Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Talking About Your Roles in A Marriage

The five-year-old of some friends of ours recently said to the father, "Dad, why are you doing the dishes? Dads only do dishes when their wives are dead!" Pretty telling isn't it? And funny! Yes, sometimes we send messages that we never intend to send. I talked about that in an earlier post.

But the little girl's candid comments also are an important reminder that couples may not ever talk about their expectations of one another especially when it comes to the roles they are willing to play or not play in a marriage. Thankfully, our friends had obviously talked and decided it was OK for dad to take on something like dishwashing but in some households that would be a no-no.

I remember early in our marriage I would help with the dishes and then wipe off the stove and counter. I didn't do that because I was some kind of knight in shining armor. No, it was because that's what my mom expected us kids to do when we were growing up. I thought (and still do think) it was a part of doing dishes. However, Jackie took it to mean that I didn't think she was doing a good enough job.

That led to some important discussions about our roles!

While there are few right and wrong or clearly obvious roles per se in marriage, many people think there are. How they were brought up and the models they had or didn't have determined what they now think is appropriate in a marriage. Somewhere along the line (ideally before marriage) those things need to be talked about and agreed upon.

One or both partners may need to accept the fact that their marriage doesn't need to play out the way their family's did when they were young. But role problems don't have to go on and on. They can be fixed.

However, two things will inhibit our addressing the problem. One is not talking about it. When spouses continue to do something that they hate or resent doing or feel they're not the best equipped to do, bitterness can occur. That doesn't mean that we don't need to sacrifice and do hard things that may not be enjoyable. But to not talk about what's best and who can do a role most effectively or how to share the load more fairly will only lead to more problems.

The second harmful pattern is assuming. Don't assume that just because your spouse has been doing something all along that they enjoy it. Take inventory together now and then of your roles and ask each other if you both need to consider some other options for getting certain things done. Does one of you need to step up and help more? Is it time for a break? Is there a way to give you more time together by putting a responsibility on someone else? Do the kids need to help more?

You'll have to work out the details and how things will best work in your marriage and home. But start by taking time to communicate about the roles you play or will play. For example, if you have your first baby on the way, talk now about what will be expected in terms of childcare, getting up in the night and curbing some activities for awhile.

If mom is going to start work at some point, how will things need to change around the house? What difference will it make if one spouse is going to get home an hour later every night? Remember, intention is one thing, perception is everything. Head off some problems at the pass now and you'll walk through the challenging valleys that come later much more effectively and happily.

Well, I gotta run. I think it's time for me to get to sewing those buttons back on my shirt.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

No comments:

Post a Comment