I recently finished a sweet book called I Like Being Married. It's basically a collection of quotes and stories from both celebrities and unknown people about why they like being married or about meeting their spouse. Nothing earth-shattering, but if you're married, it's a cute, sweet book to reminder you why being married is awesome.
One of the couples talked about having a wedding ceremony around the theme of service and incorporating foot-washing. This made me take notice because so many people at our wedding told us they'd never been to a wedding with the theme of service before ours, and how meaningful they found it.
It made me start thinking about our readings -- which were not your typical readings at a Catholic wedding. (Actually, it was kind of funny that the priest asked, rhetorically, "When's the last time you were at a wedding where the Gospel was about the Last Supper?" because my friend who got married three months earlier had the same reading.) We didn't like any of the traditional Old Testament readings around marriage because they tend to focus on a wife-be-submissive-to-your-husband theme that we're not big on. We settled on the shema (aka "Hear O Israel") as a representation that faith was the foundation of our marriage, just as the Jewish faith formed the foundation of the Christmas faith.
Our New Testament reading is the one that really got me thinking about how it's played out in our marriage. It's 1 Corinthians 12:4-14. (Reproduced here thanks to the awesome biblegateway.com.)
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.
We picked this to echo the "two become one" sentiment, with the idea that we were both bringing a completely different set of gifts and abilities to our marriage to make one life out of them. That it was one God we both believed in, but that we remained two individuals with different strengths who formed one union.
I was surprised recently to find out that some couples we know really have gone into marriage expecting that both partners will do 50% of everything. I don't think either of us ever had that notion going into marriage, or if we did, we quickly settled into a different pattern. I acknowledge that I am extraordinarily blessed to have a husband who enjoys doing the dishes. And cooking. I guess we did split the cooking initially until I got sick and he cooked every night, and he eventually got in the habit of planning out meals and shopping for groceries. I am perfectly happy in my role as the breadwinner who carefully manages and tracks our finances, organizes our receipts and our papers, and generally makes sure things get picked up around the apartment. Mike does laundry once a week and runs errands as needed. I used to do laundry while he was at work on Sunday until we figured out it was keeping us at our parents' too late, so now he takes it there on his day off.
The point is not so much who does what as that we both acknowledge that we have different strengths and thus should take care of different things. And sometimes it's just a matter of who has time to do what. Or who is most bothered by things. And there are compromises. I accept that the dishes will sit in a big pile on the counter all day, but that they'll be done when I wake up the next morning. Mike knows that I will support his dream to be a restaurant manager, despite what anyone might say and despite that we spent a ton of money on his social work degree, but also that our future plans will always revolve around my career above his. (Not that he really cares -- he can't wait to be a stay-at-home dad.)
It kind of saddens me to think that people are holding grudges against their spouses for not having the same priorities they have. God made us different to complement each other. I hate cooking and Mike is awesome at it. Mike makes big piles of things all over without seeing them as messy, so I keep our apartment organized so it's easy to pick up when needed. I try never to hold it against him that he's not me.
One other thought, and this is for the guys. Guys seem baffled by this concept that their wives will be more willing to have sex with them if they, say, clean the kitchen. It's not that having a clean kitchen turns us women on. But I realized that most women have the responsibilities of shopping, cooking, cleaning, watching kids, running errands, and so on. You expect them to do all that and then have sex with you? We may not divide all the chores 50/50, but when it comes to serving your spouse and your family -- you both have to be giving 100% wherever possible. And just going to work all day isn't enough, because that doesn't make your spouse feel like she's being served.
Mike thinks he's a really lucky guy, but I'll tell you something -- I get home from work and dinner's on the stove, errands are run, the bathroom is clean, the laundry is done, and you're going to wash the dishes for me? I'm the luckiest women ever to have a husband that serves me like you do. It feels like all I can give in return is to have sex with you. Does that work?