Erica Fleischer is OK with her husband working for a porn site.
Heck, I wouldn’t be OK if my husband were a Republican.
Which got me thinking (again) about marriages, especially as my anniversary was this week.
When we choose a life partner, we look for similar values, we look for “chemistry,” and (most of us) just fall in love. All of us hope for long happy lives together as we take a leap of faith.
The daughter of a friend of mine was going out with a young man who the mother was crazy over and was just hoping that her daughter was as crazy over. One day, her daughter confided that although she really, really liked her boyfriend, who was very smart, she was concerned that he came from a different, less “cultured” background than she did and that it might affect their relationship in the long run. She decided to take him to a museum to see how that would go and reasoned that the Museum of Natural History would not be too taxing or overwhelming for a novice the way an art museum might be. All was going well until she realized that she was strolling through the exhibit by, and talking to, herself. She re-traced her steps and found her boyfriend talking to the museum security guard about the previous night’s baseball game. Anyway, five children later, they seem very happy even if they don’t take the kids to museums.
As we go through life, we change and the marriage, or committed partnership, has to readjust. If it doesn’t, or can’t, the relationship is probably doomed.
But how much do we really have to have in common? And how much does one partner have to stretch to accommodate the other?
My husband and I met and married when we were young. We didn’t even realize how little alike we were and are. My husband is very sociable, he’ll go to any party, will be eager to meet new people, and everyone seems to know him. I, on the other hand, intensely dislike large gatherings. I am just not that interested in meeting new people or chatting in large groups. During the first years of our marriage, if we went to a party, or fundraising dinner, my husband happily worked the room while I was grumpily bored to tears. If we stayed home, I was happy and my husband was grumpy. So, years ago we decided that if he wanted to go somewhere and I didn’t, he would go and I would stay home. I would not resent him for making me go somewhere I didn’t want to go and he would not resent me for keeping him from a good time. Over the years, people have implied that they thought the whole thing was weird, but it works for us.
I am always reading and miss being able to share a good novel with my husband. I love ballet and go by myself or with a friend because my husband doesn’t enjoy it. He finds a buddy to go to klezmer concerts and meets, or makes, friends at conferences and lectures to which he goes alone. He is very active in his shul. I never go. In many things, our tastes and preferences differ.
And not only that–our temperaments are different, too. I’m always rushing, multi-tasking quickly. My husband is more deliberate and doesn’t hurry for anything. (Makes me crazy.) My emotional life is full of highs and lows. His is more even.
But essentially, our world views, our basic values, are in sync. Our basic respect for each other allows us to be flexible, and our shared commitment allows the marriage to stretch without breaking.
Maybe that is what allowed us to grow together over four decades.
When I look back, I see that the man I married is different from the man I now live with. I’m different, too. Somehow, we were able to adjust.
Perhaps our relationship survives, and thrives, because we each give the other the space we need to be ourselves.