Ahhhh, the Yuletide. Do you know why they call this the “most wonderful time of the year”? Okay, truth be told there isn’t one specific reason, but for folk like me the Chritsmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa portion of the year brings so much joy for one simple reason: It’s changeless, stable and in many cases solid in its predictability. Hallmark will show four dozen holiday movies with the same saccharine coated theme; TBS will show ‘A Christmas Story’ on loop for the entirety of Christmas day, and someone who professes to love you will give you a thoughtless, garbage gift that you will eventually re-gift to someone else whom you profess to love. It’s the Circle of Christmas.
But you know what other advent happens this time of year? A flurry of marriage proposals! Yup. Prepare yourself for a bunch of cutesy proposal TikTok videos replete with bent knees and delighted squeals, because like Bootsy Collins in that one song (I’d Rather Be with You) they’re heading straight for your eyes so you can see where they’re comin’ from.
Now, if you’re on the giving end of a marriage proposal – or suspect you might be on the receiving end – or are contemplating a lifelong commitment with your romantic partner in general, I have come in my full Auntie capacity to discuss in greater detail some items of consideration that may have skipped your radar. I also now invite other Aunties to share their wisdom in the comments. Our age group should never miss an opportunity to whisper I told you so from the wings.
…Or more specifically, contraception.
The philosophy and practice of sex and intimacy between two – or in some cases, more – people are as myriad as varieties of rice. We may be acquainted with the basics of rice, but how long rince, boil and season is situational. Approaches to sex are kind of the same way. Married sex is often very different from dating sex, and this comes as a shock for a lot of people.
Where people follow strict Abrahamic tenets with regards to sex and intimacy, there can be lingering feelings of shame associated with an act you’ve been taught to see as sinful. And of course there are people who have been sexually active regardless of the restrictions that their faith places on them who feel a great sense of relief for now being able to participate in “legal” sex. Then there are the liberated folks who’ve been knocking boots unencumbered who don’t suffer from these hang-ups at all.
A side effect of sex can be pregnancy and when you’re in the dating phase, people tend to be more hawkish about preventing pregnancy. Though many women find it difficult to negotiate condom use with a male partner even in a monogamous relationships, there are men who are very eager to use condoms during sex with their girlfriends. After all, that’s what responsible men – the so-called ‘good guys’ – do. Through conversations with some of these Good Guys, I have uncovered some dismay at having to use condoms after they’ve said “I do”.
“I never thought I’d still have to use a rubber with my wife,” one man lamented. “That’s why I married her…! So I wouldn’t have to nut into a bag every time we had sex!”
There are several unspoken problems in that statement:
- It is clear that there was no technical discussion about pregnancy planning/prevention during the courtship phase
- The man in question expected his now-wife to take on the sole burden of pregnancy prevention so that he could have a more pleasant sexual experience
- There was little to no regard for her health, desires or needs.
I am here to tell you that worrying about disease and the destabilizing effects of pregnancy and childbirth during sex do not for women a passionate experience make.
Before you ask this person to become your partner in life, have a real discussion about what kind of partner in bed you hope for them to be. Don’t leave it to chance!
…Or more specifically, debt.
Do you owe the IRS? Call J.G. Wentworth right now! No, I’m kidding. But you better get your bae on the phone or sit them down at Panera over a hot bowl of soup so that they know exactly what kind of financial ruin you may be dog walking them into.
A lot of people hide their debt from their partners in the dating phase, only to spring the calamitous reality of their bank statement on their significant other when everything has gone nuclear and a collections officer is knocking at your door at 11:30pm with a notice. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.)
One of the best and worst sessions during my husband’s and my marriage counseling course was the finances portion. We had to bring in our individual bank statements, payslips and credit report to the counselors and explain the details. Is it embarrassing to divulge just how much money you spend at the Biscuit Barn in a month? Absolutely. But a little embarrassment goes a long way in preventing lifelong resentment and disappointment.
For immigrant couples, this is also a good time to discuss remittances to family back home.
How Does He/She Handle Grief?
…Or specifically, handle YOUR grief?
“I had a miscarriage at the airport,” said A*. “We were having twins. I was supposed to fly back home with our youngest and my husband left me there, miscarrying in the toilet. An ambulance had to take me to the hospital because he just left me.”
8 years after this incident A* and her husband are still married and still working on their relationship. You would’ve thought that this would have been the death knell for their union (I certainly can’t imagine being abandoned at an international airport by my spouse and then going on the live happily ever after with him) but the two are committed to each other and oddly suited. He is a stoic man and she wears her heart on her sleeve and while his seemingly apathetic nature is often difficult for her to contend with, she sticks by him because she knows the true depths of his care. He simply was never socialized to demonstrate compassion, even if he might feel it deeply. He’s the nicest guy you ever met…just don’t call him if you’re in distress.
It took A* many years of therapy and medication to get over the loss of her babies. Her grief was palpable, even when she did eventually conceive again. After years of patient dialogue and a commitment to finding language that resonates with him, her husband is finally learning how to respond to her emotional needs and reciprocating with more honest communication.
In every relationship, there is always one partner who is better at communicating than the other. Relationship coaches are big on giving tools on how to communicate. However I wish there was more instruction on how to actually be there for your partner in their times of distress, rather than simply waiting for them to “get over it and get back to normal”. None of us is getting through this life without some aspect and level of grief, and it’s important to know how your partner expresses it and whether your response hinders or helps the healing process. Again, you don’t want to be left feeling resentful and disappointed because a response you were expecting was not given, or conversely, because your natural response is met with hostility.
So Aunties and Uncles! What other finer details of committed life have you observed get overlooked? What did you wish you knew about yourself before saying ‘I do’? Let’s discuss! January is around the corner, after all. Maybe if we have these discussions now, we can mitigate what happens next month. What’s so special about January, you ask? Statistics show that that’s divorce filings go way up! Again, another predictable advent that comes every year.