For each of the huge life events (graduation, buying a house, having a baby, getting married, etc.) there are a number of things people will say to you as the life event approaches.
For marriage, it’s always an older uncle or relative turning to the man and saying with a wink “and remember, she’s always right.”
When my wife and I were expecting, it was things like “you’ll never get sleep again!”
The thing about these pieces of advice is that they’re not actually advice. They’re phrases that seem to surround a cultural life event – but they don’t actually help you through it.
Saying that “she’s always right” to a heterosexual man getting married is maybe well-intentioned, but it completely minimizes the importance of good communication, and the fact that argument is how you work through problems.
Telling expecting parents that they’ll never sleep again will perhaps prepare them for the tediousness of childcare, but it minimizes the enrichment of having a child – the fact that you lose sleep because you love your child and want to meet their needs. More on this in a later post.
A lot of life events are framed as if we’re giving something up. Independence, mostly, with marriage and children.
Maybe. But that’s a bleak way of looking at it.
Perhaps in order to maintain a strong family, it’s necessary to give up the convenience of independence occasionally. But in return we gain co-dependence. Others depend on us, sure, but we depend on others.
When shit goes awry, my wife has my back, and vice-versa.
When my kid is hungry, my wife or I bond with him while we feed him. One day, he might even feed me.
One day, when my kid deals with conflict in Kindergarten, he will depend on me to help guide him through it. And he may dole out that wisdom back to me one day when I deal with conflict. I might see my advice reflect back at me in the most beautiful way.
If I wasn’t married, and if I didn’t have a kid, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this. It’d be all about me, all the time.
But I’m glad it’s not all about me. I’m glad that I’ll lose sleep to take care of someone that I’ll love. Happy that I’ll have to make concessions in order to maintain a healthy marriage. These are skills that make us stronger and more generous people.
So let’s re-think the ritualistic wisdom. A lot of the misery people associate with it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Life is just as beautiful and wondrous as decide it is.