You’re not what I expected

by Elouise

Wedding Day, 11 September 1965

Just over one year ago I posted a poem in honor of our 49th wedding anniversary. I called it The Other 9/11. Now we’ve marked 50 years together—and D is still not what I expected.

When we married, it seemed at least part of my job was to fix D. Not that he needed fixing in every way. There were just a few things he hadn’t learned yet. I would help him get up to speed by showing and telling him what to do or not do about this or that.

I thought my upbringing—fraught though it was—had prepared me to be an efficient, proper, wise and all-knowing wife. Not when it came to everything, but when it came to little things such as how to take care of a kitchen or clean a bathroom. Or how to make a bed properly, vacuum a room or fold laundry. And maybe sometimes what D should wear or not wear. This would make life much more enjoyable and efficient!

In fact, this was my special gift to our marriage. All D needed to do was accept my gift. In the end, he would see the great benefit of doing things my way. I wasn’t overbearing; I was clear and patient. It might take a while, but I could fix what needed to be fixed.

I didn’t beat D or threaten to leave him, or run around complaining to other people about him. It was really quite simple: D was not what I expected. Since I knew more about housework and a few other things than he did, I would help him get on the same page with me.

This was imperative for several reasons.

  • I didn’t like the assumption that men are actually little boys who never learned to take care of themselves or a house.
  • I loathed the idea that marriage is simply passing a man off from one woman (his mother) to another (his wife) in order to take care of him for the rest of his life.
  • I resented the assumption that men could and would do whatever they wanted to do in the house—because boys (even grownup boys) will be boys! Not adults.

Back then it never crossed my mind that getting married might be an invitation to die. Not literally, but the way a 12-stepper (as I later learned) needs to let go of control and tend to her own business. I’m not saying all our problems originated with me. I’m saying I wasn’t ready for the daily realities of living with someone who didn’t think or behave the way I did.

I’m still learning that marriage is a form of letting go, of dying—for each of us. It means letting go of some things I want to control. Not because I like chaos, but because marriage offers an opportunity to create another way of being in this world.

I think of marriage as three relationships to which I must attend faithfully—my relationship to myself, to D, and to the ‘person’ we are together. Each of these takes time and commitment.

As a woman, I count in this relationship just as much as D does. I can’t sit on my hands and do nothing. Who we are together (the third ‘person’) develops from what happens between two whole persons, not one and a half persons.

Being faithful to this vision has been and still is the most difficult work of my life.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 September 2015
Photo from our wedding album