Where Logic Meets Love

Companionship/Autonomy Series: Caitlin

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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This is Jessica dropping in briefly to say, I'm on vacation! Yay! Because I would afraid you would all feel neglected without any updates while I'm gone, I arranged for some lovely ladies to guest post in my absence. If you'd like to read the original post on which this series is based, you can check it out here! Please leave lots of wonderful comments for my guest bloggers and check out their blogs!

Here was the question: Within your marriage/partnership, how do you strike a balance between companionship and autonomy? What are the challenges you still face in finding this balance? And what role, if any, does faith in God play in how you create this balance?

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Hello to all of Jessica's readers! My name is Caitlin and I am very excited to be guest posting for Jessica while she is on vacation! I, like Jessica, am relatively newly married and I also blog about the fun and foibles of newly-married life on my blog The Rad Life. Feel free to check us out!

Before I really dive into this topic I first have to tell everyone about the cute and similar origins of my marriage and Jessica's. You see, Jessica and I both lived on the same floor during our first year of college: 7 Middle. And I think Jessica would probably agree with me when I say that our floor rocked. So much so that the gentleman who resided below us on 6 Middle were constantly venturing up to hang out with us. Jessica's husband Mike and my husband Bill were two such gentleman. So what you have here are two 7 Middle/6 Middle marriages. How cute is that?

Jessica's husband used to work for the housekeeping staff at our dorm as well and, hilariously, he always used to clean the door knob of my and my roommate's dorm room door. He would also leave a note on our dry erase board: "I cleaned your knob. -Mike." To this day, if ever I clean a door knob, I think of that and chuckle.

But that story had little to do with this post, so I will move on.

Companionship and Autonomy. I don't think anyone who is married hasn't had to contemplate this balance. I know I have in my marriage. I've done more than contemplate it, actually; I have all-out wrestled and fist fought with it. (That was a metaphor, by the way. Bill and I don't fist fight. I promise.)

I've never been the "clingy" and "needy" type. I have always been just as content to stay home by myself and read a book as I would be to go out with friends. So, since Bill I started dating and especially since we got married, I have been very surprised by the way I long for Bill's company. Literally, I miss him all day when we are working. Honestly, there is no place I would rather be in the world than snuggled up on the couch with him watching Netflix.

But all that doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated. That we don't get frustrated. Because the truth of it is he and I come from totally different family experiences. Not that one experience is better or worse than the other. But they are different. And so that, along with our own inherent personality differences, we often see the world differently. And this creates conflict.

An example? The dirty dish debate. When the dishwasher is full of dirty dishes and has no more space, my natural inclination is to place any subsequent dirty dishes in the sink. My husband, however, feels that those dishes should be placed on the counter so that we can still use the faucet. I, the person who is always wiping down those counters, think that is preeeetty much the most annoying solution ever. But it's simply a matter of differing priorities. Bill wants to be sure that he can get to the water. I want to make sure that the counters stay clean and there are not dirty nasty dishes just sitting around. How do we compromise? I try to make sure that I keep up with loading and unloading the dishwasher so that the situation doesn't arise. Because neither of us want to have to put dishes in the sink (or on the counter *shudder*) anyway.

But the point is that we each have different views and different needs. And yet, we are united in partnership. This is challenging. The example I gave was relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, but this issue presents itself in various aspects of our life together, and there are occasions when it's a lot more serious than dirty dishes.

But obviously this is part of what it is to be married. Does it make me nuts that Bill uses the kitchen towel and then leaves it on the counter rather than hanging it back where it goes? Yes. Does it drive Bill crazy that I put the toilet paper on the roll with the sheets under rather than over? Yep. But we have to acknowledge the validity of our spouse's perspective as well as acknowledge that whatever perspective we have of our own is not THE perspective.

And for me, that's the balance between companionship and autonomy: respecting your spouse. Obviously, deep down, we all think our way is the best way. But when you are married or have otherwise joined with someone else you can no longer let that kind of thinking dominate. Because, guess what? It might come as a surprise to you, but sometimes your spouse might have a better idea. Sometimes he is better at something than you are. Sometimes she knows more than you do. And that is the beauty of it! Two amazing, unique, and intelligent people working together for common goals and desires.

For us this means that Bill takes care of all the bills. He takes care of the budget. He makes the calls pertaining to our student loans or our bank account. For us this means that I make our grocery lists and I cook our meals during the week. I make the phone calls to schedule our various appointments. It also means that we share housekeeping responsibilities and, even though I am more socialized to notice a mess and therefore do more light cleaning throughout the week, he always rolls up his sleeves and helps on the weekends.

I think you can balance companionship and autonomy by both spouses recognizing and acknowledging the unique perspective of the other. And then utilizing the skills and abilities in your relationship in fair and effective ways. And this, we believe, is what God desires in the marriage relationship. We believe God wants us to see each other. Really see each other and respect our differences. We believe he wants us to contribute to our marriage by using the unique gifts we both have. He doesn't want us to conform or change ourselves in an attempt to make our partners happy. Because in the end THAT WON'T REALLY MAKE ANYONE HAPPY.

Do we have this down? Not totally. But the important thing is that we are always working on it.

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