Independence In Marriage Is Overrated

A recent New York Times Modern Love essay “Honey, Let’s Get a Little Divorced” by Rachel Zucker, was well-written and poetic, which makes sense, because the author is a published writer and poet. But I have issues with her column. I’m very glad that Ms. Zucker and her husband have outlasted the marriages of both their divorced parents. As anyone who’s ever been married for any length of time can tell you, this is an impressive achievement, to be sure. But the article’s clever angle of “let’s act a little divorced so we can become better partners” could just as easily have been couched as: “‘let’s pretend we’re both single and never got married in the first place.”

That said, I completely understand the author’s point that acting “a little divorced” may help her become more independent and her husband become a more involved father. Now, I can’t speak to the “involved father part,” because my husband and I don’t have kids. But I can address the “become more independent” aspect, and I can tell you that it’s overrated.

When I was single, I was independent. Now that I’m married, I’m more dependent than independent. And why would I want that to change? There’s a difference between dependence and co-dependence. I’m not talking about the latter here.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m independent enough. I have a job, make my own money, have my own friends, pump my own gas, and balance my own checkbook. (As a matter of fact, my husband and I only opened a joint bank account this year, after more than five years of marriage.) I even brush my own teeth and cut my own meat. I also vote.

But by gaining more independence in marriage, here’s just some of what I’d lose:

– Delicious, regular home-cooked meals that are better than the ones I could make (I may be dependent, but I’m not stupid.)

– Someone to sweep out, load, and light the wood furnace (I’d have to do it!)

– Having an amateur sommelier at my beck and call (Why should I learn about wine when he already knows it all?)

– Someone who makes the bed every morning (It’s more important to him than it is to me.)

– Someone who can use the right power tools without having to read the directions

– Someone who will lift heavy objects

Look, I will be independent when it comes to the really important things. I won’t define myself by my partner. I won’t let his schedule or plans define mine. (They rarely do, anyway.) I will have a part of my life that’s separate from his. I will even know when it’s time to take the car to the shop, and I will take it there. But other than that, I will be dependent, and contentedly so. Not in a 1950s housewife way, but in a manner that ensures that I’m getting the most out of my marriage. After all, I did choose to be married, so I think I should try to make the most of it – as opposed to pretending that I’m divorced.

And what will my husband get out of my continued marital dependence? Someone to build the bonfires, clear debris out of the woods, make cocktails, and take the car to the shop, while he bakes a pie or something. (Did I mention that stereotypical gender roles are often reversed in our family?) The aforementioned chores are my jobs, and I happily do them. Because I’m a dependent partner who remains an independent person.

Would I sometimes like to check into a nice hotel by myself just to be by myself and away from my partner, like Zucker did? Hell yes, but that’s mostly because I like big bathtubs, not because I desperately need to get away from the crushing dependence of my marriage. In fact, I’d prefer that my husband check into the hotel with me. That way, he can heft my bags.

photo: Thinkstock

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    • hwr

      I think you should probably be married more than the 5 years and have children before you respond to Ms. Zucker’s original article. I understood her perfectly and she made a lot of sense. Having children changes everything. You are no longer in a marriage, but a family. All of the sudden, men feel helpless and question their ability (which is crazy at the beginning, but it cripples them and thus creates many references to back up their helpless feeling – a snowball effect). What Ms. Zucker is saying is that now that the wife role is also the mom role, it would be nice to be able to step away from that role for one day and not have the house burn down and have your children fed. That’s all. Just once in awhile. Just wait. You will understand eventually.

    • Abigail

      I agree with the previous poster. You should wait until you’re not a newlywed and have kids before you respond to articles people right after many years of marriage and children. When you have kids, your exhaustion and codependency reaches an all-time maxed out state, and the idea of a little relaxing, quiet time all by yourself sounds like heaven. I understood exactly what she was saying, and franky, although I understand what you’re saying, too, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on until you’ve been where she is. You’ll figure it out some day.