In the early months of our marriage, my husband and I had a recurring fight that I didn’t completely understand. We would often go on long jogs together at twilight (oh, those simpler, pre-baby days!) and when we did, we would sometimes become separated as my husband’s long strides outpaced my shorter ones.
In the lengthening dark, I would run just the way I liked. I would take different paths sometimes and turn around whenever I felt tired, assuming Ben would meet me back at the car when he finished his own route. But when he doubled back and didn’t find me on the path, he would get worried that something had happened to me. The paths we took were isolated and woodsy, and he felt that, as my husband, he was responsible for my safety. Why couldn’t I tell him what I planned to do ahead of time, or wait until he joined me to turn back?
I, on the other hand, thought this was ridiculous. After years of running in the dark by myself, I couldn’t understand why I suddenly had to worry about his worries. I could take care of myself. I always had.
My fierce independence stretches back as long as I can remember. I got my first paying babysitting job at ten after wearing my parents down with begging and promises. I was taking public transportation all across my Boston suburb by 11. By 13, I was flying across the country to camps on plane tickets I had paid for myself.
I worked my way through college and made my money count, sometimes getting by with less than $20 in my checking account.
And, I felt, I had always been able to look out for my own safety, despite my stint living by myself in a shady part of Brooklyn or the time I got carjacked behind my house in Washington, D.C.
Getting married had entered me into a little chain of dependency, and I found myself gritting my teeth every time I relinquished a bit of my autonomy. Joining bank accounts and learning to share my schedule and my plans with my husband were especially hard.
But as much as I prized my independence, I began to realize that there were things worth sacrificing it for. When I began to check with him as I made plans, we built trust. When I allowed him to care for me and protect me, even in little things like an evening jog, we bonded and grew more affectionate. Allowing him to do these things didn’t make me any less capable, but it did reinforce the fact that I needed him, and we needed each other.
It’s still a struggle. With the recent birth of our daughter, I found myself in a tight little chain of dependency. The baby depended on me for feeding and constant care, while I leaned heavily on my husband for support and strength during post-partum exhaustion. I was inextricably linked to two people, and that scared me.
But it’s also safe and cozy to know that we’re connected, and that there’s someone who will help and support me no matter what the future brings. It’s a beautiful comfort that I don’t have to do it all by myself, whether or not I think I could.
Now, on those rare occasions I do get out to run at twilight, I think of Ben and his concern for me. And instead of feeling stifled, I feel loved.
Photography: Flickr/ Nathan Rupert