A Peaceful Marriage is Not Always 50/50

January 12th, 2007.

When I got married, I had a lot of grand ideas in my head of what married life should be like. I thought that our marriage would be 100% fair, completely diplomatic, and that all household duties would be split 50/50. I thought my husband would be constantly self motivated, perpetually thoughtful, and always on my same wavelength. There would be beauty and harmony in my home. Never in a million years would I become that shrewish fishwife shrieking from the doorway because my husband had spent the night carousing with the boys in avoidance of his husbandly duties.

A mere month after we said ‘I do,’ reality set in.

That perfect democracy fell apart the second I remembered that my husband is a pretty stubborn guy. If he doesn’t want to do something, he’s not going to do it and fuck you for making him repeat himself. I would demand that he help me with the housework; he’d sit on the couch like a spoiled child and ignore me. I would refuse to go shopping or make dinner in protest; he’d shrug his shoulders and order a pizza. If I asked him to drop something off at the post office for me, he would forget. But instead of just breaking down and doing it myself, I’d remind him. And remind him. And remind him again.

There was a phrase for what I’d become: A fishwife.

Of course, I blamed him. I wasn’t asking for so much. I just wanted to take turns cleaning the toilet. Wasn’t marriage supposed to be a partnership? Why wouldn’t he help me? Why didn’t he care about the things I cared about? Why wouldn’t he just bend to my will? Oftentimes, I would dramatically press the back of my hand against my forehead and tearfully exclaim, “You’re making me into such a nag!”

I was such a fucking martyr.

The fights and the bitching and the nagging and the hurt feelings went on for quite some time.

Then one day, I was taking care of a certain little girl. I took her to the park where another group of little girls were playing dolls. Now said little girl did not have a doll to join in, but she just assumed that one of the other girls would share a doll with her.

She was in for a big surprise when all the other little girls refused.

The little girl begged. The little girl pleaded. The little girl stomped her feet and with a shrill voice demanded that they be nice her. She lectured them about politeness and sharing and outright tried to bully her way into that playgroup. Still, the little girls clutched their dolls to their breasts and refused her access to them.

Finally, with tears of frustration in her eyes, she ran over to me and said, “V! Make those girls share with me!”

“No,” I said, “It doesn’t look like they want to play with you. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I would want to play with you, either, with the way you’re acting.”

“But, they are the ones being mean!” she raged, “It’s nice to share and they’re not being nice to me.”

I stooped down to her level and calmly told her, “Darling, you can not control how other people act. You can only control how you react to them.”

She was quiet for a minute and then she whirled around and screamed at the girls, “FINE! I WON’T PLAY WITH YOU THEN! I’M GOING TO GO SWING INSTEAD!”

Then she stomped off towards the swings.

I leaned back on my heels for a minute and contemplated the entire scenario. Finally, realization hit me like a cold splash of water.

I thought to myself: Man, I am such a hypocrite!

After that, a single policy was adopted in my house. Namely: if it bothers you, do something about it.

Of course this means I usually do the majority of the housework considering that a filthy house doesn’t seem to faze my husband in the least. I also do the majority of the shopping because he’d brush his teeth with water every day for the rest of his life before he’d remember to pick up a tube of Crest. His pet peeve, on the other hand, is the laundry. Left to my own devices, every article of clothing I own would have to be dirty before I’d do the wash. My husband likes it done every day, so he gets stuck with that little chore.

Our marriage is not a 50/50 split like I first envisioned it. But there is definitely less bitching, nagging, and fighting. No one is a victim and no one is a martyr. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to us that life was too short to argue about who cleaned the toilet more.

This is not to say that we never suffer small relapses.

Just the other night, I was reading in bed when my husband said to me, “I cannot believe that you threw your pants on the floor two feet away from the laundry basket.”

I replied, “I cannot believe you just stuck a piece of bubblegum to our headboard.”

He looked at me and I looked at him.

After a brief moment of silence, he picked up my pants.

Before I went to sleep that night, I removed his gum from our headboard.

Ah, peace.

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