My Dear Miss Bennett:
In the book Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy go back and forth with having romantic feelings for one another at different times, and through several trials and errors finally end up in love at the end of the book. And everyone lives happily ever after, right?
Well, in real life, things go a bit differently. When you do find someone you want to share your life with you need to go into it with both eyes open and be able to be honest with yourself about your habits and behaviors just as you will want your new spouse to be honest with himself about his behaviors.
There are a couple of important things that I have learned over the years. I am just going to simply state what is the norm. I am sure there are marriages and men and women who take exception with this generalization, however, I think for the majority of all couples – if they are truly honest – would agree with what I am about to tell you: Something I wish someone had told me.
No one ever pulls the blushing soon-to-be bride aside and asks, “Are you ready? Are you really ready to have 80 full time jobs at once? Do you really, truly know what you are getting yourself into?” Think of all the things you have on your mind to do right now, at this moment, and multiply it by – realistically – by 50. That is how many things are on a wife and mother’s plate at any given time of any given day. We are the heavy. Even if we are lucky enough to have a husband who actually listens and helps when we delegate, it is still on our platter to finalize.
I think the maddening part for most women is that there is another completely capable, able bodied, able minded person living with us that could absolutely jump in at any moment, and they don’t. Some would say it’s not their fault. Some would say that they are men and they just don’t ‘see’ the mess, or they aren’t good at making appointments or buying valentine’s. (Last time I checked there wasn’t a standard for either) I don’t know. I guess it can be, possibly true that they don’t see or look at the house and kids and all of the responsibility the way we do. However, with how intelligent they are and how aware they are of their own personal priority list, I think I have to call BS on that one. I feel that the truth is much simpler – and, again, I am just saying what I believe to be the truth – I am not trying to put men down in any way – just keeping it real. I believe the truth to be that they really just don’t care if their kids get haircuts or if the dishes that have been in the sink for 3 days get washed. They KNOW that at some point you will do it. Even if you ask for help they will have something come up that stops them from doing the thing you asked and then – coincidentally enough – when you go to do the task and are either partway, halfway, or have the task completed they suddenly say, “I was going to get started on that when I finished this!” And I am sure they really mean that with the best intention. You know what they say about ‘intention’ don’t you? In a marriage, action speaks volumes, not intention. This will improve over the years, though, if you hang in there and keep having open communication about it. It will get better.
Here’s another truth: Most times when you ask for help with something his answer usually involves his parts, you, and time you don’t have because you can’t get anyone to help you with what needs to be done!
Over the years I have seen many news magazines do segments on postpartum depression and how new mother’s aren’t interested in sex. How it is hormones and exhaustion and getting used to a new baby that has her in this state. What the f***?? Hell yeah! We are exhausted, depressed, and doing our best to get used to taking care of this new little person, and all of the others in the house if there happen to be any! I just squeezed a county fair award-winning sized watermelon of a human being out of my yoo-hoo and am up at all hours of the night and someone is suckling my breasts until they are so chapped they bleed and someone else is standing in line to do the same and all I want to do to him is something, in all honesty here, violent. Not horror show violent, but small town drunken bar brawl violent – like throwing a beer at his head. I have felt this way because, the other able bodied, able minded adult in the house seems to be completely clueless as to what needs to happen unless I bring it up! Of course women have postpartum depression! I can’t believe every woman on the face of the earth isn’t diagnosed with postpartum depression!
I also find that I am completely awestruck at the ability of my husband to just go off to the bedroom for a nap or say he needs to go to the store quick – without telling anyone or making sure everyone has what they need – when I can’t even go to the bathroom for 30 seconds by myself! How does that happen? (Again, things do get better with his age and the age of the marriage)
So, while he thinks that making all of your bedroom fantasies come true will solve all of your stress problems – and that does help for a bit -you really just want to scream at him, “Just do the dishes without me having to tell you and then wait three days for you to do them! Just take out the trash without me having to tell you! Just brush the kid’s teeth before bed without me having to actually say – “Hey, will get the kid’s teeth brushed?” That’s all we want. It’s pretty simple.
Jennifer Garner, one of my favorite actresses, recently was upset at the media because while she and her husband, Ben Affleck, were both doing strings of interviews for movies they had coming out at the same time, the interviewers were only asking her how she juggled working in the industry and being a mom, however, no one asked him that question.
If her husband does things for their house and their kids without her prompting him – like for example if he takes them to their doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and knows when the school’s Valentine’s day parties are for all of their children and either makes or buys valentine’s for all of their kids and sits down with them and addresses them without her having to say anything, then that is awesome! But, if he isn’t like that, then that is why they asked her.
But, I do think there is a mistake that some women make. Once he is helping you, leave him alone. Just let him do it. Let him do it his way. Just because it is not your way doesn’t mean that it is wrong. We get so used to being in control of everything that we either don’t think to let go, or we are afraid of things getting out of whack if we let go a little bit.
Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am just trying to be honest about marriage and what really happens. I know this because I am on my second marriage. Your father and my first husband are completely different people, personality wise. However, men, fundamentally, are all the same. I know, you are never supposed to generalize. And I have no doubt there are men out there who do things without their wives telling them. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they exist. I don’t think they are the majority, though, and I take this from both my experience and the countless discussions I have had with other women over the last couple of decades. If it wasn’t so common then there wouldn’t be generalizations or common topics for women to discuss every day at break.
Now, on the flip side of that – women have their quirks, too, with marriage. We can take things way to personally. We can take one single thing he says in an argument, start a completely new argument and never, ever let him forget that he said that one small thing that he probably thought had really no bearing on the argument to begin with. We are always wanting to talk about feelings when all he really wants to do is eat a sandwich and play video games or go hunting or fishing or whatever hobby he loves to do. Men need that. They really, really do. They need time to do their thing. The problem comes in when they spend more time with their hobby then they do with you. For the most part, though, most men just want to adore you on their time and give themselves time to unwind.
They think about a ton of stuff, too. Stuff we don’t even consider – like everyone’s protection in the house, at all times of the day. They think about their kid’s education and their future and how can they best get them their. They think about being a good role model. They do have a method to what we perceive as madness, they really do. I just have no clue as to what that is.
But, I do know this: The thing you really need to do is make sure you find someone who loves and adores you as much as you love and adore them. Because marriage is hard work. If you find that someone though, you’ll know it, because they will rub your feet after you’ve had a long day at work without you even asking, they will brush your hair for an hour just because they know it’s your most favorite thing, and they will go out into the black-of-night back yard, without hesitation, just to check out the sound you heard, which turned out to be an armadillo rooting around.
Your father still opens the car door for me, every single time we go somewhere together, and every other door for that matter. He doesn’t do it because he thinks I’m weak or because he is on a power trip, he does it because he honors me. So, yes, while I have the platter and he has the plate, he also has me, my feelings, and my needs on that plate.
I wish for you a love that does indeed last a lifetime. And that is why I am writing this to you. Please take what I have learned, and go on the journey of finding the love of your life, and enter into marriage with open eyes. Marriage is a wonderful adventure – if you find the right partner to share it with.
I love you, my Miss Bennett,