If you know me in real life, you probably know that I’ve been married for a long time. I got married relatively young, 20 years old, and am now 34. I’m just a few years away from having been married for longer in my life than not, and because I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last 14 years, my relationship with my husband, Paul, has been the defining one of my adult life.
If you know me in real life (or even just through social media), you probably also know that I love to travel. I enjoy traveling for work, for pleasure, for necessity. I like flying, I like roadtrips, I like trains. I love packing and staying in hotels. Whenever I meet someone new on a trip, the pattern of conversation goes like this: “Oh, how long have you been married?…14 years!? Wow, you must have gotten married so young!…And your husband lets you come to [insert destination] without him?”
One of the dangers for women, especially, is losing their sense of SELF after they get married or have kids. I see my friends who are wives and moms fighting the good fight all around me to hang on to who they ARE outside of these roles. Of course, OF COURSE, who we are evolves over time to include being a mom, being a wife, etc. OF COURSE, Paul and Cooper are the most important people to me and I would not make a decision that would put those relationships in jeopardy. But I have an independent streak a mile wide, and it’s extremely important to me to make sure Michelle is still in there. That she – that I – don’t get lost in who I am to everyone else. And the thing is – I really think this is healthy. When I know myself, I’m better able to BE Paul’s wife and BE Cooper’s mom.
So, yes. My husband “lets” me travel and seek adventures with family members and best friends. He “lets” me have girls’ nights. Early in our marriage, Paul and I realized that the biggest difference between us is I need more social interaction than he does. He’s a homebody and doesn’t need holiday parties, birthday dinners, cookouts and whirlwind weekend getaways as often as I do to feel balanced. We figured out (after a few frustrating arguments) that he didn’t mind if I attended these things alone, and I didn’t mind if he didn’t go when he didn’t want to. “You don’t care if I go without you?” “No, you don’t care if I don’t go with you?” “No! So, we both get what we want?” YES. There have been plenty of times where Paul does guy stuff without me – he has an annual weekend party with a group of college friends where they eat junk food and play board games or computer games together. A few years ago, he went to Puerto Rico with some guys to hang out on the beach for a few days. Once a week, he and some guys from our church get together for male bonding (believe me, you don’t want the details). And I “let” him do all of that because, just like I want to know myself, I want Paul to know himself.
One of the most controversial things I ever say about marriage is that I don’t need my husband. I don’t think it’s healthy to need him. I WANT him. I want him to be in my life, I want to do things with him, I want to know him better than anyone else. I want to live with him and raise Cooper with him, but I don’t NEED him to feel complete. It is empowering and enriching to know that we are together because we WANT to be – not because we feel like we couldn’t live without each other and not out of a sense of obligation. Just simply because we want to be. And because we WANT to be together, it is not threatening to us to encourage each other to have “our own lives.” Obviously, there’s a balance necessary here – we make time for date nights and our own weekend trips and time that’s just for us to reconnect with one another. But I have my stuff and Paul has his. And it works for us.
And having said all that….I went to the Oscars this weekend! This was the second year my best friend Bird and I got to be part of our favorite event of the year. Last year we sat on the red carpet bleachers as fans, this year – through some connections we made last year – we were hired to work the same event. It was a BLAST. We worked hard and it was a LONG day, but we had the absolute best time. And now, for sure, I don’t think we can ever go back to watching it at home on TV. We’re addicted and we have to keep going back! I’m so grateful for opportunities like this – it’s my favorite thing about being an adult. And I’m SO thankful for a husband who “lets” me have my own life and supports these crazy ideas that I come up with.