Writer Stuart Heritage explains what his wife has taught him about life, love and beyond
‘In truth, I’ve only just started to feel like a man. This is shameful given that I’m 35 years old. When my dad was my age he’d been married for 14 years, fathered three children and built my bedroom brick by brick by himself. He was a real man, not like me with my soft hands and disposable income and stupid job in journalism.
But things have changed. I have a wife and kid now, and that sort of thing forces a boy to grow up. A lot of my newfound manliness is embarrassingly rooted in gender stereotypes – there’s lots of lawnmowing and furniture assembly and a constant crushing sense of financial responsibility that keeps me awake at night – but, thankfully, much of it isn’t.
Being a man means dealing with problems, and there’s no doubt my wife has helped me with that. I’ve always traditionally reacted to stuff in an annoyingly male way, by scuttling off and bottling up and waiting for the inevitable stress-related aortic aneurysm to take me out. But by witnessing how my wife deals with similar issues – by confronting them head-on and talking them through in a preposterously healthy way – and by seeing how much better off she is for doing it, I’ve started to copy her. And it works. It helps to be emotionally open. Who knew?
I’ve become less selfish thanks to her, too. The old me – the dumb boy version of me – wanted to do everything his way, by himself, refusing all help even if it drove him into the ground. But you can’t do that in a marriage. There’s nowhere to hide, and there’s always a teetering pile of bigger priorities that can’t be ignored. The only way you can get through it is by sharing everything, the highs as well as lows. You split the work and share the burden, and the knowledge that someone has your back helps you through it all. My wife makes me feel like part of a team. As someone who works at home alone all day, this is a new sensation. An OK one, too.
We live together. We run a household together. We do the same job, so we’re each other’s closest sounding boards. Hand on heart, in every aspect of my life, I can honestly call my wife my partner. And you know who else calls people partner? That’s right: cowboys. My wife has turned me into a cowboy. What could possibly be more manly than that?’