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A good friend of mine is getting married in a few weeks, she has been patiently waiting for her prince to come and sweep her off her feet, well her wait is finally over and her patience has paid off, she is marrying a man that is perfect for her in every way. She is also 6 months pregnant (with twins!!) and so excited to start her family. She is finally is going to get her happily ever after and I’m thrilled for her, but a little worried that she may be setting herself up for disaster with some pretty unrealistic expectations.
She recently sent me an email, the wedding is so close and she is getting a bit freaked out about what a good marriage looks like, she thought since I have been married for 16 years, the longest of anyone we know, that I would be the perfect one to ask for advice. I burst out laughing until I realized she was dead serious. Apparently the fact that I have managed to not kill my husband for the last 16 years makes me a fantastic marriage role model. Um, sure, that seems legit.
Her email basically went on to describe the way she thought a perfect marriage should be, what she thought a perfect wife/mom looked like, it read like that phony Good Housekeeping article that was floating around years ago, you know what I’m talking about, the article that placed husband as the center of the universe and the wife as the dutiful servant, only around to satisfy her man’s every need. At the end, she asked me what I thought? Was this the secret to the perfect marriage? Oh wow! I didn’t even know how to respond, all I could think is Bless. Her. Heart. (which we all know is southern for “OMG! Where did her brain go?!”). The thing is, this is not her personality, like at all, she is not June Cleaver, she is scatterbrained, messy, kinda crazy and really flaky and she knows it!
I sat with this email for a few hours trying to figure out how I was going to respond. In the end I decided to just rip off the band aid, after all our relationship was never about pussyfooting around each other. It was time to kill June Cleaver before she killed my friend (it was self defense I swear!) I went through each one of her ideals and brutally murdered them all. This is the email she got back:
Scarlett (named changed to protect the disillusioned),
You know I love you and I want nothing but the best for you, but are you freaking crazy? Is this really how you see your marriage playing out? This isn’t you! This isn’t reality! Let me show you how these scenarios generally play out for us less than perfect moms.
1. Always have dinner on the table when he gets home. Reality- Realize at 5:00 that you forgot to go grocery shopping and have no food in the house, wonder if string cheese and cereal counts as home cooked meal, say screw it, call and order take out and ask him to pick it up on the way home from work.
2. Always be dressed up and look nice when he gets home. Reality- Dig through the laundry to find your least stained and smelly shirt, comb the Cherrios out of your hair and hope he doesn’t notice that you haven’t showered in 3 days and doesn’t mention the smell of spit up emanating from your cleavage.
3. Don’t nag him. Reality- Hold a pillow over his face and threaten to withhold sex until he fixes the damn doorbell!
4. Make sure the house is always clean. Reality-Play toilet bowl chicken with your husband to see who will cave and clean it first (I always win this game!)
5. Try to never complain about my day or the kids. Reality- Run out the door as soon as he pulls in the driveway screaming “later sucker!” and let him deal with the beads that are lodged in a record breaking 3 orifices, the weird smell coming from the baby and the 3 year old that stabbed her peanut butter and jelly sandwich because “it was looking at her funny”.
6. Always communicate. Okay, I’m going to give you this one. Good call!
7. Put his needs first. I like where this is going, in any good relationship, you have to put each others needs above your own a lot of the time, but remember you are having kids and kids trump husband 90% of the time. Baby needing boob always beats husband needing boob, which leads me to number 8.
8. Have sex at least 3 times a week. Bwaaaaahaaaaaaaaaa! Oh wait, you’re serious! Um, honey, I love your ambition but you call me after you have those babies and you feel like you’ve been turned inside out and you have not one but two new creatures draining every ounce of sexuality and femininity from you for the next 12 months (at least!). If you still feel like sex three times a week is a good idea, then I’ll give you a freaking gold medal!
After children, sex usually plays out in three ways:
Scenario 1: You have been pooped on, peed on, spit up on all day and have absolutely no desire to horizontal mamba the night away, so you fake a headache, your period, Ebola, anything to avoid hubby’s bedroom eyes.
Scenario 2: You manage to get in bed alone, but you’re both so exhausted that you half ass paw at each other for a minute or two until one or both of you fall fast asleep.
Scenario 3: You both are awake and you both are feeling frisky so you put the kids to bed then run up the stairs like you are storming the beach at Normandy, you throw off your clothes and play beat the clock with the toddler down the hall that will need another drink of water sometime in the next 10 minutes. You will only win this game about 25% of the time.
Okay so I realize that I just rained all over your parade, but I will tell you that you and prince charming will do great without all these bullshit expectations, you love and respect each other and as long as you hang on to that your marriage will thrive. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, or a perfect wife, or even a perfect mom. The secret to a great marriage is changing, adapting, forgiving and letting go of unrealistic expectations. Love him for him, let him love you for you. You aren’t (and never will be) June Cleaver, he isn’t in love with June Cleaver, he’s in love with you. Period. Just remember that and all will be well. Now go take a bath and calm the hell down with this stuff!
Thankfully for our friendship this was everything that she needed to hear at that moment. She needed me to tell her that she didn’t have to be anything other than who she was. She calmed down, and seems to be quite relaxed now and even let me share her crazy with all of you. Hopefully the crazy train has been derailed and she won’t get anymore ideas about changing everything about herself. June Cleaver is now dead and Scarlett is much better off for it 🙂
Update* I have had some emails and even a phone call from my mother about this post making marriage look awful. I have been given names of divorce attorneys and been told that I’m clearly in a horrible marriage and in no place to be giving marriage advice. So I thought that I would clarify a few things.
First, this was an email response to a friend of mine that was in a panic and ready to change every little thing about herself to live up to some unrealistic ideal. I can’t share the whole email here because it contains too many personal details about her, but trust me when I say that she needed to be smacked upside the head with a dose of reality.
Second, my marriage is not full of misery and I don’t hate my husband or my kids, however I also don’t live under the false reality of a perfect marriage, in every marriage there are times when you are just surviving, just trying to get through all the crap (literal and figural) that is thrown at you. I wish that someone had told me that when I got married. Too often I have seen marriages crumble because they weren’t prepared for the reality that “happily ever after” doesn’t magically happen and that it actually takes hard work to make a successful marriage. At the first sign of trouble someone bails and it’s game over. I’m trying to help my friend by letting her know that it is not all roses and butterflies, but you are not alone and we’ve all been there and the end result of all of it is a stronger more grounded marriage.
Third, I love my life, I love my kids and I absolutely love my husband. 16 years and 6 kids later I wouldn’t change a thing. We have been through a lot and I’m sure there is more to come, he isn’t always the easiest man to get along with (and I’m sure he would say the same about me!) but there is no one on earth that I would want to share this journey with. We take each other for who we are, good, bad and ugly. He has seen me at my worst and my best and I have seen him at his. We love each other unconditionally. Period. The idea that you have to pretend to be someone else to be loved is completely ridiculous to me and that is what I was trying to help her see.
So thank you well meaning readers, I appreciate your concern for my marriage and family, but we are good. Now if you’ll excuse me, my 3 year old is arranging a gladiator battle with her barbies and hubby is saving me a seat!