Despite the fact that it has been a little over eight months since our wedding (HOW DID IT GO SO FAST???) I still look at our photos on a daily regular basis. Judge as you will. I go through cycles of which one is my favorite (I know, now I’m getting really narcissistic) and currently it is this one:
But if I had to pick one picture that actually spoke the most clearly of our marriage, and not just our wedding, it would be this one:
I suppose that technically, we have what would be called a Very Traditional Marriage in terms of gender roles: I do all the laundry, all the cooking, all the grocery shopping and meal planning, and 95 % of the house cleaning. I delight in puttering around our home and I am crazy proud of having good dinners ready when James gets home in the evening. I pack his lunch every day, alongside my own.
But every evening, regardless of how tired he is, how busy his own day was, or how much work he still has to do, James does the dishes. And with that simple daily act, I am reminded that what I do for him and our home matters, is valued, and that we are partners, rather than me just being his housekeeper.
We talk a lot about gender roles in marriage, especially within the Christian circles. We debate “complementarian” vs “egalitarian” views, thought of by opponents “abusive male headship” vs. “feminist control freaks.” The homemakers attack the working moms, the working moms judge the homemakers, and the men can’t seem to do anything right as they are either chauvinistic or weak. We hear sermons about woman submitting and men loving and we get all upset about what this means in our everyday lives, so we either wave it around as a banner to justify whatever we want to do, or we reject it as outdated and irrelevant.
Frankly, I think if everyone stopped stressing about how to label their marriage, and just lived it, maybe the state of marriage in our nation – especially among Christians – would be a lot better.
Because James and I have an egalitarian marriage, in the sense that we are equals. I am a person, he is a person, and we are both equally invested in our marriage, and we both work hard to make it work. We are both equally valued by each other, by God, and hopefullysomeday by our children. My opinion matters no more and no less than his.
But we also have a complementarian marriage because we complement each other in marriage. James makes most of the money, which lets me be in school. Our tasks are different because I am better at cooking, cleaning, housekeeping, and I like it more. Is that because I am a woman and it was decided by society that I have these skills? Maybe, but I don’t really care. James delights in providing, so he does most of that. And I defer to him for big financial stuff, since he has a better grasp of our long-term finances. Thus, I guess you could say he is the leader.
I’m getting at is that I don’t think marriage should be about naming roles for each other. By getting married, didn’t we kind of promise to put the other person first, to love and serve them? And doesn’t that apply to both parties? It’s not like men have a monopoly on the love task while women do all the serving. For me, this means that when I am home all day, it makes sense for me to do some housework and make some food. To refuse that because I wanted to prove a point about us being equal would be selfish, just like James refusing to let me use money just because he is the one who makes more would be selfish.
Yes, maybe I am under-qualified to write this, given my pretty short window of experience. However, I feel like must of the discussion about this topic has little to do with marriage and a lot to do with selfishness. Selfishness is always something that we should seek to limit, be it in a marriage or elsewhere. This means that the same things that make someone a good spouse makes them a good person, a good employee, a good friend. We spend so much energy discussing gender roles in marriage, that we kind of marginalize unmarried people. Service, selflessness, keeping a home, managing finances, helping out people around you – aren’t those really just qualities of good people? And I’m not talking about “grooming qualities during singleness so that they can help you out in marriage.” If that isn’t demeaning, then I don’t know what is. I’m talking about grooming qualities during life that make you better in every relationship imaginable.
So I guess you could say that we’re complementary egalitarians. As most good marriages probably end up being.