Five years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I would be married right now.
Marriage is something that, while I have always wanted, wasn’t necessarily the main thing on my radar. The same goes for my husband Shaquan; we were both pretty focused on our life goals. We didn’t really start dating until a couple months after first encountering each other, as our initial intentions were simply friendship.
Be that as it may, we’re both very happy to have found each other. But, what I find weird, is that now I’m encountering questions from people–whether family, friend, or stranger–that I haven’t encountered before. I find that I’m not always the best at keeping content light-hearted (both a good and bad thing), but I’ll try my best as I dissect some of the questions and statements I inevitably get as a newlywed.
“Who Wears the Pants in this Relationship?”
There are layers to why I don’t like this question. Obviously, there’s the tired-old sexist rhetoric that one of us has to be ‘the boss’ of the other. And if I’m seen as the person who is “wearing the pants” then that inevitably means that my husband is wearing a skirt or a dress, I guess?
One thing that I want to make clear: I acknowledge my husband as the head of our household. Now, some people will hear that and will automatically make the assumption that I’m a slave to my husband’s wishes and desires, that I have to agree with everything he says, I’d “better have dinner ready” when he gets home, and he is essentially ‘the boss’ of me. This could not be further from the truth. Acknowledging my husband as the head our household means that I love and respect him enough to lead us in our life endeavors, our financial decisions, our spiritual life, etc.
We don’t operate on a “what I say goes” type of mentality on either side. A big part of what I like about our relationship is that we prioritize being on the same page. I never want him to feel emasculated or that I don’t respect him, just as he doesn’t want me to feel like my opinions don’t matter and that he doesn’t respect me. As for the ‘traditional’ wife role, I honestly do a lot of those things by choice. He doesn’t ‘demand’ that I make dinner for him, do the laundry, do the cleaning, etc. these are all things that I want to do for him.
I view this as a classic trope common in a lot of television sitcoms I grew up with. The wife is loud and domineering with a childish husband who sheepishly does what he’s told. I never understood why these television shows always depicted husband/wife relationships as if they were parent and child. And it shows that this influence has greatly affected how we view marriage as a whole. Needless to say, my husband and I are both adults and we both understand that making our marriage thrive means that we both put genuine effort into it.
Luckily, this isn’t something that family or friends ask me, just internet trolls that don’t take a liking to my Medium articles that suggest this wild idea of respecting women.
“Enjoy it While it Lasts”
This comment is very disheartening, and it shows how our society views marriage to be. A lot of people believe that marriages are only ‘good’ for the first year or two at the most. After that, you’re just tolerating each other, but mostly getting on each other’s nerves or never getting along.
While yes, we understand that the newlywed period is a very special time, we still believe in the expectation of being “happily” married, not “begrudgingly” married. There’s a very eerie normalization of people being in marriages just to be in them and not because they find value in the relationship.
When I hear people say this, I feel like they’re really just telling on themselves. They’re saying that they don’t expect other people to be happy in their marriages because they either are not, or know too many people who are not happy.
The fifth, tenth, twentieth year of marriage isn’t supposed to look like the first year and that’s perfectly fine. The relationship may no longer be new, but we’re willing to put in the effort to make sure the happiness and fulfillment doesn’t dull over time. Don’t speak unhealthy relationship over me, and don’t speak divorce over me.
“When Are You Having Kids?”
Personally, I don’t think anyone should ask a couple this question. To be honest, it’s pretty invasive for several reasons. We already have plans for when/where we would like to start a family, something that we wanted to be clear about before tying the knot.
There are several reasons why some people don’t have kids immediately (or at all) within their marriage. And none of them should really be anyone else’s business outside of that couple. Asking this suggests that the couple has to have kids despite how they may feel about starting a family. It is a little harder for the older generation to accept, but plenty of people get married without the intention of ever having kids.
Another thing that this question doesn’t take into account is that not everyone is physically able to have children. Imagine asking this to a young woman who, unbeknownst to the questioner, has already been trying to have children but is facing issues of carrying a child long term. Imagine asking this to someone, not realizing that the couple is having issues with fertility. Imagine asking this to a couple who has constantly been trying but with no avail. Yes, there are other alternatives to having children but they tend to be quite extensive and expensive.
You don’t have to ask people when they’re having kids because, ultimately, their decision to do so does not concern you. Unless, of course, you plan to provide literally everything the child could ever need in their lifetime. But even then, it’s really best to just keep that question to yourself.
“You Got Married so Early! I can’t even Imagine Getting Married Right Now.”
That’s nice, what does that have to do with me, though? I understand that marriage is not an aspiration that everyone has. A lot of people are completely disinterested in the concept as a whole.
Even so, I don’t know what would make a person think that airing out their discrepancies and fears of marriage to a newlywed makes sense. Also, everyone has their own standards of what it means to “marry early”. For some, it means getting married literally right after high school. For others, it could just be marrying while still in your 20’s. I’ve encountered people who find the ‘time span’ of my relationship to be too soon to get married. Either way, there’s no value in telling someone who just got married all the things that could cause the relationship to go south.
Another interpretation of this, is just the life span of the relationship as a whole. My husband and I met, dated, got engaged and married all within less than two years. For a lot of people, one year isn’t long enough of a relationship to get married. And, if we’re being honest, I used to be a person that believed that too. The reality is that a couple is ready for marriage when they are ready for marriage. It could be two years, it could be four years, it could be one month! (One of my former worker’s parents actually got married after a month of dating and, from my understanding, it’s still working out great).
It’s one thing to be emotionally mature enough to understand what you aren’t ready for, but it’s completely different if you’re pushing those doubts on to other people.
Thinking About These Statements and Questions
Obviously this isn’t to single people out or make anyone feel bad, but I feel like it’s just a good opportunity for all of us to reflect and think about what we’re asking people (myself included). In last week’s post, I mentioned John Maxwell’s acronym THINK when it comes to any type of conversation. Before you say or ask something, ask yourself:
Is it True?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?
Before asking people a question, or making a statement, I try to remind myself of these qualities. If what I want to say or ask doesn’t help the person, doesn’t affirm the person, or doesn’t even seem necessary (outside of curing my own curiosity), it’s just best to leave it alone.
Remember, there are more things you can ask a recently married couple. Here are some examples:
What are some things you’ve learned about yourself since getting married?
How did y’all know you wanted to take that next step?
Did you have a formal wedding? What was it like?
What was the proposal like?
What’s been the coolest part so far?
There’s more, but the overall point is that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Just be mindful of if those questions or statements are necessary in the first place. And maybe don’t suggest that being married is somehow like being in prison.