When two people get married, it isn’t just the two of them who enter the relationship. Their families of origin and their life experiences also tag along for the ride. But Ryan and I discovered our marriage also welcomed all of society into our home at the same time. I suspect the same is true for so many marriages.
Both us of grew up learning* men and women were different. Women were emotional, men logical. Men strong, women weak. Ryan also brought a few other misconceptions into our relationship. For a long time he believed if women dressed a certain way, it meant it was okay to look at them. He’d laugh and say, “I’m married not dead!” But it always left me uncomfortable anyhow.
I’d be working and he’d walk into the room and kiss me. I kiss him, then turn away. He’d keep on kissing me. I’d pull away farther, he’d continue following. I’d finally have to push him way and tell him to stop. I hated it!
So many other instances have surfaced in our lives together, but these highlight the point enough.
Not only did we bring different communication and fighting styles to our marriage, we also brought preconceived notions about the value of each person in the relationship. He never realized he was doing it, but so many times my ideas and views were disregarded, even though I had tons of information to support my views. So many times my time was less important than his. So many times he’d come home from work and tell me he was going out that night, and wonder why I was upset.
The misogynistic views of society ingrained themselves into our minds so deeply, neither one of us noticed them. Ryan certainly didn’t notice because even when I yelled, screamed, or otherwise didn’t treat him respectfully, the base way he was treated was as an equal. But his base treatment of me was not as an equal. I was less than.
In little ways, day by day, I withered under that treatment. I couldn’t point out, at the time, what he was doing that was so wrong or hurtful. All I knew was how much I hurt.
As far as he was concerned, he treated me great, and couldn’t figure out why I yelled so much. He told me I must have a problem with my hormones, he suggested I see a doctor. The doctor told me I was depressed and suggested antidepressants. Later, I was told it was post partum depression. It wasn’t normal for someone to be so upset and angry when my husband obviously cared for me so much. I couldn’t pinpoint why I was upset. I believed them. Obviously I was the problem.
But medications didn’t solve the problem. They took the edge off, but I still felt horrible. I still felt worthless. I still felt alone. Sad. Angry.
During this time Facebook changed and became a popular platform for sharing ideas and articles. I read the views of people I’d have never run across on my own. I discovered feminism and learned about misogyny. I read about gas lighting and the various other ways men and society make women believe they’re crazy. Suddenly I was able to pin point specific behaviours and words that hurt, and why they hurt.
The look on Ryan’s face when I first pointed it out to him was heart breaking. Of course he wouldn’t intentionally hurt me, yet over the course of the decade we were together he’d repeatedly done just that.
Old habits and patterns don’t change quickly or easily, but once you know better, you do better. Ryan has worked so hard to erase those old beliefs, and it shows.
As his actions toward me change, I yell less and am able to relax around him. As we grow closer together, our positive relationship spills over to our children. They’re feeling the love so much easier now that our family unit is down to just the 6 of us and no longer includes all those outside views and opinions.
*Those views are wrong and dated. Please don’t teach them to your children!