This morning, I read an article written by Kristin Armstrong (world-reknowned cyclist, Lance Armstrong’s ex wife) that’s entitled, “What I Wish I had Known about Marriage.” It would be nice if you, women especially could read the entire article, but if you’re just breezing through, here are some excerpts and my stand on it:
She talks about the incredible disappearing woman — of being independent and self-reliant when she was a single woman in her 20s, of loving her job, her home, her dog and her life… only to give it all up after she married her husband and devote her life to being his wife and the doting mother to their children.
Consequently, she gave up many of the things she loved. In her words, she frankly writes:
If you ask me today what I truly love, I can easily tell you I love God, my family, my friends, fireworks displays, a good red wine, staying up late with a mystery novel, a sweaty run, painting abstract art, indulging my organizational compulsions, laughing until no sound comes out and taking my time.
If you had asked me when I was married what I loved, I would have automatically told you the things that I loved about my husband: the confident, easy way he traveled between countries adapting to cultures and languages, or the way he could fearlessly MSH (our acronym for “Make shit happen,” something we both excel at), or the little-known fact that he is a good photographer. I forgot my own list (and I’m a list girl!). Making him happy became my happiness.
I have asked myself what I love.
Right now, my list includes wallclimbing, whacking golf balls on the driving range, having warm, intellectual conversations with good friends, dining out in a fancy restaurant with a glass of red wine, reading a gripping book and just living each day as if it’s my last.
People who know me right now applaud of my self-reliance and independence, of making the most out of my singlehood (it’s fun!) and my daring to try out new adventures whenever the opportunity comes.
However, I look back as well to my past. And I realize that despite any appearance of independence, I myself have been dependent on someone before.
It’s kinda scary.
I find it scary that when I’m with someone, his happiness becomes my happines.
I strive to make my partner feel comfortable and harmonious in my presence.
For example, whereas I’d be out going out and socializing with a bunch of people, I was equally happy staying at his pad, cooking fried rice and watch a DVD.
Yes, it was sometimes boring… and ironically I was also quite content.
Just being that special person was enough and for some reason, sacrificing and not really going out and do what I wanted was fine — Because I was happy just being in his company.
In a way, it’s kinda scary to see how exuberant and full of life I am when I’m single, and how laidback and leisurely I can be when I’m with someone.
Here is the truth as I see it: Marriage has the potential to erode the very fiber of your identity. If you aren’t careful, it can tempt you to become a “yes woman” for the sake of salvaging your romantic dream. It can lure you into a pattern of pleasing that will turn you into someone you’ll hardly recognize and probably won’t like.
My mom, is a great woman.
She is a wonderful mom to both my brother and I, and a terrific wife to my dad.
Believe it or not, my father cannot operate without my mom. Honestly, though my father knows he’s well-off, he has no clue where exactly his assets are stored (my mom keeps all the records), how to contact his friends (my mom carries his phonebook) and is super dependent on my mom to operate on a day-to-day basis.
But don’t think my dad’s pussy-whipped.
My dad’s the king of the family.
Without his approval, nothing is spent. Without his approval, nothing gets done. My mom waits for his beck and call for instructions before carrying it out, and I’ve seen how upset and temperamental my dad can be when things don’t go his way.
I remember going back home for a visit.
At that time, I was in a long-distance relationship with my first Ex, the Japanese guy, and it was a few months in our relationship. Now, this ex never really abused me and yet, hasn’t really treated me the way I deserved to be treated either.
But I held on, because I loved him.
Despite all odds, I worked hard to make the relationship work.
He wanted me to act more Japanese, so for goodness sakes, I’ll try to learn about being Japanese.
It was hard.
But during my visit, I saw how my mom was at my dad’s own beck and call. When dad had a bad day, it upset the entire harmony of the household. When dad didn’t get his way, he’d scold her for horus. In a way, my dad’s happiness became her main goal in life. It was then we can have peace in the house.
It hurt me to see my mom lose her identity for my dad.
My mom used to teach engineering students calculus for 10 years at a well-known university. She was very much capable, and I would say, it was because of her that our business is flourishing right now. Whereas my dad made the decisions, she executed them. Boy, my dad really made the best decision of his life when he married my mom.
But because she’d break her back over to please my dad, she doesn’t get much respect.
My God, no matter how I love both parents, I think my dad should treat her a lot better.
And that’s the truth.
A good friend of mine asked why his wife found another lover and divorced him.
“I gave her EVERYTHING I had and she still had the guts to do this to me, he cried.
Honey, that’s exactly why she divorced you…
Cause you gave her everything, including your own identity.
Cause you relied her happiness on your happiness, such that you’ve compromised the most important thing — YOUR OWN HAPPINESS.
And to be solely responsible for another person’s happiness is just too much of a burden and pressure for one person to have.
The beauty of a wife is in her being, not in her doing. During those years I perfected my doing and neglected my being. I remember the day that revelation first hit me: I made a joke to Lance about being opinionated, and he looked at me, sincerely confused: “You?”
How many of us have forgotten our own voices when we’re with our significant others?
How many of us have forgotten to make our needs known, and instead made other people’s needs a priority instead?
How many of us chose to sacrifice our own happiness for the satisfaction of those we care about?
How many of us become shadows, allowing the other to shine more brightly… resulting to us just fading away?
How many of us are truly happy, when we lose sense of who we are?
So yes, Kristin cautions us the following:
If your husband asks what you think, tell him. If you have a preference, voice it. If you have a question, ask it. If you want to cry, bawl. If you need help, raise your hand and jump up and down. I spent five years juggling kids, travel, cooking, smoothing. I never once said that I couldn’t do it on my own, or that I was just plain tired. I became a prisoner to my own inability to say uncle when life squeezed me too hard. The warden was pride, and I remained in maximum security.
The time may come when you realize that the only way to restore the meaning to your marriage is to get back the real you. It requires warrior-size courage to take a stand against the miscommunication, deception and emotional distance that breed in the shadows of inauthenticity. You will have to boldly step up to the line and speak from your heart. You will have to own your words (spoken and unspoken), your actions (done and undone) and the consequences of both. If I ever marry again, I will have cue cards prepared with “Yes, I do know what I want,” “Make me laugh and I’ll get over it” and “I need you, please help me.”
When is enough, enough?
When will we stop sacrificing ourselves, and instead, give our significant partners what truly is important, what they have fell in love with in the first place — the self-reliant, active you that they have met weeks, months and years before?
Somebody wrote (and I felt this is very true):
A man is attracted to us while we are out there busily living our lives, learning, growing, accomplishing things. It’s that essence, that energy that they find alluring. So what’s the first thing we do when they begin to pursue (if we like them)? We start obsessing over everything from what to wear, what to say, to how to act. Every decision we made before him was made with confidence and no second thoughts. Now we end up analyzing not only ourselves but their every action and word as well.
It’s great to have a sympatico man to share some of our time with, and even better to find someone we can sustain this with for a lifetime. But we don’t do him or ourselves any favors by turning into something else when he comes into our lives. If he liked us the way we were when we were unaware, he will like the same US after he is in our orbit. On the other hand, he may be turned off if we change too much from the woman he first wanted to get to know.
Makes perfect sense.
Yes, the Raven’s starting to crow more loudly.
Just a tidbit to share, I did share with you guys that Aussie guy is back and has started contacting me again. Anyway, we’ve made plans to see each other later this week for brunch and maybe a movie. Since falling in line in a busy weekend isn’t our idea of a good time, Aussie guy decided to just purchase tickets online.
Last night, he sent me this text message: “Perhaps tomorrow, send me a link on where I can book. If it’s in Chinese, I’ll just give you my card details. But I’ll just try to do it first. Dong bu dong?”
Now, non-Chinese speakers would think nothing of it. However, speaking intermediate Chinese, I found the statement quite patronizing.
“Dong bu dong” innocently means “Do you understand?”
However, it can be misconstrued as “Here are my instructions. Do you understand them or not?” which sounds a bit more condescending andmaking the reader (me) feel a bit like a dunce for not being able to comprehend such simple request.
Regardless, it was no big deal. Since he doesn’t really speak Chinese, it’s forgiveable and language can be understood in many ways. I think what he meant to say was “hao bu hao?” (literally translated as “ok or not” but loosely translated as “Is this okay with you?“) which sounds sweeter and more playful.
Frankly, the old Raven would just let the comment slide. I mean, it’s always good to choose your battles wisely, so why make a fuss over a simple linguistic mistake.
However, I have also felt that yes, I was offended… and if I was, he should know about it, get the chance to explain itself if the comment was originally intended to be patronizing and just tell him that I was uncomfortable so he wouldn’t do it again.
And because of that, we’re all good now.
This morning, he wrote, “Sorry, did not all mean to sound the least bit patronizing, just being playful. Must be my misunderstanding of the term. Sorry. Yeah, send me that link and we can work out the details. Sorry again.“
I felt better, and after consoling him that it was merely a linguistic misunderstanding and it’s no big deal, he feels better as well, albeit adding that maybe he should just stick to his native tongue.
But small issues become big.
If I have allowed to let this teeny-tiny issue grow and fester, I myself would be more resentful that he’s not respecting me and that would affect how I would deal with him in the future.
Instead, by sharing with him how I really felt, he can better know that yes, Raven has limits too and would be more careful with what he says in the future. If he doesn’t know I was offended with that statement, he’ll probably do it over and over again, then pissing me off and making me explode after weeks of doing so.
Anyway, I digress.
Bottomline is, no matter who we deal with… a friend, a lover, or acquaintances, it’s not a bad thing to have boundaries and to let others know about it, so long as you’re not arrogant or unkind when telling them. And despite how much we love someone, it’s important to maintain a strong sense of self.
Sure, you may risk conflicts along the way… but as my friend SB has said, “Conflict is good. It’s a sign of a healthy relationship, so long as you both know how to deal with it.“
As both of you express each other’s needs, you can each understand and respect each other more.
And trust me, be a happier person for it.
I know I am. 🙂
Anyway, body hurts right now… hurt myself with a small painful wound when I slammed myself on the wall last night. 🙁
Oh well, have a happy Thursday! Till tomorrow!