Let's Be Clear: I Don't 'Let' My Husband Do Anything

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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When I met my husband, I had no way of knowing just how obsessed he was with classic cars. I mean, I knew it from our first date, when he mentioned that his first car in high school was a 1971 Thunderbird that required leaded gas from the local airport, but frankly, had I known that my marriage vows should have been rewritten to include “In sickness and in health, and also, I won’t roll my eyes when you store car bumpers in my dining room,” I’m not sure I’d have walked down that aisle so quickly.

I jest, I jest. Mostly.

Early in our marriage, I accompanied him to car shows and trade shows and tried to entertain his habit of stopping in grocery store parking lots to drool over cars that had horses and torque and thrust and I don’t even know what. I tried to be interested in the conversations he’d have with other car enthusiasts, and when he bought his first classic car, I kept my eye-rolling to a minimum (he’d say otherwise, I suspect). Over the years, his car passion has not waned, and now that my children are teenagers, it’s gone into overdrive (pun intended) because it’s almost time to for them to start driving.

But try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to be car crazy, and several years ago, I finally admitted to him that I’d rather have a pap smear by Edward Scissorhands than wander the aisle of another car show in 90-degree summer heat.

It’s just not my bag.

It’s his.

And he was relieved to hear that I was honest with him because he said my lack of enthusiasm made him feel like he had to rush through the events that he enjoyed. I stopped attending car shows with him, but I still make time to listen to the highlights when he gets home. It works better this way, for both of us.

Last year, he and several buddies decided to take a trip to a national car race. They bought tickets, airfare, and booked a hotel room for five days of debauchery and car racing. While I think they had visions of reliving their Animal House years, the pictures of their 40-year-old selves at the Taylor Swift closing concert made it look more like Old School.

They had a blast.

When a friend heard that my husband had gone on this trip in the middle of the school year, she rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh, I’d have never let my husband do that. I can’t believe you let him go.”

I’m sorry, what? “Let?”

I never “let” my husband do anything.

My husband is a grown-ass man. He can come and go from this house like a responsible adult and doesn’t need my permission to plan activities with his friends or pursue his passions.

And equally important, he extends the same courtesy to me.

Of course, when you are married and have children going in several directions, planning a girls’ weekend or guys’ night out requires communication, because let’s face it, our calendar is usually a nightmare, and we have to coordinate. But I never say no to an opportunity for him to connect with his friends just to exert some type of control. Also, I know how desperately I’m ready to squeal wheels out of my kitchen on a Friday night after a week of working from home with kids underfoot, so I don’t hold his desire for some alone time against him.

We both recognize that while we love spending time with each other, it’s healthy and necessary to spend time with our friends as well.

It has nothing to do with letting each other go, and it has everything to do with recognizing that your partner can be independent of you and still spend their life by your side.

My husband and I have very different interests, and we realized a long time ago that the secret of a healthy marriage is to give your partner the freedom to pursue their passions and hobbies guilt-free. I’m a Broadway musical junkie, and while my husband enjoys going to shows occasionally, he has no desire to sit through off-Broadway experimental theater like I do. He is more than willing to manage the home front so that I can indulge that creative part of me that is fulfilled by sitting in a theater.

And I don’t begrudge him wanting to stay home either. I’d rather go alone or take a friend who also appreciates the experience.

When I’m away for the weekend, my husband isn’t “babysitting” or “helping me out.” He’s co-parenting during the time that I am filling the parts of my soul that make me feel energized and restored. And when he’s gone, I don’t complain to my friends that I’m a “single parent” or get pissed off when he texts me pictures of his feet poolside with a cocktail. I deserve to have fun and relax, and he deserves the same.

There is no “letting” involved because my husband is not my property, and I’m certainly not his. This is a partnership. Though I will admit to being a tiny bit jealous of that Taylor Swift concert.

And I’ve also learned that while I’m certainly not a car enthusiast, sitting next to him as we cruise top down in our 1966 Mustang convertible has its merits, for sure.

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