Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Become One

This post is going to be a bit of a non sequitur for me, but whatever. Here's the context of where this post is coming from. Yesterday I got into a very uncomfortable conversation with a student from my human anatomy and physiology class. Several students and myself were standing around and talking after our final exam about a variety of things. Eventually the conversation arrived at me explaining why I decided to do nursing school instead of medical school. I'm not going to list all my reasons again because I've written on this before.

Anyway, this girl from my class starts arguing with me about how I shouldn't put my dreams aside for some man and that I should just go for medical school--regardless of the fact that it would very likely mean James and I would have to split our household for a period of time--that my career should be my first priority and how could I do that to myself... blah blah blah.

I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Are you married?" She replied, "No, but I live with my boyfriend of [however many] years. And there's always other fish in the sea. I mean, I love him and everything but just because you're married doesn't mean you can't still have two separate careers and two separate lives."

Now I'm pretty sure that this girl doesn't read my blog, but I think it would be cathartic for me to write this out anyway. I will sometimes talk a big game, but I'm not an openly confrontational person like I used to be when I was younger and had a hotter temper. As much as she upset me, telling her what I really thought and how I really felt would not have done anything to reduce the tension in the room. We simply agreed to disagree and (thanks to a third party who was also trying to ease the tension) that different lifestyles work for different people. But you can file the following counter-argument under things-I-wish-I'd-said-if-I-didn't-have-so-much-restraint:

When you get married, you are no longer two separate people living two separate lives. You are two people living one life together ("For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" Genesis 2:24). Now there are several schools of thought on how men and women should relate to each other within a marriage and how power/authority should be divided between them. I'm not going to get into all that. In my house and in my marriage, we are fully equal partners. James does not have authority over me and I do not have authority over him. Even though he is (right now) the sole breadwinner in our family and I am completely dependent upon him, we do not make any important decision without consulting the other; both of our opinions carry equal weight when we are deliberating on important issues; and we are always working toward what would be best for our family as a whole.

Am I choosing to go to nursing school instead of medical school because of James? Hell no! And he would never EVER ask that of me. The whole reason we asked to be assigned this duty station was so that I could have the opportunity to go to medical school, should I choose to do so. This is the second time James has specifically requested a particular assignment for me. The first time was before we were even married. The assignment he was originally given would have sent him overseas to Japan--a dream duty station that most of these guys really fight for. But I was still in college, we both wanted to get married, and we both wanted for me to be able to finish school. If he had taken the Japan assignment, it would have meant either spending another year apart (while I finished my last two semesters) or me dropping out of school. Neither of these were viable options for us. We had already spent 18 months living in different time zones and I sure as hell wasn't going to give up school for him. So he worked a little magic and switched his assignment to one that was within an hour and a half from the university.

When the military is handing out new assignments, James gets to submit a list of five places he would like to go. The list is in no way a guarantee of where we'll be sent, but they do try to accommodate preferences when they can. When we sat down together to discuss where we'd like to go for our second assignment, there was no debate. Only one station is located in close proximity to a medical school, so that's the one we chose. James was offered a spot in Japan for a second time, but he turned it down. He did that for me because he knows how important it is for me to be able to finish school. So, is James the reason why I'm not going to medical school? No. To suggest otherwise is an unfair defamation of his character and integrity.

Once I've graduated from nursing school and can be licensed to practice, I don't care where we go. Well, I care a little bit. I don't want to live somewhere super crappy. But I would be willing and happy to go with him to whatever assignment is going to be best for his career growth. One of the other students yesterday asked why we couldn't just ask for an extension on our current assignment to give me more time for medical school (and again for a medical residency of 3-7 years). I told her that asking to extend here could possibly kill his career, to which they both scoffed at me saying, "Honey you can't be worried about his career. What about yours?" Let me analyze that question a little further. James has a good job that pays very well (well enough that we don't really need for me to work) and comes with pretty damn good benefits. He has basically guaranteed job security and a predictable retirement package waiting for him if he can make it to 20 years. Why would I want to screw that up?? Gee, that's a super duper idea! I'll let my ridiculous selfishness ruin the employment opportunity of the only person in this family who is supporting us! Genius!

My rant is almost over. I just want to make it clear how utterly absurd I think their arguments were. When you're married... let me rephrase that... when you're in a healthy marriage it's not all about ME ME ME. It's all about US US US. What is best for US? What can I do for the good of our marriage? What can I do for the good of our family? What sacrifices do I need to make for my husband and children? What sacrifices does he need to make for his wife and children? We're not a collection of individuals who happen to live together. That would make us roommates. We are a single family unit. We function as a unit, we work as a unit, and we'll thrive as a unit. Together.

I don't know about you, but I don't want a husband who is a roommate. I want a husband who is a teammate and ally. I want a husband who respects me and my autonomy as much as I respect him and his. I want a husband who puts me and our marriage first like I put him and our marriage first. Luckily for me, James is exactly all that and so much more.

And, for the record, if I had to choose between either a successful and lucritive career as a physician or the humble duties of military wife and stay-at-home mom.... I would choose the latter any day of the week. Everyone is different and is suited to different lifestyles, but that's where I stand for myself.

Feminists of the world can take that and shove it.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.


  1. Actually Jenny- you are what feminist SHOULD be. The heart of the original women's idea was "hey.. can't we just be equal?" Not that "women have been degraded so let's screw over the men cause they are dicks" So I applaud you for being the awesome, respectable woman that you are. I want a marriage like yours <3

  2. The two phrases:
    Feminists of the world can take that and shove it.
    And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

    back to back are soooo perfect!!! haha! This is exactly why we are friends! I agree with you wholly on this subject!
    I know a few people who have wonderful careers but no family to share their success and they are miserable.
    Yet I don't know any stay-at-home moms with loving families that aren't completely happy with their lives!
    Sounds to me like this other student just doesn't get it yet.
    Love you Jen!

  3. Oops.. I didn't actually notice that until you pointed it out. LOL! Oh well. I think that pretty much sums me up right there.

    Love you too, Kendra.

  4. Good for you!

    Food for thought...Biblical Submission is exactly what you described: My husband does have authority over me and that is the "how" of our equal partnership. One leads and the other follows. BUT ALWAYS always always with the good of the other in mind. One pushes, the other pulls... To get the job done. Don't be afraid of words like "authority" and "submission" and "obedience". Well-ordered women know that Obedience is the surest path to heaven... just ask St John of the Cross. ;)

  5. Barbie - I'm still working out what I think/feel with retards to Biblical Submission. It's not a concept that I know very much about, so at this point I'm neither in favor of it nor opposed to it. I will definitely check out this link, though! :)

  6. Way to go Jenny! I'm right there with ya! You all have a heck of a marriage, something that is very rare and extremely valuable!

    I can't believe I hadn't read this entry in your blog yet, but I'm so glad I did! You were right to restrain yourself because not everyone can understand or appreciate healthy relationships.

    Anyway, I love this entry as it explains what so many of us feel but can't express as well. Love it!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.