I’ve been searching for some blogs to read. After searching on “divorce” or “infidelity” I tried “divorcing after infidelity”. Up popped this lovely post which told a tale of how she puts her husband’s happiness before their kids because, hey, ‘their happiness depends upon our happiness.”
I don’t have a problem with that point of view. I think many people overestimate how important our happiness is to our children, especially when they’re very young, but in many other ways it’s true. I believe it was Theodore Hesburgh who said, and I’m paraphrasing, the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. I fully embrace nurturing your relationship. I believe that your marriage (or relationship) preceded your children and it was meant to succeed your children. No one wants to wake up after the last child has moved out or gone off to college and find themselves living with a virtual stranger. As much as we may love our children the fact of the matter is eventually they grow up, they move out (Hi, Mom!), and they have lives and families of their own. Yes, you’ll always be a parent. Yes, they will probably always need you for something at some point (Hi again, Mom!). Eventually they will no longer need you on a day to day basis like they do when they’re little. When that day happens, in an ideal situation, you’re left with your partner who helped bring those children into this world. That’s who you’ll be spending each day with. That’s the person who will be living life with you. Your kids are going to be off living their own lives. You may go days, if not weeks or months, without seeing them. Which means you better like that person you’re left with. Hopefully you’ve got some common interests. (Common disclaimers apply, of course.)
So, I have no problem with the whole, “I’m so enlightened because even though I’ve got small children I realize I need to put my husband ahead of my kids.” The problem is twofold. Maybe threefold. Okay, yes, I have three problems with it.
First, she’s a very young wife and mom. Not to take anything away from those who start this parenthood journey early, but she’s been married all of two years. Two. Years. That’s like me deciding to start a vigorous walking program and then deciding I should probably coach marathon runners. Or like me throwing some chicken and cream of whatever soup in the crockpot and then deciding I can show Gordon Ramsey a thing or two in the kitchen.
Additionally, this epiphany was brought about by a belated honeymoon they took- one where she wanted to bring the baby and her husband did not. She describes herself as a mom who would not put her daughter down, one who took her everywhere and did everything with her by her side or on her hip. After a week on a cruise ship with spontaneous meals, being able to do whatever they wanted, taking naps, waking up and going to bed whenever they wanted to, and lots of uninterrupted sex she decided she had been doing it all wrong. She’s woke and now she wants to share her knowledge.
…I put my husband before our kids because their happiness depends on ours. Date nights are a priority in our relationship; we venture out without our kids, when we’re together we put our phones away and have conversations, and if we have problems we carve out time to discuss our issues and tackle them before they get out of hand. Furthermore, we both understand the need for physical intimacy so we make time for sex, no matter how tired we are or how busy our days were, we need that time to connect.
Date nights? Bravo! Thanks for the suggestion. I don’t think any of us had ever heard of that before. Putting your phones away when you’re together is actually good advice. Having conversations about your problems? No way! Really? That’s what we should do? Holy shit! I would have never thought of that. Plus sex even when you’re tired and have a million things to do? Hmmm… well, she is very young and has only been married for two years so maybe she’s still got plenty of energy.
I get it. I really do. Despite the snark I get what she’s trying to say. I remember the heady early days, too. Those days when I promised myself I would always say please and thank you and never take him for granted. Those days when I vowed to always ask him if he needed something if I was up and getting myself something. I think I pretty much stuck to my guns. Hell, I still remember the day I cleaned the house, made him a casserole to heat up when he got home, made him some Rice Krispies treats, and then took off for a 12 hour workday. Wife of the fucking year right there. Sure, there were times I was frustrated and not the most understanding person. That time I was pregnant and had to take him to the ER yet again for a migraine comes to mind. I did all the wifely things, like making sure he had warm blankets and holding his hand and advocating for him. On the way home, once he was pumped full of drugs, I stopped to get some french fries. Did I mention I was pregnant? He complained about the smell of them. After spending hours catering to him and making him the center of attention he was going to complain about the smell of his pregnant wife’s french fries. I threw them out the window in frustration. Turns out he was a demanding, whining, big fucking baby a lot of the time. What can I say? It wears on you after a while.
Honestly, despite the snark I truly do not have a problem with her advice, even if she hasn’t been married long enough to give advice, in my opinion. I don’t have a problem with putting your spouse first. I don’t have a problem with her encouraging date nights or putting your phones away. I can even tolerate her sanctimonious advice to talk about your problems and not let them fester. Thanks, Becky, none of us would have ever thought of that without your wise advice forged from years of marriage. And by years, I mean two. I do have a bit of a problem with the advice to have sex even when you’re tired or exhausted because your spouse needs that connection. It’s a season in your life. Get over it. You’ve got young kids; you’re probably not likely to be having hot monkey sex round the clock right now. You’re also probably not going to be shoving the entire family of four or five into your two-seater convertible and tooling down the highway before you stop off at a few wineries for some wine tasting. That day will come for you once again.
I think the second problem I have with her post is how sanctimonious her advice comes across.
I brought this topic up with friends, coworkers, and other mothers; they all believe I’m insane for putting my husband before my children. My response is, “That’s why the majority of relationships fail, because you aren’t putting your relationships first.”
Oh, to be young and know everything once again. Oh honey, I could tell you all kinds of stories about people, women and men, who put their spouse first and the relationship still failed. You know why? Because as fast as you may be dancing and as pretty as your dance shoes may be, it takes two to make a marriage, a partnership, work.
Putting your spouse first works when your spouse acts like a responsible adult. It works when your spouse pitches in and helps instead of acting like yet another child. It works when you and your spouse are full partners who work together for a common goal. It works when the two of you come together and take care of the kids, the pets, the household, and all other life fires that burn, so that you can devote that time and attention to your relationship and one another.
The way she phrases it is to cast blame. Of course you’re getting a divorce. You didn’t put your relationship first. Of course he/she is leaving you. You focused all of your attention on your kids.
This brings me to the biggest problem I have with her advice. She begins to extrapolate. If A, then B. If I put my husband before my kids then he’ll never cheat on me. You didn’t do what I did so you got cheated on. Be more like me. Or just take my awesome advice. I’ve been married for two years so I know pretty much everything.
She didn’t phrase it exactly that way. What she said instead was:
This may be an unpopular opinion but I believe you drive someone to commit adultery… if you’re not supporting your partner, or being affectionate, if you’re constantly bickering, lost your passion and aren’t having sex, if you let yourself go, and stop taking care of your mind and your body and put your children first, you’re asking to be cheated on. Why would I say such a terrible thing? Because it’s true and you may be in denial.
Why she is as cute as a button! And about as bright as one, too. Them’s still fighting words, Little Miss Two Years Married.
First and foremost, no, you absolutely, positively, 100% do not drive anyone to commit adultery. Cheating on your partner is a choice. Just like talking about your problems is a choice. Just like filing for divorce or choosing counseling are both choices. No matter how awful you may be as a partner you do not force another person to cheat. Period.
Secondly, I must again point out the likes of Christie Brinkley, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston, Gwen Stefani, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner… I could go on and on. They’re all thin and beautiful and yet they were all cheated on. There are also thousands if not millions of “fat” women out there who have faithful husbands, men that wouldn’t dream of cheating on their wives. Women don’t get cheated on because they’re not thin enough or they haven’t bothered with doing their hair and putting on makeup. They get cheated on because they made the mistake of being with a man who felt entitled to cheat. Feel free to switch it around if you’re a man reading this and you’ve been cheated on.
And once again I will stress that I am not saying once you get married or partner up you should stop brushing your teeth, let your hair become a rat’s nest, throw out all of your makeup, toss your deodorant, and wear ratty, stained, ill-fitting clothes. I’m also not saying that ignoring your partner, burying your head in video games, your phone, your work, or any other thing that might take over your life, refusing to have sex or be affectionate, or refusing to do anything with that person you’ve married is okay. It’s not. You need to be present. You need to engage.
What I am saying is that life happens. When you get more comfortable around a person you’re more apt to let your hair down. You don’t feel the need to be dressed to the nines all the time, or wear a face full of makeup. Maybe you even <gasp> wear a comfortable pair of sweats and an old sweatshirt around the house while you watch Hallmark movies on a lazy weekend.
Keep in mind, too, that when you’re dating you get breaks from each other. Those breaks are when you get to clip your toenails, fart, go braless and wear the most comfortable yet shapeless pair of lounge pants you own.
And when little kids make an appearance in your life all kinds of shit happens! Some days just managing to take a damn shower is an accomplishment. These are little tiny human beings who are completely dependent upon you. It is now your job to make sure they reach adulthood. If you don’t feed them because you’re too busy squeezing into your bustier and pole dancing for your husband, they’re going to starve. Once again I go back to: It’s a season in your life. Season’s change. Just because you’re not fucking around the clock right now, when you have little children, doesn’t mean you won’t once again be fucking around the clock later in a few short years. Plus the fact that so many people have multiple children and those children are generally spaced somewhere between 18 months and 3 years apart tells me you are having sex even if it’s not as often as you’d like.
She takes a belated weeklong honeymoon without her child and all of a sudden she’s a marriage expert. She’s still in the early days. Life hasn’t smacked her around much. She’s got a two year old and an infant. Her obstacles so far seem to include getting pregnant, getting married, getting pregnant a second time and finding an apartment. Wait until you have to hurdle job loss, pregnancy loss, getting a pet, switching careers, taking care of an aging or sick parent, a pet dying, parent dying, child having problems in school, moving hundreds of miles away from your friends and relatives, parent-teacher conferences, school parities, school performances, school awards, bankruptcy, starting your own business, going back to school, shuttling kids to various extracurriculars, having your weekends taken up with said extracurriculars…
I feel like I have to repeat, yet again, that I am not at all opposed to the idea of couples having time away from their kids. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, bravo. Not everyone is. I never had anyone volunteer to take my kids for a week for me. Not all of us live close to relatives that can even offer to take them. I will always appreciate those people who volunteered that their date nights consisted of putting the kids to bed and then eating dinner together before playing Rock Band on the Wii or watching a movie.
I absolutely believe you should nurture your relationship. It is far too easy to let things go. She is correct when she writes about how easy it is to neglect your relationship, to be so tired that you don’t connect intimately with your partner for long periods of time. Yes, you do need to make an effort. You can’t expect it will magically hold itself together with no input from you.
I don’t think getting married means you give up. I don’t think it means you no longer have to try or that your spouse has to accept you regardless of anything you do or don’t do. I know marriage takes work. Hell, all relationships take work.
I think it is a beautiful thing when two people come together and work as partners towards a common goal. I think it’s wonderful when those two people are patient and kind and understanding when it comes to their relationship and the flurry of activities going on in their lives. Absolutely awesome and the way it should be.
What I do not agree with, and will never agree with, is that by simply putting your spouse’s happiness ahead of your children you will never be cheated on. I certainly don’t agree with her premise that people drive others to cheat on them or that we’re asking to be cheated on.
That’s not even stupid advice. It’s arrogant stupidity.