It’s been more than 17 years since my wife and I started dating; more than 15 since we tied the knot. And it’s days like today (“today” being March 13, though this won’t post until well after that) that make me think back to simpler times.
It’s not that I don’t want to be married. It’s not that I don’t love my wife. It’s not that I resent having kids to take care of. It’s not that I want my “freedom” back. It’s not that I dream of dating other women. It’s not that I want all the money I make to myself. It’s not that I want out. It’s not that I regret getting married. Or having kids. It’s not that I’d even change my decisions and go back in time to alter them (much) even if I could…
…it’s just that some days, like today—when I answered my child with honesty (on the way to driving her to school, while the wife was still at home gearing up for the day) about a question and in so doing made my wife feel left out, betrayed and cheated—I remember how much simpler it was when I mostly only had to think about myself.
When I was single and lived alone or with a roommate, I didn’t have to fret about meal times or other daily things and whether they interfered with someone else’s desires, needs or schedule. I didn’t need to worry most night about whether I snore or not. If I decided to go out, no sitters needed to be scheduled or spouse consulted. If I was in a bad mood, no one else had to be affected by it. And so on and so forth.
In getting married, a whole new wonderful world opened up, and I’m glad to be a husband (99% of the time). From the emotional to the sexual and the intellectual to the practical, I’ve gained much and offered much in return. I’m a better man for it.
But let me tell you, if you aren’t already married, it’s so much more complicated than you can ever prepare yourself for. Being partially responsible for another person and to be tied together with them in ways that affect every day and impact every part of your life can be a tricky and sometimes overwhelming thing.
But even that isn’t necessarily so hard.
Where it gets really hard, and matters to this blog and this post is when there are kids.
Again, I don’t regret or resent my family. I love my 21-year-old son and I love my 7-year-old daughter. I treasure them. But with every addition to the family, things get more complicated.
Like today’s failure, when I answered a question that seemed to need answering and couldn’t deflect it successfully and pissed off the wife when I got home and told her about it. Whether or not I was stupid and whether or not my wife was justified in her anger could be debated endlessly, because there is no right answer to either. But what it brought home to me was how damned complicated things get when you’re not only not single anymore…but you’re not just a couple anymore, either.
It has hit home to me now (in a way that wasn’t possible with my son, who spent most of his childhood in the home of his biological dad, my wife’s first husband) with my daughter that I am going to be faced with choices in which I will honor her or my wife and in so doing, piss off and disappoint the other in a terrible way that will also wound me deeply and make me feel like a complete failure. Or, better yet, I will try to honor one and actually end up letting both of them down.
The longer the years go on, and the more complicated things get and God help me when those hormones start kicking in at puberty…well, I am going to face more of these situations, I think. And they’ll get trickier. And the potential costs of a bad choice will get bigger. And my chances of not pissing off one (or both) of my ladies will get slimmer and slimmer.
Once upon a time, it was mostly me I had to worry about.
Then, happily ever after, I had someone to care about, care for and be cared by.
Now there’s more than just two of us, and that “happily ever after,” which was already more complicated than I ever expected, even being realistic about life, is “once upon a time” again. The problem is that after that intro to a fairy tale, something terrible almost always happens.
I only hope I’m strong enough to keep getting through these situations.
And adept enough to fix the wounds I inflict when I screw up.