When student life and married life intersect

Graphic by Kash Patel

How’s married life?”

I get asked this question about twice a week these days, since I got married just before school started back up this September.

For the first few weeks after we got back from our canoe trip honeymoon, the question was “how was the wedding?” This was an easy-peasy question to answer, because it was our absolute most perfect day.

And that’s so cliche, I know, but really—it was. White dress, big bouquet, my guy in this amazing suit standing at the end of the aisle, beautiful music played by our close friends, heart melting speeches by our parents, a surprise comedy routine by my new husband that absolutely brought the house down, and a three hour dance party set to the flawless beats of the mid-2000s top 40’s.

The. Perfect. Day. Cue honeymoon-in-a-canoe, which was also amazing, and a week and a half later we had both moved into our new downtown Kitchener apartment, ready to start our third year of university.

Talking about those ten days is so fun — all the time. But, now that we’re into November, the question I get asked has changed.

Now, people say, “Hey, newlywed! How’s married life?” Because, naturally, I “know” what being married is all about, having lived it for a grand total of twelve weeks (**sarcasm**).

So next time someone asks me, “how’s married life?” I hope I have the guts to be honest. Even if they were just hoping for a fake response to reinforce their own conceptions of what a blissful thing marriage should be, I want to be truthful.

It’s no longer just about the wedding day, now it’s about being a wife, a partner, and starting this “next chapter” (so many fucking cliches). And so, obviously people who care about Calvin and me want to know how it’s going.

The thing is, I don’t even pause to think anymore before answering that question. My response rolls off my tongue: “It’s just amazing. Wonderful. We’re on cloud nine.” Add a sweet little smile and, BOB’S YOUR UNCLE, crisis averted. Lying, it turns out, is an amazing way to handle potentially disastrous conversations.

Here’s the truth: being married is hard. Wow, I know, right? You’ve never heard that one before. I know that literally everyone has heard that before; it is not news that being married can be tough. Anyone and everyone with a pulse knows that being married is not sunshine and rainbows all the time.

So why doesn’t my answer reflect the reality of what I’ve experienced?

The truth is that there’s an enormous taboo on the reality of marriage. You aren’t supposed to talk about how it really is, especially in the first few months.

There is a lot of pressure on newlyweds, I have noticed, especially young, Christian newlyweds (that’s us), to uphold an image of blissful romance and perfect partnership. The people asking the question “how’s married life?” do not want to hear about the six million spats we have had over the state of the dishes in the sink.

They do not want me to talk about how I’ve already had to break that age old rule to “never go to bed angry”. And they do not want me to say that being married — so far — is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do.

And I don’t want to hear myself talk about those things either, because I, too, want to believe in the romantic comedy version of our marriage, not the much more complex reality of it being tricky and emotional and tough and wonderful all at the same time.

But the thing is, if you ask pretty much any married couple, they’re gonna say the same thing: the first few months are beautiful but hard. It’s a massive transition to legally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially become a brand new family, particularly if you didn’t already live together.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but here are some things that — if I’m being honest — we are struggling with: figuring out how to argue effectively when we’re tired, balancing housework with school as well as spending time together, learning how to divide chores that neither of us want to do, and grappling with some internalized patriarchy on my part that makes me feel like I’m the one who “belongs” in the kitchen.

I didn’t walk into this marriage blind. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. But maybe the hardest thing about being married — and being committed to someone in general, married or not — is acting lovingly when you don’t “feel it.” Falling in love with Calvin six years ago was the easiest thing, but actively loving him when those feelings aren’t there is tough.

In the movies, commitment to someone is based on “feeling in love” all the time. But that’s not reality; feelings are fickle and undependable.

You can’t base a lifelong commitment to anything on feelings. Calvin once told me that love is twenty per cent feeling and eighty per cent choice, and I think that’s so true.

I married Calvin, not because I felt in some particular way about him every waking minute, but because I chose him.

And now, as his wife and partner, I choose to love him every day, no matter how I’m feeling. And maybe that sounds unromantic to some people, but I really believe it’s the most romantic thing there is.

But even if it is romantic, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It can be frustrating, exhausting, and impossible to do “perfectly.” And I should be able to talk about that, because it’s the truth.

So next time someone asks me, “how’s married life?” I hope I have the guts to be honest. Even if they were just hoping for a fake response to reinforce their own conceptions of what a blissful thing marriage should be, I want to be truthful.

And maybe that will be jarring for whatever poor soul asks me next, but I don’t think this taboo around the reality of marriage is helping anyone.

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