As my regular readers know, I am not a huge fan of Shona Sibary. She is a nasty piece of work who uses her family life and circumstances as click bait for her columns at the Daily Mail, although in her comments to me on this blog, she has encouraged me “not to believe everything I read”, which I rationally take to mean she makes a lot of her shit up.
I blog anonymously and use pseudonyms for my children and family and friends and I think carefully before relating anything that might be painful for my children or husband to read, but I guarantee you I don’t make anything up. My “true stories” are all true, including the ones I plan to relate today.
So here is the quick and dirty story about Shona’s marriage: she dated her husband for six years and he finally confessed he couldn’t imagine waking up to her every day for the rest of his life and then vomited. They parted, but then had a little break-up sex party and Shona “accidentally” got pregnant.
Accident my ass.
Keith stepped up to the plate and married Shona and they went on to have three more children and built a life together. In Shona’s words:
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe that I struck gold with a man who put building a family above his own pursuit of personal happiness.
Oh, honey, strike gold you certainly did. Keith understands what marriage IS. You, on the other hand, are a spiteful, immature toddler who needs to be taken in hand. Shona’s main bone of contention is that her marriage to her husband didn’t begin from a place of Disney fairytale romance complete with sparkles and a tiara.
After four children, fourteen years, countless material comforts and endless hours of companionship, Shona still resents the fact that her husband broke up with her all those years ago.
I push Keith constantly. I’m forever testing his commitment, his desire to be here. I’ve even threatened to walk out on occasions and he has resorted to hiding the car keys to stop me. But, by the same turn, I know there is no way he would ever leave – he wouldn’t do it to the children and has said this often in the heat of a row. So he is here to stay. Just not because of me.
I’ll never know if Keith truly loves me.
There are two huge things wrong with that last statement: 1) Most marriages may begin with romantic love, but that is not what sustains them; and 2) Men show their love by DOING, and for the love of fucking god, what more do you expect Keith to do?
It’s hard to imagine Keith could have bestowed his loyalty and dedication and children on a more undeserving woman. You’ll never know if he loves you? He’s there. He has built a life with you. He tolerates your insecurities and selfishness and your tendencies to beat the crap out of your children (something I will never understand). By your own words, you know he will never leave you. He will never hurt his own children. He will never let your bat-shit craziness destroy him or his family.
What do you think love means, if not that?
The dictionary definition of “love” is something like an intense feeling of attachment or affection for a particular person or thing, but that definition spins a little differently when sex and marriage and children come into play. “Love” becomes a term that expresses evolutionary-economic exchange.
Here is a link to an article at Psychology Today that discusses a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called Let’s Get Serious: Communicating Commitment in Romantic Relationships.
Are men or women more likely to confess love first in romantic relationships? And how do men and women feel when their partners say “I love you”? An evolutionary– economics perspective contends that women and men incur different potential costs and gain different potential benefits from confessing love. Across 6 studies testing current and former romantic relationships, we found that although people think that women are the first to confess love and feel happier when they receive such confessions, it is actually men who confess love first and feel happier when receiving confessions.
The researchers begin with the premise that “love” expresses an indication of future devotion, a commitment to future behavior. And naturally, men and women have different attitudes and needs when it comes to future commitment. Men say “I love you” to help move a relationship to a sexual level, which doesn’t mean they don’t actually love the person, it just means uttering the words is a good strategy for getting laid. Women say “I love you” once a sexual relationship is underway, because a potential child could be on the way, too, and she will need some devotion to raise that child.
Here is where the research gets interesting: men reported being happier hearing “I love you” BEFORE sex occurs, while women report being happier hearing “I love you” AFTER sex has already taken place. Both men and women consider the timing of the expression to be more honest.
If a man says “I love you” AFTER he has already had sex with you, he is clearly not using love as a technique for getting in your pants. If a woman says “I love you” BEFORE she has sex, she is clearly not just trying to trap you into caring for your offspring.
What is really important here is that love comes down to devotion. To commitment. A man who says “I love you” after he has already had sex with you is a man prepared to devote himself to you. In Shona’s case, Keith’s unquestioning devotion to her and their children IS LOVE. And because Keith expressed that love AFTER she was already pregnant, it is arguably MORE HONEST an expression than any other could ever be.
Why doesn’t Shona get that?
Let’s try to unpack what women mean when they say “romance” and “love”. I don’t think Shona is alone in doubting her husband’s love because he is not expressing it exactly the way she wants him to. In fact, I know she’s not. It’s one of women’s top complaints about their husbands.
Hell, I complain about it, too! But Mr. JB’s lack of romantic impulses doesn’t make me doubt his love for me, it just makes me think he’s being a dick. So I overcome my natural shyness and reluctance to express my opinions (hahahahahahahaha!), and I ASK him to give me what I want or do what I would like.
Buy me flowers
Run me a bubble bath
Write me a sonnet (that worked out well)
I am well and fully aware that there is a huge disparity between me and my husband when it comes to the idea of “romance”, but I have never, for one moment confused “romance” with love. Love is going to work every day. Love is paying all the bills. Love is being here even when I’m being unreasonable or I’m in a bad mood or I’ve had a rough day with the kids and I take it out on him.
My love is providing all his meals, keeping our house (somewhat) neat and tidy, caring for our children with as much kindness and patience as I can muster, being here even when he’s boring me into a coma with the details of some stupid planning meeting or yelling at me because something at work pissed him off.
For my husband, that’s enough. Devotion, commitment, tolerance, patience and the rock solid knowledge that I will never leave. For me, it’s not. I want all those little fairy tale gestures, too. Yes, I realize it’s not fair. If he is happy just knowing that I am here, I should be happy just knowing that he is here. Well, I’m not. Boo fucking hoo. Buy me some flowers. Life isn’t fair.
When he falls off the “I must please my irrational wife” bandwagon, I don’t confuse that with “he doesn’t love me”. Pleasing me is not love. Sharing my interests is not love. Love is being here. Forever.
The fact that Shona’s marriage had a rough start is irrelevant. What happened fourteen years ago doesn’t mean one goddamn thing. It’s everything that has happened since then that matters.
True story: Mr. JB and I met at grad school, far away from our families and we were free to ignore all their expectations and aspirations for us. We dated for a year, and then decided that we would be engaged for a full year, not to plan a wedding (how dumb), but to be sure. To be certain we were making the right decision. To have time to turn over the idea that this would be forever. To have a few fights, and figure out how we would solve them. To really get to know each other.
And everything was fine until we took jobs in a city that put us in regular contact with his family. And his mother in particular. Mr. JB had spent the two previous years before he met me in Japan, and a lot of that had to do with freeing himself from the suffocating influence of his mother. I have some compassion for the Dowager, as Mr. JB is an only child, and that was not by choice. The Dowager had wanted three children, but she suffered from secondary infertility and miscarried every other child she conceived. There were many.
I cannot imagine her heartbreak.
Understandably, Mr. JB is incredibly precious to his parents, and when they met me, they were visibly, palpably upset. I was not the woman they had in mind for their darling son. Because I did not really know them, I did not see all the ways in which they disparaged me, or called into question Mr. JB’s choice. Apparently, I was on the receiving end of many snarky, snide, insulting comments, but I’m not fluent in Snotbag White Speak, so I missed them.
When Mr. JB broke off our engagement two days before Christmas, I was completely blindsided.
Absolutely the worst Christmas of my life. I was devastated. Shattered. And so was he. He spent several weeks talking with two of his very close friends, who eventually helped him to see that he was completely nuts to bow to his parents, and six weeks later, the phone rang and he asked me to meet him at a hotel restaurant.
He explained everything that had gone on in his mind and by the end of dinner, he asked me to marry him all over again.
You know what I recall the most about that whole episode? That when I met him outside the hotel, he had a single rose. One. It makes me laugh, even now, to think about it. Dude, are you fucking serious? If ever there was a time to splurge on a dozen roses, THIS IS IT!
But nope. One rose. I still have it.
I don’t look back on that in anger. He made a mistake. He fixed it. And he saved the $24 a dozen roses would have cost. Four months later, we married. His parents looked like they were at a funeral. It was terrible, and I’m sure it was unpleasant for Mr. JB to see them react like that.
This summer will be our thirteenth wedding anniversary. I don’t look back to the beginning of our relationship and think “he didn’t love me enough to stand up to his mother”. If I ever bring the subject up, it’s in jest.
Love isn’t a single moment frozen in time. It isn’t one act or one thought or one word. It’s a long series of moments and acts and words that have no end but one.
One day, we will be old, and we will die. And love will be the culmination of every day we spent together. Because that is what love is. A lifetime of devotion.
After 14 years, it looks to me like Keith knows what love is. God knows why, but he loves her. I actually feel sorry for Shona. How awful to not see something so beautiful, right in front of your face.
I wonder if that wonky eye has anything to do with it?
Lots of love,