By Tina Zita
Single people are often thought of as “lost at sea” when their friends sail ashore in a matrimonial boat made for two. I sense that some of my friends think of me as lonely and adrift because I’ve remained a single woman. Truth be told, I am not a particular fan of marriage, I enjoy my solitude, and I was hoping my friend’s marriages would serve to alter my perspective. In actuality, many of their unions have left me more determined to never drop anchor. I’m no marriage counselor, but I’ve learned a few things from watching my coupled friends repeat behavioral patterns over the years, and while I realize one incident is not indicative of a whole marriage; the examples below have taught me a lot about what can go wrong and right:
The Rough Water Couple: This couple invited me over to a party. I walked in and the husband proudly showed me his homemade marinade, filled my glass with wine, and complimented his wife’s beautiful table setting. As I sat down to eat, I witness his wife humiliate him for making a mistake in front of their guests and become infuriated when he carried out the BBQ meat on the wrong plate. This example of marriage didn’t look like fun to me, it was rough water. I wanted to take my friend by the arm and whisper, “What is wrong with you? This man loves you and worked hard on this meal. Was his plate choice really important enough to berate him in front of your mutual guests?” It was embarrassing for us and for him; he wasn’t the same the rest of the night.
“Mary and Jimmy” A Smooth Sailing Couple: When they invite me over for BBQ’s, I’ve noticed Mary will kiss Jimmy on the cheek while he is grilling, bring him a cold drink and says things like, “Thanks babe, this all tastes great!” Jimmy usually brings her plate before his own, accompanied by a wink and a genuine happiness to serve her. I see this caring attitude reciprocated when it’s Mary’s turn to cook. I’ve learned a lot by spending time with this couple. They are both attractive people, but their charming interactions shine the brightest in any social gathering — like a lighthouse pointing the way back to safety.
Lesson Learned: Appreciate your husband and take notice when he is working hard. Don’t ever shame a man in front of family and friends, ever.
The Woman Who Forgot How To Navigate: I know a woman who has forgotten how to steer her own ship and morphed into her husband. I don’t know what happened to her? Each time we get together I hear things like, “Tim and I just love this color.” The problem is, I’m not talking to Tim, and I miss hearing her individual opinion. While dining at a new restaurant she’ll say, “Oh, Tim will love this dish, we just love garlic.” (Yawn) I wonder to myself if Tim enjoys all of his taste preferences decided for him by his wife. Maybe Tim has changed his mind and now prefers a different color and has developed an aversion to garlic? We’ll never know, because Tim has lost his voice and developed an identical twin.
“Lisa and Mike” Still Waters Run Deep: Lisa and Mike have remained individuals and even though they miss each other dearly when they are apart, they encourage each other to take separate trips with friends. Especially, when it’s something the other has no interest in; they don’t fake it, begrudgingly attend, or texted and call nonstop ruining the others experience. Just last week, Lisa began to ramble on at dinner deciding if she had to choose between becoming a werewolf or a vampire, which she would rather embody. Mike never interrupted her; he laughed and listened patiently until she finally determined that she would become a werewolf. Her reasoning being that she is lazy, and becoming a werewolf would only require her to run at full speed and hunt on full moons. Mike smirked, reached for the bread basket and said, “Good choice, I want to find you naked in the forest!” We all roared with laughter! He didn’t take the opportunity to say something rude about her self-proclaimed laziness; the respect among these two remains constant. I appreciate that I’ve never had to witness them put each other down or speak for one another in my presence. They choose to acknowledge themselves as individuals saying things like, “Oh, you’ll have to ask Mike, I wonder if he would enjoy that?” or “Hey, I wonder if Lisa would be interested in going to that concert?” Mike still flirts with Lisa and she’s equally as smitten, routinely latching onto his side as they walk to the car like a couple of teenagers. Did I mention that everyone in our group of friends is nearing 40? By the looks of their sails, you would never know it.
Lesson Learned: Don’t lose your own voice or speak for your partner. Marriage joins two people, sure, you cohabitate and all of that, but you still have individual brains!
The Fanatical Manipulator: My friend I’ll call “Paige” is a college graduate that consistently made top honors. She is one of the most intelligent, funny, capable women I’ve ever known. (That was until she married a verbally abusive man.) Her husband became fanatical about his beliefs and does not possess anywhere near the mental capacity for learning that she does. His mounting insecurities compel him to attack her self-esteem becoming so relentless in his pursuit of her confidence; that she has actually begun to believe that she is not viable without him. When her family and friends try to build her up and help her out of her funk, he intervenes, promises to change, and cleverly uses what he perceives to be her “weaknesses” as a means to guilt her back into submission. According to him, she is not zealous enough about his viewpoints and needs to change course. This is definitely a lesson for all the things NOT to do!
“Cassie and Matt” A Smooth Sailing Couple: The best example of marriage I’ve ever seen has been that of my friends, Cassie and Matt. They are an inspiration! Matt admires and builds up Cassie in all things, like the time she momentarily took up knitting and made Breaking Bad inspired “Yo Bitch” pot holders. He proudly hung them on the wall making certain we all noticed how creative his wife was and even took orders. When they began to plan their wedding it only took them a month! (I didn’t even think that was possible.) Neither of them stressed over minor details the whole event was fun, relaxed, and low maintenance. They weren’t concerned with which flowers to choose or what color the napkins should be. Their excitement centered on making their union official and enjoying the after party alongside family and friends. When we have Scrabble parties, they are still amused and astonished by each other’s ability to be clever and innovative. Matt never tries to tell Cassie how to think, and if he did she would toss him overboard. I get the sense he admires that quality in her. Cassie allows Matt the freedom he needs to evolve and never criticizes him, she just quietly pulls ropes alongside him, hoisting the sails, tanning her legs, and trusting Matt’s ability to lead them into their next adventure. Cassie and Matt have been together over fifteen years and every time I am around them, I smile with amazement and am honored to witness their marriage. Experiencing my friends separately heightens the enjoyment, and has a unique way of actually making them seem more inseparable and united in my mind. As far as our group of friends goes, we get to hang out with two awesomely healthy individuals instead of navigating around one unbalanced couple all night long.
Lesson Learned: Don’t suppress your intellectual abilities for a partner that can’t keep up. A secure person will be inspired by your strengths, not threatened by them.
These examples lead me back to the realization that I still prefer casting my own nets and sailing the seas alone. I don’t want a pirate grifting away my peace, I don’t want to live in a cracked submarine, knowing that walls will cave in from the mounting pressure, and I don’t want a captain trying to command a ship that doesn’t belong to him. I will say this, Cassie and Matt’s example of marriage reminds me to lift the tarp off my boat and check for rust on my anchor. When I leave their company and drift back out into the sea of singles, I think, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a sailor that doesn’t want to take over my boat and change it. We’ll elect to drop anchors, choosing to drift separately among the waves, while remaining close enough to communicate, hold each other’s rope calloused hands, and admire the uniqueness of our hulls.