This is a guest post by Joanne Miller. She is my wife and affectionately known as Queen Mother in the 48Days community. She writes, serves the needs of others and spends time with her grandchildren. Her newest book is titled Be Your Finest Art and that’s also the name of her group here in this community. She doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook but has more connections than anyone I know. If you’d like to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
Early in our marriage Dan had a serious discussion with me about my tendency to put him on a pedestal from which he would eventually topple. I had spent the first seventeen years of my life with my mother on that pedestal. It was all I knew. With no father in my life and a very domineering mother who was not only to be revered but also feared, it was not surprising that when I met Dan I replaced Mom with him. Mom was highly intelligent, a member of the Mensa Society for high IQ. Dan was equally intelligent coupled with a much larger degree of common sense. I admired him greatly and it wasn’t difficult to idolize him. After all, I was a teenager in love.
But the conversation Dan initiated has forever stuck in my mind. Only now I take it a step further in that I believe there are often unrealistic expectations that preclude understanding a spouse’s level of self confidence, ability and responsibility.
I’m afraid I have been guilty of placing all the burden of “providing for our family” solely on Dan at times when he wasn’t certain which direction he should go. Looking back, I now think I didn’t always take into consideration that he was not an omniscient god who had all the answers to our security, our future. At times I even fell into the belief that he was equally responsible for all the housekeeping and the child rearing.
In the 1970’s the prevalent thought for family cohesiveness was that everything should be 50/50 in the home. At that time Dan was holding down the only REAL job he ever had as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital. He spent long days dealing with very emotional and sometimes physical altercations. I dealt all day with a sweet baby boy, meal preparation and light housekeeping. Dan was eager to get home to us and play with our son and tell me about his day. I’m not sure when I started feeling bad about expecting him to keep up his share of housekeeping. After all he had worked hard all day too and needed to rest. But one day it occurred to me that he had his career and I had mine. I had chosen by mutual agreement to be a stay-at-home mother as much as possible. In the evening when he was home, he and I both needed to rest from our chosen careers. It seemed unfair to require him to do fifty percent of my load if I wasn’t doing fifty percent of his. And I had no desire to do any of his load. That didn’t, by any means, mean that when he was home he was just a lazy slob who sat in front of the TV and demanded I wait on him. Not only would that have knocked him off the pedestal I used to place him on, I would probably have knocked that halo off his arrogant and lazy head!
But here is what has made our marriage work. We respect each other for the roles we play in maintaining a healthy, happy marriage. He doesn’t require me to fill his shoes and I don’t require him to fill mine. I do mothering and nurturing and housecleaning, decorating, shopping and cooking and all that goes with it to make our home our Haven of Peace. Dan provides for that to occur. He sometimes has some pretty long days making this happen. I make sure he has a safe haven to rest after he has had a grueling day. And he makes it possible for me to have money to buy groceries, clothing and trinkets (a girl’s gotta have some!) He does plenty around the house and yard and with the family to contribute to our happy home. But I don’t feel he has to do fifty percent of my work.
Recognizing that the spouse who “brings home the bacon” fills an important role that makes the family able to function is vitally important. Years ago when we lost our business, our home and our “security” I knew it had to have had a tremendous impact on Dan’s own sense of responsibility and self-confidence. We had three children at home and we all looked forward to when Daddy walked in that door each evening. But I also knew he was in a state of anxiety over what had happened and needed to “heal” and regroup. So the kids and I made a deal that we would help Daddy feel better by running a tub of warm water for him with candles lit, soft music in the cassette player and thirty minutes of time to himself to unwind each day when he came home to us. Now I don’t remember how long we did this but I remember that all of us felt like we were giving him the most amazing gift by allowing him thirty minutes of relaxation before we bombarded him with kids climbing on him and me asking about his day.
It’s gifts of love like this that have made our marriage so strong and lasting. Demands and unrealistic expectations can kill a relationship. And placing a spouse on a pedestal from which he/she is not allowed or expected to fall….. is a recipe for disaster. Dan is the love of my life and an amazing husband and father but he is real, and vulnerable and sometimes just plain wrong. But don’t tell him I told you that.