Marriage Myths – Part 8

December 31st, 2012

Welcome to Marriage Myth #8!  As you read the Relationship_Stages_Myths article, and read on here, you might consider talking with the people in your life about what marriage means.  What do you believe is the purpose or point of marriage?  When I talk to my spouse about our beliefs about marriage, our connection grows, our patience increases and our love deepens.  Give it a shot and please let me know how it goes!  (PS – What did you and your spouse discover about your endorsement or rejection of Myth #7?)

Myth #8: Marriage should always be a 50-50 partnership.

I always knew that married people had to divide and conquer, so the 50-50 split felt pretty appropriate in the beginning of my marriage.  Two years in, I still believe that couples should shoulder a roughly equal amount of the work needed to make a marriage and a household run.  Trouble is, “roughly” and “equal” are relative terms.  It may be difficult for married people to automatically see eye to eye on what “equal” feels like day to day.

Before we were even married, my husband and I agreed that he’d take care of the outside chores and the inside chores would be mine.  Hands down, I will always choose folding laundry over pulling weeds.  Since he barely knows how to operate a washing machine, the inside/outside set-up seemed to fit for us.  We tried it for awhile and it seemed to go pretty well… except that we started out living in a 3rd floor condo with no yard and an HOA to shovel our walks.  Suddenly, the 50-50 split wasn’t as equal as we intended it to be.  We were then forced to have actual conversations to specifically outline what work delegation felt fair and manageable to us both.  Not the most romantic of topics, but necessary all the same.

On top of the manual labor we now shared, there was the issue of the emotional effort that marriage maintenance requires.  What if my husband has a really crappy day?  In such situations, I may end up carrying nearly 100% of the emotional workload while my husband regains his footing.  What if I’m hurt or sick or otherwise impaired in some way?  In those moments, my husband might be called upon to manage 100% of the household day-to-day.  As our marriage progresses, we are discovering that while marriage should indeed be a partnership, the percentage of responsibility will probably ebb and flow given the circumstances of the day.

New parenthood presented a particularly difficult “50-50” challenge for us.  Without even meaning to, we found ourselves falling into traditional gender roles once our son joined our life.  Biologically, some of the childcare tasks just can’t be shared.  From an employment perspective, I had maternity leave and my husband did not.  Those twelve weeks set the precedence that many of the parenting tasks would fall to me.  That tendency was a habit born of circumstance rather than a conscious choice, but it still felt unfair.  Our son is nearly a year old and even now, we are working hard to communicate directly about how to best share in the parenting process.  Much of the time it’s still not “fair”, I continue to do the lion’s share of the work.  Good news is, we’ve found that my husband’s efforts to appreciate what I’m doing for our son and our family help balance the scales a bit.

Even when we are both in good spirits and sound health, I’ve found that we tend to fill different functions in our relationship.  You may have heard the analogy of the toothbrush and the hairbrush.  Both items are brushes.  However, each item brushes a unique surface in a slightly different way.  It would basically be a mess if you tried to use one brush to complete the other’s job – think minty scalp or hairy gums – not a pretty sight.  As a practical example, my husband loves to cook and he’s better at it than I am.  I, on the other hand, truly enjoy budgeting and balancing our finances.  My husband would rather do almost anything else.  In these arenas, you might say that my 50% in the marriage translates to almost 100% of the money management.  On the flip side, my husband’s 50% in the marriage translates to nearly 100% of the cooking.  Of course, he contributes to spending decisions and I help plan the menus.  For the most part, however, we try very hard to play to our preferences and highlight our strengths as we continue to figure out what 50-50 means for us.

~ Candice