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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Marriage: A Meeting in the Middle?

Monday marked the 9th wedding anniversary for Hubby and me. We went to a nicer restaurant in town to have dinner and celebrate. Unfortunately, what should have been a lovely dinner spiraled downward, each of us unhappy with the other by the time we left the restaurant. One comment Hubby made stayed with me the next few days, and Friday, on our way home from taking Lovely Beautiful Daughter and her boyfriend to the airport (another unfortunate event--they were flying to Boston after learning of the unexpected death of her boyfriend's father), Hubby and I talked further about his comment to me at our anniversary dinner. I told him I was considering writing about it here, and he replied that he would love to see what comments I receive regarding this subject. So, here goes.

My perspective of a marriage is it is a partnership. Each member of the relationship helps the other out simply because, to me, that's what a partnership entails. Including housework. Yeah. This is why our dinner eroded. Housework. My perspective is I am not a maid. I am a wife, mother, teacher, writer, artist, friend, daughter, sister, and cyclist. Nowhere on the list is maid. I work full time, which for a teacher is over 40 hours a week. When I am finished at work, I am not in any way eager to return home to commence cleaning house. But I do because there's always things that need to be done. At times, I get annoyed with having to spend my time cleaning instead of doing other things, especially when someone else has been home but didn't do some of the things that needed to be done. When I said as much to Hubby, his reply was, "I don't like doing housework." And I do? The next comment is what stayed with me: "I only do it so I don't have to listen to you bitch."

Ummmmm. Yeah.

After letting this comment settle, I realized something about my marriage, something I'd been kind of seeing for awhile now but didn't really want to face. My marriage isn't a partnership. It's a relationship in which two people live together but one person doesn't want to have to meet the other halfway. I'm okay with being told my asking for help with housework is bitching. I'm not okay learning the man I married doesn't look at our relationship as a partnership, one in which we do things for each other simply because doing so makes the other happy. When I suggested he is living in the 1950's, that there are men today who take an active role in helping with the housework, Hubby responded by saying I'm wrong, that men today don't do any more housework now than they did in the 1950's.

So there you go. Do men help with housework more today than in the 1950's? Do you know of husbands who take an active role in cleaning and keeping the house in order?

11 comments:

Debbie said...

UUUGHH! I disagree wholeheartedly with the writer's husband (the one who is definitely stuck in the 1950's). YES! There are MANY more husbands who, today (in 2014) have progressed into partners with their spouses in ALL areas of the marriage INCLUDING housework. In fact, I am very fortunate. My hubby vacuumes without being bitched to do so. He cuts fruit in the kitchen, grocery shops, cooks, unloads the dishwasher, etc. We BOTH do all household tasks, mostly. I have "fired" him from laundry because I am too picky about it, not becuase he's not willing to help. Husband stuck in the 1950's, buck up. NOBODY likes housework, but we all have to participate in it if we don't want a mess. Writer should have help. It should be a partnership. And my hubby knows that by participaiting in the household chores, his wife sees it as loving foreplay. Makes for an intersting life at our house. Oh, and, sometimes we both become lax in certain areas, but the other will certainly (& temporarliy) pick up the slack when necessary. Afterall, this is what partnership is all about. GOOD LUCK, dear Jennifer. You can lead a horse to water…

JK said...

You're lucky, and it seems like you know it. To a degree, I've resigned myself to just doing the work. I've reached the point of being tired of asking for help. A wedge has been created, and there's a way to remove it, but the person who needs to remove it has made it clear that's not going to happen.

Thryn said...

Huh. I'm still hung up on the word "bitch" much less the secondary issue of housework. I don't know how conversations go in your house on a daily basis, but that's an ugly, derogatory term, and its colloquial use for "complaining" or "cajoling" doesn't mitigate its connotation as clearly each of the terms I just types lends nuance to the conversation. That he thinks you "bitch" for wanting support in providing an environment that allows him and your children (and you) to be healthy, and safe, and comfortable, is disturbing to me. It's not just 1950's, it's revolting.

I don't see marriage as a 50/50 partnership. I see it as a whole life, whole heart commitment. Each person giving of themselves willingly in terms of the needs and wants of the other person, because doing so makes life better for both of them, brings out the best in the other person, which in turn makes each easier to love and enjoy. It's not subsuming one's personality or sense of self in the other person so that one's own needs don't matter. You have to be somebody to be in partnership with somebody. There will be times in a marriage when things can move along more or less 50/50, but life has a way of throwing curve balls that demand 80/20, or even 100/0 in terms of physical labor like house work sometimes in the case of a spouse who becomes incapacitated by illness or injury. But for a marriage to work, caring about what the other person cares about has to be fundamental. If it matters to you that the house be clean, and if many hands make light work (because many hands made the mess), then everyone has a job to do cleaning. Gender is irrelevant. I like the comments above - concerning laundry too though. You have to sometimes work from strength, and lend your strengths - (and nobody, including me, likes housework) so pitching in to do the things you can do well (or without difficulty) so that everyone's load is lighter and collectively you create a safe and nurturing environment - just seems like a fundamental way to love and care to me. It's sort of a "no brainer." I had no idea your husband was missing a brain?!

JK said...

I truly like how you view marriage as a whole life, whole heart commitment. That's what I was trying to say with my suggestion that a marriage is a partnership. You're much more eloquent, though. :) Partnership to me means giving and taking given the ebb and flow of life. Like you point out, life can throw curve balls, knuckle balls, and even dodge balls. Having each other's back when the balls start flying is so important. As I was cycling yesterday, it occurred to me that Hubby doesn't have my back at times. When this thought hit me, I felt profoundly sad. I still feel sad today.

I totally hear you about the use of the word "bitch." It hurt when he said it, and it still hurts now. Like you point out, it's about support. If my asking for support makes him view me as a bitch, then what's that say about how he views me overall? That thought, too, makes me sad.

Debbie said...

Don't get me wrong. We still issues similar to what you feel. Like the fact that not one of my family members gave me a birthday card this year. And that hubby didn't get a card OR a gift for me. Or that it isn't important to the kids or hubby to keep things straight & organized around the house, putting things back where they found them, writing things we are low on a grocery list, use coupons, etc. like I prefer so I have had to lower my standards for my sanity sake - just like you will have to choose to ignore the "cleaning up in order to keep you from bitching" (at least he used the word as a verb and not a noun - ha ha) comment or go insane. Unfortunately no person can meet all of our needs 100%, so unfortunatly we will have to contine to compromise our desires to maintain our sanity and for the sake of household status quo. I think that is a mother thing especially, giving up our desires/needs/wants for the family's sake. Hang in there. :)

JK said...

Believe me, I've lowered my standards. A lot. And I agree that no one person can meet all of our needs 100%. I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for help in maintaining a home that we both live in.

As for using one form of bitch over another form, as my smart son pointed out, using any form of the word infers that the person it is being applied to is a bitch. While Hubby may not have intended to call me a bitch, he did. If he didn't mean to do this, he should have thought a bit longer before opening his mouth and letting it come out.

Like Thryn points out, if my asking for help/support in keeping the house clean makes him view me as bitching, this kind of position in a marriage is revolting. It's not loving. It's not caring. It's the opposite.

Debbie said...

Agree wholeheartedly. Hang in there. :)

Samantha @ SamanthaCycles.com said...

Oh my. My husband and I view marriage as a partnership. A lot of the time it is 50/50 and other times one has to give more than the other just because that's the way life goes sometimes. But we'd never stand for holding those times over the head of the other. He's actually much more sensitive than me to these kinds of things. Things around the house that need to get done are split up fairly equally regardless if one likes to do them or not. And we have little things that when we first moved in together that we did to keep the other from getting annoyed over stupid stuff - like we each have our own tube of toothpaste because he gets annoyed that I don't squeeze the tube from bottom, or one bathroom has the toilet paper roll the way he likes and the other the way I like. May sound stupid but these little things we know can drive people crazy after awhile.

And to be perfectly blunt, neither my husband or I would stand for that kind of attitude for a single second in regards to your husband's comment. We're adults. There arelots of things we have to do everyday to keep things moving and happening that we may not like. That's called life. I'd tell your husband to suck it up and do his share or he could hire someone to come in and take care of his part.

JK said...

Samantha! It's so good to hear from you. I see that you've been quite busy lately. I hope you've been able to keep up with your photography/documenting your life. I love seeing what you are doing to make memories to look at for years to come.

You know, everyone who has chimed in, both here and via email, has said pretty much the same thing. I've read several articles, too, that say men today do in fact do more housework. Though all the evidence is showing that men indeed are doing more housework today, Hubby refuses to acknowledge it.

I think one comment you make is very important: being an adult and understanding that there are lots of things one must do on a daily basis to keep things moving. So true. I don't like doing lots of things in life, but I know I have to do them to keep us moving forward and happy.

Randall Brison said...

JK, this one took my breath away -- too many heart-wrenching elements, and at your anniversary dinner date, no less!

Others have spoken well to the issue, so I will stop and just pray the best for you and Hubby.

JK said...

Thank you, Randy. Definitely not the kind of anniversary dinner anyone wants or will look back on with fondness. Perhaps next year's will be much better.