Everybody asked me, “How’s married life?” Everybody. For days and weeks and months after I got married, until other interesting things happened in my life (like illness and kindergarten), that question opened nearly every conversation.
And I hated it.
It seemed impossible to answer, because I hadn’t figured out what marriage meant practically. I didn’t know the relational difference between being committed to Erich before marriage and being committed to Erich after marriage. I was still me. He was still him. We still loved each other.
So I told people, “Marriage isn’t that different from being engaged” (except you get to cuddle at more random hours, except I didn’t tell people that, because, well, you know).
But most of all, more than the odd question itself, that question hit too close to home in a way people didn’t intend it to.
People intended “How’s married life?” to be an open invitation to gush about my happily ever after — a very kind thing to do. They said it with huge smiles on their faces, ready to rejoice with me.
And that’s why I hated it — because marriage, especially in the beginning, was not all rejoicing. I wanted an invitation to cry, to rant, to get help and advice, because I hated marriage for the first few months.
There were many factors, all boiling down to marriage being a bigger step I anticipated. It changed my identity, my name, and my prospects in hugely small ways. I moved away from my closest friends and family. I had nothing to do and nowhere to go all summer. I was going through extreme spiritual turmoil. Sex was hard, unpleasant, and charged with all kinds of guilt. I was depressed, anxious, and moody because of that and because (who knew?) I was dehydrated.
On top of that, I was always aware that I was a terrible wife, that my happily ever after was anything but, and that, probably, nobody else felt this way, and thus, obviously, I married the wrong man and would spend our old age sitting silently at restaurants on our anniversaries like all doomed couples do.
I felt like I couldn’t speak about my pain, my depression, and my grief, because marriage is supposed to be happy, because all the other newlyweds were raving about sex and marriage and their dreams coming true, because every kept asking me “How’s married life?” like it’s not a hard, heavy thing.
I suppose, then, that the question itself is not the problem — the context and the tone is. “How’s married life?” is not a casual conversation starter. It’s not always a sappy-happy question. It’s often a deeply personal, for-close-friends-only question.
So I don’t ask that question of newlyweds anymore, unless we have more than a few minutes to really talk and let our smiles down. Marriage is for better and for worse, even in the beginning, and I want to be sensitive to that.
But in case you’re wondering, yes, I love married life now that it’s a part of who I am and what I do, now that it’s home and family, now that it’s known and regular. There’s nobody else I’d rather avoid dishes with than Erich.
Did people ask this question of you? How did you feel about it?