When I was younger I knew everything. One of the things I knew was that only stupid women put up with men's crap. I knew that I wasn't stupid therefore I knew that if my future husband offended me in some way then I would quickly be the one to walk away from the marriage. I knew that I deserved "better" (such a subjective term) and that I would not let any man give me any shiz so whoever was brave enough to marry me would have to be on his absolute best behavior permanently or for however long he wanted to be married.
I was super, super intelligent. And kind of badass, no?
Back then I was a feminist-for-no-real-reason and a slight man-hater. Or so I thought. In reality I was insecure and had a bad taste in my mouth from watching my parents struggle in their own relationship.
If I went back in time I think my 16- to 18-year-old self would be ashamed of my 26-year-old self. If I told her what life would be like eight years after high school -- married for five years with two kids-- that version of me would A. laugh because it's a ridiculous scenario and B. be very annoyed that her future self isn't a missionary in Africa reporting for a major news outlet and starting a grassroots movement to help the poor.
My former self would be disappointed that she ended up settling for scrubbing toilets as a stay-at-home mom. She would be angry when she found out the things that "I put up with," the things that my husband and I have worked through in our marriage, and the things that I have forgiven him for. (I also like to think that she'd also be a little embarrassed to find out the things he's forgiven her for.)
My former self would encourage me to not let a man step all over me. Never put your guard down. You make your own decisions and live your own life! Independence: yay! Co-dependence: boo!
You have to understand that my definition of "letting a man step all over me" was more like "letting a man not give me what I want." I was one of those people who was happy when priests skipped over the "wives submit to your husbands" part of the Colossians reading in mass. Submit? Never! Ridiculous! Submission is a thing for women who are losers!
Despite how intelligent my former self thought she was, she really knew squat about squat. She certainly didn't know anything about marriage and definitely didn't know that in order to be married and stay married, you have to be a little stupid every now and then.
To be married you have to humble yourself a lot. You have to put the other person first. You have to let another person take the lead in matters that truly, deeply affect you. You have to let someone else make a decision and support it even if it's not the one you would have made. You have to open yourself up to be hurt, be vulnerable, and forgive, over and over again. Sometimes you have to forgive the other for taking advantage of your trust and sometimes, hypothetically, you have to forgive him for leaving the hairbrush on top of the toilet every single day for eternity.
Marriage doesn't make sense. Not in today's world anyway. It is a co-dependent relationship that transcends logic.
Yes, marriage is sharing living arrangements and paying bills and sharing the blanket and taking on diaper duty and splitting holidays and starting a family and driving kids to school and fighting and making up and making up again because you didn't really mean it the first time. But behind all these practical every day life things is a decision to be stupid by elevating another person to the same level as yourself. Equals.
It's so stupid because we are humans and so each of us, in our own brain, thinks he is better than the others. We're awesome and we know it. When we get married and decide to share life with another human, we're supposed to think they are awesome just like us and that his or her way of thinking is just as good as ours and if it's not respect it anyway. Stupid. It doesn't make sense.
Yet marriage is great because it stretches us to points where we have to crumble and be humble. Be vulnerable and trusting or else. Marriage wrings us so tightly that all that is left is to mature and grow up.
It is not easy. You have to be stupid to stay married. You have to absolutely ignore what the world tells you is smart (independence and self-reliance) and open yourself up for the possibility of vulnerability and hurt and forgiveness sometimes simply because you are committed.