There was a question in the forums this week that left me SMDH, as the kids say.
A young woman was so desperate for a ring on her finger but so anxious about scaring off her boyfriend of six years that she never brought up the topic of marriage herself and only hoped he would finally propose and make all her dreams come true. What are those dreams? Well, to be married, of course!! And what would that dream marriage look like? Would there be kids? Would one of the parents stay home with them or would the kids have a nanny or go to daycare? Would the family have help with cleaning or would they do the cleaning themselves? Would one spouse do more cleaning than the other? Would one be more responsible than the other for finances? What kind of home would they live in? You know, the LW literally never thought of these things! And she was shocked when her boyfriend suggested SHE give up her job and her cleaning lady and be a full-time stay-at-home mom who would do all the cleaning because that’s what her boyfriend’s mother did and so that’s what his expectation of marriage is. And the LW, despite never thinking about these things, is totes fine with all that and now they’ve agreed to buy a house immediately and get married next summer.
Anyway, it got me thinking about marriage expectations. Drew and I discussed them extensively before getting engaged — we discussed them a lot before I even moved from Chicago to New York (11 years ago!). We matched well on the big things and were willing to compromise on smaller things. For example, we both wanted kids (and were both undecided on how many but agreed that two sounded nice), and we ideally wanted a parent to stay home with them in the early years at least part-time, though neither of us was opposed to daycare or a nanny situation. My career choice (writing on the internet) made staying home at least part-time more feasible although in the last year Drew has also been transitioning to working from home a little more. It was important to Drew that we raise potential kids Jewish, and I was fine with that as long as we could still celebrate Christmas in a secular way, with a tree, please, and as long as I wasn’t expected to convert. (We joined a synagogue a few weeks ago, Jackson just started Hebrew school, and I still have no plans to convert though I go to occasional services and observe holidays with the family.) I was happy moving to NYC (obviously), but I didn’t want to raise a family in the middle of Manhattan where Drew lived when I met him, so a year after our marriage we moved to Brooklyn, where it basically feels like Sesame Street, and we’re all very happy here.
As far as domestic stuff goes, I do more of the cooking and a little more cleaning, but Drew does his fair share of both, and we have a cleaning lady twice a month who is worth every penny. I contribute financially to the household by buying all the groceries, paying for housekeeping and babysitting, buying the kids’ clothes, and paying for their extracurricular classes. Drew makes more money than I do and takes care of the big household expenses beyond these things. In general, both of us are totally satisfied with how things work and feel like the expectations we had going into marriage are met. We both say thank you a lot to each other, which I think goes a long way, and when little resentments crop up or when we have a change in expectations, we’re pretty good about expressing them in a calm manner. No marriage is perfect, but I feel really good about ours and I know that those early conversations about what we both were looking for and the time we took to make sure we were a match in that regard is a HUGE reason why our marriage continues to work.
If you’re married (or engaged), did you discuss expectations with your partner before a proposal (please say yes)? Did you match perfectly or did you need to make some compromises? If you’ve been married for a while, do you find that your marriage more or less meets the expectations you had before tying the knot? Have your expectations changed at all since getting married?