*Note: This letter is not to any one person in particular. It also isn’t written to every older, married woman. It is simply an open letter expressing some things I’ve felt in my first year of marriage. If you’re newly married, I hope you can relate to this and realize how much we really do need the older generations of women. If you’re an older, married woman, I hope you’ll see this as an invitation to root for and team up with some younger women in your life.
Dear Older, Married Woman (OMW),
I try not to make complaining a habit of mine. Things annoy me more than they should, and I can’t help but get irritated even when I know it’s not rational. Whenever I feel this way, I try to go to the source and confront it before I let things grate, and build into a bigger issue.
OMW, I have been irritated for a while at something you do. But, instead of letting that irritation fester and blow up, I decided to come straight to you and let you know. Well, not straight to you, since you’re not an actual person, but this blog is the biggest megaphone I have, and if you’re within earshot, I have something to say.
First of all, I love you.
You have been so great to me in the past few years of changes. When I graduated from college, you prayed for me as I found a job and moved to a new city. When I got engaged, you congratulated me. You oooed and ahhed over my ring. You said the nicest things about me and Aaron. You gave us wedding gifts and you tried to impart wisdom upon us in the early months of our marriage.
But I have a complaint. Or rather, a question.
Do you actually want my marriage to succeed?
You say, “of course I do, sweetie. I want only the best for you.”
But do you really?
I kind of feel like since the beginning you’ve been rooting for us to fail. Not go through a terrible divorce, but maybe just get a cold, hard dose of reality and live a hard life working through a boring, meaningless marriage.
Maybe so you could say, “I told you so.”
I really don’t know.
Maybe you feel a twinge of jealousy. Maybe you feel like I’ve been living in a dream world and never had to work at anything. Now that I’m married, you want me to fail so that you can feel like we’re equals, on the same level, struggling in our marriage, with our husbands — together.
Maybe you feel like my generation has stood on your shoulders, reaping the benefits from everything you’ve worked toward without putting much of the work in ourselves.
In a way, that’s true. We have. I know we have. I know that what I have now is due, in huge part, to everyone but me. The marriage advice I’ve gotten has come from a generation that learned lessons the hard way. I have avoided some big mistakes and learned from the pain that you experienced first hand. I know I am at such an advantage now because of everything your generation has done and taught me.
I realize it’s my first year of marriage and I’m actually not dirt poor. I’m not even being sarcastic when I say it must be hard to see how we’re living and compare it to how you lived when you were first starting out. I’m sorry for that, but your generation taught me to work. It taught me to get a job. It taught me to put money into a savings account. The work your generation did allowed you to give money to my Alma Mater. That money came to me in scholarships so I wasn’t buried in debt when I graduated. The money you worked hard for bought wedding presents that completely stocked my house when I got married so I didn’t have to go out and buy everything with the money in my savings account that you taught me to start.
I realize I am standing on the shoulders of giants.
I won’t deny it. I also won’t apologize for it. I won’t forget to squeeze every ounce of life out of every opportunity I am given. I also won’t forget to work hard every day to create more opportunities — for myself and others.
I know you think I live in a dream world, but I don’t. I know you think I didn’t expect to have fights with my husband when we got married, but I did. We had fights three months into dating and have had fights on a regular basis ever since. You can never really be prepared, but I kind of knew what to expect. I didn’t go in blind and blissfully unaware, despite all those Disney movies I grew up with.
Certain types of difficulties were expected. Certain took me by surprise. Honestly, I haven’t really shared that with you for fear that instead of trying to help and offer wisdom, you will smugly say (or imply), “I told you so,” as if when I was single I refused to believe marriage was anything but a cakewalk. But I’ve never thought marriage was a cakewalk. I never thought it would solve all of my problems.
You’ve said this is life. You’ve said I wasn’t prepared. You’ve said loud and clear, “Welcome to the real world!”
But I was in the real world before I got married. The trails and struggles my generation faces may not look the same as the ones you faced, but they are there nonetheless.
I’m happy now. I am really happy with the whole husband and marriage thing. And before anyone accuses me of just being that way because I’m “still on my honeymoon,” I’ll tell you I’m also going through the painful process of learning. Learning how to relate to my husband, how to stop arguments, how to hear what he’s saying, how to compromise.
I want to be able to talk about all of this with you. I’d love your advice. I’d love to know how to navigate all this new stuff. But I can’t ask for your help if all I ever am when I’m around you is self-conscious. I can’t get your help if I live in fear that you’re going to throw accusations of living in a dream world at me. I can’t get help from someone who is always saying, “Welcome to the real world,” and, “Oh, you two are still on your honeymoon.”
The point, OMW, is that I need you. There are a lot of us out there that need you. But the last thing we need is more hard reality. The last thing we need is to be told that, in addition to everything else we feel we’re doing wrong, we are actually just living in a dream world.
So, this is the most honest I’ve ever been with you. Can you take it and see my heart and be okay with me again? Can we be friends and not competitors?
We really do need each other.
— Love, Erin