Are you tired of me, my darling?

Posted on July 13, 2011 by

The title of the very old song (written by two men in 1877, from a woman’s point of view, interestingly) is a question that runs through my mind with some frequency as I grow older.  Full on middle age is no longer the next town over, it’s right next door.  The blessing of a traditional marriage for a woman who is facing the loss of her fertility and physical youthfulness, large parts of her identity, is an overwhelming one, yet treated so thoughtlessly, and is so undervalued by the person it most benefits – her.

I married exceptionally  well – we were of equal socio-economic status when we met, but I was – well, morally compromised and ethically challenged, let’s say.   My husband took chances marrying me, in more ways than usual for a career minded upstanding kind of guy.  It was evident from the beginning of our relationship, though, that I was inclined to follow him.  Not just in the Biblical sense, but in the practical one.   He was who I wanted to be.  There was no question that I would be a better person,  become more like him,  and evolve as a good wife under his influence.  His strength of character was enough for both of us, if I would simply follow.

Much is made of “the woman behind the man” and there are certainly brilliant examples of couples in which the wife quietly  – or not so quietly – influences her husband for good, helps him in professional or mission or political life by being the steady.  He would not be who the world perceives him to be if not for her.  He owes a great deal of his success to her.

But what of the man who leads his wife – his primary family, a part of himself – to goodness, when it did not seem she was destined to be much good at all?  The woman, improved, ultimately becomes the wife who is aging, her girlishness is forfeited to the necessary seriousness of child-rearing and the fatigue of fighting her own corrupt nature, while her husband works and provides for the boundaries of comfort in which she has been allowed and encouraged to thrive.  Wife, mother, homemaker, perhaps businesswoman.    She is validated.  She  owes him then, at the very least, a validation of himself in her behavior and her efforts to please him, because she owes him her life.

Do you think the blooms departed from the cheeks you thought so fair?

It is tempting and easy, frankly, in our sweatpants culture for a wife to let all upkeep of personal appearance, except for occasional showering and tooth brushing, become a thing of the past.  This is blatant disrespect for the relationship.  He didn’t quit his job after he married, in fact he probably worked to earn a promotion or six, to please and comfort his wife, yet she effectively quits a large part of hers.    Men are generally practical, and therefore generally easy to please.  Acknowledging the nature of a husbands very simple needs as irreducible is an essential part of honoring him,  of demonstrating care for him – her attention to her appearance and attitude, care for her physical well being, and a youthful sexual appetite are not optional in the marriage economy.  An unkempt, bloated, tragic and withholding wife isn’t a fair return on his emotional investment.  Like Mrs. Frome,  it makes her seem older than her years, and she’ll  go on acting old, dragging him along with her, until he decides to do something about it.  He’s not stupid, he KNEW she would get older, he just didn’t know she would do it so voluntarily.

Do you think I’ve grown cold hearted beneath the load of woman’s cares?

Feminism gave us the meme of the Longsuffering Dutiful Oppressed Housewife, and even in traditional homes managed by wives who know better, it manifests in disharmony and her detachment.  The peaceful energy of a well-kept home and a routine that engenders youthful optimism within the family are replaced with passive aggressive communication and invented sensitivities.  Sometimes innocently, a wife stops being a wife, but only a mother and caretaker.  Sometimes from fatigue, as middle age approaches and hormonally induced discontent rattles its chains, she chooses to express her preference for people other than her husband – parents, children, friends, church group.  The extracurricular demands distract her further from primary focus on him, yet she perceives herself as serving, doing good, and part of her blames him for the stress she’s imposed on herself.  Besides God, a  wife should see her marriage as her primary purpose, as her vocation.  Focusing on her husband keeps her young, because it establishes correct priorities.  Yes, other things must get done and other people must be tended to, but the scattered and frenetic schedule falls away when the priorities organically realign, leaving her more energy to serve meaningfully at home and elsewhere.

Could you make another wife?

I have no doubt my husband could.   He made me the wife I am, I suffer under no illusions that he could not do more with better raw material.   I’m lucky he chooses to love me, to pledge his loyalty to me.  I cannot prevent myself from becoming older, however, I am able to prevent myself from becoming old news.  He asks only that the “real me”, the girl who is no more but whose image is preserved by love, not cease to be recognizable, that I not abandon him to a haggard stranger.  Demanding, right?  I owe him at least as much.

Posted in: Relationships