"Wait, you want me to do what?" I asked, flabbergasted that Ted, my husband of less than a year, would even suggest such a thing. He repeated calmly, "Get the oil in your car changed yourself."
The infuriatingly cool demeanor Ted wore was consistent with his typical "your-emotions-can't-affect-my-emotions" attitude that permeated the first year of our marriage. One I was having trouble coming to terms with. After all, how dare he not be moved by his wife's blatant displays of shock ... and horror. Maybe I needed to start throwing in a pinch of awe too. Just for good measure.
Why so much shock and horror and contemplations of awe on my part? It was just an oil change, right?
No, not for me. For me, it ran much deeper than that.
You see, I never anticipated that the man I'd marry would expect me to attend to matters of my car. Or any car. Not once in my 24 years of life had it ever been a consideration. It just wasn't what I knew. It wasn't part of my family "culture."
Growing up, I'd watched my dad take care of any and all vehicle-related concerns for my mom. He did the same for me once I started driving. And he wasn't the first man in our family to do so. My maternal grandfather was the same way. So I automatically assumed my man would follow in their footsteps. Because, well, that’s what all good husbands do, right?
Not only did Ted refuse to take care of the oil change for me, but he actually seemed to find some absurd pleasure in making it a teachable lesson for me. A chance to gain a new life skill. To better myself. To climb down from my tower and experience life in all its car-related glory. Meh.
Me, I just saw it as an opportunity for Ted to avoid sitting in the shop lobby for 30 minutes. Oh, and to perhaps frustrate his new wife to no end.
Long story short, I protested, then pouted, and finally had the oil changed myself. But I certainly wasn't happy about it and I made sure Ted knew it.
Looking back, I realize that this oil-change incident was one of my initial tastes of something I've come to believe we all hit in our first few years of marriage, and that's this: marital culture shock.
What exactly is this marital culture shock I speak of?
I'm confident we all know what "culture shock" is. But, just to clarify, let's look at how the Oxford Dictionary defines it. This online source points to it as "the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes."
If you've been married for more than a few months, I'm guessing that as you read that definition this idea of "marital culture shock" is resonating with you. I know I experienced it in my early years of marriage.
Because the reality is, when Ted and I got married, in many ways we merged two cultures. Even though we had a lot of commonalities going into our union, we both brought different family histories, upbringings, perspectives, personalities, habits, and ways of doing day-to-day life into our marriage. What was normal in my "culture" and what was normal in his "culture" sometimes differed greatly. Oil change etiquette, for example. And, it was a bit of shock to stumble, sometimes rather jarringly, upon these cultural differences.