Where Logic Meets Love

Are We Really So Unusual?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

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Are We Really So Unusual? | Faith Permeating Life
There are a few ways Mike and I are different from many couples we know.

One is our lack of adherence to traditional gender roles. Mike cooks and cleans and plans to be our stay-at-home parent. He majored in a female-dominated field and easily makes friends with his female supervisors and female classmates. I am the breadwinner and manage our finances. My job involves data analysis and I'm starting to learn programming. I'm much more comfortable in a group of guys than a group of women, though I do have great one-on-one female friendships. You get the idea.

Another difference, I'm learning, is the level of trust, communication, and respect in our relationship. This alternately baffles and frustrates me.

For example, I hate make-up and jewelry (see point #1). The women at Mike's work will say something about make-up and say, "Oh, your wife would understand," or will make comments to him about how he should buy me jewelry. And he tells them, "No, my wife hates that stuff." And they'll tell him, "Oh, no, she just tells you she does or that you don't have to buy it for her, but she really wants you to." This irritates me because it presumes both that they know me (whom they've never met) better than my husband does, and that he and I don't have complete openness and honesty with each other. Which we do.

Way back when we were doing wedding planning and choosing things for our registry, we made all of those decisions together. And while I can kind of understand how some couples are comfortable having one partner plan the whole wedding -- it's only one day -- I don't understand how a registry, the things you're both going to live with every day, can be anything but a compromise.

I know my best friend reads this blog and I hope she will forgive my using her as an example, but this story goes beyond her to demonstrate a common theme among women: My friend wanted an art piece for their house, but her future husband hated it. She put it on the wedding registry anyway. What amazed me most, though, was the conversation that happened when she opened the gift at her bridal shower. First, she immediately laughed about how much her husband hated it. Then the giver of the gift said she'd bought it right away when she heard that the husband didn't want it. And someone else suggested my friend put it right in the most prominent spot in the house. Everyone laughed and agreed. And I thought, "Wait, are you trying to destroy their marriage?"

Thankfully my friend and her husband have a strong relationship where this kind of thing isn't a big deal, but I just can't imagine making a decision against my husband's explicit wishes. And I think part of the reason Mike and I are so open and honest with each other is we know that what we say will never be judged and will always be respected and taken seriously. Weird as I may be sometimes, Mike will change the way he says things if it's going to upset me otherwise. He could make fun of me. He could argue with me that it makes no difference. He could do it sarcastically. But he doesn't. He accepts that that's who I am and he respects my wishes.

It makes me wonder why more couples don't function this way. Or maybe they do and they're just not the people I know. But I think part of it has to do with the models we see of relationships in the media. It's considered "normal," by the standards of those depictions, to make fun of one another, to say cutting remarks, to bring each other's faults into conversation with friends. And I'll admit that when Mike and I are together with friends, sometimes I do slip into more of a "role" or tend to tease him more. I think I'm trying to draw attention to our relationship (a separate entity from either of us individually, as I've mentioned), but I do that in a negative way. It's something I'll have to avoid more consciously.

I'm interested to hear from those of you in a relationship, married or not. How do you treat each other on a day-to-day basis? And is it different in public than in private? How do you see your relationship compared to others you know? Compared to what you see on TV?

2 comments:

  1. Wow! This is only the second one of your posts I've read, and I'm very impressed with this one, too. I also work in data analysis and tend to get along better with men than women, and I quit wearing make-up after I woke up enough to realize I didn't like it, and at the moment I'm the sole breadwinner because my man lost his job, so he is doing more around the house...so you and I have a lot in common!

    We are happily unmarried, and one of the many reasons is our observation that marriage in our society tends to put people into boxes and actually encourages hostility between the partners. One of the things I like about reading Christian blogs is that so many of them speak of building up one another instead of tormenting your husband to make your friends laugh!

    Many people seem to believe that estrangement between men and women is just inevitable, even in the most intimate relationships. I feel sad for them. My own parents set an excellent example of working together and respecting each other's strengths, and that's given me a great foundation to build on.

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  2. @'Becca
    I love making new blog friends who are similar to me!

    I enjoyed your post about why you're not married. When Mike and I first started dating, I was insistent that we not use the terms "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" because I felt there were so many expectations and roles that went with those words. Based on previous relationships, I didn't want him to assume, because I was his girlfriend, that he had the right to touch me without asking (he asked for permission the first time he ever held my hand) or treat me a certain way. Eventually I realized that he wasn't like that and it became awkward not to have words to refer to one another, so we started using the terms. By then they'd taken on different meanings for us.

    People definitely have expectations about what will happen to couples when they get married and as they stay married, and you're right, there's something sad about that. I've had to consciously struggle not to fall into the trap of "playing the wife," in a negative sense. We want to set an example for our kids that we didn't have.

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