Recently we attended the play “I love you, You’re perfect, Now Change” extended through September 1 at the Garner Galleria Theater. Afterword, over a cup of coffee, we discussed how the play portrayed the arc of romantic relationships, from dating angst to marriage, parenthood, growing old together and even death. It was a funny, sweet tale of relationships, portrayed by high energy, gifted actors. We both found it entertaining, and it resonated with our life experiences. In particular, the “Marriage Tango” vignette struck a nerve with us in our current stage of continuous exhaustion, yet still needing time for each other.
As we shared thoughts, I declared that the play’s premise was heavily tilted toward a woman’s perspective. When men marry, they don’t want their brides to change; the woman at the altar is EXACTLY the woman he wants the rest of his life – body and soul. Women, on the other hand, seem to think of their new husbands as a “project”. They can’t wait to CHANGE and mold them into what they want them to be. Thus the play’s title speaks more to women than men.
Startled by my hypothesis, Courtney brought this issue home by asking about us. Had I wanted her to change, or stay the same? “Nope. You were just right the day we married.”
She pressed… “But what about since then?” Had I wanted her to change?
Honestly, I had wanted her to stay the same and found it difficult when she did not. Through 20+ years of marriage, 4 children and numerous ups and downs, how could I have ever expected her to NOT change? The willing, rather compliant young bride who said “I do” at the chapel HAD to evolve into a self-confident, strong, outspoken woman. My immature male perspective that a wife should forever remain the same was naïve. “Silly boy!” she laughs and blows a kiss. I married a woman who still loves me. Happily, that has not changed!
Here I was, blissfully enjoying “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, thinking that it did a fine job of covering the gamut of love. Tra, la, la, it was a fun show that will strike a chord with everyone no matter where they are in the course of love and life. What I did not see coming was Thomas’ comment about men not wanting women to change!
It’s certainly true that women often see their men as a work-in-progress. I can’t say that I did with Thomas – he was pretty darned ideal. But I did naively think that if I just loved him enough, was a good enough partner and domestic and maternal goddess that life would be great. Although I have tried to be those things as much for my sake as his, life and kids and sickness and moods and a whole bunch of other stuff gets in the way and messes things up! After 20-some years of marriage, there are definitely things about Thomas I’d like to change but I don’t try because I believe you can’t change a person. You can learn to accept what is acceptable and not tolerate what isn’t acceptable.
As for me changing, oh, yes I did, in good and bad ways. The cute little figure I had when we got married is a very, very distant memory. And I did grow a spine within the first few years and first two kids after getting lost in being someone’s daughter, wife and mother and nothing else. Thomas still doesn’t like that I challenge him on things but he respects that I am my own person.
But you know what? We all change over time and especially in the beginning of a relationship. Even in “I Love you….”, there’s a vignette where the men and women are each getting ready for an upcoming blind date. While primping, they sing about making themselves seems as attractive, entertaining and successful as they can. They put their best face on and head out the door. I think it’s men who really get a raw deal though.
I see women out on dates who clearly have undergarments pushing things up, padding things out and sucking things in. Their
eyelashes are fake and their long hair has extensions. I always wonder what men must think when they go home with these women and the clothes come off. If you listen carefully, late on a Saturday night, you can hear hundreds of men, all over town saying “what the…?”.
What’s the lesson here? Let’s all be real and honest about who we are, right from the start and acknowledge that we’re all going to change as time goes on. It’s inevitable and it’s good. It keeps life, and love, interesting.