There seems to be a case of the newlyweds going around. Much like polio vaccinations, the antidote contains a strain of the contagion. You hafta get hitched to get inoculated. It takes about a year or so for the symptoms to decrease. Then it lays dormant in your system till death do you part.
The masses are mostly concerned with those recently infected, and those who have successfully managed their diagnosis for fifty or more years. We are simply teary-eyed over couples who have been married for fifty, sixty, seventy-plus years. They’re an inspiration. On the other end of the spectrum, we feel the need to check in with those newlyweds to make sure they’re managing OK. Maybe they need us to bring them a pot of Chicken Soup for the Just-Married Soul (CSFTJMS). We give them a studious once-over to make sure they seem sufficiently dewy-eyed and affectionate toward one another. And it’s always the same question (newlyweds, say it with me):
“How’s married life?”
Go ahead. Ask a newly-married couple how many times they’ve been asked this exact question. I dare you. Now, here’s the really weird thing: How many newlyweds are going to offer an earth-shattering answer to this question? Even if they’re two months into this gig, and it’s going horridly off the rails, do you think this question paired with a goofy smile on the face of the inquirer is going to solicit any kind of vulnerable answer? Um, no. Best case scenario, you happen to be the first person to ask them this question, and they’re excited to answer with some adorably cute anecdotal proof of their wedded bliss. More likely, you’ll be the 174th person to ask them this week, and they’re so sick of slapping on the million-watt smile and telling cutesie stories that they kinda grimace-glare-mutter something unintelligible which necessitates you administer an emergency dose of CSFTJMS.
This is really not a post about the One Yearers though. This is really just a long-winded segue, but before I drop the newlyweds like a sack of biohazard pathogens, may I make a suggestion for some alternatives to asking the much-dreaded question, “How’s married life?”
“What is one thing that has surprised you about married life?”
“What adjustment has been the most challenging?”
“How can I pray for you?”
“Do you have any leftover trendy cake pops from the reception? I have a craving.”
Moving right along.
While I remember that repetitive question in our early months of marriage, I don’t recall the last time someone asked me. A couple’s first year very well may have significant challenges, but it’s the following 49+ years that will fortify or crumble the castle. Most couples will outlast their first anniversary, but many don’t make it to their matrimonial booster shots.
Booster shots are a tricky thing. I’m sure my childhood vaccinations have worn off, broken down, fallen apart, whatever it is they do when they’re too old. I think I’ve received a couple booster shots of something as an adult…?* If someone hadn’t walked up with a stabby-mabob and administered my whatever booster, I wouldn’t have bothered to ever get it. I don’t spend my days charting immunization boosters and how to maximize their effectiveness. I don’t give them a second thought. I barely given them a first thought. It’s more like a fleeting blip on my brainwaves.
Shots. Blip. Ouch. Blip. Is it too early to have chocolate? Silly me! It’s never too early to have chocolate. Blip-blip.
I’ll pause to validate that I might be losing my dear non-vaxer readers. The analogy gets a little muddy if you’re opposed to them, yeah? Just substitute essential oils for vaccinations, and call it good. Group hug.
The nuptial excitement wears off, and without proper preventative measures, the commitment breaks down. The initial megadose of matrimony becomes diluted and risks falling apart. In order for continued success, immunizations require boosters. Marriages, likewise. If I expend no further energy and thought than minimal blips on the brainwaves, there won’t be many anniversaries to celebrate. Do I keep a watchful eye on the health of the relationship, looking for ways to maximize our strength as a couple? Or, just like my booster shot, have I completely ignored it, assuming my laissez-faire posture is enough to avoid calamity?
I wonder what would happen if, instead of inundating the newlyweds, we also asked those who are due for a booster, “How’s married life?” Now there would be some conversation.
Seventeen and counting,
*Yes, I realize I should probably have some sort of a clue as to what the nice lady is jabbing into my arm, but confrontation is not my strong suit and I wanted to be brave for my girls to see it wasn’t so bad.