I’m not the person my husband married. And I don’t want to be.
In the six years since we tied the knot, I’ve changed. And so has my husband. And we’re both completely fine with that.
Not everyone shares this view of marriage. When Huffington Post writer Traci Bildrealised she had changed since she married her husband 20 years earlier, she felt ashamed and considered it a failing as a wife.
After finding a box of love letters she’d written to her husband years earlier she felt sorry for him because she was no longer the sexy, fun, romantic twenty-something woman she once was.
‘Reading the letters, I saw the loss of my girl, the one he fell in love with andmarried,’ she wrote.
‘Traci Shafer was encouraging, always laughing, dancing, singing and saw beauty in everything around her. Traci Bild, well… let’s just say she had a lot on her plate.’
And like many women, Bild does indeed have a lot of responsibilities. She has two children, runs her own business and appears to run and manage the house as well. She’s also now in her forties.
It’s little wonder she stopped writing love letters to her husband and sealing them with a kiss.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t make time to take stock of our lives and our relationships. Stepping off life’s treadmill for a moment to assess where you’re at and what’s important is healthy.
And if you want to hit the cocktail circuit, get away to a lonely log cabin to spice up your marriage, or dust off your fluorescent tights and Tank Girl goggles and go raving, then good for you.
But a woman’s life changes enormously in the time between saying ‘I do’ to ‘Can you pick the kids up from soccer?’ It’s unrealistic and unreasonable to think that her marriage — or any of her relationships for that matter — will remain unaffected.
Underlying the assumption that a woman must remain unchanged throughout her life, lest she break the marriage contract, is yet another expression of the belief that women are only worthy when they’re youthful.
Just as we feel pressure to freeze our faces and our bodies in time, we also have to freeze our personalities, interests and energy levels too.
It’s also insulting to men to think that their love is so inflexible that unless their needs are being met the same as they were in the honeymoon phase then they’re going to feel cheated. When I forwarded Bild’s article to my husband, his response was that her attempt to reclaim her youth just sounded exhausting.
‘Who’d want to be twenty again?’ he asked.
The party-girl sex kitten Bild’s husband proposed to is now the mother of his children. Not going out all night dancing because she has to get up in the morning to make the kids breakfast isn’t a marital transgression. It’s a good thing.
Diverting a huge chunk of your time, energy and priorities away from your husband and towards your children is not marital neglect either. It’s called having a family.
The advice also has an air of desperation: if women don’t maintain perpetual youth, then their husbands will leave them. This anxiety and insecurity is not entirely unfounded. The middle-aged man trading in his wife for a younger model is common enough to become a cliché.
However, if clinging to your twenties for dear life is what it takes to keep a husband then you have to wonder if he’s worth the effort.
Marriage shouldn’t be about an endless, and inauthentic performance of youth.When you vow to love, respect and nurture each other, accepting and supporting your partner as they evolve and age is what you signed up for.
In six short years my husband and I have changed careers, developed new interests, sustained fatigue and readjusted our priorities because we’ve had two kids, and (hopefully) matured a bit too.
Rather than resenting each other for changing, or faking it to maintain an illusion, relationships are about loving and supporting each other as you journey together through life’s stages.