How Do You Measure A Man? by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan
It is not surprising how much men come up in the conversation of mothers. Wanting one, having one, getting rid of one, keeping one all seem to float around in the minds of women.
When I was single I thought a lot about men, the getting of one. Now I’m married and I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about getting rid of one. After six years of married I am finally settled into the difficult work of just staying married. I do love my husband and the best thing I have done so far is manage to stay married. Many times I imagined if I had had more economic security I would have left him pretty quick. After my daughter was born and I had sold my house and had the profits in the bank, on my drive to work I would think “I can keep on driving…I can do anything I want.” Then I would think about my daughter and wonder “do what…start over, find a new man?”
Being married is hard. In my opinion, nothing about it is that great for men or women. I often think that institutionally it is a shackle that both parties suffer under for a variety of reasons. What is the biological imperative for each sex? When looking at more “primitive cultures” both sexes seem more relaxed about their tasks. And isn’t life about tasks: the task of raising children; the task of providing for children.
So much of the language of modern women does a disservice in the area of marriage. “Are we growing together?” “Do we want the same things?” Questions I have finally thrown out the window. So many of my notions about relationships have been informed by a Hollywood vision complete with running sequence and cuddling in bed. Life is not a movie and light romantic comedy is as much a fairy tale as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. The more one has incorporated the mythical notion about what love looks like, the more one will be unhappy in the context of marriage.
For me, the only question is: “Is this person committed to me?” Of course everyone wants a “committed relationship,” but what I mean by “committed” is: will the man I am married to put up with my s#$@. I have a lot of it. Most women do. Men are rather simple creatures. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but more as a statement of fact. There is not much subterfuge happening for men. They like sex, pleasure and often have a great need to please women. Women on the other hand are complicated hormonal beings that often wield their power recklessly because they don’t know how powerful they really are. My favorite moment in the movie Eat, Pray, Love is when Julia Robert’s character is talking about the issue of fat for women and she explains it doesn’t really matter because when men have a naked woman in their bed they think they’ve won the lottery. Anecdotally I can confirm this, as can most women.
So beyond the fluff of love, how does a woman measure commitment: by the size of a ring, by jewelry given, by flowers, by important moments remembered, by sensitivity, by affection, by any number of female markers? For me, none of that matters. I am finding that the only thing that really counts is this: is the man in the room and still standing after I have hit the rocket launchers and razed our relationship and him as well. Lucky for me, my husband has weathered this many times. To be fair he is no saint and can be a pain in the neck in biggest way and sometimes I really hate him, but I usually am the one with the rocket launcher.
The measure of a man, is just in staying for the fight. The most important thing I have done so far in my relationship is abandon my idea of what I thought a husband should do and actually looked closely at the man I was married to…not my fantasy “Mr. Right” that I carried around in my head as a measuring stick in my dating life. Now that I have invited “Mr. Right” to leave the building, I can see all the ongoing small things that my husband does that make up a very solid and stable life. When I look at this mosaic then I see what a great husband I have even though he doesn’t match my fantasy. In my movie there are no running scenes and try as I might to write in the bedtime cuddling it rarely happens, but my husband has great fire retardant armor, which he manages to put on just before I hit the rocket launchers…lucky for me.