Autonomy Makes Our Marriage Work

Chases in the Snow #SorentoFamily

One of my goals this year was to become a better writer. This summer I decided I would be writing something every day. Every.Day.  With kids out of school, moving to new places, traveling for summer vacations, it’s harder than it sounds. I suppose most things worth committing yourself to are. I haven’t necessarily published every day but I have been writing every day. I’ve also been reading more too. It helps to see what others are writing. The practice is good, the introspection better. So far I’ve learned a lot about myself and I feel I’ve been able to contribute more value to conversations with others as well. One recent conversation with my husband turned into a conversation discussing how keeping a certain amount of autonomy in our marriage has been part of the success.

We just celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary June 21st (the first official day of Summer and International Gnome Day, for those of you who keep track of things like that). I had just read an article shared by several respected friends who have all been married long over a decade or more. The article focused on the element of happiness in marriage and evaluating what marriage will cost you beyond the wedding day itself. It’s claims of sacrifice talked about much more than giving up half the closet space or letting someone else decide what would be on the dinner menu that night. I think we could all agree that marriage, along with most relationships, is full of compromise, but I completely disconnected when the author said “it will cost you yourself.”

I disconnected immediately but that statement still bothered me for days. I couldn’t reconcile why this piece resonated for so many others and felt so abrasive to me. I spent more time than I should have thinking about it and finally it occurred to me.

After fifteen years, the thing that has kept us together is allowing each other to be different. Autonomy makes our marriage work.

One of the things I have appreciated every day of our marriage relationship is the element of autonomy for both of us. Uniting in marriage has never required that either of us give up who we are as individuals. As we’ve gotten older and more mature we’ve changed certainly but not given up our individuality.

au·ton·o·my
noun: autonomy
  • the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere.
  • freedom from external control or influence; independence.
    synonyms: self-governmentself-rulehome ruleself-determinationindependencesovereigntyfreedom

     

Autonomy doesn’t mean that we are in an open relationship or that either of us have an “I do what I want” attitude with the other ( although I am known to jokingly reply with that on occasion.) We don’t typically ask the other to refrain from saying or doing something because we are adults capable of self-regulating and making their own choices. That’s how adulting works.

Autonomy Means We Won’t Always Agree

What autonomy in marriage does mean is that we have a mutual respect to allow one another to hold a difference of opinion on religion, politics, parental topics, who makes the best tacos, favorite IPAs and career choices. We don’t always agree. In truth, it’s our different perspectives that have made our relationship so intriguing and appealing from the beginning.

We don’t always agree but we ALWAYS communicate intelligently and respectfully. We allow one another to hold different opinions and can entertain discussions with each other without trying to convert the other. We communicate to understand and not change. Perhaps through various dialogue one of us will deliver a statement that opens up a point of view the other had not considered. Maybe not. Either way, allowing each other independence in opinion and thought continues the balance of equality that drew us to want to spend so much time together in the very beginning. This translates in how we choose to work together and make decisions in our life.

The article I was so bothered by positioned the “sacrifices” you must make in a marriage. I call those just being a decent human. If a person isn’t exemplifying that type of behavior from the very beginning I don’t want to commit to coffee with them much less a lifetime. Maybe that’s just me but I’m glad to be in a relationship with someone who lets me be me. We appreciate each other and don’t ever ask one another to play small or give up any part of ourselves. It works for us and I’m betting that we’ll be good at this gig for at least another 15 years.

Becoming The Weekend Wife

The weekend wife

To avoid any rumors or misunderstandings, things at home are just fine. Today’s post title references a tongue in cheek moniker I bestowed upon myself one Sunday evening, admittedly to get a slow eye roll response from Randall as he packed his suitcase for the following week. This is part of our new normal now and how we cope with the temporary weekday separation. Leaving your family each week, microwaving dinner for one, and waking up alone is quite a beige life (*see below) and beige just isn’t in our color palette. My contribution is to balance the beige with well-intentioned sarcasm, jokes and creative hashtags along the way as I continue to chronicle this segment of our story.

Anything can be sustained temporarily. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s how we cope.

I’d like to briefly pause offering a bit more context and a congratulatory moment of accolades to Randall on his new job. Earlier this year he accepted a position reentering the chamber world as Executive Director of the Cedar Hill Chamber of Commerce.  It is a wonderful career opportunity in a field where he greatly excels and will allow our entire family to be embedded in community.  We’ve already found a new home and have been interviewing at schools in the area for next fall. Knowing that moving in the middle of a school year is never easy and that Sebastian would be making a transition to middle school this fall anyway, we decided things would be easiest if we waited and moved the children at the end of the school year. Thus, I became the Weekend Wife.

“Ya know, Marriage is the best sleepover of your entire life.”

As expected with our new lifestyle, we’ve both been fielding lots of inquiries and quizzical glances as we explain our chosen weekday separation. Maybe that’s why we haven’t made it super public as we figure out our new routines. We are given lots of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” winks, unsolicited advice, and a few quips about being grateful for alone time. I don’t think either of us is fond of the alone time. It feels more like everyone has just been picked up from the sleepover you hosted.

When we were newlyweds people would ask us “So what’s it like now? Being married and all?” I thought carefully about my response, how I felt each day as I woke up and replied “Ya know, Marriage is the best sleepover of your entire life!” I still believe that to be truest description of a good marriage. You only invite your best friends over to spend the night, to do your favorite things until the stars come out and you are fully aware that the later it gets the mischievousness and disagreements will come. Still, whatever happened the night before is forgotten as you wake up in a pile of blankets, sunshine on your face to someone making breakfast in the kitchen. See what I mean? A good marriage is the best sleepover you’ll ever have.

The house seems quieter and the bed seems bigger. Sometimes I sleep on his side instead.

The transition isn’t easy to navigate. My weekday hours have remained relatively the same. Weeknights are a heavier workload as I am solo project manager for homework, dinner, laundry, errand running, double checking teeth brushing, and lunch packing supervisor. This is the “ordinary” part of the day when we miss each other most. The time of day when brushing by each other in the kitchen holds the potential to transform into a smile and few minutes of  slow dancing or watching a documentary on Netflix leads to a in-depth commentary on the state of society at large. The house seems quieter and the bed seems bigger. Those nights, when I miss him the most, I sleep on his side instead. 

It’s not all bad I tell myself. The house is marginally more tidy. The entire stock of protein bars are mine for the choosing. There will be four entire days in which I won’t have to rush to get in the shower first or worry about drying off with a damp towel. We’re making the most of technology to stay connected. We find hidden moments in the day to send silly texts as if we were passing notes in class the way school children do.

He drives home every Friday evening battling rush hour and commuter traffic through two of Texas’s largest cities to see us for a little more than 48 hours. We cram as much into those hours as possible pretending everything is the same but an invisible hourglass consistently reminds us time is shorter than we like.

Sunday nights are the worst. That’s when the small suitcase is pulled out of the closet to be repacked with the freshly done laundry again. We tell the children goodnight and I watch him kiss each one on the forehead and tell them goodbye because he’ll be gone by the time they wake up for school. After that, we crawl into bed and hold each other tightly. In a few hours he will quietly silence the alarm doing his best not to wake me. He’ll dim the bathroom light and crack the door getting dressed in the shadows. Quietly he walks to my side of the bed, leans over to kiss my cheek and wakes me just enough to make sure I heard him whisper goodbye.

Anything can be sustained temporarily. That’s what we tell ourselves. It’s how we cope.

 

(a”beige life” is like a biscuit without jelly. Colorless and really, what’s the point??)