Marriage: Expectations

While it’s true that my mother has given up more of her personal ambitions in marriage than my father ever did, she demands far more out of marriage than he ever will. He is far more accepting of her than she is of him. (“She’s the best Carole she can be,” he often says, while one gets the feeling that my mother believes her husband could be – maybe even should be –Β  a much better man.) She commands him at every turn. She’s subtle and graceful enough in her methods of control that you don’t always realize that she’s doing it, but trust me: Mom is always steering the boat.

So THAT’s it. Subtle. Graceful. Remember that, Diana. Subtle. Graceful.
*Mouths the words, trying to introduce them to her brain*

She comes by this trait honestly. All the women in her family do this. They take over every single aspect of their husbands’ lives and then, as my father loves to point out, they absolutely refuse to ever die. No man can outlive an Olson bride.

By this point, I was laughing so hard I could only nod in silence, shoulders shaking, when a man asked if he may take the chair near me. His eyes grew wide with the laughter he’d caught as he walked back to sit with his friends. Related post, If I Die.

My father once joked – not really joking – that my mother manages about 95 percent of his life. The wonder of it, he mused, is that she’s much more upset about the 5 percent of his life that he won’t relinquish than he is about the 95 percent that she utterly dominates.


Robert Frost wrote that “a man must partly give up being a man” in order to enter into marriage. Marriage is a harness of civilization, linking a man to a set of obligations and thereby containing his restless energies. Traditional societies have long recognized that nothing is more useless to a community than a whole bunch of single, childless young men…You need to convince these young men to put aside their childish things and take up the mantle of adulthood, to build homes and businesses and to cultivate an interest in their surroundings. It’s an ancient truism across countless different cultures that there is no better accountability-forging tool for an irresponsible young man than a good, solid wife.Β  ~ Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I must add there is no greater impediment for a man than an unsupportive wife.

Mr. Wayfarer has said women look for a finished product before agreeing to marry but they don’t get that (most) men mature in marriage. Any thoughts?

Mrs. W: How much life insurance do I have on you again?
Mr: “$ —”
Mrs: That’s it?!
Mr: Yeah, better to keep me around. I’m worth more to you alive.

Mr: The pastor said a fish doesn’t know it needs water until it finds itself on land. I take you for granted because you’re always there. I’ve been thinking about how much I’d need you if you weren’t.
Mrs: Oh, honey…
Mr: I’m not just a drummer. I think too, you know.

80 thoughts on “Marriage: Expectations

  1. I love this! And a side comment, I have prepared a file folder (well, on the computer) for my kids titled “If I die.” It’s all the stuff they need to do right away if I die. Don’t you just love that idea of immortality? I got it from my big brother (who did, incidentally, actually die many years back.)

  2. I am neither subtle nor graceful. However, I gave up nothing in marriage and gained much I spend my time running my own life and let my husband run his-quite competently I might ad. We are both standing in our own power, running our own lives, grateful that we can do it together. We respect each other too much to dominate.

  3. I think someone always dominates and there are a lot of power struggles. I think the couples that are happily married are the ones that some how, some way, manage to give and take so it isn’t all one sided. Some couples stay married because one of them puts up and shuts up.

  4. Marriage will sure kick the man’s rear into maturity. But yes, you make that reminder, that there’s the all-in need to keep things working on the wife’s end (not rear end) too.

  5. I find an number of the comment here interesting. One thing that is an embarrassment to me is that I have been married three times. The first was to a high school sweetheart with whom I was married 16 years and fathered four children; our relationship really had no controlling figure although I took on the brunt of the responsibility it was not because I was any better or any worse than her it was just the way that things fell and worked the best; and had we not married so young that she felt the need to “find herself” and leave me and the kids I’m sure that control would never have been an issue.

    My second marriage lasted all of one month. Was totally different, what seemed like a normal reasonable person whiles we dated turned in to a control freak the minute it “I DO’s” were said; my father commented to my best man at the reception “I think my son is in trouble” She wanted to control everything, money, home life, even when I went to work; it was when she decided that I should send my kids to their mother is when I finally had had enough.

    My third marriage, now in it 13th year, is wonderful. Neither of us try’s to change or control anything. Our decisions and responsibilities are shared and addressed together. There are absolutely no trust issues which is why I believe there are no control issues. If we fight, the arguments are never over money or lack of trust they are normally stupid reasons that end up amounting to misunderstandings and are never left to fester, most are resolved within hours od their occurrence.

    I will never claim to be an expert but from my life experience I can tell you. If there is a need for ‘control’ in a relationship its because of the one who needs to be in control has insecurity issues and lacks trust in the relationship. Trust is a must for relationships to work without it there will always be a struggle. If there is trust than there is no need for control. Just my humble opinion,

  6. Funny…really funny, but underscored with some inconvenient truths. First suggestion, be sure you have two rooms, two TV’s, and the right remote, for men will be men and women will b
    e Hallmark! M πŸ™‚

  7. This is an excellent article–personal, insightful, relevant, and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it made me think about my marriage and how it is a continuous improvement project!

  8. I have a feeling I accidentally do this to my hubby, and will have to keep an eye on that. I agree that my hubby is better at accepting me for who I am. Thought provoking and entertaining post!

  9. Mr. Wayfarer must be a remarkable man to have snagged Diana. I must chuckle at his remark – ‘I think too.’ GRIN!

    My thoughts? Like the old saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” I think my husband has this thought committed to memory.

  10. Nice quote. Now I think I should get married. Although marriage is dwindling around me, working less and less. Until the married guys are the ones that now seem immature and irresponsible. Not the singles.

  11. I’m enjoying your description of marriage and the comments. I have married and divorced two husbands, much to my surprise. I like what the poet Rilke says of couples – something to the effect that “two solitudes stand on opposite sides of a divide and salute each other.” I’m one of those solitudes who has found living alone a delicious state of being. In my secret heart I would like to discover another solitude.

  12. Well, of course – if the woman gives up more for marriage then it would stand to reason she would expect more from it. I know what you mean though – I think my partner accepts my flaws more than I accept his…my partner is not someone who is interested in me running his life, and thank god for that. Another child, albeit large, hairy and disobedient :/

  13. I think one of the keys you alluded to is that we need a sense of humor in our marriages. Life’s circumstances and relationships are not always fun or funny, but we can CHOOSE to laugh and smile. Thank you for the reminder that marriages don’t have to be perfect to last!

    • I love how you reflected this back, Debbie. You all keep reminding me of CHOICE. The million choices we have everyday. I needed this truth rearticulated today. (I’d been thinking of you. This happens all the time. Seems I suck you guys into my site with the telepathy.)


  14. It is my hope with marriage that my partner and I will become more of ourselves with each other-and undoubtedly that means supporting each other as fully as is humanly possible, which means sometimes not perfectly. I love that idea of people ripening into marriage.

  15. *Finally*β€”two minutes of reading time to rub together. Must spend them here! And of course, being in the undeserved state of marital bliss that I am, I can only shake my head and laugh ruefully at the plight of those who don’t have such easily-balanced ways to travel with their partners. I had to look up in several dictionaries to learn that about the only word offered when I request a female equivalent for Uxorious is “doting,” which paucity I interpret as a sad or sarcastic intimation that only one in her dotage would have the same oversized admiration for her husband that a man may have for his wife. Me, I am delighted that Richard’s and my couple-hood fit (and still does) dandily within my longtime One Rule for partner-hunting: I think he’s too good for me, while he thinks I’m too good for him. Only kind of inequality I’ll tolerate long-term. πŸ˜‰

    Love and hugs!

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