For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…

Last week I posted a little rant about trust within a very traditional, almost old-fashioned model of marriage: Husband works; wife stays home and raises children.  Woman trusts man not to desert her and leave her penniless. Very 1950s housewife stuff, ya know?

But I’m not naïve or simplistic and I get that there are a zillion different ways to run a marriage.  Long gone are the days when women have few choices and must follow strictly prescribed paths.  We’ve all had to figure out for ourselves what feels right at the end of each day and how to hold conflicting desires within the same heart. But the traditional path is how it’s gone for me.

I look around at all the women I see each week.  They appear assured and so very much put together.  They wife, mother and work with confidence and seem to be aware of the gifts they bring to the world. I assume they’ve made peace with their choices and sleep soundly each night.  So it was quite a surprise last week to discover that the trust post had touched a few raw nerves when it exposed the vulnerability I live with.

Under cover of private email or whispers during chance encounters at kids’ sports games and volunteering events, here is what I heard:

I can’t relate to that kind of trust.  I’ve kept separate money from him for all twenty years we’ve been together.

Marriages fall apart at either the seven or twenty year mark.  At least that’s what happened to me.

I’m re-thinking my philanthropic obligations. I think I should be working instead of spending my time volunteering.

My husband slept with a secretary at work. Now she is suing him for sexual harassment, putting us in financial ruin as we contemplate what to do with our failed marriage.

I opened a savings account so this wouldn’t happen to me.

I work even though I want to be home with my children.  We don’t need my income right now, but I am afraid to give up my stake. 

I wish I were employable.  Every day I wake up and feel anxious that I couldn’t get a good job if I need to.

I haven’t stopped crying since I read about trust. I haven’t trusted him in years.

I spoke with one friend whose husband is sick and is probably going to go to his eternal home before either of them is ready.  She talked about how he trusts her to love him even though neither of them ever wanted this.  Their trust is focusing on the in sickness and in health moment we all want to avoid.  Although their marriage hasn’t always been bursts of sunshine, the connection they are experiencing now is restoring some of what they missed with each other in healthy times.

Then I received a note from a stranger.  Brett turned the tables on the discussion a bit.  Click here to scroll down and read Brett’s entire message to me.  He got my attention really quickly when he wrote “as the main breadwinner in our household, I implore you to note that I (we husbands) put the same trust in our wives.”

Brett described what the last few years of economic downturn has meant for his family.  If he’s like many men I know, his identity was likely rooted firmly in his role of provider and his wife enjoyed the benefits of his focus and drive.  When the world turned upside down and he could not offer that same level of financial support, she had a choice to make.  He wanted us to know that our men depend on us to love them and stick by them even when they cannot provide for us.  You know, the for richer or poorer part of what we said.

Trust makes its way into every relationship, no matter who works, who stays home, whether you have children or brought a trust fund into the marriage. None of us have any guarantees of how it will all turn out and all we can work with is the information we have on hand right now.

I’ve thought about Brett over the last few days and about my own amazing man.  Even though I enjoy the life his income provides me, he is the one I love.  It drives home for me what I already knew: At the end of each day, I don’t want his job or his paycheck in bed with me, I want him.  When each of us is able to avoid placing our value in what we offer each other, we are able to be more real and connected.  And when health or wealth leaves us, we aren’t left with nothing; we are left with our love for each other.

Today, through tears a friend asked, Isn’t it enough just to give him my heart?  Really, at the end of the day, is there anything else we can give?

4 Comments on “For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”

  1. Rena Nichole says:

    I believe in that kind of trust, but I also believe that a woman should have the *means* to take care of herself. That’s not just important because of the possibility of divorce, but also accidents that leave the other spouse incapacitated or deceased, or financial strain which necessitates her entry/return to the work force. That doesn’t just mean financially, but at least maintaining her employable skills.

  2. Mari says:

    So beautifully written, thank you.

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