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You can do marriage your way

Your marriage doesn’t have to play by other people’s rules

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Not long after my wedding, a college friend messaged me on Facebook. Not to congratulate us. No, she wanted to voice her concern. You see, my spouse and I weren’t posting a lot about our married life.

Look at our feeds, she said. We didn’t share photos of breakfast in bed. No cutsie status updates. No date night selfies. Just business as usual. He talked about computer games. I posted jokes about grading. We weren’t even going to the gym together. That seemed unhealthy.

Not to mention our profile pics hadn’t changed. Judging by other Facebook accounts, we were supposed to update those to “couple profiles,” removing any doubt about our relationship status.

We weren’t behaving like a normal married couple. Whatever that meant. According to my friend, we were hurtling toward an early divorce faster than a plane toward a mountain.

The research I’ve come across says the opposite, though. People who post a lot on social media, for mainly personal reasons, might be trying to compensate. That’s just to say, don’t assume my marriage is failing because my social media’s not exploding with hearts and wedding photos and plans for our anniversary, and plans for his birthday. And don’t feel like you’ve got to prove your marriage — or relationship — to anyone else. You don’t.

You can be your own person

Old school norms prescribe an entirely different lifestyle. Newlyweds are supposed to watch all the same shows. Meld their social groups. Always sleep in the same bed. Actually, not just in the same bed. They’re supposed to spoon constantly.

Happily married couples always snuggle to sleep. It never gets uncomfortable. His arm doesn’t go numb. You don’t ever feel like he’s practicing some MMA move he saw last night.

That’s how some people think. They’re not shy about using their own version of marriage as a yardstick. Maybe their own insecurity drives them to rank and evaluate others. Everyone can just relax. Marriage shouldn’t devour your soul. You’re not joining a cult. Nobody has to give up their identity.

You can sleep in separate beds

We tried for a while to share a bed. It made me want to murder him. That’s the least successful method of divorce, btw.

Lots of people think you have to sleep together if you’re married. Not true. Think about it. Sleep is for you. It’s not really a couple’s activity.

You might have a lot in common with your spouse. Sleep habits and cycles might not be one of them. People snore. Talk. Laugh. Grind their teeth. Toss and turn. They even kick and steal covers.

My spouse goes to bed before midnight. He moves around a lot. He’s a heavy sleeper. I’m the opposite. Night owl. I sleep like a corpse, but bolt awake at the slightest sound or touch. It’s not a good mix.

After a tour of misery, we finally had a conversation and bought a small cot for me. We also found out that my in-laws, happily married for decades, usually sleep in separate beds. My guilt vanished after a few nights of the best sleep I’d had since the wedding day. So don’t feel guilty if you need your own bed. You owe your partner a rested, happy self.

You can eat at different times

A family that eats together stays together. Bullshit. These days, couples have different schedules. You get hungry at different times. You might even have different diets or food preferences.

My spouse and I only eat dinner at the same time a couple nights a week. But we still spend plenty of time together. We hardly ever eat the same thing. He has his food. I have mine.

That saves us a lot of headache and stress. It also avoids resentment. Nobody wants a spouse who’s whiny because they wanted a hamburger for dinner, but their spouse wanted pasta. So they ate pasta. And sulked.

You’re perfectly capable of cooking your own food. Eat want you want, even if you’re married. And don’t stress about it.

You can keep your own bank account

A joint checking account makes sense sometimes. We have one. Both of us put money into it to cover repairs, big trips, and other expenses. But we’ve kept our own accounts.

Why? Because I don’t want to see every single time he uses his debit card at Starbucks. Honestly, I don’t care. He’s got his income. I’ve got mine. We’ve decided who pays the mortgage, and who covers utilities. We trust each other not to spend recklessly.

We’re both financial prudes anyway. If I’d ever doubted my partner’s ability to pay for his own shit, then I wouldn’t have married him.

You can have your own hobbies

My spouse likes puzzles. I don’t. But we both like a lot of the same TV shows. So we can watch Netflix together. He’ll work on his puzzles. I’ll tweet. We’ll talk and make jokes.

But sometimes I like doing things he doesn’t. And vice versa. Every now and then, I’ll go to movies he wants to see. But not always. Sometimes it’s better for him to go by himself. That way, I’m not dragging him down or making him feel like he owes me something.

A newlywed lifestyle

Some people might feel a sense of despair now. So I’ve taken away joint bank accounts. Shared beds. Couple selfies. What’s left?

When you boil it down, marriage is a lot like rooming with someone. Except you also get to have sex with that person. And they’re supposed to take care of you if you’re ever hit by a bus. Your roommate wouldn’t do that.

You’re like roommates with benefits. That’s what we feel like, and it works fine. Pretty soon, we’ll have a fourth roommate who shits himself, cries all the time, and doesn’t pay any rent.

That’s going to suck. At least our third roommate uses a litter box.

Anyway, don’t let me spoil your attitudes toward marriage. If you want to post tons of selfies in scenic locations, go for it. Your friends might mute you. But that’s their problem. Do whatever makes you happy. I’m just saying that you don’t have to act like the rest of your married friends.