In praise of 8 years of marriage, and not ending up where you wanted to.

Today is my 8 year anniversary of marriage to Angel, who has been at work all day at two very impressive jobs: one as a 'Senior Research Interventionist' at Group Health, a nationally significant medical cooperative and research center, and one as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the Country Doctor - the only community health clinic in the nation (I believe?) that includes in it's charter a mandate to serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay. I'm blogging now, but I spent my day doing four loads of laundry, making three meals, running some errands, putting in some volunteer time with an organization I support, and practicing basic health care skills so I can pass my Nursing Assistant Certification test on Sunday.

When we got married 8 years ago, I knew that as a nurse Angel would have a better initial earning potential than me as a minister, but I assumed that I would eventually be the bread winner with the power and the pride of independence. I pursued that dream, somewhat foolishly, for about the first 7.5 years of our relationship - getting a Master's Degree on her dime ('I'll be able to get a good job once I'm through. It's a Master's after all! Maybe I'll do a PhD and become an academic. They get paid really well.') and working hard to establish myself in a field and community. In the last few months I've realized that the dream is probably dead. I'm dependent, I can't support our lifestyle on my own, and it makes no sense for me to put in long hours at work and expect her to work less to hold things up at home as she's advancing in her field. Two weeks ago, we officially and consciously flip-flopped - she's working longer hours, and I'm making the reduced hours at work temporarily permanent to pick up the responsibilities at home. Half time at a very respectable, although low-paying, job, a few classes, and lots of cooking and cleaning (the condo that she's paying for) and exercising to maintain my boyish figure. If we decide to have kids, I'll most likely be the primary care-giver. Even when I finish school (again) 3 or so years down the road, my job will be less important to our family's well-being than hers. My income will be a bonus, but also basically expendable. There might be a day where we both drop down to part-time work to keep ourselves sane and balanced, but there's also a good chance that I'll never play anything like the breadwinner role. On our taxes, I'm more like the dependent than she likely ever will be. I married up.

For the progressives out there, I'm supposed to pretend that I don't have any problems with this as an enlightened male and all that, and for the traditionalists, I think I'm supposed to pretend that I feel bad about it as a man who can't fulfill God's intended purpose for manhood. Neither stance is that helpful, and neither is an accurate representation of how I feel about the situation. But I have to admit that things are running a lot more smoothly now that I've admitted the reality of who I am in this relationship, and started to shut my mouth and know my place.

Which is to say that after 8 years, our marriage is healthier and happier than it's ever been.


Stephanie said…
My friend, thank you for your honest, and healthy look at your life. And, Anniversary Blessings as you celebrate with Angel!! Your insight continues to amaze me! You are a true gift to us all!
Shirley said…