Where Logic Meets Love

Marriage Means I Can't Do Everything -- And I'm Glad

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

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Marriage Means I Can't Do Everything -- And I'm Glad | Faith Permeating Life

Today I was reading a friend's blog post talking about how she was glad she had the experience of living in the city last year, but that she's decided she's happier in the suburbs. She tried out city living for a while and found it wasn't for her.

Then, on the way home, I was listening to this week's Motivation to Move podcast talking about how you can truly do anything you want. The example Scott gave was that people may say, "You can't just quit your job and move to the Grand Canyon and become a park ranger," but he knows a guy who did just that.

If you know my and Mike's story, you know that shortly before I met him I was deadset on staying single. I wanted to be independent, to have freedom, to go wherever my career might take me. I wasn't going to have someone else's life plans messing up my ability to do whatever I wanted.

Obviously you know how that turned out.

Here's what I got to thinking, though: My life has so much more direction because I can't do everything.

For example, I have a friend who is super-passionate and always goes after his goals. He decided he wanted to live in Chicago, so he found a job and a place to live. Boom. Then he decided he wanted to do the Peace Corps and got accepted to the Peace Corps. Then he decided he'd rather live in D.C., and again, he had a job and a place to live there within a matter of months. After a year he decided he wanted a different job, and last I talked to him he'd landed an interview for exactly the job he wanted. He wants something, he makes it happen.

In a lot of ways, he's doing exactly what I dreamed I'd always do. Going where he wants, landing whatever job he wants, moving cities when he gets bored.

Yet I've realized that that kind of wanderlust doesn't suit me. (Besides the fact that I have no desire to travel the world.)

Because I'm married to Mike and he has a job and we have a nice apartment we like, I can't just up and move whenever I feel like it. What that means is that if I did want to change jobs or move somewhere else, I'd have to be really sure that's what I wanted. I'd have to talk it through with Mike and make sure it fit with our life goals and finances and that it was something I wanted enough to make it worth the big change it would cause in his life.

In this case, I'm not talking about how it's a tradeoff, about how I don't mind giving up my freedom to go wherever I want because I have someone to love me and listen to me and do the dishes. I mean it's literally helpful to me not to have infinite freedom to do anything.

For example, you know how I got my original job at the college I work for? Mike had another year of graduate school left when we got married, so I knew I had to get a job in the Chicago area. After it was clear that publishing jobs weren't panning out, I went to the websites of every single college in the Chicago area looking for job postings. Do you think I would have tried that approach if I'd had every college in the nation -- in the world -- available to me?

When I started in my job, it was far from being what I wanted to do. But I didn't have the luxury of job-hopping around the country, trying to find a job that suited me perfectly. So I made the best of my situation, and in doing so, created my own perfect job. I took on extra work from other offices to fill the time, found what I actually enjoyed, and eventually had a new position created just for me. Now I'm doing work I love, with and for people I love, at a school I love.

It's not what I expected to happen when I first applied for a job there, but because I was working with the limits of the situation -- I needed a job, any job, in the Chicago area, NOW, so we could get an apartment before our wedding -- I ended up right where I needed to be. Otherwise I might still be on a quest to find that perfect job that would make me happy in every way.

I can't help but draw a parallel to my faith here. God gave us free will, right? Yet how many people have really found lasting happiness by just doing whatever they want, whenever they want, and chasing after every new pleasure that arises? I believe it is through our relationships with God and other people that we learn self-sacrifice, patience, love, and the joy that comes from serving one another in community.

External pleasures will forever be fleeting, and if we bet our happiness on the next big thing, we are bound to find ourselves searching again. I've had much better luck simply working with the gifts I've been given and giving thanks for the blessings that are in my life -- though that's not always easy, for sure! But it's a fact that I can't do everything and be everything to everyone. God made me unique -- gave me a unique calling and unique abilities -- and when I work within those limitations rather than fighting them, I find great fulfillment and joy.

And that's one of the many things my marriage has taught me.


  1. I so need to hear this today. I am unsatisfied with my current job and know I could be doing something much more cognitively stimulating and satisfying. But I have no real idea what that job would be. I want something where I can be creative where I can see the efforts of my labor and then be able to leave it behind at the end of the day to enjoy my family time. Again, no clue what that might be. I'm telling you, after I pop this little girl out I need to get really serious about figuring out what I want and making it happen. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. @Caiti
    The advice I got from several people when I was first job-hunting was to find something as close to what I wanted to do as possible, then prove my abilities and work on moving toward doing the kind of work I wanted to do. The funny thing is, that's exactly what happened to me even though when I started, I didn't think the job was going to lend itself to anything I wanted to do, since I still thought I wanted to work in publishing. So in that way you've got an advantage because you're more open to the possibilities than I was, rather than being set on having one specific type of job. What helped me was paying attention to which parts of my job I liked and didn't like, and also trying out other types of work by taking on extra projects. I was just reading something yesterday about how hard it is to figure out what you want just by thinking about it. So maybe you'll find some opportunities to try things out while you're trying to find that right job for you. Good luck :)

  3. It's funny that I agree with you so much even though I have absolutely no understanding of the concept of what you're "meant to do" or where you're "meant to be." I have never, ever had any real ambitions or goals in the way of career, and for most of my life I had no goals in my personal life (I thought that no man could love me, so I'd probably end up a nun because of how much I loved being Catholic).

    I don't feel like I'm where I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to do. But I love my job, because it's mindless enough that I don't feel overwhelmed by responsibility, so I get to go home and do what I really love, which is read and learn and write and create. I don't get paid for that, so of course I needed a job, and I got on where most of the people are great and fun to be around, and one I can walk to.

    Marriage is limiting. I can't run off and live abroad for a year, like some of my friends have done. Marriage is also freeing. I could never live off the salary I make in my job, and Husband's income allows me to do my writing and to do the research it takes to help us make healthier choices in our diet and lifestyle and to be prepared when we start trying to have children. I love being married. For me, the limitations were worth it, but I understand if that's not true for other people.

  4. So true. We learn to prioritize our goals and dreams as we get older. I like what you said about joy coming from our relationships with God and other people. Strong healthy relationships bring us fulfillment above everything else. I believe that our relationship with God parallels our relationships with others. If we are truly open, honest, and sincere with God, then we tend to be the same with others. As a final thought, a healthy spirituality begins with a healthy psychology.

  5. @Macha
    I don't know that what I'm doing is what I was "meant to do" either. I think if I was looking for something that fit me perfectly in every way, I'd still be looking. But I really enjoy my full-time job, and I enjoy editing and job search coaching, my side gigs. And blogging, my free gig :) When I get too focused on one thing as being the one right thing for me (photography, then editing) I miss out on finding other things that make me happy. Since I've had to work within limits--because of marriage, and where we're living, and the publishing industry, etc.--I've been able to create a situation where I'm happy. It sounds like you've created a situation for yourself that makes you happy also :)

  6. @Dave Keller
    Yep, even an introvert like me, who gets energy from being alone, has found more joy and fulfillment in my relationships with others than on my own. That's why I have to push myself to get out and be with other people more often. And I've definitely learned more about my relationship with God through my relationships with others, especially with my husband.

  7. I think you and I are cut from the same cloth. When I graduated college the amount of terror I felt at having the world laid open at my feet was unbelievable. Being told I could do anything, be anything, go anywhere and do whatever I wanted paralyzed me--it was too daunting, and so I did nothing, instead. I even wrote a blog post about how I suddenly understood people's desires to get married young, because it narrowed your playing field and gave you direction.

    Interestingly enough (and thanks for the link!), the biggest reason living in the city wasn't for me was because it ended up being outside of my playing field. Alex wasn't there, and he wouldn't have been joining me (he hates the city), and with everything else in my life being transient, having my constant so far away made for a rather stressful year.

  8. Cathi and Jessica, your experiences echo mine completely.

    In college I was so worried about keeping my options open and making sure that I wouldn't be unhappy in the future that I was paralyzed with indecision. I can't find it right now, but one of my professors gave me a quote from Oscar Romero basically saying that in order to be truly free--free to live a good life--we have to limit our freedom in the present so that we are able to open up new opportunities. Your posts remind me of that quote--and one of the most important lessons I ever learned.

    I think children today need to hear a caveat to the adage "you can be anything you want to be." They need guidance in specific directions because the world is just too overwhelming without it.

    Now that I am in a serious relationship, I also feel less pressure regarding my career choices because my options are more limited and I can choose what's right for me within that scope. It probably sounds silly, but I don't have to worry anymore that I will make a career decision that will strain a potentially wonderful future relationship.

  9. @Cathi
    I even wrote a blog post about how I suddenly understood people's desires to get married young, because it narrowed your playing field and gave you direction.
    How about that! Link, please? :)

    I tell everyone that I'm glad I work in the city but don't live there, but (and this was the point I was badly trying to make) I can't actually say that with certainty because I've never tried it, so in a way I envy you your freedom to try it. But I suppose it's not necessary to try everything to know what you like! And, as it sounds like you've found, being with Mike is a much bigger benefit compared to having that "freedom" to go wherever I want.

  10. @e
    I think people have tried to add a caveat to "you can be anything," which is "find your passion and do that!" Which really isn't much more helpful because it implies that not only can you do anything, but there is one right thing for you to do, and you need to find that out of all the possible options and do it. I think it's much more helpful, and realistic, to suggest trying out different things, and that what you enjoy at one time might be different than you what you enjoy down the road. This means that even if you have limitations to your situation, it's OK because there might be things within those limits that are among the many things you enjoy and are good at.

    I know several people who have stressed out about getting in a serious relationship because of how it would limit their career choices (myself included). I think what you said, about choosing from your limited options so you know you won't strain the relationship, is a pretty countercultural view in a culture of being free and independent. But it makes sense that it would lessen your stress, assuming you're not operating from the "one right job out there" perspective but the "which options among my potential choices are good ones" perspective.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  11. I really needed to read this today. I'm trying to figure out whether this job is right for me and if not, what steps I need to take to get a job that will make me happy. Taking into account my husband and our current goal of saving for a home is also incredibly important, and I actually really love having someone else to help me make big decisions (even if all he does is smile and nod while I ramble!).

    As usual, you have quite a way with words--and seem to have a knack for writing about exactly what I need to hear!


  12. @Katie
    Glad to hear it :) I am with you on the helpfulness of having someone who will smile and nod--sometimes I just need to ramble about the intricacies of some project I'm working on, and even though Mike doesn't understand half of what I'm talking about, I appreciate that he tries to listen anyway! Good luck to you as you figure things out with your career path, and I'm glad you found these thoughts helpful.

  13. I really enjoyed re-reading this today. It made me consider what I want to limit my other options, ie what is most important to me.


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