This October, my husband and I will have been married 10 years. Some days, it feels like every bit of a decade. Other days, I can't believe I've been with this man nearly a third of my life. In the time we've been together, parenting two children in the process, I've come to realize things millennial moms want out of marriage, as well as the things we definitely don't. I can't speak for everyone, but with my relationship things are different then, say, when my parents and grandparents were married. Honestly, it's a good thing.
In all transparency, this is my second marriage. My first was to my high school sweetheart right after graduation, and that marriage lasted a mere four years. Even with the obstacles we faced, I don't look back on that time with regret. If anything, it prepared me for what I have now. Back then, I hadn't yet figured out my path or what I wanted out of life. It was difficult to see past any particular day. We weren't thriving, we were barely surviving.
Once I left that situation (which was unhealthy for the both of us), I eventually met my current husband. A lot of growing has happened through our time together, and I have no doubt that becoming parents sped up the process. I've evolved from the uncertain girl I was after high school to the strong, confident woman I aim to model for my children. I'm lucky that my husband is all for it. He's my champion and cheerleader in everything I do and, actually, I wouldn't be nearly where I am now without his steadfast belief in me. When I look at him, I'm reminded of other things I've wanted from this marriage that I wasn't strong enough to claim in my first. Being a millennial mom, it's important my children have the best example possible, so they're able to find their way a hell of a lot sooner than I did. With that, here are some of the things all millennial moms want, and deserve, from their partnerships.
Long gone are the days of oppression 'round here. If I'm going to unite in marriage (again) for the remainder of my days, I can't condone the mindset of a man who breeds, or thrives on, misogyny or sexism in any form. I respect conservative values — I was raised on them — but have evolved far past what my ancestors lived and believed. I've come into my own as a woman and it's been fantastic.
My husband (the reason I've been able to use my voice) doesn't treat me as if I'm a lesser being than him, because that's ignorant and not OK. He doesn't expect me to do anything I don't want to do, because I'm my own damn person. Mostly, as a millennial mom trying to raise two inclusive, compassionate kids in today's world, I'm going to expect my husband — my partner for life — gets what it means to demand equal pay, equal credit, and equal every damn thing every damn where. If we aren't equals in this relationship, what exactly will our children learn? That's not something I'm willing to risk, and couldn't be with anyone who believes otherwise.
During my first marriage, I hadn't lived and learned enough to accept what reality was vs. the fairytale I'd watched or read about. Everyone wants to believe in the happy endings, but what you don't know going into marriage as a young, newly graduated girl with no plan is that there will be lots of happy endings. They just usually occur before and after a whole lot of trials and tribulations. The happy ending isn't an end point, but a lifelong journey to which we've committed to.
So why was it so hard for me at 18 compared to how I feel (at 35) now? Easy: my expectations used to be insanely high because I had no real bar for which to compare. Looking back, that marriage was destined to fail because there was no room for the aforementioned trials and tribulations. I didn't know how hard being with someone can be at times and, because of that, didn't know how to fight for it when things soured.
Now, I know better (for the most part). I know, and expect, the hard times will have something better around the corner and the good times won't last forever. That's part of marriage. I know now to expect the ups and downs so when the ups happen, I'm that much more thankful for them but when the downs creep in, I also know it's not the end of us.
Shared Duties All-Around
Listen, I love my kids but my career is also very important to me. I've worked hard for a long time so that I could be in the place I am. I'm sorry the dishes might be piling up or the laundry hasn't been done in a few days, but I expect my partner to swoop in to contribute. I'm not only a mother, or a maid, or a chef, or an author: I am all of the above, simultaneously, and then some. In turn, he should be all of the things, too, and so should the kids. We all live here, so we're all responsible. It's only fair. Equality will further empower us all.
Our Own Identities
Along the lines of how many things I juggle, self-care is super important. At 18, I lost so much of myself in my first marriage. A time when I should've been on the path to self-discovery and reflection, I gave into whatever my husband did and was. I'd forgotten the most important part: me.
This time, I expect my husband to understand how valuable my identity is and why I safeguard "me time" whenever possible. Whether it's to work on projects I'm passionate about, taking a long run to clear my mind, or declaring how much space I need, for whatever reason, I won't lose myself again. I just won't. I guarantee our kids will only benefit from a mother who's totally self-aware and sure of herself, and her place — not destroyed by it.
I'll be honest, my husband is funny, kind, and a great father, but he isn't the best listener. Communication has been an ongoing struggle literally since we met and will forever. Since having children though, we both see how important listening to and hearing each other is, so nothing's lost in translation. I know I could be a better listener at times, too. We're all working on it. And because we aim to practice habits of couples who fight fair and learn when something can improve, I expect nothing less than everyone trying.
The Ability To Turn To Outside Resources
No more keeping feelings holed up inside. We have helpful marital tools available such as therapy and couple's counseling so if we're having a hard time, we're going to do whatever we have to in order to fix it. Marriage isn't this thing where you say "I do" and hope everything works out. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's really hard and you have to fight to be together.
With our children always nearby, watching and listening to everything we do or say, I could never be with a man who's not willing to use resources available to us if we needed them. Luckily, my partner gets that. We've been to therapy together and it pulled us from the brink. I want a good communicator, but more than that, I want a partner willing to figure out why there's a communication problem in the first place.
Someone Who Shares Our Values
I thought my first husband and I shared the same values, and then I took a step back. Now it's clear that we'd always been on separate plains, however parallel. While my husband and I don't always agree on everything, at the very core we get one another (I think). If you're going to share your life with someone and parent children with someone, it's imperative you can look at that someone and say, "This was the right choice." If you can't, and if your morals and values don't align, it doesn't matter how much love there is. My experience tells me, the relationship eventually die out.
This is why my biggest non-negotiable is perspective. I want a partner who sees the big picture. One who cares about the world around him, for us and for the sake of future generations (like our children). I want a partner willing to take a stand for the greater good, and to speak on behalf of those unable. Most of all, I want my partner to look at me and not only be supportive and proud of all I am, but to think to himself, "This was the right choice." So far, I think this is what we have.