Equality in Marriage?

Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Equality in Marriage?

Dear soon-to-be-brides—

Note, today I am not intending to speak to the other half of the couple, as I usually do—“Dear Engaged couple.”    That is because I want to talk about women TO women—and their changing role (or not) in marriage.  Sometimes when I am in consultation with a couple, the bride-to-be will say, “Do we have to use the word obey, as in “love, honor and obey?”  Other Brides to Be are more forceful, as in “I will NOT say obey as part of my wedding vows!”  I understand. I am a woman, after all.  Rest assured, that lingo was dropped from wedding ceremonies decades ago.  Although I am not sure when, exactly, I’m thinking it might have been the 1960’s with the emergence of the best selling The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.  At any rate, now the groom’s vows mirror the bride’s vows, at least in the traditional Christian ceremony.  So, for instance, in my Book of Common Worship (Presbyterian tradition) the vows read:

I N., take you N., to be my wife (or husband); and I promise, before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful husband (or wife); in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health; as long as we both shall live.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with writing your own vows, and each of you saying what it is exactly you promises to do or be for the other.  And, these don’t have to match either.  It has been most moving to me, when one of the engaged people has children which will be raised by the other.  So, for instance, the groom may say something like, “Anne, I promise to be a loving and supportive caregiver to your daughters, Alice and Joy.” 

Likewise, it may be that you, the Bride to Be, will want to specify that you vow to share equally in the household duties, and in all ways to regard and treat each other as equals.      

That is all very well and good, but I am telling you this, woman to woman, equality does not really work in a marriage.  Oh, it may work on the big things—and that is really the goal, isn’t it?  So, for instance, you get an awesome job offer in New York City, but he has a job in Richmond, VA.  The two of you decide that since you moved to Richmond for his job two years ago, maybe this time, he will move for your job. 

But as for the little things—like who does which household chores?  It’s still not a level playing field and don’t hold your breath that it ever will be.   After so many years of married life, let me tell you, I don’t think that men are lazy, or unconcerned, or intentionally stubborn as regards household chores.  It’s just that their eyeballs don’t work right, or there’s a disconnect between what their eyeballs pick up and how that information is interpreted.  Something like that.   All I know is, even if the shrubs are growing arms and legs, he probably won’t notice.  Or, say the floor is caked with blobs of oatmeal, and dried dog food from a week’s worth of spills. That fact just won’t penetrate his consciousness.    But here’s the thing.  You WILL notice.  In fact, you will be grossed out—grossed out enough that sooner or later you will take action.

The good news is, if he is worth marrying,  he will be responsible in other ways—in ways that require a man’s gross motor skills and a man’s complete obliviousness to dirt and grime.  So,  he won’t mind changing the oil in the car, or mowing the lawn (but YOU will probably have to tell him when the oil needs changing or the grass is getting long).  Yes, these are stereotypical man-jobs, but they are stereotypical for a reason.   

So, what I’m getting at here is that marriage is not an equal opportunity employer.  It’s a balancing act.  You do this, I do that.  It’s a shared venture, with shared goals,but it requires a division of labor, each task according to each one’s talent and expertise.  Not bad, I’d say.

One footnote, though. It makes sense to trade off every once in awhile, so that you DO learn to mow the grass and even change the oil, and he DOES learn to mop the floor.  That’s just a safety precaution in case one or the other of you gets sick or has to travel out of town.  It’s  healthy. Consider it a way to better appreciate the other for what they do to maintain the household and the relationship– you have created. 

Blessings your way as you continue to prepare for your big day!  Gay Lee 


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