You know one of those parenting refrains meant to put off your kvetching as a child? “When you’re an adult you can do what you want…” or something similar. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it – I earned the right to not hear it several years ago, and it’s been quite a pleasant ride.
Which is why it always bothers me when I hear a particular phrase from married friends. And that phrase is (all together now):
“My husband doesn’t let.”
Pardon me a sec while I release some feeling:
I really don’t like it. Quite frankly, it creeps me out.
I mean, when was the last time you ever said anything similar? Probably when you were a teenager. “My mother doesn’t let.” or “my father doesn’t let” or “the principal doesn’t let” or something like that. It’s the complaint of the minor – the youngster who is helplessly restrained by the power wielded over him/her by authority figures.
That is not how I visualize my relationship with my husband.
I always thought of marriage as a partnership. And by definition, that’s a union of equals. Yes, halachically, the husband gets to call the shots. But that’s a last-resort thing, in my little idealistic view. Pulling rank, so to speak. Until then, you compromise. I mean, most things are not really important, and it’s just a matter of gauging who it’s less important to. And the big stuff you’ve hopefully discussed already. I mean, that’s what dating is for, right?
So, I really don’t mind lines like “I’d rather not, it bothers my husband” or “It would make my husband nervous and he did the dishes last night.” You’re looking out for him. Sounds right to me.
And it’s not like it’s only the pushovers who suddenly start ending every conversation with “My husband doesn’t let.” Often I’m quite surprised by the ones who happily leap into matrimonial bondage. However, I never said anything until one particular friend played the line after a fairly innocuous request.
Me: So, are you up for a day trip to Mogadishu?
Her: Sorry, my husband doesn’t let.
Me: What? You too?!
At which point she bursts out laughing for a good three minutes.
Her: Bad4, that’s half the reason to get married!
Me: What? So you can miss day-tripping in Somalia?
Her: No, so you can blame everything on your husband, and nobody can say anything!
Her: It’s just an excuse.
Me: So what you’re saying is that you really don’t feel like going to Mogadishu with me, but instead of just telling me straight out, you’re blaming your poor spouse?
Her: Hello, yes! That’s what I’ve been saying.
Me: O-o-oh… But… everyone? I mean, is this something they teach you in kallah classes?
Her: Just about!
Me: Okay, I’ll go find someone single to go to Mogadishu with.
But apparently not all NMFs use supposedly totalitarian husbands as excuses. Just yesterday one informed me, in all seriousness, that she knew of one other person who believed that marriage was about compromise, rather than one dominant partner, and that both of us are single.
Now, that is certainly true. I am single. That is why I am not, among other things, writing dating handbooks or offering marriage counseling services. But that doesn’t mean that everything I believe are the beliefs of the non-marriageable.
So, are there any married people out there who believe that you can have two equal partners who work things out together, rather than one who tells the other what to do?