Many of us are good at paying lip service to the fact that marriage is a union of two different people who are sometimes from different backgrounds. However, when it comes down to applying that knowledge in daily life, we often do a poor job of it.
We come into marriage with expectations of spousal roles which may or may not have been discussed in practical terms, and we attempt to squeeze each other into these roles. Soon the blame game begins, and we are miserable. They’re not pulling their weight. They’re not doing what they’re “supposed” to do.
One thing that has jumped out at me from the pages of Hillary Clinton’s biography, A Woman in Charge, is how well she and Bill understood what they each brought to the table. He had vision and charisma, while she was known for practicality and strategy. He seemed to supply the passion, while she supplied the focus. He didn’t care about money and could have lived under a bridge; she sought a broker and invested their little so they could have something to fall back on, knowing that politics was never a sure thing.
Of course their marriage, like many others, has been far from perfect, but this is one area where they skipped the nightmare of friction that plagues many couples in the early years. They understood their differences and played it so well together that it was something people around them could actually see, and several have commented on it over the years. One photojournalist who followed them around in Arkansas and in Washington said,
“She’s the one that gets up in the morning with a dark cloud over her head, and he gets up with the bright sun. As the day goes on, he’s the one who falls into a funk and she’s the one who will refocus him. It’s one of those things that if they had never met, neither of them would have reached the heights that they did.”
Would we be happier in marriage if we genuinely accessed what each person is good at, and then find a way to create a synergy that works?
In the books, women are great with kids and men are good at making money. In real life, some husbands are better at parenting than making money, and some wives are better at making money than parenting. In the books, men are turned on at the drop of a hat while women need romance and sweet talk to get in the mood. In real life, some wives go from 0 to 100 in a minute, and some husbands need cajoling.
When we hold too tightly to preconceived notions about marriage and marital roles, we miss out on the uniqueness of what we do have. We all have our different strengths and weaknesses, and if you can be strong where your partner is weak and they can do the same for you, isn’t that just what your marriage needs?
We rarely marry people who are just like us. You may be driven while your partner is laid back. You may be great at speaking, while your partner is more reflective and taciturn. You may be good with numbers while they’re great with words. You may be diplomatic and good at handling extended family issues while your partner is not as tactful and simply says things the way they are.
When we hold too tightly to preconceived notions about marriage and marital roles, we miss out on the uniqueness of what we do have.
Will you stick to rigid ideals or will you settle down and work together to find an arrangement that suits your family? This doesn’t mean that the husband shouldn’t work and the wife shouldn’t care for her children; it simply means what it means to each individual family.
It doesn’t mean that one person will handle sensitive matters on their own; it just means that both partners will learn how to sing the duet perfectly, with each one knowing where they should come in, and where the other takes over.
Enjoy the things you have in common, and be honest and real about your differences as well. The sooner you can ride the wave to your mutual advantage instead of fighting it, the quicker you can get to the happier part of marriage where you reap the rewards of the sync and flow that you’ve created.
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