A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I’d spent the previous weekend alone at a cabin doing some writing and recording.
He stared at me and said “how did you sell your wife on THAT?”
I was surprised for a moment… and then reminded that this kind of freedom within marriage is the exception in our culture.
Most of us have been brainwashed into believing that a “good marriage” is one in which husband and wife spend every waking moment together…
…that the more shared friendships, shared interests, and shared activities the better…
…that NON-shared interests and activities are, inversely, a threat to the relationship, and proof of marital unhappiness and “disconnection.”
In my experience, this belief is arbitrary, misguided, and a sure path to misery for both spouses.
You and your wife are not “one.” You are two individuals who have committed to love and support and expand each other.
It was your DIFFERENCES that drew and mystified you to each other in the beginning…
…and it is your DIFFERENCES that draw and mystify you to each other now… NOT your clung-to similarities.
When you flatten your personalities to match each other…
When you cut out or minimize the things that make you different…
When you saddle the marriage with sameness… something essential is lost: the marriage becomes weaker, brittle, forced.
For example, if you hate going to community events like festivals or parades, but your wife loves them, you likely “suck it up” and go. You suffer through it, your reserves of will power and affection steadily draining away, like the fuel gauge visibly dropping as you climb an endless mountain pass.
According to the brain washing, you have “proved your love” by your sacrifice.
But in reality, you have merely created an ineffective compromise where neither of you are happy: you have spent an afternoon stewing in resentment for having been put in this familiar “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation.
And for your wife’s part, your sacrifice does not “count” because you did not do it cheerfully… because, as she points out angrily, you were “just going through the motions.”
There is a better way.
If you want her to release you from the tyranny of her expectations, you, as first mover, must first release her of yours.
If she hates camping, or cooking, or watching “those violent movies” with you… release her of that expectation. Do those things by or for yourself. Or, in the case of chores she detests, hire someone else to do them, as you are financially able.
If she loves opera and you detest it, buy her two tickets so she can take a girlfriend and have a night out. While she’s away, use the occasion as opportunity to create an outing of your own designs with your children: to do the hiking, fishing, or bouldering that you enjoy and she does not.
When you make this shift, several things will happen:
1. You will each start spending more time doing the things you truly enjoy, without the burden or dampening effect of dragging along the other.
2. The time you spend together on interests you DO share will be far richer.
3. You will feel more affection and gratitude and attraction for each other. Having been freed to pursue those activities that entrench rather than diminish otherness, the marriage will be further imbued with the mystery that drew you to each other in the first place.
Too many men treat marriage like an enforceable contract by which you are able to, after having run the exhausting and uncertain gauntlet of courtship, legislate an end to relational mystery, ambiguity, wilderness.
Marriage should be, rather, an arrangement where two free lovers build a mutually rewarding and pleasing life… to support and expand each other’s freedom and joy, not place selfish demands upon it.
If you love her…
If you want to see her happy… to see her relish in her passions, regardless of whether or not you share them…
Let her go.
There is a world of joy within marriage that you will never know until you take the unspoken expectations, the selfish demands for sameness, the desire for control… and toss them to the flames.