My husband and I have been married for nearly 13 years and dating for just a little over that. Fun story: We met in college one October and got married three months later!
I wasn’t pregnant. We weren’t totally nuts. It just … happened that way.
In that time, our marriage has been through a whole lot. We’ve separated and reunited. We’ve had a kid. We’ve lost a pregnancy. We have been through more jobs than I can count, zigzagged across the United States several times, and changed career trajectories. We have a bunch of pets. We are totally together, and we are totally a mess.
One thing that has been crucially important to both of us is having relationships outside our marriage.
I don’t mean boyfriends and girlfriends — I mean relationships with other adult humans who are super important to us. You know, friends.
I didn’t think this was too big of a deal until I started talking to other people about it. I like, and prefer, that my husband has whole worlds he lives in that I don’t know much about. He works at a hospital and hangs out with coworkers whom I rarely meet. Granted, they sometimes float into our lives (and, in fact, we currently have a righteous D&D group with two of them), but in general, it’s cool to me that he knows people I don’t know, that he talks to them about all kinds of things, and that he comes home and tells me about the conversations — or he doesn’t.
Similarly, I have friends my husband has never met. I talk to them about every topic under the sun. Sometimes he hears about it, and sometimes he doesn’t, and it’s no big deal either way.
Generally speaking, it seems that a lot of people think that your partner should be the person you get everything from. And personally speaking, the idea of drawing emotional and mental fortitude from only one person, and sharing huge life experiences with only one person, makes me kind of sad.
First things first, let me say this: I do think that it’s important for your partner to be someone you can tell anything and everything to. And I really mean everything. My husband and I have been working toward that level of intimacy for years, and we are in a place right now that is honest more than it’s anything else. And you know what? It’s so ATTRACTIVE.
I love that we can tell each other anything and have conversations about everything and still want to hang out at the end of the day. I could never be in a marriage where my partner isn’t someone I want to come home and tell things to. It’s just that he’s not always the first person I want to tell things to, and that seems to be what some people just don’t like.
Some days, something happens at work, and I’m going to text my best friend about it 10 times out of 10. Sometimes that’s because she is the only person I know who will actually care if Kim Kardashian gives us a tour of her fridge. Other times it’s because I’ve known her for 17 years, which is four years longer than I’ve known my husband, and she’s been my go-to longer. That’s OK!
Other days, I might really need to talk to someone about something that is actually going on in my relationship. And one of the best people I do that kind of chatting with is another very close friend, who is male (and straight, which seems to be a sticking point people can’t get around). We’re like Harry and Sally, except, you know, with other people whom we actually love.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to talk about my relationship with my friend, even if he’s a guy. I talk about my marriage all the time with my female friends! And honestly, this particular guy friend gives great advice that often helps me sort through my feelings about a situation in a way that is less dramatic than what I might have come up with on my own.
If you ask me, the idea that one person is supposed to be your sole source for all that is good in life is a little possessive and a little exhausting. We are all human, and none of us belong to anyone else. On top of that, we’re not responsible for anyone else’s emotional state but our own.
I am the type of person who loves fiercely and forever, and who will move mountains for the people I love the most. I put enough emotional labor on myself in terms of my marriage and my friendships that I don’t need anyone else adding to it!
For the two of us, nurturing friendships outside of our marriage is just part of the respect we have for one another. It doesn’t mean our marriage is better than anyone else’s (because trust me, we have stuff to work on! always), but it does mean it’s what’s working for us right now. I definitely prefer this current version of our marriage to all the other ones.
We weren’t really able to get here, though, without a lot of communication. It was hard at first, but now we trust each other to be honest about what we want and need, and what we experience.