by Myrrhanda Novak
Do you remember the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mother tells her daughter that “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck.”? This is how women have been groomed for generations.
But that’s not equality, and it’s not what modern women want - with good reason. The Marriage and Family Research Institute has found that couples with relationship equality have “less depression or anxiety..., an increase in intimacy, better communication, greater satisfaction and improved stability.” Yes, please!
So how do you create this equality? Twelve years into marriage, I am still navigating how best to own my autonomy within a successful partnership, but I have a few things (mostly) figured out. If you’re looking for advice for your modern marriage, or if you want to make your relationship stronger, then focusing on equality is an important key to relationships that work.
Here are six signs that you and your partner value relationship equality:
YOU TAKE TURNS HAVING THE FINAL SAY
It’s ideal when you can weigh your options together and agree on what’s best, but the reality is there will be times when you want different things. How you handle those situations demonstrates if each person’s opinion is equally valued. Before Jensen and I got married, we discussed who would lead in certain areas of shared life. We agreed that the final say would go to the person who had greater knowledge in the area or who was most invested in the outcome of that particular decision. This is similar to how decisions are often made amongst peers in a professional setting. Why should it be any different at home?
NEITHER ONE OF YOU IS HOPELESS ON YOUR OWN
It’s okay if you and your partner divide some or most of life’s responsibilities into what might be considered pink and blue roles, so long as the decision is based on areas of expertise, interest, schedule etc. and not gender. What’s not so healthy is if you can’t leave your spouse home with the kids without a detailed instruction sheet. Or if one of you has no idea how much money is in the bank. Go ahead and delegate chores like laundry and meal prep, but certain aspects of life (such as kids and money) are too important for one person to hoard all the power. In an equal partnership, both people can manage these critical roles when needed, even if the other person has the lead most of the time. YOU’RE WILLING TO OUTSOURCE
Every couple’s budget and priorities will differ, but if you notice that one or both of you is becoming overwhelmed in an area, consider hiring some outside help. We have employed a cleaning service for the past three years, and it is money well spent. It has basically eliminated any nagging or frustration resulting from cleaning that neither of us really felt we had time or energy to do. For some couples, hiring an accountant might alleviate stress and tension if neither of you is comfortable managing finances. Perhaps you need to hire a neighbour kid or professional service to shovel the driveway or weed your garden so you aren’t grumbling about a sore back. Look at areas of home management that are causing you to fight or become frustrated with one another. If you can’t share a job peacefully, then see if you can outsource it. If it makes your home happier, it can truly be money well spent. YOU DON’T KEEP SCORE
Research suggests that “sharing household chores” has become increasingly important to modern couples, almost as important as a quality sex-life. It’s important to remember that the best marriages aren’t 50/50, they’re 100/100. Early in our marriage, we realized that nothing made us more miserable than trying to ensure work was shared 50/50. If Jensen suggested I wasn’t doing enough, it made me insecure. When I felt I was doing too much, I became naggy and resentful. When we agreed to simply do what needed to be done when we were able to do it, we became a happier, stronger team. My goal is to give my best every day and to acknowledge that my husband is doing the same.
YOU LET EACH OTHER DO THINGS YOUR OWN WAY
This is a big one. Do you tell your spouse how to cook/clean/eat/parent? If you want a happy partnership where both people feel comfortable contributing in all areas, you need to let go of having things done your way.
When it comes to parenting, my guiding question is “Would I say something about this parenting choice to another mother?” For example, if I was at the playground and another mom was parenting her child the way my husband is parenting right now, would I intervene? No? Then I say nothing. We do make a point of discussing our parenting choices often and we work to enforce consistent standards, but I am not giving moment-by-moment parenting direction to my children’s father. He is as much their parent as I am.
If you constantly correct your partner, you are essentially telling them that you can do it better. Overtime, this will likely result in them just letting you to do it all, which is an imbalance you will regret.
YOU SUPPORT EACH OTHER’S DREAMS Research from the Gottman Institute has found that the majority of conflict in relationships can be traced back to unfulfilled dreams. This is why communicating your goals and aspirations with your partner, and ensuring that you know theirs, is critical to a strong, lasting partnership. Of course, you also need to work together to act on those goals to the greatest extent possible. Our dreams are so very personal to us, that if we don’t feel that our partner supports them, we can feel that our partner doesn’t care about us. There may be seasons of life where one person’s dream takes centre stage, but the overall goal of your relationship should be mutual fulfillment.
THE FINAL WORD
When making a modern marriage work, remember that interest, expertise and schedule should be the reasons behind who does what - not gender. To create a strong relationship, the key is to recognize that you are a team, working towards the shared goal of creating and managing a happy and successful household - whatever that looks like for you.
Tell us what you think. What does equality look like in your relationship? Like and comment below.