Unsolicited Advice

I went to a wedding shower last Friday for my sister in law, who is the same age as me and getting married this July. I think what goes on at showers is supposed to stay at showers but I’m going to tell you on the down-low, okay?

When the bride-to-be had finished opening her gifts, her sister asked if anyone had any advice for the new bride.

No one offered any advice, so the person asking the question said, “I think I have some advice.”

We all turned to listen intently, who can’t use some marriage advice?

“When you first start out, make sure you divide the work according to your strengths. You don’t have to take on traditional roles, you should do what you’re good at.”

We all nodded in agreement.

“I finally cried one time,” she continued, “because I was so stressed out and my husband was like, ‘I can do the shopping and the cooking, it’s fine.’ And then I thought, why didn’t I cry a long time ago?”

Aunt Margaret, who is in her eighties said, “I have two different friends that told their husbands they weren’t cooking anymore, they were done, and it worked out for both of them.”

“Don’t get stuck with all the Christmas shopping,” I added.

“Why, do you do all the shopping?” someone else asked.

“Nooooo,” I said, “I have a good husband,” I gestured to my niece, “Tara and I were comparing notes at Christmas, she has a good husband, too.”

Tara nodded her head in agreement. We both have husbands who clean bathrooms and do their own laundry and Christmas shop for their family.

On Sunday, when we met for Father’s Day, the topic came up again.

The husband to be was there, so we asked him to add his two cents.

“It’s interesting,” he said, “because I do everything now myself, and it’s fine. It’s like introducing another person gives you someone to complain to.”

It’s true. My friend Alison said one day when she had finished cleaning her house, “It’s so weird, now that I live alone and do everything myself I feel a sense of accomplishment, but when I lived with John (her ex husband) and I did everything all I felt was angry.”

I think things are different when you marry after having lived on your own for years, also. You are accustomed to taking care of yourself so you’re like, “Why would I need you to do my laundry?”

“You do your own laundry?” My other sister in law asked, with a sort of shocked look on her face.

“Yes, we do our own laundry, we pay our own bills.”

(More shocked looks)

It’s the way we’ve always been. Whoever thinks the sheets need to be washed throws them in the wash. Whoever thinks the bathroom rugs need vacuuming vacuums.

We have some chores divided. I like to cook and so I willingly take the cooking and shopping. I also like flowers and a garden so those are primarily my responsibility. The thing about both of those things, is that I do it because I want to. There is never a time when J would ever get mad if I didn’t cook dinner. In fact, sometimes I think he’s sad when he finds out I cooked because he secretly wants to go to Pizza Ranch.

J takes care of the yard, outside of the flowers and garden. He keeps a gorgeous lawn that looks like a park, except for the parts we intentionally leave wild. He fertilizes and mows and mulches. Sprays weed-be-gone and spreads lyme. De-thatches and waters, cuts down trees and prunes bushes. He does all of that because he likes a nice lawn, it gives him a sense of pride, and he wants to do it. If he wanted to let it all go natural I would be totally fine with it. I am perfectly capable of mowing, I did it for nine years at my own house, but he does it because he wants to.

To me, the most important thing is that you’re a team. Every team member has their own strengths, their own gifts they bring to the table. And every team member has the other team member’s back.

J added, “You back each other up,” to the discussion, because when he was busy painting the trim, I mowed the lawn. And if I’m traveling, he waters the flowers.

You work together to make the life you want. That’s important- don’t accept a life thrust upon you, it will result in resentments and anger. There are no predetermined rules, because every couple is different. Everyone has different strengths and likes and dislikes, and your marriage is about what works for you. BOTH OF YOU. There is no predetermined path, make your own whenever possible.

If you do what makes you happy, you’ll find the right balance.

I’m not an expert, but I do have a pretty awesome marriage, if that counts for anything.

~Nic

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