Never Lose Yourself
“Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”
-The Good Wife’s Guide, Housekeeping Monthly, May 1955
What a gem.
And there’s more where that came from.
This “good wife’s guide” has been floating around in the blogosphere for a while, almost always presented as humorous fodder for my fellow writers out there (both male and female). Every once in a while I will come across a clever, modernized retort, with lines such as:
“Listen to him. This should be getting easy now after several cocktails,” or:
“Be a little happy and a little more interesting for him by treating yourself to a glass or two of wine. His boring day may need a lift and one of his duties is to refill your glass,” or:
“He’s coming home with a great dinner, and if he’s late make sure he knows how to use the microwave to reheat; if he really comes home late and without dinner have yours delivered and eat without him.”
I have to admit, I find the 1955 version funny 99% of the time, with such advice as “Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.” But then I realize how women seriously followed this garbage not long ago; how my own grandmother bought into, and continues to buy into, this bullshit, not exactly setting the best example for my mother when she was a child. And to this day, there is a segment of women (albeit a very small one) who consider these outdated (not to mention overly self- sacrificing) attitudes appropriate.
Not in my world.
But while such extremes will never have a place in my home, I have often wondered about my marriage. I have on occasion questioned if I have overstepped a line unknowingly, being more accommodating than I should be. It’s the sort of thing that sneaks up on you before you even realize you are doing it.
Rewind back to five years ago. Leading up to my wedding day, I had a sometime acquaintance in my life who, in her signature passive-aggressive way, let it be known, loudly and to anyone who would listen, how she felt about my commitment to my intended. It would go like this:
“Oh, Allyson won’t go. He won’t let her.” (When our group of friends was planning a girls’ only getaway.)
“Allyson can’t go, she’s practically married already.” (When we threw around the idea of going wine tasting on a Saturday night.)
“He won’t stand for it, don’t even bother counting on Allyson.” (When planning to go to a concert with the ladies.)
It was much of the same when our group of friends planned on a movie or even a casual coffee date.
Eventually, I did realize her comments had everything to do with her own insecurities, about how our relationship would change, her own single status, etc. She really knew better. She knew the kind of woman I was at the time and continue to be, and that my then fiancé was in no way a tyrant. But at first I couldn’t help but wonder. Was she right? Was I acting way out of character? Was I starting to lose myself in my commitment to this man, even a little bit? Could everyone else see it but me?
I always had it in the back of my mind. That me, strong, outspoken me, with more warrior energy than I know what to do with, would somehow get lost in this thing called marriage, this thing called commitment. Sure, I accepted that there would be compromise, that once I took my vows I would have to think about the feelings and welfare of another person other than myself. But was there a chance I would somehow take it too far? That he would come first?
On our wedding day, my husband made it clear to our guests what he loved about me. He told them that I know who I am, and I always will. He told them how he will always know how I feel and what I think, because I will never hesitate to voice it. Despite my fears I really don’t think any of that has changed. I don’t think it ever will.
I think about the kind of woman, the kind of person I am, and I can’t imagine it. He wouldn’t want it anyway. When I stop doing what I enjoy, when I become silent, when I no longer hold any sort of power, when my potential is denied, when I look around and realize I have lost myself, then I will know.
When I am not shown love and compassion, when I am made to feel small, and in my silence and inaction give him permission to treat me that way, I will know.
It will be time to hit the reset button. Maybe even time for him to hit the road.
If I may be so bold to offer anyone advice when it comes to relationships, my message is simple: never lose yourself. It helps to choose your mate carefully.
Almost five years. While it isn’t always easy for me to let things slide with a smile on my face and refrain from criticizing him, I’m managing. Even though I shouldn’t, I will overlook the occasional toilet seat infraction. I will also suck it up if his idea of a romantic evening includes sitting on the couch together, and watching Yo MTV Raps! Greatest Moments on VH1, World’s Dumbest Criminals on TruTv, or a Cheaters marathon on G4 (okay, even I have to admit all that shit is funny sometimes). On the flip side, he will dutifully sit and hold my hand watching A Say Yes To The Dress marathon, and he won’t dare say a single word in protest.
Love, compromise and understanding; and loving and understanding yourself enough to choose correctly, and never compromising when it comes to you.
What it’s all about.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.