Rebecca Woolf isn’t an economist, but we love her approach to marriage. She’s realistic, romantic, and practical in how she handles the road bumps along the way (or what she calls, “speeding tickets”). Woolf blogs about life, love, family, dogs, killer clothes, kids, a husband and cauliflower soup at Girl’s Gone Child, where her photos make L.A. look like utopia. Her memoir, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, chronicles her shift from party girl to stay-at-home mom at the age of 23. Here, her thoughts on making marriage work.
1. So many couples go into marriage hugely overconfident, as if they just know for a fact that they won’t be among the 50% of couples whose marriages fall apart. You’ve said you have “no expectations when it comes to happily ever after.” Do people give you flak for that the way they give us flak?
Traditional marriage vows are basically an expectation-athon. Promises made based on no experience of what marriage is actually like. It’s kind of like swearing you won’t speed on the freeway before you set foot in a car. Everyone speeds because, duh, CARS ARE FAST! My point being that marriage is about how you DEAL with the speeding tickets. It’s about how you handle each other when reality sets in and you realize that marriage isn’t about “life long” romance and the poetry of promises, but the prose (and pitfalls) that inevitably occur. This has nothing to do with your question, does it? Ha!
Hal and I were practically strangers when we married and because of that (maybe?) had no expectations. No “this is it! can’t wait to spend forever with you, baby!” We were lucky, I think, in that way. We were like, “let’s see how long this lasts! Ready? Go!” and in a way, we still have that attitude. I wouldn’t say that people give us flak, per se but I do think that our outlook on marriage confuses some people.
2. Do you and your husband have a good system for dividing the housework?
We do. Not that I can really quantify our system. We both pitch in. He does the dishes. I sweep the floors. We pick up each other’s slack. Sometimes I do the dishes. Sometimes he sweeps the floors. We both have the same work ethic, the same parenting style, need for organization and cleanliness so we’re pretty lucky, I think. We’re on the same team even though we play different positions. In bed.*
*that was a joke but also a segue to your next question! Heyaaaa!
3. Sex: Any tips for keeping it going, year after year after year?
Porn is our friend.
4. Can you think of a small change you’ve made that’s had a big impact on your marriage?
Making time for US (as in us, not the United States). Whether it’s date night, a weekend away or five minutes a day to just TALK. Talking to each other is something we did when we first met and then spent many years in separate corners of the house talking to EVERYONE ELSE on our computers, etc. It wasn’t until we unplugged our gadgets and sat down to talk to one another that we realized we had lots of interesting things to say. And listen to. It seems so obvious and yet… for whatever reason, it wasn’t. For a long time.
5. Every marriage goes through booms and busts, just like economies. How have you managed to emerge from your own rough patches?
I have no idea. Does anyone have any idea how they emerge from rough patches? We emerge because we WANT to. Desperately. We emerge because we know we don’t HAVE to. That makes a huge difference. To me, at least. Otherwise I would feel trapped. I used to feel very trapped because I felt I HAD to be something I wasn’t. It took time for me to realize that I’m in this marriage not because I have to be but because I WANT to be.
I never feel trapped because the doors and windows are open. I can breathe, here. I can stand beside my husband, hold his hand and breathe.
6. What’s the nicest thing you and your husband have done for each other?
Made babies. Hands down.
7. How do you drown out the noise of other people’s marriages?
People are individuals. I don’t see my married friends as ONE married couple but two separate people. I look at us in the same way. It’s like that Kahlil Gibran quote from the passage On Marriage “give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple sand apart, And the oak and cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”