Diary of a Marriage: Am I Really Like That?

The marriage microscope.

Illustration by Justin Renninger.

I never realized that I was a loud walker until I got married and moved in with J., soon after which he semi-affectionately proclaimed me “Leadfoot.” (He swears that every step I take booms through the house; I blame it on years of clomping around in heels.) I also never really realized that I pace uncontrollably when I talk on the phone, organize frantically when I’m stressed, and am afflicted with a crippling inability to make minor decisions.

“I wonder why it took me so long to recognize this stuff?” I mused to a colleague the other day. Her answer stuck with me: “Well,” she said, “being married, it’s like having someone narrate your life.”

Exactly, I thought. I mean, I’m sure I knew all of these things about myself prior to getting married, on some subconscious level, but that’s a whole lot different than having someone point out — out loud — your quirks and flaws and hard heel strikes. And having your husband bring to your attention that you are less like a delicate flower and more like a raging bull in a china shop makes you stop and think: Am I really like that?

That’s the thing about marriage: Your habits, rituals, hang-ups, everything — good, bad, ugly, weird — are all on display, fanned out like a deck of cards for your significant other to analyze. This is fine, most of the time, because it’s your spouse, so you can pretty much bank on the fact that they won’t run screaming from the house once they realize that you clip your toenails at the kitchen sink or sleep with a stuffed animal. But other times it’s jarring: You really think I’m that impatient?

J. has this thing, this curious “locking-up” thing he does every night, a painfully drawn-out process that I swear borders on obsessive-compulsive. I looked on curiously for several months as he performed his nightly ritual of fiddling with the lock and yanking on the doorknob and peeking through the peephole without questioning it, until finally I called him out: “You do realize that it takes you three and a half minutes to shut off the lights and close the front door, right? What are you doing?” He looked at me like I had three heads, without even an inkling that his front-door ceremony was a bit peculiar. “What do you mean? I’m locking up.”

It’s interesting, having someone around to, as my co-worker described, narrate your life. It forces you to see yourself — even for just a little while — as somebody else sees you. It snaps you back to reality. So I’m not the Zen Earth Mother I imagined I was. (J. kindly brought this to my attention one morning at 1 a.m., looking down at me splayed out on the bathroom floor, surrounded by the entire contents of our cabinets, in the middle of a stress-induced total bathroom reorganization: “Ohmygod, why are you doing this now?”) I’ll probably never be a Zen Earth Mother. But Leadfoot? I can totally work on that.

Have you learned anything about yourself from your fiance or husband? Was it mostly stuff you already knew, deep down — or did some of it come out of nowhere?

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