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I’ve been married now for almost one year.

That’s almost 12 months since donning a tux, standing in front of my family (and hers), and slipping a ring over her finger, declaring that this woman, this person, this wonderful sliver of soul, shall be my wife.

My how the time flies.

Since that moment I’ve often pondered what’s changed in our relationship. After all, my wife and I had lived together for almost 3 years before I proposed. We’ve eaten together, sparred together (literally, in martial arts she broke her toe on my forearm) and even traveled together.

Rest assured, spending 2 months with anyone on the road will reveal very quickly whether or not you’re compatible.

My best friend has had a different situation with his significant other. We’ve both spent much of the past year on the road, which has occasionally put a strain on my marriage, and certainly prolonged the “courtship” phase of his relationship.

In those many nights in transition, on the bus or in another foreign home, my friend and I have discussed the differences between having a girlfriend and being married. Who should be missed more? What type of relationship demands your presence, and defines how you exist together when in the same space?

The Difference Between

It could have been accumulated wisdom from my year of marriage (or maybe just the beers), but an epiphany came to me recently that I wanted to share:

Girlfriends are like cheesecake. Wives are like oxygen.

Allow me to explain.

When you haven’t had cheesecake in a while, and someone puts a rich slice in front of you, glinting fork on the edge of the plate, chances are, you’re going to enjoy it. It’s creamy, cheesy, and all around delicious. That is…until you have one bite too much.

It’s been my experience that healthy early relationships limit their exposure of each other to infrequent doses.

That’s the thing about cheesecake. It’s amazing until you go overboard.

Girlfriends tend to be the same – it’s been my experience that couples in healthy early relationships limit their exposure of each other to infrequent doses. This way, when you’re together you have plenty to talk about, discover, and experience, until it’s time to part ways and plan the next encounter.

Couples that spend too much time together at this early stage tend to burn each other out.

A Deep Breath

Wives, on other hand, are much different. Married couples tend to spend a lot of time together. Some even appear joined at the hip. Often they become like a single entity, sharing decisions, thoughts, and opinions.

But in the best marriages, being together is not something conscious. You don’t “decide” to be together day to day, you just are.

Which is exactly like oxygen. You don’t consciously decide to breathe moment to moment. You are not worried if oxygen will be there or not, whether they’re still committed to you, or whether they’re suitably entertained or not.

You just exist…together.

Comfortable. Natural. Like breathing.

Of course, not all girlfriends are like cheesecake. And not all wives are like oxygen. But I find the best and most complimentary relationships follow this theme.

I could go on…but all this talk has made me hungry for cheesecake. (The real thing…don’t worry, honey).

What are your thoughts on my extended similes? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Ian MacKenzie is editor of Brave New Traveler. Aside from writing, he spends his time exploring the fundamental nature of existence and wishing he did more backpacking.



About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He is Head of Video at Matador Network. Ian is also an independent filmmaker, with his first feature (One Week Job) released in 2010. His more recent projects include Sacred Economics and Occupy Love.

  • Adam

    Girlfriends are like bag of lays potato chips. Delicious.

  • Peter Carey

    I’d debate that “But in the best marriages, being together is not something conscious” is inaccurate from my experience. I’ve found you need to be conscious to the relationship all the time to notice changes. Just ‘being’, while very enjoyable, can lead to unnoticed hints and clues that things aren’t all that right.

    Think of it as breathing, but at very high altitude where you need to take note and there is effort involved, but you’re happy to put in the effort for the pay off.

    Coasting in a marriage is enjoyable, but coasting leads you down hill when you really want to be back at the summit. Getting to the summit is hard work but as most who climb mountains know, it’s well worth the effort when you make it to the summit.

  • http:///www, Jacob

    I can’t help but smile at the thought of my own wife’s reaction to an article comparing her to the banality of oxygen. “You’re just *there* honey! Having a girlfriend would be sweet, delicious and temporary, but you’re *constant*. And that’s so much more valuable than–*WHACK*”

    I think Peter makes a great point. When you don’t have enough air, it can be sweeter than the richest cheesecake.

    Great article though–in all truth, I couldn’t agree more. Single people have no idea what they’re missing. Have fun at the 1-year celebrations!

  • Chris H.

    This is a fantastic simile, Ian. I happen to totally agree.

    My fiance and I are getting married in June; we’ve been living together for nearly two years and even bought our own home just a few months ago.

    We are in it for the long haul. We spend all of our time together, share opinions, decisions, money, etc… But we’re not just girlfriend and boyfriend, we’re going to be married in less than four months, we are a single entity, we have become one. That’s what a healthy marriage means to me.

    Now if you’re too much the vagabong, and don’t want to become one with anybody, let anybody influence your decisions, are have to be held accountable by. Don’t get married!!!!!! Enjoy your cheesecake. But remember, you can’t have your cake, and eat it too!

  • Lola Akinmade

    Interesting way of looking at it. I do notice that one never gets burned out when hanging with your best friend. Your spouse ultimately assumes this role in your life as well.

    With the boyfriend/girlfriend scenario, there’s always that underlying pressure of trying to stay decadent like a cheesecake because (subconsciously) both sides are still perusing the dessert menu.

  • ian mackenzie

    peter – good call, absolutely marriages take work. and the summit is definitely worth it.

    jacob, chris and lola, thanks for your comments. and i’m lovin’ the extended metaphors.

  • Madeleine

    Ian darling, I am curious, when does a girlfriend morph into a wife? And more importantly, how? When does the saccharine sweetness of the cheesecake become essential to a man, as vital as oxygen to daily life? How does that transition occur?

    Or is it more a conversation about the attitude towards women in these various roles, rather than attributes they themselves possess?

    Or is it like a “types” thing, some women are cheesecake types (not the marrying kind) while others will always be oxygen?

    Definitely got me thinking….and offered Adam an opening for a cheesy line when we finished reading it and I turned to him, “So, am I your cheesecake?” and he smiled and replied, “Oxygen baby, sweet sweet oxygen.”


  • Ian MacLeod

    Ian, I find your your oxygen thinking interesting, but there is a very important difference between oxygen and a partner. Oxygen has no need of anything from you. A partner very much does. A partner, first and foremost, needs to feel loved and valued. Their status as the most important person in the world to you must be maintained, both in your heart and in your actions. Partnerships fail when this status evaporates, on either side.

    Mine did.

  • Olivia

    All I’m gonna say is, Javier Bardem killed with oxygen in No Country for Old Men.

  • Terry

    Haha, cheesecake.

    That just reminds me of that one scene in “Matrix Reloaded”…

  • Tabatha Smith

    Hmm, I’m interested in this idea of ‘oneness’. I’ve been married, happily, for four years, but at no point have my husband and I become ‘one’. We’re still two people and while we share a lot (we’ve just returned from traveling India, Nepal and Thailand together for six months), we’re not one and the same. We have differing opinions on things, different ideas and are essentially still our selves. And this is great! He’s the first person whose opinion I was to know, because chances are it’ll be different than mine, but insightful and interesting.
    I like the oxygen simile, don’t get me wrong. However, oxygen is something I need. My husband is someone I want.

  • Natalie

    I guess men really don’t like breathing then…

  • Rue

    “Some even appear joined at the hip. Often they become like a single entity, sharing decisions, thoughts, and opinions.”

    Isn’t this the start of that loss of ‘spark’, the couple becoming too much of a ‘we’ and suddenly they want to regain themselves as an actual person, as a sexy lover, as more than Mrs. or Mr. Perfect Couple? 

    The cheesecake thing I disagree with entirely. There is also no expanation of partners who live together or are otherwise in long-term serious relationships who do not go through the over-inflated ceremony that does nothing more than bind them legally to each other, not create some instant magical ‘was not there before’ bond between them. How lovely that until you don that shiney Christian ring you have no more value than the passing indulgent pleasure of a dessert.

    • Rue

      Excuse the typo of shiny.

  • Dawn Chip

    I think you may be missing the point of what he is saying about wives being oxygen. He is not saying you have become boring, and dont have a magical sexual spark, what he is saying is that the SECURITY and inner peace that comes with a true oneness, leaves you free to worry about all the other things in life, and that no matter where you are in the world, you carry that persons love and care without worry…perhaps the word is unconditional love, something only a few happy people manage to achieve, but something we all strive for.
    My husband is my oxygen, he is also my lover. I am his oxygen, I am also his lover.

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