Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Didn't Sign Up for This!

Marriage changes things. Specifically, people. When I was in my twenties any couple dating more than three months felt the pressure: ask the girl, flaunt the ring, set a date. Friends couldn't wait until the next wedding. Where was it going to be? Who would be in it? It was all about the party. Shortly thereafter, reality set in. The new groom didn't hang out with his friends any more; of course, it was her fault. The new bride stopped talking about fashion, and occupied her time clipping coupons and planning meals instead. Of course, that was her fault. It wasn't long after that there was talk of kids and minivans; time to buy a house or work harder for that promotion; put a little extra into your 401K. The carefree kids that shyly introduced their date to "the rest of the gang," met for football every Thanksgiving morning, worked on cars in the driveway, killed weekends driving just "to see where this road goes," or held "keggers" the instant Mom and Dad left for the weekend, had committed the worst of offenses against youth: they'd begun to grow up. Their last moments of youth had been extinguished on the paint-veiled cement "dance floor" of the local fire hall. Marriage changed them.

My husband and I have been married almost eight years; we have five children and somewhere around thirty-five years of marriage experience between us. And as I prepared this week, to go away for a couple days, it dawned on me: marriage changes things. Specifically people.

When I met Scott, he was a single dad trying to spend as much time as possible with his children. His job took him away for days on end, but when he had his children, it was all about them. He would cook for them. They rented movies together. He would take them four-by-fouring in the woods. He showered them, changed them, dressed them. He was "hands-on" in every sense of the word. Impressive. Fast forward to this point in our life. Outside of the obligatory expletives directed at FiOS for not having the movie he wanted or charging too much for the movie he wanted, he still remains pretty competent at renting movies. The children shower and dress themselves now, and thankfully, no longer require changing. We no longer own a suitable vehicle for woodland romps. But, I find myself inviting him to family activities I am responsible for organizing; and I must occasionally remind him about spending some time with the other people that share his home. His cooking is now a mere reheating of whatever I have prepared. And I tend to be not so impressed anymore. Please don't get me wrong: he is still a wonderful dad, and I love him deeply, but what happened to the guy who could actually open the pantry, find the peanut butter and make himself a sandwich? This guy I'm married to now peers into a fridge virtually spring-loaded with all manner of foods and grumbles, "There's nothing to eat." How did this happen?

I could speculate; say he got to comfortable, or I babied him too much. The truth of it is, marriage does change people. In today's society that's grounds for packing your bags and blowing Dodge. Why stay when "this" is not what you bargained for? Why stay when, only in name is this the same man you pledged your life and love to?

Sometimes, as a child, I'd try to play Checkers against myself. Playing against yourself is relatively easy, and you always know what to expect from your opponent -- no unpleasant surprises. But playing yourself is also unchallenging, dull, and a waste of time. What would marriage be like if your spouse remained exactly like she was fifteen years ago? That person you knew inside and out? No surprises. Unchallenging. Dull. A waste of time. After all, relationships are all about the people in them, and people change -- constantly. Good relationships are uncovering new ideas and dreams all the time. Good relationships keep us on our toes. Good relationships reach new goals, and reach new goals again. But reach them with another changing, growing person at your side.

Sure, I could pine for that impressive guy I met ten years ago. But I'd rather curl up next to the aging, sometimes comfortable -- maybe even a bit lazy -- guy I married, and rent a movie. Maybe one we've never seen before.

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