Are We Really So Unusual?
Thursday, January 20, 2011Tweet
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?