One of the first times I realized that not all married people thought of everything in terms of ours was when I was a senior in high school (late, I know). I was a sickly teenager, and the school nurse on my campus wanted me to see the doctor who came to the school once a week. His hours were held on the boys’ campus, so I drove over with the nurse in her new Jaguar (2003, an S type, I think; may be X type). As sick as I was, I couldn’t help but admire the smooth lines and leather interior. “You and Dr. Cowie have a nice car,” I said. It was funny because I’d only ever seen Dr. Cowie drive this beat up station wagon. He was an AP History teacher, so I didn’t expect him to have a Jag. “Oh, no, this isn’t Dr. Cowies; this is MY car,” she told me. “The only time Dr. Cowie is allowed to drive this is to put gas in it.”
I don’t know much else about the Cowies beyond what I’ve just outlined above. I know nothing about their marriage. But it’s never sat well with me, this thinking of things as yours after being married that long. I couldn’t put my finger on why. I mean, if she’d worked and saved her own money to buy it, it was hers. If she didn’t want him to drive it, that was her perogative. What bothered me, I realized later, wasn’t the concept of an individual owning something of their own in a marriage; it was how people could compartmentalize their lives and make certain things “off limits” to their marriage partner.
This extends far beyond a car. The car is immaterial to the discussion; remembering this exchange is just what got me thinking about it. It’s one of the problems many people have with marriages, the idea of blending your life together. People like to keep tabs on things, almost as if they need to in case it doesn’t work out they need to be able to firmly establish their ownership of it. People don’t fully commit to the idea of us anymore.
It’s interesting to me how many things we keep separate these days (whether I agree or disagree with them being separate is of no account here)– bank accounts, insurance, debt, cars, family, jobs. We keep separate (sometimes secret) accounts of our own, usually either to not be questioned about what we’ve bought or to accrue “bolt money” for expenses you’d incur if the marriage imploded. We think of the other person’s family as their family and not ours. We don’t want to take them to company functions. Some of us don’t even claim them on social networking sites, all in case it doesn’t work out. No one wants to explain that.
I’m an all in kind of girl. That’s one of the reasons I’m not married and haven’t dated much. I have old fashioned views of love and marriage and a forever kind of mindset. I wouldn’t agree to marry anyone I didn’t think I’d be married to forever, nor would I be comfortable marrying anyone who clearly had a foot in doubt. I’m not trying to imply that if you have separate accounts or his & her cars, your marriage is doomed; to me it’s all in how you really think about those things and the reasons behind them. When I get married, it’s no longer my check, my home, my money. That’s not something I’d give up lightly. I rather like having my check to do with as I want, my home as MY sanctuary. There has to be something better on offer than an us with all of the mine and yours still in place. I can’t move forward into that kind of iffy noncommitment, especially when marriage should be the ultimate commitment.
The more things I try to remember learning, thinking and feeling about marriage throughout my life, the more these little remembrances come up. They explain a lot about where some of my notions and ideas come from, what those ideas are tied to. There’s a lot that goes into making our opinions and personal philosophies about love and marriage; just thought I’d share this little “story behind the story” and meditation on it with you.
- A Modern Gal’s Musings: What To Consider Before Marriage (thegloss.com)
- Katie Rosman Was My Name. And Still Is. (online.wsj.com)
- Are separate bank accounts right for your marriage? (mint.com)
- A Modern Gal’s Musings on Marriage (thegloss.com)