I Don’t Really Need You to “Get” My Marriage

I’m feeling really pensive today. I feel like I’ve been having the same conversation over the last 7 days and I am feeling a bit angry about it. I’m going to have to ramble for a second and hopefully this will come out as articulate on the other side.

I spoke with my mother about the boys this weekend. We’d gone to the farm and Ursa Major had absolutely no problem walking up to the snotty middle-schoolers who were there on a field trip, ask them questions and try to do what they were doing. The middle-school boys (they must have been 5th or 6th graders.. so maybe late Elementary school) weren’t terribly kind to my son. They weren’t mean, but they weren’t nice. And whenever we saw them around the farm, they’d be like, “Oh, hi [Ursa Major]” like they were friends, but you know they weren’t. It’s a tone thing… straight out of an 80’s movie. I kept giving them the nastiest looks I possibly could, and eventually made eye-contact with one of their teachers. It ended up being handled.

Anyway, I’m describing this to mom. Telling her about how outgoing Ursa Major is. and Mom breaks this out:

“You know, we were all so worried that your boys were going to be devastatingly shy, like their father. I’m just so glad that they aren’t like that. It would have been so disappointing.”

Who is “we all”? You? Were you worried about that?

I’ve documented well how my mother feels about my husband. While the objection was originally to skin color, the objection has now moved to something more internal. My husband is a quiet man. She’s got a problem with that.

My husband is shy. It is true. He is a quiet man, with a lot more internal dialogue than external. And it takes a while for him to warm up–it isn’t that he is disengaged with conversation that is happening around him, it’s just that he carefully chooses when to contribute. I love a man who thinks before he speaks. I don’t see what the big deal is. And that isn’t to say that I’m not annoyed by it sometimes–The school is having a potluck on Friday and I’m like, “do I hire a babysitter, bring my husband, and have him stand next to me and say six words all night (practically being by myself) or do I just go by myself (not terribly fun)?” I don’t know what I’m going to do. Who doesn’t want a husband who they can throw a cute outfit on and go show off to the world? But he’s just not that dude. He’s a man who prefers smaller settings, more in-depth conversation, and the opportunity to connect, think, and speak.

But I’m learning that many of the women who I interact with, especially the women of color in my life, see this as a sign of weakness.

A good friend who I correspond with: “You know, as your sons get older, I just wonder if your husband is going to be able to honor what your sons are going to be going through. I mean, is he going to be strong enough to understand the plight of your colored sons? Is he going to get it? Is he going to be able to be strong for them?”

The receptionists at my son’s pediatrician’s office: “Where is that sweet husband of yours, bless his heart? He’s such a sweetheart. I hope he’s got a mean streak in that sweetness, or you’re going to have such a problem with the boys!”

My pediatrician: “You know, the boys love their daddy now, and that’s all good. But after 10 or so, he’s really going to have to be on them. He’s going to have to surprise them, he’s going to have ask questions and be tough. He’s going to have to be a great mentor and guide, you know?”

This is just the newest iteration in a really old conversation that I’ve been having with people:

My old boss: “You’re husband is so quiet… and you are so… you know, loud and outgoing. How does your relationship function? I don’t really understand.”

A former friend, “I mean, are you just steamrolling him? You must get what you want all the time. Is that what you wanted all along?”

Or the very rude former co-worker: “You’re such a strong, connected, sophisticated, grounded sista… how did you end up with the shy, uninteresting white guy?”

Alright, people.

I don’t need you to get my marriage. And I don’t need you to question my husband’s parenting or potential parenting. Especially because we’ve never given you any reason to wonder–my boys are bright, happy, and healthy. I’m an exhausted mother, but that has nothing to do with my husband. Indeed, if it wasn’t for him, the bags under my eyes would be larger and darker!

Since when does silence equate to weakness? Was I sick on the day when we all woke up and collectively decided that every single asinine thing that we’re thinking must be broadcast to the world? In a world when most young men are running a race to see who can say the most racist/shocking/stupid thing first in a conversation (and call it witty banter), I much prefer that the man who is charged to mentor my children is the one who speaks the least and with the most power. When my husband speaks, people listen, because he doesn’t speak often and when he does, he has something real and significant to contribute and he’s right.  (That doesn’t generally happen at home. Rarely is he right at home. Even when he is actually right, I tell him that he’s wrong. That’s how this has to work.)

I suppose that there is this underlying thing happening that I don’t appreciate. That all of these women are judging my husband and thus judging me: “You picked a weak man. Your sons may be at a disadvantage because of that.” Don’t you trust that I wouldn’t choose a weak man to be my husband? If you think so little of my husband, what, then, do you think of me? How can you compliment me and then disparage my husband in the same breath? What do you really think is happening in my home on a daily basis? Is his quiet disposition so underwhelming that you would assume that a 10 year-old could run circles around him? Wouldn’t a teenager, looking for sound advice and clear guidance, be more apt to seek the man who speaks from wisdom and thought rather than the first thing that comes to mind? Give me the thinking man over the speaking man any day of the week.

Personally, I think that the quiet thinker is the sexiest kind of man. There is nothing worse than looking at a beautiful man and then being severely disappointed the second he opens his mouth.  And how often are our young men doing that these days? Just men, talking, speaking, saying, with no sort of anchor in thought, let alone wisdom. To be young, beautiful, and brilliantly dull is decidedly unsexy.

I’m miffed because this is a special kind of rude. It’s one thing when people see us, the interracial family, and they have issues just because of the race stuff. Racism is easy to laugh off. People are stupid. Racism is stupid. But to see my husband and decide that he just isn’t strong enough to raise my two boys simply because of his quiet stature, his sweet disposition, is so utterly insulting. I know I chose a good man. If he wasn’t a strong man, he wouldn’t be able to deal with me and I wouldn’t be able to tolerate him. I keep him on his toes all day every day, and he keeps me on mine. That’s why we work. I don’t need anyone else to get that. And furthermore, I have to remind the people of color in my life that my sons aren’t “only” Black just as they aren’t “only” White. My sons are both. Their potential identity issues will be significantly different from what either my husband or I have faced in our lives. Their paths, by default, are just plain different. I have absolutely no doubt that he’ll be strong enough to deal with these two when they are teenagers looking to destroy the world. He already manages to keep them in line as they seek to destroy our house!

And as for my mother, I don’t know what I’m going to do with her. We have a problem. She doesn’t necessarily need to love my husband… I don’t know if she even needs to respect him, but she needs to respect my decision to spend my life with him. He may not be what she imagined, but he was a great choice for me. I think that this is also a reminder that I need to champion my choice, my husband, this marriage. When the outside world decides to scrutinize and criticize, sometimes you need to reflect, and sometimes you need to double down. Where my husband is often quiet, I think i’m going to have to choose to be more of an advocate. What this is, who we are, how we choose to raise our sons… those on the outside need find their own silence. They’d do well to speak less and watch and listen more.

Work on the septic starts tomorrow. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I have two beautiful outlines ready to go for Friday’s start of NaNoWriMo. I still don’t know what I’m going to choose on day one… so exciting and nerve wracking all in the same time! And my task list for the week feels like it is ten miles long. I’m feeling exhausted today, but in an accomplished kind of way–15 kids came to play at playgroup today, dressed in costumes and so full of energy. I am sore and tired, but it is just so worth my time. But I was wondering this morning, as I loaded the boys in the car at 7:30 and drove for an hour and a half from MetroWest into Cambridge, is this sustainable? As much as I love this, can I do this for another semester? Because as much as I love it, the weather is about to turn… and then this is just going to be difficult. I hope I can keep up the energy–this is just too important to me to let go.

Happy Monday, ya’ll, and thanks for reading my ranty ravey rave. I’m going to come up with some joy between now and Wednesday.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Britt says:

    I knew I’d met the right man when I didn’t care a lick what my father thought of him. I just KNEW he was right… for me. My white, mid-Western parents never dreamed I’d bring home the quiet Asian boy and then marry him. It took years for my dad to get to know my husband… but now they’re quite close. Like you, I refused to apologize for the thoughtful, quiet man he is, nor would I demand that he change to suit girlfriends with gabbier husbands who don’t dread the potlucks. Bring him to the party, and marinate in the comfort of being who you are. xoxo

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I really ought to bring him to the party… but he’ll be so uncomfortable… but we really need to make friends… I’m terribly torn. I know that if he just -tries- it, he’ll like it and have fun. We have a babysitting problem no matter what, though…

      How did you get your dad to warm up? Was it just time or was there a thing?

      1. Britt says:

        The “thing” was sports. Bernie got to bond with a “dad” who loves college basketball as much as he does. Now my husband organizes bucket-list trips for him, dad, dad’s best friend, and my brother. They’ve been to the US Open and the Final Four games together. It warms my heart to see my husband with these important men in my life… so I get how you’d like for that to happen. But you can’t force it. You know you married the right guy… it just might take them a few more years to know it, too.

        Meh… “new friends” are over-rated. I didn’t make any until the boys were firmly planted in all day preschool… and then the ones who mocked their children and drank wine on school nights became lasting buddies. xoxo

  2. Your situation is similar (but different) to mine. My husband is the quiet one, speaks when he feels it’s important and always strong and kind. I love that about him. I am the more outgoing, outspoken one. He has always been this way and it’s HIS family that says I control him, that I make him do things he wouldn’t do if I weren’t in the picture. (You know like stand up to them when they act like a-holes) I say they really sell their own son short if they think so little of him that he cannot make choices for himself. Good luck to you!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Oh ewww. I could tell you some STORIES about my in-laws, and I’m sure that my in-laws probably feel similarly to your in-laws. They look at me and they are like “What have you done?”


      I realize that this is an age-old thing, one generation looks at the other with open disdain…It is still utterly frustrating. It makes me want to shake someone, you know?

  3. I have a terrible mother who loves to undermine me. She says things like what your mother said. I’ve learned to completely ignore her. Ignore her as in never acknowledge her when she says something evil. I will quickly get off the phone or change the subject or just be silent. My choices are not up for discussion, unless I bring them up. Good luck.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I really need to figure out how to not let her words get to me. Mother-daughter relationships are absolutely the strangest in the world. So difficult to navigate. Every time I see those “perfect” relationships on TV, I really wonder who lives that way.

      I find ignoring my mother to be a very difficult thing to do. Because of the relationship I’ve had with my father (long story), her words really matter to me. I can’t write them off… I’m sure she knows that and uses it to her advantage…

      But you are right. The choices that we make in this life, especially the positive ones, should not be put under scrutiny. I’ve got to put the kabash on this.

  4. My husband could be considered quiet…he never yells. Ever. But, I certainly don’t wear the pants in the family. He can also be very stubborn, just in a more quiet way. I frequently don’t win our fights….but, I admire so so much his quiet nature. He’s still friendly, but unlike me, he doesn’t go out of his way to impress people. He’s just calm, and cool. I think opposites can work really well in a marriage. I’ve learned to chill the heck out because of him, and he’s learned how to speak up when necessary to get something done. So, it works. I get it!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Isn’t that amazing? Some of the greatest men of our nation and our history are the ones who spoke the least. They were the ones who had presence, gravitas… we seem to have lost an appreciation for that in our time. These men that we choose, the quiet ones, make the lasting impact in life. Not just on our own, but on the many around us.

  5. Sunnyplace says:

    It’s racism pure and simple. In the same way that people used to ask me, “couldn’t you find a white guy?” There is no better person to help your children grow than THEIR FATHER. No matter how quietly he does it. 🙂

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      You are absolutely right. It is racism. It is a weird kind of racism–so cutting and difficult to ignore. And you are absolutely right–his influence on our son’s life will be immeasurable.

  6. I’m dreading this conversation with my own grandmother and aunts. I can’t even talk to them about my fiance now because they can’t believe I didn’t choose a black guy. But at some point in the future I’ll live near them ,in a different state, and it’s they accept him or I have little face to face contact with my family. My parents on the other hand are very close with him and my dad even hugged him when he asked to propose! My dad doesn’t share physical expression like that. It took awhile because my fiance gets anxious about social situations, but after that he’s pretty comfortable around people he knows. I don’t think a lot of people are going to give him that chance though.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      It is really hard to talk about this. In popular media, they always make it look like White families are the only ones who are resistant to interracial relationships. I’ve found way more resistance within my own family than I have within my husband’s. My in-laws have a lot of race issues, but they didn’t initially object to our relationship purely because of the color of my skin.

      MY family, on the other hand, has always been suspicious, resistant, and guarded. If I complain about my in-laws in certain circles, i get a lot of “well, I mean, you chose the White guy. What did you expect?” When their ignorance and issues have little to do with their skin color. To choose this path is to choose a difficult one. What I’ve found, though, is that choosing the path of least resistance (marrying within your own race because that is your family expectation) ends up being a twisted journey of misery. I’d rather wade through the brambles with the person I love and respect wholly rather than stumble and bicker on a manicured trail.

      1. That’s misleading because it doesn’t discuss the problem from all angles. My grandma didn’t come out and say anything but during a visit she would make the most disgusted look and they all had the attitude of couldn’t you do better. And of course that means staying within my own race. I’ve met a few of his family and none of them have brought up race. I just don’t understand how anyone can expect you to be miserable for their happiness.

      2. Britt says:

        I know FOR CERTAIN that there’s a whole lotta, “well, you married the WHITE girl” from my in-laws. But they’re saying it in Taiwanese, so I’m spared the particulars of my shortcomings. Most of it has to do with cooking meals with rice.

  7. zeudytigre says:

    This is a great post. You have expressed so well many of the issues we married folk face with parents and in laws. I wonder can they ever see that the choices made are right for an individual when that individual is their child all grown up and independent. I sometimes think that my parents hardly know me; they still see the little girl they were aiming to raise, not the woman I have become.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thanks, as always. I read your comment and yelled, “umph! Truth tellin’!” It is so true–our parents see us as perpetually in need of guidance rather than independent and competent people. I don’t know how to change this, and ti is especially difficult when you want to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with loved ones. I love and respect my parents, for all their flaws. But this is certainly unhelpful.

  8. This really was written so well. It’s sad that so many people judge your relationship, seeing as you are so happy.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thank you–it is very frustrating. But there is good news i knowing that I love myself and my husband enough to face down the opposition rather than let it get to us. There is strength in that. 🙂

  9. Betsy says:

    Thanks for this. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one in a situation like this. I am Asian, my husband is Mexican which is so unacceptable. I love my mother dearly, but nothing is ever good enough for her either. She claims she wants something from him, he does it and then she wants something else.
    It probably stems from “no one is good enough for my child” but I suspect it’s more of a “a Mexican is not good enough for my child”. Grand kids help as a buffer. Once in a while a hard shutdown of mommys attitude is required. But I often live in silent stewing. If u get better ideas let me know. Funny/sad how you can love two people so much and they just can’t love each other. Good luck to you. 🙂

  10. Dude – you are clearly surrounded by morons. Mr. K.C. sounds just right.

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