My wife and I have been “My wife and I” for three-quarters of a year. Our marriage is so young that it still quantifies age by half- and quarter-years, like a 9-year-old who really wants to be 10 already. “I’m 9-and-three-quarters!”
We’re 30-ish (I’m 31 and she’s 30), still young and cool and down and whatevs. We still meet new people. New people of the opposite sex. And sometimes those new people are pretty cool. Cool enough to mention in normal conversation when you’re talking about your day.
“Yeah, she’s hilarious, very witty, married for a few years, and likes the same shows we do.”
The Marital Status Disclaimer is injected directly into the conversation, usually spoken faster than any other part of the sentence like the side effects of new drug on the market. May cause heart pain, stress, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
When Caitlynn drops a new man’s name, I admit I immediately need to know the extent of their relationship. Do they have a history? Is he handsome? Successful? And, of course, married? I don’t ask these questions, because, ya know, gotta play it cool. Can’t look threatened or like she’s not trustworthy. Honestly, “threatened” and “not trustworthy” are a bit extreme for how I feel when I hear about a random Greg, Dave or Dick (yeah, that’s on purpose). It’s closer to that thing your parents used to say about you going out with friends. “I trust you, I just don’t trust your friends and I want you to be safe.”
Marriage is an emotional investment like nothing else. I need to make sure my investment is protected. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten about successful marriage is to pay attention—to warning signs, to needs, to wants and to yourself. So when she mentions a man, he’s worth mentioning. If he’s worth mentioning, I want to know why. And she needs to know I want to know. And, of course, this works both ways.
We both drop MSDs for two reasons: 1) A sign of respect knowing the other person probably wants to ask but won’t, and 2) Because if either of us has to ask then they’re going to assume there’s a reason they have to ask—”What are you hiding?” So ridiculous, but then again, we’re only three-quarters year old, so cut us some slack. My hunch is that this isn’t abnormal.
We drop the MSD to protect the image of innocence. This other person—who might be funny or nice or cool or sweet—is not a threat to the marriage because they are married, engaged, or at least have been with someone for years. First off, why the hell does it matter? YOU’RE MARRIED! Why does their status matter when your status trumps it? You’re status is the Right Bauer. The fact they’re happily married or happily single is dwarfed by your Jack of Hearts. (Do you play euchre? No? Sorry… the Right Bauer is the Jack Bauer of euchre. Can’t beat it. Look it up.)
Still, there appears to be some value in assessing the threat level of him or her. The hope is that their marital status (other than single) truly matters to them. If so, they’re less likely to pursue something that ruins their own relationship much less ours. This risk assessment is helpful to our own piece of mind, a sort of relationship insurance. Unfortunately, like most insurance policies, not everything is covered. A positive MSD (married) doesn’t mean nothing is going to happen. If it did, we wouldn’t even need the MSD because, again, YOU’RE MARRIED.
The MSD is not rendered useless because of the unsettling fact that married people do un-married people things, though it does create a paradox. How can we use an MSD as piece-of-mind insurance when our minds know it is theory rather than law?
How should we know? We’re only three-quarters-of-a-year old! All I know is some medications have negative side effects. They can heal, or they can cause heart problems. It says so right on the bottle. See …
*Marital Status Disclaimer does not protect against all forms of extramarital conduct. Use as directed by spouse. If effectiveness of MSD decreases over time, consult your spouse about an increase or decrease in dosage. MSD should not be used in place of the fact that YOU’RE MARRIED.