Before I get into this, let me just say that I adore my spouse. He has fabulous hair, an adorable bottom, and about seventeen bajillion wonderful qualities that make him the perfect match for me. And yes, I am including the qualities that challenge and grate me, too (as iron sharpens iron). But let’s be honest. Marriage atrophies about 50% of one’s skill set.
When excited persons prepare to engage in their nuptials, they often think in such saccharine clichés as:
· “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this amazing person!”
· “I am so excited to share my space, time, and experience with my best friend!” and,
· “I swear, by the moon and the stars in the sky, I’ll love you with every beat of my heart.”
However, the underlying secret, unconscious thinking is more along these lines:
· “Yes! I will never have to do laundry again!”
· “Now I can do whatever I want sexually without social stigmatism!”
· “Thank God I can start eating normally again!” and, for those who previously spent evenings staring into one another’s eyes and arguing over who will hang up the phone first,
· “Finally, nights will be spent actually sleeping!”
Eventually, even these thoughts morph over time, as slowly as a frog boiling to death in a gradually heating pot, into unmentionable atrocities that you somehow manage to mention all the time.
Once those vows and rings and kisses have been publicly exchanged, the “muscles” you once used to lure and hook your mate seem extraneous. They get filed away into unexercised corners of your being along with Grade 7 insect collections and that time you used the school dictionary to look up the definition of smegma in French. Somehow, everything you’ve learned and practiced about being a decent individual has shriveled into a useless mass like a chewed up piece of gum with hair stuck in it. The worst part is that you don’t even know this has happened, until you make a snide remark comparing your spouse’s helpfulness for others with brown-nosing. Or when you engage in a sloshy booze fest, sans spouse, at the bumping club for which you were a decade too old, without calling to tell your partner what you’re doing, leaving fear of The Worst in the wake of your inconsiderateness.
Communication skills you rocked in your literary, analytical, and persuasion papers get chucked out the window; the type of gentle discussion and compromise you practice regularly on your co-workers has fled the scene like a meth cooker during a DEA raid, making simple and ridiculous things, like how your spouse turns every article of clothing inside-out upon removal, into the stuff over which you behave about as well as a Reality TV personality.
The atrophy of skills by marriage doesn’t just negatively affect appropriate styles of communication or the ability to impress your partner by being neat, tidy, responsible and sophisticated at every meeting. Parts of your brain go, too. For instance: the part that remembers how to find things in cupboards and closets; the part that closes the door when coffee and gravity do their work; and yes, even the part that remembers one should urinate in the commode, not in any other plumbing fixtures.
For example, this mini-dialogue has actually happened in my home:
“I just pooted a little bit,” I announced, almost proudly.
“Good push honey,” my husband replied.
Things one must keep on top of, like maintaining an appropriate stock of toilet tissue and eating the chicken before it grays, are not a problem. It’s the exercise in things that a spouse does for his mate that get weaker over time. I, once fiercely independent, have not simply forgotten how to wash, wax, and vacuum the vehicle (an act which I completed almost weekly during my first six years of ownership of Dante, my trusty blue Saturn). The very fact that I haven’t had to do this during the past six years has completely erased the process from my ongoing Take Care of It checklist.
“We need to wash the car,” my husband might say, eyeballing with grievous displeasure the many coils and splashes of bird excrement that have costumed Dante as the 102nd Dalmation.
“Do what now?” I inquire, not having understood a single word of my native language.
Now, I am faced with going overseas without my spouse for the first time in a very long time. An irrational fear of The Unknown has welled up within me, because my husband, out of love for me, always takes the reins and leaves me to enjoy everything without stress. Once a fearless world traveler, conquering such places as Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila, and Phnom Penh on my own, I am now reduced to a quivering heap of uncertainty as I prepare to tackle Athens alone. Things that never bothered me before (being a white American female traveling alone, not being able to read the script or speak the language, having almost no knowledge of the cultural climate) are looming over me, making mince meat of my perceived independence.
The protection of marriage against unwanted male attention or rip-offs due to assumptions about my gender, or even of having to think about who will accompany me to the next X-Men film, have atrophied my muscles of independence, for sure. But isn’t that part of the beauty of marriage and partnership? That someone cares about you enough to take care of something for you, just to make your life a little bit easier? That you get to bond so closely with one person that you never have to be ashamed of your imperfections and failings, and no longer have to keep up certain appearances? That you always have someone to talk to and be supported by? Even better, marriage helps you develop new muscles, which being alone often does not: serving others, even when it’s hard. Loving through the difficult times. Selflessness. Sharing of burdens. These are pretty great muscles too, and they’re infinitely likeable. But even without them, if marriage comes with my husband, a caliber of man rarely found in this world, I’ll take it. No matter if parts I once used to define “Me Solo” start to wither away. The real truth of the matter is that those things have to disappear, because I am not “Me Solo” anymore. I get to be part of the only equation I regularly use in real life: “Me + Him = Us.”
|Howell Island Conservation Area|
(c) 2012 by Heidi Tauschek