I’m a researcher. Not with a white lab coat and a PhD, but in how I approach life. I like to see what the experts have to say, I like to read articles and studies with control groups and hypotheses. So when I got married, I approached it the same way. Pretty unromantic, huh? That’s just how I operate. I figured I’m a novice and I need all the help I can get.
Now that I’ve been married two years (as of Monday), I still wouldn’t consider myself a marriage expert. But, I know myself better.
Year One: The pitch
In the first year of marriage, we were largely preoccupied with combining our lives and making a home together. Furniture shopping, budgeting, paperwork made up a lot of our free time. When we argued, it usually originated with how we do things differently. We still refer to the “Swiffer Stand-off of 2013” as one of our worst arguments. About how to clean the floors! What we were really arguing about was power–who was going to be the king of the mountain in this marriage.
According to my research, this is pretty standard stuff for two people who have just moved in together. Resolving those issues though, would take getting to a deeper place in our marriage; not applying a theory I read about in a study.
Year Two: The curveball
After 18 months of marriage, our lives were turned upside down: We moved to Switzerland.
When we first got married, we made about the same salary as full-time journalists. When my husband was offered the Swiss job, it thankfully came with a raise, but I found myself unemployed. As I searched for work, I overcompensated for my lack of salary by trying to be the best wife I could be: cooking, cleaning, doing extra things to make my spouse’s life easier. This role actually comes naturally to me ( I love to cook!), but I realized I wasn’t doing it because I loved it. I was doing it because I was trying to restore the power balance. Hey, I’m important too!
I had been taught so well by my empowered female role models about financial independence, that I was putting an inordinately large importance on my bank account, not my actual value. I let myself believe I had been reduced to some 1950’s stereotype and it was all in my head. My husband never made a decision–financial or not–without consulting me.
Balance and the perception of power in our marriage has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with respect. We are equals in our marriage because we have decided we are equals…equality is not a moving target. Once we (ok, me) believed that idea, I could finally relax. And a lot of our arguments melted away, because we stopped subconsciously fighting over who is king of the mountain. It’s a democracy.
Marriage may not be a science, but you might find these relationship pieces fascinating:
- Why kindness and generosity is most important in marriage (The Atlantic)
- A wedding videographer’s take on marriage: A documentary (TIME)
- Relationship advice from divorce lawyers (Forbes)