For Better or Worse

Warning: Abrasive tone and dark sarcasm ahead.

Allt hat you are is all that I'll ever need - Ed Sheeran
Umm … no pressure. I’m not even all that I need.

Your role, should you choose to accept it, is to spend the rest of your life in service to Mr X. You will ensure that, at the very least, your dishes and laundry are always done. Wherever possible, you will do his as well. You may not leave any laundry or dishes lying around the house – EVER. And you must clear away yours and his whenever you notice them. Be vigilant!

You will plan and prepare all meals – and don’t forget that you’ll need to do the shopping, too. Oh, and of course, you’ll have to earn the money for that shopping … you ARE and independent woman after all, aren’t you?

You’ll have to do “your share” when it comes to raising the kids – and it’s very important that you always agree on every aspect of parenting. This means that getting them dressed, clean, fed, educated, loved, cared for, and played with rests every bit as firmly on your shoulders as it does on his. And so does discipline. This is all about equality, after all – so you both get to do everything. All. The. Time.

But wait – there’s more! You need to listen to him: his plans, and hopes, and dreams – and don’t you dare dash a single one! Just listen. You need to listen to his fears, and irritations, and the things that make him MAD. And remember: he’s just venting. None of this is aimed at you. No matter how angry and hurtful it all sounds, just listen. All he wants is to get it out. He will want to ponder the big questions of life with you, so mae sure your philosophy is up to date. And he’ll have some pretty serious emotional damage (who doesn’t?!), so better brush off that psychology degree. Sometimes you’ll drive him crazy – for no good reason. When that happens, he’ll need to talk to you about it, so be calm and compassionate. Listen patiently, and try to see how you were wrong, and how you can improve and do better next time.

He needs a buddy: go bowling with him. Or watch the sport he loves. Or play that video game that keeps him up all weekend. He needs companionship, and that’s what marriage is all about. Make sure you go fishing with him, and takes those long walks he loves. Never mind your allergies or your bad back – this is for the greater good. It’s important. Oh – and so is your “Me Time” – so don’t neglect yourself. Be sure to fit in some self-care time. Shave. Exercise. Stay in shape … you don’t want to turn him off with the way you’ve let yourself go, do you?

Since you’ll be sharing the cooking duties, you need to be sure your skills are current. Be a good chef! And remember to put all the dishes away WHERE THEY GO when you wash up every day. After all, that’s what he would do.

You’ll need to make the bed if you’re the last one to leave it. And take out the trash, of course. Really, that’s all anyone’s asking of you – surely that’s not so hard, is it? Oh wait – and you need to keep your car serviced and running properly. His too, come to that.

Now that he’s married you, he really doesn’t need anyone else. You’re there for him. You listen. You’re his confidante and his sounding board. You GET him. That’s what you’re there for, after all. Right? So make sure you’re objective and can see all the sides of the situation all the time (no matter the day or week or month you’ve had). But also don’t forget to be on his side all the time. He needs your complete support, trust, and understanding. No matter how crazy or hormonal or emotional or irrational he sounds.

After all, without getting absolutely everything he needs from you, he can never – EVER – be truly happy. And you just don’t have the right to take his happiness from him. That’s very selfish.

I know this is had, but it’s meant to be tongue in cheek. Over the last two years, I’ve been working on my perspective of the things that frustrate me in my life, trying to see how I can see things more clearly and thus become more content with the way they are. It’s been my experience that we lie to ourselves and make our lives seem worse than they are, and then allow those beliefs to sap all our joy and happiness from our lives.

This piece, then, is actually the expectations we (or at least me) tend to place on our menfolk. I’ve written it as if they expect this from us, just to show how very extreme our demands are. No self-respecting woman would ever accept a job like this, no matter how much we loved someone. And we’d probably also never admit – to ourselves or anyone else – that we expected this much from anyone, let alone our one true love.

And yet, when I chat to my girlfriends, and even more when I consider my own frustrations, all of these things have come up. We do expect the men we marry to work and provide, and of course maintain cars and home. But we also expect them to do at least as much inside the home as we do … and then we trivialise what they do, and pick on them for not doing it our way (the right way, obviously!).

And on top of all of that, we expect them to meet every emotional, psychological, physical, social, and ambitious need we have. All the time. We call it “being there for me”. But really it’s more like we’re some kind of giant emotional parasite sapping an already depleted source.

Years ago, when villages were strong and families and friends all lived in close proximity, sharing chores and labour and child-rearing between them all, these expectations were less common. We had mothers and sisters and friends and daughters and fathers and uncles and village elders and mystics and cousins and grandparents and pastors and priests to guide us. We had midwives and farm managers with decades of life under the belt, to answer our questions.

We had companions on every hand – people to help with the cooking and the cleaning and the kids, people to share jokes with and discuss ideas with and get advice from. And they weren’t all one poor, hapless soul who had the misfortune to fall in love with us.

I’ve just started reading Liz Gilbert’s book, Committed. In the early pages she talks about the Hmong tribe in Vietnam, and their very ancient, village-like living arrangements. Lots of people living together in small spaces; women doing women’s work while me do men’s work. Your friends were the women folk who shared your daily chores. Your advisors were the elders of the village. Your husband was a protector and a provider and a progenitor … and yes, maybe even a friend. But not necessarily a confidante and counsellor and business partner.

And I really don’t think that was ever the plan. Surely that’s too much to ask of one person!

I know I wouldn’t be okay with it.

Just some food for thought.

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