Ben Martin, the Good Men Project’s new marriage editor, introduces himself and asks for your thoughts on Marriage.
We moved from our old place in New Hampshire to this apartment in Boston about four and a half months ago now, although it sometimes seems like a screwy combination of yesterday and years ago.
It’s always tough to get acclimated to a new place. When we first moved to New Hampshire from Mississippi, way back in 2003, I immediately hated it. I continued to hate it for an entire year.
Here’s what I noticed: It was lonely. I would be outside mowing the front yard and someone would walk down the sidewalk toward me. Being a polite and safety conscious sort, I would stop pushing the mower to wait for the pedestrian to pass, but, get this, there would be NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT!
How does that even work? I was standing right there, maybe 4 feet away from another person and they wouldn’t even look at me, much less give me a wave and a nod, much less stop and give me an excuse to turn off the mower while we chatted about being new to the neighborhood, or the surprising heat, or the farmer’s market going on down the road.
Yet, it happened. Time and time again. People that, based on my entire experience as a Southerner, were supposed to stop and chat, didn’t chat. People I expected to exchange polite waves with, didn’t wave. I spent so much unnecessary time exploring the faces of people who walked by, just looking for eye contact that indicated that I’d need to prepare for a social interaction.
But it almost never happened.
After about a year, I realized that I’d stopped looking for people to try to strike up conversations with me every time I stepped out of the house. Even better, I realized that I didn’t really miss it. It was pretty liberating to be able to go to the grocery store and not have to stop every 35 feet to rehash the weather with the random person next to me. After a while, the cashiers at the grocery began to recognize me as a regular and we’d exchange pleasantries, but it was no longer my responsibility to speak with everyone I came across, as it had seemed when I lived in the South.
In other words, I acclimated. I stopped hating life in New England. Four years after we first moved to New Hampshire, we moved again. This time to Concord. After we moved to Concord, we eventually began to make new friends (who were disproportionately named Erin, for some reason…apparently we just get along well with Erins). Once again, it took time. Eventually I got to know the grocery cashiers in Concord, too.
And now, Wendy and the kids and I are four and a half months into a new place. Again. We’re not settled in yet. I exchange pleasantries with parents I know from dropping the kids off at school. I recognize the cashiers at the grocery store I shop at most often. We don’t know anyone named Erin yet, though, and we haven’t had people over to dinner yet.
There so many jokes about marriage being awful. So many times it’s referenced as the end of freedom or independence or self-direction. But in my experience, it’s the opposite.
All this acclimating to new places we’ve done has made me realize something. It’s tough to move to a new city. It’s tough to move across the country. And I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. Far from being an “old ball ‘n chain,” Wendy is the person that makes it possible for me to do what I want to do, live where I want to live, have adventures that I want to have, raise the kids I want to raise—and I’m that person for her.
We’ve been married for 14 and a half years and we’ve never lived closer than a three hour drive to either of our families. Over 10 years of our marriage has been spent in an entirely separate region of a very large country from the family and friends we had growing up.
In a new community, in new home, starting a new job, with kids starting at a new school we can trust one another with our fears and anxieties. We can be giddy about the new things that are exciting without fear of being judged. We can count on the fact that, regardless of how long it takes us to adjust this time, we won’t have to do it alone.
That’s what marriage has been for me. But there are as many ways to be married as there are marriages.
As the new editor of The Good Men Project’s Marriage section, I’m interested in publishing your stories and thoughts about marriage. What’s the best part? The worst part? How have you overcome the obstacles and bumps in the road? What makes an obstacle insurmountable? What are the politics of marriage and how have they affected you and your partner? How do you and your partner sort out issues of power in the relationship? How has your marriage affected your sense of self? How have you kept your marriage vital? What kinds of mistakes have you made in your marriage? What have you done right?
I’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re a man, a woman, or transgendered, whether you’re gay or straight, and whether you’re single, married, widowed, or divorced, this is a chance to become part of a broader discussion about the intersection of men and marriage. Committing to another person, and the intimacy that comes with it is one of the most formative experiences a person can have. Say your piece!
But wait! Before you get started, take a look at the Good Men Project Submission and Style Guidelines. The guidelines will explain some of the requirements that submissions must meet and they’ll give you some tips about what sorts of things you’ll need to do to get your thoughts to us safe and sound and all in one piece. The Good Men Project prides itself on the quality of its writing, so only well-written pieces will be considered.
Send queries and submissions to [email protected]
Feature photo: twodolla/Flickr