What Mindy Kaling is Teaching Me About Marriage
I recently enjoyed reading Mindy Kaling’s book “Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?” for lots of reasons: she was honest, humorous, self-depreciating, and informative. I came in with fairly reasonable expectations, knowing it wasn’t going to be Bossypants, but still having high hopes. What I didn’t expect was to get some of the best marriage advice I’d gotten in a long time.
Because let’s be honest, if you can’t learn about marriage from a single woman you’ve never met who also happens to be a sitcom writer, then who can you learn from?
In her chapter titled ‘Married People Need to Step It Up’ (found immediately following the chapter ‘In Defense of Chest Hair’), she tells a story of a married friend named Tim, who corners people at parties and uses the mantra “marriage is work.” She also talks about how her parents are good pals. Not best friends, but pals, and how she loves that about her parents. She also shares that her married friends are far more depressing than her divorced friends. Then she shares this paragraph:
“I don’t want to hear about the endless struggles to keep sex exciting, or the work it takes to plan a date night. I want to hear that you guys watch every episode of the Bachelorette together in secret shame, or that one got the other hooked on Breaking Bad and if either watches it without the other, they’re dead meant. I want to see you guys high-five each other like teammates on a recreational softball team you both do for fun. I want to hear about it because I know it’s possible, and because I want it for myself.”
Quick side note about that paragraph that makes me happy: my wife and I high five all the time. We think its hilarious. Usually, our high fives are inappropriate and conversation interrupting, but for the two of us, they are hilarious. We even do it by ourselves, which would be embarrassing if wasn’t for it being so awesome.
Second side note: I also think its interesting that her version of a fun marriage revolves around watching tv shows together, but for the Amy Poheler of it all, it works. (the shows Allison and I watch together are: Psych, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, Happy Endings, Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother – insert secret shame).
Third side note: I don’t want to be described as my wife’s pal. Ever. She is more than that to me. I am more than that to her. And while we share a lot of pal-qualities, it’s so much deeper than that. “Pal” would be a title we settled for in our relationship, and neither of us are okay with that.
Mindy sums up her views on marriage like this: “Maybe the point is that any marriage is work, but you may as well pick work that you like… so married people, it’s up to you. Please be psyched, and convey that psychedness to us.”
You should really read that whole chapter. There is a lot of good stuff in there. But she address something very real in our culture about marriage. It seems like all married people have taken it upon themselves to communicate how hard marriage is to those thinking of getting married. Heaven forbid they think marriage is all pillow-fights, breakfast for dinner and sex. And in this cultural shift of over-communicating the work of it all so people are “prepared” for marriage, we (ie: married people) have forgotten the joy of marriage. Of course marriage is work, no one denies that. All relationships are work.
Here is the truth Mindy reminded me of: It’s not my responsibility to tell people how hard marriage is, but it is my responsibility to communicate how worth it marriage is. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, and being married to her is a hoot, but when someone tells us they are getting married, my immediate reaction isn’t “get ready to stay up far too late lying in bed making each other giggle, sharing infinite inside jokes, having someone that you will fight with AND for, forever…” My reaction is usually, “I hope they are prepared.” And that is a terrible reaction. I should be psyched.
For example, the other day, we went to eat at Chik-Fil-A with some friends that are dating. We sat down and were eating and my wife moved her hand in a particular way, and so I got up and got her napkins. Nothing was said, conversation didn’t stop, it just happened. Our friends were quite impressed, and mentioned it, but we hadn’t even given it any thought, I had just done it, because I know my wife.
And that is why marriage is awesome. I know my wife so well that if she moves her hand wrong I know what it means. And I always know when it’s between 4 to 4:15 in the morning, because without fail, at that time, she snuggles so tight against me in her sleep. Every. Night. (I am a light sleeper and for awhile I always checked the time, thinking we had overslept). And that is awesome. I wouldn’t trade either of these things, ever. We haven’t always been this way, and there have been far too many rocky roads than we had hoped for, but at the end of the day, it’s her and I, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yes, marriage is hard work. But you get to do it together. So from here on out, I promise to be psyched (but not in that cheesy camp director way where they are way too animated). I promise to tell you the awesome parts. And when you are ready to hear about all the hard stuff, I’ll be more than happy to tell you about how worth it all is.