Jabberwocky asked me to write a bit about my marriage and how it’s been, and I think that’s a fair question, given that I’ve written a lot about marriage, including plenty of criticism as well as attempts to reform the institution.
He also showed some insight into my character, such as the fact that bachelorhood doesn’t come naturally to me. This is true. Following my divorce, I avoided women for a few years because I was still recovering from the trauma it caused. I think that was a good thing, as it allowed me to focus on my kids and rebuilding my life (as well as building The Spearhead) without drama or distraction. However, by the time I started to feel normal, which happened almost exactly three years after my separation, nature once again took its course, and I met my wife.
We’re a far better match than my first wife and I were. My first wife and I met when we were quite young, and I had this idea that I would be a normal, middle-class guy who could make a family and grow old in peace, then enjoy old age with grandchildren. I idealized that lifestyle because my parents divorced when I was very young, I grew up witnessing a lot of family turmoil, and had a fairly rebellious and unstable adolescence as a result of that. In my young man’s mind, domestic peace and tranquility, decency, modesty and humility were goals to strive for, perhaps partly in defiance of the chaos of my youth.
So I married my ex, thinking all would turn out alright if I believed enough and followed the conventional steps. Although I had some gnawing doubts from the beginning, I figured that since we didn’t argue, she seemed fairly loyal and we were both healthy, it would work. We had two kids in quick succession shortly thereafter, and with them this sense of confidence vanished. It turned out that the reason our relationship had worked before was because it was so easy and our needs so few. Suddenly my ex, despite having decent motherly instincts, was “not happy.” Our income was much reduced, the babies were loud, I realized my pay was a lot lousier than it seemed before (especially for Seattle), and trouble with the in-laws began to boil over into real resentment. Less than a year after my daughter was born I already had the sense that things were not going to turn out well, and within just six months of that it was over. It was a short marriage. If it were a person, it would have one of those sad little inconspicuous children’s tombstones you see at the cemetery which, despite their humility and small profile, are the most arresting of all.
This time, however, I found a woman I really like to talk to. One whose interests coincide with mine, who enjoys my sense of humor, and who says what’s on her mind. We both have a love of the written word and are polyglots, covering five languages between the two of us (actually seven or eight if you use a more liberal interpretation), which is a lot of fun if you’re into that kind of thing. It doesn’t hurt that she has a lovely figure and pretty face with nice brown eyes (I’ve always liked brown-eyed women), but physical attraction is never enough to keep people happy, despite what some may think, and even the most beautiful women can come to be tiresome.
Another difference is that we openly express disagreement — a lot more than I ever did with my ex. This may sound bad to some, but voicing disagreement is communication. If there’s a problem, it’s much better to work it out with someone who is willing to argue than someone who will not. If your wife disagrees with you and is not willing or doesn’t care enough to argue about it, guess what? Your marriage is in big trouble. It may already be over.
As for my men’s issues writing, she sometimes disagrees vehemently, and gives me some grief over it, but she also agrees with a surprising amount. The main sticking points are support for mothers, which I think should be conditional, and she does not, and whether younger women really are sometimes proper for older men (she scoffs at the idea). But she isn’t a typical American feminist — she’s a NE European, with a more “Mitteleuropa” cultural sensibility, so some of the craziness of Anglo feminism, such as support for throwing women into battle or demanding that women “lean in” seems absurd and backward to her, and the opposite of what she’d call progress. Someone could probably write a book about the myriad philosophical differences between European and American feminism. Interestingly, as a European she’s much more of a moderate on the abortion issue than American feminists, seeing abortion as a negative thing overall, especially in the context of small peoples like her own, and thinks the 12 week limit, standard in much of Europe, is adequate (it may surprise people to know that American abortion laws are, in general, more liberal than European ones). All in all, we probably agree more than disagree when it comes to sexual politics, with some notable exceptions.
As for whether she supports me writing about these things, this isn’t really an issue. We’re both pretty liberal about allowing each other to express ourselves freely, and in any event it’s a form of honest work, even if it doesn’t pay off all that well (I hope to make some changes in that regard). However, if I were writing obscene or otherwise sexually explicit material, I think that would probably be a dealbreaker, and that’s fine by me — it would be unreasonable to expect a wife to tolerate that when I’d never accept it from her.
Will it last? I hope so, but part of marriage these days is accepting that you can only do your part. Actually, I suspect that’s always been the case. Read Hosea for some Biblical context on the issue. I’ve come to understand that if someone really wants to go, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let them have their way and keep a philosophical attitude about it. I believe this is even expressed in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). In other words, I can only keep my promises in that regard, and that’s quite enough to ask of one man.
Hopefully, this is enough to satisfy readers’ curiosity. In general, I try to keep my family out of things, but since I’m writing about these issues so much it’s bound to come up from time to time. As a final little note, we just found out that we’re having a boy, God willing.