How to Be Married, in 16 Simple and Completely F*cking Unrealistic Steps
Kimberly Harrington Breaks Down the Ridiculous Expectations of Lifelong Partnership
Let’s try a little experiment:
Step 1: Choose Your Favorite Person
Step 2: No, Really
Choose this person regardless of their gender or sexuality, or yours. Your only focus right now should be the whole “favorite person” thing. Choose someone you can spend an enormous amount of time with, just about every day really. When something happens, they’re the first person you want to tell. And they’re the last person you want to talk to before you drop off to sleep. You love and value them. You can’t imagine your life without them.
Step 3: Share Some Common Interests
Some of their interests should overlap with yours in a way that bonds you, creating a world the two of you can share. Sense of humor, self-righteous belief in your joint superiority, owl figurines, you catch my drift. You can certainly learn from or even take on one of their interests and vice versa but you shouldn’t count on it.
Step 4: Live Together
Congratulations, you live together now! I know this seems sudden but no point in dillydallying. Clock’s ticking! You share the same kitchen, the same toilet, the same refrigerator, and the same address. And oh, the art. That reminds me.
Step 5: Decorate Together
Since you live together now you also decorate your home together now. If you have similar taste in decorating that would help. Not having an opinion? Ideal. Because whose art will be hung on the walls? What about paint colors? Do you care about backsplashes? Wow this really is a whole thing isn’t it? But whose thing is it anyway? Have fun!
Step 6: Eat the Same Meals
You now eat meals together, the same meal. This is the expectation. Obviously you can snack on whatever you want. But snacking is different than meals, especially dinner meals. Did you always eat the same dinner as, say, your college roommates? No? Well that’s over now. You and your favorite person eat the same thing almost every night, together. Because guess what, that’s how this works. If you don’t eat the same meal, people will write articles about the dangers of making different meals. Just watch. Yum-yum!
Step 7: Watch the Same Shows
You now watch TV shows together. Don’t worry, you don’t have to like them the same, but you do have to watch them simultaneously. How dare you watch something on your own or before your favorite person has had the chance to catch up or—worst of all—without even thinking of them at all? What are you, some kind of monster?
Step 8: Combine All Your Money
What?!?!! Yes. Combine all of it. Doesn’t matter whether you make more or they make more or neither of you make any. It’s both of yours now. Do you share the same beliefs about money? Do your spending habits match? Odds are they sure don’t! Whoops. Our sense of self-worth is all twisted up in money and look, here you are. Surprise! You probably haven’t thought about why you handle money the way you do until now, while all your money is busy having intercourse with someone else’s money. Do you hoard it? Spend it? Well, combine it anyway. Good luck!
Step 9: Sleep in the Same Bed
Jesus. I know. On top of all that other togetherness and TV show syncing and food matching and money intercourse you now also have to sleep in the same bed. Light sleeper? Late to bed, early to rise? Early to bed, late to rise? Late to hell, early to God please kill me? Okay, well, you’ll need to sort that out. Nighty-night!
Step 10: Have Jobs and Ambition
Difficult to say whether it’s better to have the same level of ambition, different levels of ambition, the same level of ambition but at different times, or different levels of ambition but at the same time. But you should probably figure that part out unless one or both of you are the beneficiaries of generational wealth and, if so, I look forward to reading all about the launch of your twee and unnecessary brand of whatever in the Style section of The New York Times!
Step 11: Get an Additional Family for Some Reason
Even though you already have a family, guess what, now you have another one. Like one per lifetime wasn’t enough! You now carry familial grudges for your favorite person or adore their various family members according to an abundance of one-sided information. Their family is now your family even though you will not just get to say whatever you want to them and yes, I know this was not in your original calculations (see Step 1) whatsoever. Bit of a scam, isn’t it?
Step 12: Be Young
Forgot to mention this earlier. Be young when you pick your favorite person. Like, really don’t know what the hell to expect going forward. If you are old and also picked an old person, sorry, you know too much. Go back to Step 1 and start over.
Step 13: Make Some People Together
Look, don’t get hung up on the logistics. The most important part is you’ve chosen your favorite person. SO IGNORE THE LOGISTICS FOR NOW, I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. We will ratchet up the level of difficulty (I know! This was already getting kind of hard!) with a defenseless infant who needs 100 percent of (someone’s) involvement to keep them alive and safe. This small human child will eventually share just about everything you had previously only shared with your favorite person, like food and the TV and probably the bed, but brain and heart space most of all. You’ll figure it out. Somehow. Won’t you?
Step 14: Keep Getting Older Together
Are you changing? Is your favorite person changing? Do you want different things? Are you just bored? Imagine your best friend from high school or your twenties. Could you have lived with that person this long doing all these things? The sleeping in the same bed, combining all your money, and figuring out where the art goes? Not bloody likely, right? Anyway! Keep getting older with your favorite person, the person you never had a single doubt about at the beginning of this experiment. You didn’t doubt them, you didn’t doubt yourself. Back then your time together could be described as “effortless.” Seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?
Step 15: Do It
Here we go. Now imagine on top of all this (that’s what he said), this person must be someone you want to have sex with and they want to have sex with you. For years on end until you’re horizontal for good they should be fulfilling all your sexual needs as you should be fulfilling all of theirs. Or will they? Or will you? You’ll have to talk about that. Or do you? Let me introduce you to the lifelong campaign of sexual misinformation, fucked-up silence, and unnecessary shame called Growing Up in America. Do you like the same things in bed? How will you know? Do you have the same sex drives whatsoever? Let’s let those small people you made chime in. They want to sleep in your bed, too! Everything is fine. That’s what no one said.
Step 16: Face It
Seems like we sure expect a lot out of marriage, don’t we? Seems like it’s almost, dare I say, completely fucking unrealistic? Feel free to go back through and add your own categories, the expectations you didn’t even know you had, and the pressures and internal dialogue that led you from one step to the next with almost no critical thought whatsoever. Seems to me we should be more surprised when two people make it all the way to the end of this little experiment than when they don’t. You know?
From But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits. Copyright © 2021 by Kimberly Harrington. Reprinted here with permission from Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.