Friday, October 17, 2014

How Do YOU Define an Equal Marriage?

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, para.7)

I love the above paragraph from The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I appreciate the definitive terms used to describe the roles of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. But what I love most about it is the last sentence...... "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." Equal partners! The world in which we live today has spoken loudly about the need for women to feel equal to men, or there isn't enough equality in this or that. But Heavenly Father has clearly stated the divine roles of husbands and wives, and I have come to appreciate more fully the significance of this meaning. He is not saying that the husband is any better than the wife. He is not saying that the mother is of any less importance to the structure of the family. He is saying that each are to work together as equal partners, that we are obligated to do so.

In the book, Successful Marriages and Families, Valerie M. Hudson and Richard B. Miller discuss what is meant by the term equality. "Equality is all too often used to mean 'identity'; that is, that two equal things must be identical to each other" (pg. 38). Sound familiar? Yet in a marriage between a man and a women, both serve together in a partnership, equal to each other. From the text Hudson and Miller quote from Elder Bruce C Hafen (a member of the Seventy at the time):

Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to "rule over" Eve, but this doesn't make Adam a dictator.... Over in 'rule over' uses the Hebrew 'bet', which means ruling with, not ruling over.... The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam's "help meet" (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for 'meet' means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn't his servant or his subordinate. 
(p. 40 (2007, p. 27))

Hudson & Miller go on to say that equal partners will help each other in their different roles. So what does this mean?

Haley, a convert to the church who has been a member for almost 2 1/2 years, and just recently married had this question.......

What should expectations be for housework for a busy husband? If he is busier than you, does that necessarily mean that he shouldn't be expected to do any housework?

I think this is a question many of us have had. This is not an uncommon issue to work through.  Provided below are three responses from members of the church to this question.

Shirley, a mother of 5 who has been married almost 12 years said:

I'm blessed with a husband that doesn't view certain chores as "women's" work. With that being said, I'm not sure if he's EVER cleaned a toilet, (just kidding). But he is happy to help me with whatever is needed. As a stay-at -home mom my job is the home and kids- it's pretty much a 24/7 job. (Occasional breaks of a few hours here or there to myself). However I have a co-worker who shares the work load. His hours are also 24/7 but he has a slightly different job description than I do, that of making money for us to live on takes him out of our home several hours a day. Once home we share the responsibility of whatever is needed. But we have certain talents and strengths that have us focusing our individual skills in slightly different ways. I'm the better cook and usually but not always fix the meals. He's much stronger so he does most (but not all) of the wood cutting and stacking. Some things we are pretty equal in, we both tuck kids into bed and change diapers. We both do dishes and laundry (depending on the day and time it's needed). We both lead our family in prayers, sweep the floors, help with homework, and take the garbage out. However, I do what I can solo while he's at his "other" part of his job (making the money). I think husbands and wives need to make sure they are partners when it comes to chores as in everything else. But though partners are equal, they are also different. Communicating openly and often can help decide if job responsibilities need to be modified or added. And one the MOST important parts of this "job partnership" is openly showing and expressing appreciation for all the work and effort your "coworker" (spouse) is doing. Nothing makes an employee want to do better than a pat on the back, a big kudos, or the employee of the month award! Saying thank you, I appreciate all you do, You're amazing, I'm so blessed to have you, You're a ROCKSTAR, and I love you, go A LONG WAY to making it all worth it! 

Amber, married almost 24 years with 5 children had this to say:

First, I think we need to be careful with the word "expectations".  Too often, I have found that if I expect "something" and that "something" is not delivered, I can get frustrated and resentful when and if that "something" is not fulfilled.  I would rather like to think that each spouse would have enough respect for the other spouse to recognize and help when and where it is needed regardless of who had the busier day.  We all have busy days whether at work or at home, and in many cases, who is to say they are busier than the other? 

In today's society we have seen an increase in role reversals where father's stay home and mother's go to work outside of the home.  Regardless of who is at home and who is away at work all day, both spouses still have responsibilities to help provide and nurture the family.  Each family unit is different from the next and requires spouses to have an equal partnership in making sure their family is provided for.  Some days one spouse may do (or feel like they do) more than the other but it's not about keeping track of who does what; it's about working together and providing help where needed. 
I am extremely blessed to have a husband, who regardless of his ever growing workload, will always know when and where to help. That is the epitome of love and respect.  He can sense it, he can see it and he can KNOW just what to do.
And Letia, a mother of 2, married 6 1/2 years said:
Even though Paul's main job is making money and mine is mainly taking care of the house and kids, we share responsibilities.  We both have strengths that we play to.  We both work out of the house so we have to have good communication to make things work whether we are swapping places or getting a babysitter.  
When we were first married we had to discuss roles since both of us lived on our own for some time before getting married.  Paul was and still is great at cooking and baking.  He knew how to separate and clean laundry.  He was and is pretty tidy.  I felt as the wife it was my role to do the cooking most of the time.  We did everything else about equally until he had less time and I took over most of the cleaning and all of the laundry.  When he is home though, if he sees something that needs to be done, most of the time he will pitch in.

I really think each couple/family is different. What works for one, might not work for another. You have got to talk about roles every now and then.  Circumstances change.

Take a few minutes and watch this clip from a round table discussion involving LDS church leaders as they discuss the family and individual roles.  Begin watching the clip at 16.06 and stop at 18.25. (watch the video under the subtopic of 2008 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting).

What are the benefits of an equal partnership? There are MANY!! Hudson and Miller have outlined the following (p.43):

* Happier relationships 
* Better individual well-being
* More effective parenting practices
* Better functioning children
* Better overall marital quality
* Less negative interaction
* Less likely to experience verbal aggression and physical violence
* More satisfied with physical intimacy in their relationship
* Personal well-being of spouse is greatest
* Generally better parents

Other links that are great resources for this topic of marriage roles, and well worth the time to listen are:

I want to leave you with some words of advice from my Facebook friends who shared their thoughts.......
* I lived very much as an independent "me" individual before marriage. I wish I had had the mind set of a "we" and the "future" in terms of finances. Saving, budgeting, and paying off/staying out of debt are great skills to learn BEFORE marriage. My husband thankfully had those habits, but it has been hard for me to develop those traits and desires.

*  Love is fragile.... it takes care, it takes much forgiveness, it takes joint effort to work, it takes putting each other over others.. even mothers... help each other to accomplish dreams and never ever discourage your partner in his dreams.
* No matter how much you love each other...compromise is key to getting along and being happy.

* The real work comes after the wedding. And be sure to actually like the person you marry--eternity is a very long time. There will be days when you don't get along or you are tired or sick or whatever but try to remember to be kind. Life should not always be dreary or sad or depressing--have fun with each other--try new things--go new places. I was 39 when I finally married & it was hard for me to give up my "independence"--I was so used to making my own decisions & taking care of myself--it was a difficult change to have someone else to live with & discuss things with & make decisions with.


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