Marriage is when you go from an "I" to a "we." And that transition hasn't always been comfortable.
Dani Klein Modisett: I never felt like the marrying kind when I was single, so I dated like-minded souls -- actors, comics and even people with regular jobs who were wounded enough to always keep me at arm's length. But after my father died, the narcissistic "geniuses" who filled my dance card became a lot less sexy. In fact, they were downright exhausting. That's when I started going out with different kinds of men -- men who showed up on time and noticed when I was in the room.
I met my future husband at a party a year later. He had a shaved head, wore an earring and smoked cigarettes, so he had enough of the bad-boy façade to hold my interest. But he also listened, had a fantastic sense of humor and seemed genuinely engaged when I talked. We've been together for almost 10 years now, and surprisingly, I am only just realizing what the payoff was for me from all the other men who came before him (so to speak). With men incapable of true intimacy, there was never any pressure to use the "we" word, as in, "We should do that together" or "We should think about what we want to do this weekend." These were strictly "you" relationships, as in, "You should leave me alone more" or "You do your thing and I'll do mine, and when it's convenient, we'll hang out." As much as I complained about their lack of attentiveness, this was much more comfortable for me than I knew.
My husband is a "we" guy, and lately it's been kicking my ass. And by lately, I mean for the last five years. After our first son, I could still kind of keep the separate-but-equal life going. Work was steady for both of us, and I maintained my own bank accounts. When I had to go out of town for shows, I'd grab the baby and go. Tod was always fine with all of it. It's not that we didn't have a life together; it's just that it was an easy life. But then I had a miscarriage and couldn't get pregnant again, and that's when the "we" word started creeping into our lives. "We have to figure out how far we want to go with this," Tod said one night after a failed round of infertility treatments. We had to work as a team to persevere -- and we did.
Now we're lucky enough to have these two healthy boys, but have been hit (nothing original here) with financial stress. "We" have to do real financial planning. And I don't mean IRAs, I mean the nitty-gritty, day-to-day "Here's where I'm spending money. What about you?" conversations. These talks make me feel more naked than being naked does. I come from a long line of women who kept to themselves in marriages. My grandmother had her own bank accounts in the 1920s. My mother and father had such separate lives financially that she didn't even know it when he sold his life-insurance policy, at 70, to invest in a business. This is not how my husband wants to be married. And I want to stay married to him, so I'm changing. But it's slow going.
When raising children, there is a lot of emphasis on teaching kids to work together, to be "team players." Although cute for the toddler play groups, I always thought this was a bunch of crap when you grow up, a way of beating your individual spirit out of you. I am starting to feel differently now. It turns out that a willingness to be part of a team -- not only in work, but also in the home -- is essential for building a family and keeping love in your life. The real challenge, it turns out, is not "staying true to yourself, man," but in defining yourself in community or, on the most basic level, union with another.
|Dani Klein Modisett is the mother of 2-year-old Gideon (pictured) and 6-year-old Gabriel. She is the comedy writer/creator/producer of the show "Afterbirth ... Stories You Won't Read in Parents Magazine." An anthology of stories from this show, published by St. Martin's Press, is now in bookstores everywhere.|