When I was in eighth grade, my history teacher once told the entire class “Stephanie, the day you are married I am going to come to your wedding and when the preacher asks who objects I am going to say ‘I object! I object! No one should ever ever marry this woman. She is impossible to deal with.”
The first time I had a boyfriend, I can remember discussing the news with a girl in choir. The girl was shocked that I was dating someone and I remember her saying “What? You have a boyfriend? But you are so independent.”
Once at dinner my mother and two brothers took a vote on who would be the last to get married. Everyone unanimously voted that I would be the last to get married because “Stephanie is the most independent. She just doesn’t need anyone.”
My entire life is spattered with little stories about being telling me I was independent. Although some of the stories were funny or sweet, a few pointed to the dangers of always acting alone. We are a country that praises ourselves on being independent. We are told to free ourselves from being oppressed. Heck, we even give the entire nation a day off from work to celebrate being free from control. As I have learned along the way, being independence is not without its flaws.
I was decorating for a sorority dance in college with a sweet friend named Cassi. Cassi had this idea to decorate the room, and being the independent leader I am…. I quickly told her the idea was dumb. However “I let her” decorate the room how she wanted, telling her every step of the way that I thought her idea was dumb. When we were finished decorating it was quite easily the best decorating I have been a part of. Cassi’s idea was amazing, and I was wrong. I was twenty one years old the first time I realized that my ideas were not always the best.
When I was about twenty five I taught a college class where we had to do a week-end camping trip. As part of the trip, an upper classmate led my class of fifteen young adults for the entire week-end. This was the first time in my life where I could have led, but was told not to. Instead of leading, I laid back and watched Claire (the older student) take the lead. By Saturday I was totally relaxed. By Sunday morning I realized that Claire did a better job leading then I would have – or perhaps ever could. I was twenty five the first time I realized that I don’t have to lead everything, and that some people do a better job leading then I could.
This morning my husband and I were getting ready for work. Everything was going fine until he turned on the shower, and thereby increased the odds of humidity ruining my perfectly coiffed. I lost it. I walked away and started lecturing him on humidity and what it does to female hair. I started doing my hair in another room and completely stopped talking to him. Rather than getting mad at me for being totally irrational, my husband said to me “I love you. How can I help you?” I started crying. Then he added “If you are having a problem I want to help. Your problems are my problems.” I started crying again.
I was twenty seven years old before I realized that I am no longer independent. I have my own thoughts and friends and activities. However, for the rest of my life, nothing I do will ever exist in a vacuum. When I was single I could get ready however I wanted and no one would care. When I was a dumb sorority girl I could blather on about how a room should be decorated (as if it actually mattered). When I was in eighth grade I could argue with teachers about anything I wanted, and it didn’t matter. But I am married now. I am forever tied to this other amazing person.
My husband and I are reading a marriage book together. The book equates the beginning of marriage to a masquerade ball. When you are first dating and married you have a mask on and everything looks lovely. As time passes, eventually the mask comes off and you fully see the person you have been dancing with. When you are single you can hide your flaws. Your flaws never come out because you can dance all day then go home at night. When you are married, every flaw that you were able to hide is suddenly slammed full force into your spouse. You can no longer hide the things you tucked away, because the person you are with can see them quite easily.
It is true that my independence gene has driven me to many successes. I got a Master’s degree fairly young, I got to be president and vice president of stuff in college, and I got to lead some amazing things. If I was listening closely I might have seen the dangers of my fierce independence. I might have seen how in forces people away, insults people and makes some people feel little. If I was listening closely I might have seen how it forces you to never ask for help, to lay in corners alone, and feel like no one is there to support you.
My eighth grade teacher never made it to my wedding, but my husband saw glimmers of my fierce independence before we got married. Thankfully, while God gave me the gift of independence, he gave my husband the gift of collaboration. While I could lead fifty people up a mountain, my husband would be the one holding them all together – cradling them as they struggle.
So here we sit… one cranky little independent girl and one sweet helpful boy. We have danced our way to this struggle, and now we have no choice but to tackle it head on. I have no clue what will happen next or where this will go…. But I am okay with my husband leading me. I am okay with my husband helping me. I am no longer the most independent girl you will ever meet, because I found someone I really truly need.