In her 2010 book Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert, after previously slopping through the tar pit of a heart-wrenching divorce from her first husband, found herself researching the tradition of marriage in an effort to, against her better judgment, re-marry to secure her foreign, beloved’s admittance to the United States.
Though, my story is quite different from Liz’s, I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only woman in history who was trying to talk herself back into marriage. In fact, I found myself in 2019, nine years after her book’s publication, looking through the pages of Committed hoping to find valuable answers and insights. Hoping to find answers to save my own marriage.
Marriage vs. Independent Women
One thing that always concerned me (and Elizabeth Gilbert) was the thought of women giving up their dreams and aspirations for marriage.
Many women rebel: “Why should I sacrifice my dreams for this man?” we think. Is that really what women should do? Or are we just following the ideals and trends of past generations?
Those are the questions, the black clouds, that have hung over my head since I realized there was such a thing as love, romance, and marriage. It’s that nauseous feeling in the pit of many female stomachs in today’s America, and it’s certainly been in the pit of mine. (No offense, guys…)
Just like Ms. Gilbert did, us like-minded, out-of-the-box-thinking women look back at our mothers and grandmothers and wonder WHY they gave up what they did all for marriage.
Were they weaker women for their decisions? Absolutely not. Were they less educated? It depends who you ask. As Burt Reynolds said in Smokey in the Bandit, “When you tell somebody something, it depends on what part of the United States you’re standin’ in as to just how dumb you are.” I guess the same goes for time – it depends on what generation you’re in as to just how smart/independent/strong you are.
Certain elite women in today’s world can solve complex scientific riddles and/or mysteries that have stumped their predecessors for generations. However, I’ll wager those same women may or may not be able to create the most delicious of peanut butter pies featuring a crust that is equal parts moist and crunchy. Also, those same women of today may not know how (or have time) to preserve their own home-raised food instead of purchasing processed sustenance at Wal-mart.
Homesteading women of the 1800s would roll their hard-working eyes at successful women today who didn’t know how to pick, process, and can their own green beans. (For shame!)
In the same way, today’s ladies may perceive women of yesteryear as simple-minded and ignorant. (What do they know?)
It all depends on your own personal mindset and the events that separate those generations.
Personally, I believe the kind of woman I want to be is a healthy mixture of both.
Living in the country amidst a moderately-sized cattle operation, I learned how to butcher my own beef, can garden vegetables, and figure out and fix things on my own. I developed the ability to look at one seemingly-useless item and see a reinvented value – to reuse and repurpose before it was cool and stylish. In short, I learned from a young age to be resourceful, and because of my parents (my father, an entrepreneur and a cattleman, and my mother, a housewife and bookkeeper/secretary) I am hard-wired to take care of myself while also accomplishing personal and professional/entrepreneurial goals.
Taking Charge of Complacency
In October of 2017, I moved out of my husband’s house because we had reached a marital impasse. Things needed to be worked out and talked about. Feeling procrastination from him to communicate about our issues, I took matters into my own hands and shook things up in an effort to bring problems to a head and resolution to the forefront. I took power over my life and my happiness, which is something both my parents taught me in completely different ways.
More traditional-minded women would scoff at me (“Stand by your man!”) While contemporary-thinking women would cheer me on (“Who run the world? Girls!”) Considering both these perspectives, it boiled down to what was right for ME and my relationship.
In January 2019, after more than a year of deep depression and soul-searching, my husband and I agreed on a deadline – April 1, 2019 (yes, April Fool’s Day). If we couldn’t figure out things by then, we would mutually divorce.
In March 2019, our relationship gained momentum and 180’ed. We were building strength. We were excited and hopeful; however it wouldn’t last.
In November 2019, I moved out once more after it became evident to me our problems were not going to be resolved no matter how much I wanted them to.
However, throughout the Spring and Summer of 2019, I had a realization that had been 14 years in the making.
Rewind to our Wedding
When we got married in 2005, I told my husband the night before our wedding I would still accomplish all the things I wanted for myself. He agreed… Years later, he admitted he thought I would soon settle into married life and be content. Unfortunately for him, that’s not what happened.
Throughout the first year or two of our marriage, I (much like Elizabeth Gilbert in a previous book called Eat, Pray, Love) spent many hours in the bathroom crying my eyes out worrying I had made the wrong decision – that I had succumb to societal pressures, that I had lost my mind for a short time only to marry and forget all my dreams. (This was, in no way, reflective of my husband. Bless him. He didn’t know what to do with me.)
At that time, and for 14 years after that, I fought tooth and nail against becoming a “typical housewife.” I would be DAMNED(!) if I would dawn a red gingham apron and happily skip my way to the kitchen everyday to bake that apple pie for my husband! (Even though I loved him.) I was no conventional housewife! I was an independent woman! *Stomp foot*
Married at a mere 20 years old, matrimony and societal pressures truly did sneak up on me. I had come from a divorced family and had seen my mother give up so much of herself to provide for a marriage that would eventually fizzle and a husband that would leave.
While I knew marriage was (as my husband put it) “the natural progression of things,” at only 20, I was too young to have a healthy mindset of the woman I wanted to be versus the woman society told me to be. (Coming from a small, traditional, rural community didn’t help much either.)
So, I fought. I fought those societal pressures. I fought my role in my own marriage. And I ended up fighting things I desired in my own heart but was determined not to embrace because it was the dreaded “conventional.”
But in that Spring/Summer of 2019, I realized something I knew all along – I could be whatever I wanted to be – conventional or not. I could can green beans and bake apple pies right alongside traveling the world and being an out-of-the-box-thinking, fierce, independent woman.
This problem with my thinking and my marriage ended up being two separate problems. Once I discovered more about who I wanted to be, I turned back to focus on and fix my marriage. However, it was then I discovered my marriage simply wasn’t sustainable. (That’s another blog post.)
My Point is… You Do You!
Yes, I did step away from my marriage. (But not after years of trying to make it work!)
AND not before finding out a little more about myself and who I truly wanted to be.
Now, at 35, I’m more comfortable and confident than ever in MY ideals and beliefs. Not SOCIETY’S ideals (past or present), but MINE.
I guess what I’m getting at is: I wonder if women fight so hard (without realizing it) to reach pre-determined, societal goals that we forget to truly embrace what WE want. Sometimes women (like me!) feel guilty about being a housewife when, in fact, we actually may enjoy it. (To a certain extent.) On the flipside, some women settle for being a housewife when they dream of something more. Then, there are those women who fantasize all their lives about being the stereotypical mother and wife. (And there’s not a thing wrong with that! The world needs you!)
For whatever reason, something in my upbringing, some idea that got in my head, told me it was not fulfilling for me to be a housewife. To be just married. Remember the scene in the beginning of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is singing about finding more than a provincial life? That’s me… Except I don’t sing…
I’m now honest enough with myself to know I do need a little sumpin-sumpin extra – that the conventional housewife life isn’t for me. (And that’s okay!)
But I also let myself off the hook when I kinda sometimes picture my dream kitchen where I can try new recipes. (I just made a Keto-friendly Chicken and Spinach dish that was AH-mazing!)
Truly, a woman (or a man) can be all they want to be. We just have to be honest with ourselves, accepting of what we truly want, and embrace all our typical or atypical desires.
If a traditional, nesting life is what you yearn for, embrace it and go for it. If you’d rather lick a toilet seat than be chained to a house with a white, picket fence, then adventure awaits. Neither is wrong, and both are right. Just do YOU!
An article for independent women who want to marry but are scared: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2017-08-15/how-marriage-is-evolving-in-a-time-of-womens-independence
An article for unmarried men who are sad and lonely: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/women-saying-no-marriage-men-becoming-angry-depressed-lonely-wcz/
An article for women who want to get married but need a reality check, so they don’t find themselves married for 15 years and looking down the barrel of divorce: (If you still want to convince yourself to get married after reading this article, read the article above for independent women who want to get married.) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201510/is-marriage-worth-it-women