is over.” Was it unequal, or was it just my perception? The pressure of being a “superwoman” had been passed down from generation to generation. It felt like I was expected to burn out. Being a wife and mother was a badge of honor, and I shouldn’t complain because this is what I dreamed of, right?
My husband was raised in a household where his mother could stay home while his father worked. I was raised in a household where my parents worked outside the home. We had two different experiences. The gender roles had been established without communication. I was expecting a tag team, and he was expecting me to hold it all down. So, I did. I held it down. And I was tired. And I became resentful.
In a candid interview, former First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Marriage isn’t 50/50. Ever.” She even went on to say that she “couldn’t stand” Barack for about ten years.
“This isn’t even.” Whew. Somebody had to say it.
Michelle Obama held it down for ten years when the kids were little, and Barack Obama admitted that he played a role in her frustrations. They have been married for 30 years, and their kids are grown and out of the house. My husband passed when my son was four and a half. The role I was assigned has become the ONLY role. I am now the nurturer and the provider. It’s almost like I was being prepared for this. When I heard Michelle’s interview, it resonated with me and made me reflect on my marriage…
What did I learn?
I learned that communication is essential. We are not mind readers, and resentment often comes from miscommunication. In premarital counseling, we did not discuss our roles as husband, wife, father, and mother. We assumed based on our own experiences with our parents. Societal norms played a major role as well. Marriage is glamorized, but the perception is not the reality.
Would I get married again?
I would absolutely get married again. I never imagined becoming a widow at 40 after being married for only six years. I married for love, and I want to experience love again.
How would it be different?
I lived out my wedding vows and survived major heartbreak. I am a widowed mother bringing someone else into my son’s life, so it must be intentional. I know exactly what I want in a life partner and will be very clear about my expectations.
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