Are You A Worse Person Since Marriage? I Am
I used to be really, really nice in my teens and early twenties. I’d avoid confrontation. I’d often concede to my friends’/boyfriends’ wishes. I wouldn’t be terribly critical. I was just plain nice.
I’m not quite so nice anymore, particularly in the context of my relationship with Mike. (I’m still nice to my friends.) I often wonder why that is. Why would nine years of marriage make Mike a better person and me a worse person? He’s thoughtful and is generally happy to let me make most of the day to day decisions about our lives, as well as the bigger ones. He is a great co-parent and relieves me of child duty the second he gets home until that child goes to bed. Of course he has his moments of annoyance, but in general, he’s quite nice and generous to me.
I often worry that I’m not as generous and giving as he is within the context of our marriage. Not that I don’t adore him. I’m actually quite affectionate usually, and I’m his biggest fan. But I also tend to lean towards being protective of my personal space, of my free time, of my autonomy. I’m very sensitive to criticism and I don’t like him telling me (or even suggesting) what I should do. If he makes a mild comment about how ‘we’ need to clean out the fridge, I might occassionally get defensive and reply something like, “You mean I have to clean out the fridge. Since when did the fridge become my job?” And if I’m particularly ticked off or feeling put upon, I’ll pull out something like. “It’s because I’m a woman, right? That’s why it’s my job to clean up the crap around the house, huh?”
(I’m not usually that pissy, but that side of me probably does pop out every year or two.)
I’ve put some thought into why I act like this sometimes, and my theory is that it is, at least in part, because of the patriarchal structure of the culture we are both a part of. I’m sensitive of the fact that he was raised in world in which men ‘preside’ over their wives. For years I was hurt and insecure about the temple covenant I had to make about hearkening unto him. Now at this point in my life, I’ve completely eliminated that type of patriarchal thinking from my understanding of God and marriage, but I am still cognizant of the fact that Mike embraces the faith structure that teaches these things to him in the temple. Thus my feelings of insecurity and hurt continue.
To put it briefly, I wonder if the patriarchal structure of the Church enables/ gives space to men to be the generous, the kind, and the giving, because it puts them in a position of power over their wives. When one is in the position of privilege, perhaps it’s easier to be benevolent? I, however, not being in the position of power, am at times prickly and sensitive to him lording his priesthood power over me in any way.
Of course these dynamics don’t hold true for all people in patriarchal cultures. I can think of a lot of traditional marriages where the man is a controlling and unkind jerk, perhaps in part because his culture has taught him that by divine right he’s the boss in his family, whereas the woman is sweet and kind. But I do think my theory might be one explanation for some Mormon women not being quite as nice as their super nice husbands, due to the insecurity they feel from teachings that don’t distribute power equallly to both partners.
If patriarchal language was completely eliminated from Mormon marriage, would I be less insecure, more giving, and kinder to my partner? I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.
Do these kinds of dynamics play out in your marriage/marriages around you?
If married, are you a better person since marrying?
And does my theory about patriarchy leading women to be less kind to their partners at all resonate with you?