Another area to focus on, hopefully before you get married, is role expectations. Now, if you’re married and haven’t addressed this issue… it’s never too late, do it now!
I have to digress at this point for a moment. First of all; My belief is that solving any challenging problem is much easier with prayer and being open to hearing God’s leading. Without that, it’s all too easy for our human biases, selfish desires, and complexes to get in the way. Secondly, relationships…especially marital relationships have to do with communication. You don’t have to solve every difficult problem or issue in your relationship… many never will be. The point is to keep the lines of communication open. To be able to talk about the issues…you know what they say…it’s not so much about the destination as it is about the journey. The journey is sharing with your partner when there are issues that need to be discussed and… being open and not defensive about discussing issues when your partner suggests that there are some issues that need to be discussed as well.
Ok, back to role expectations. I was born in the fifties and my parents were quite stereotypical for that time; my dad was the breadwinner and my mom, a housewife and mother. I married Kris, a wonderful woman who is a true “doer”…an entrepreneur. She tried to be a stay at home person and it nearly killed her…she just wasn’t who she was. You see, in her family of origin (in English that means the family you grew up with…or the family that most influenced you in your formative years) her father was the breadwinner and her mother stayed home. and attended college. …at least while her children were young. Once all the kids were in school, Kris’s mom joined the professional world where she worked until her retirement. My point is that the background of Kris and my family and our parents’ role was similar…so in that sense, she was good to go. On the other hand, the role of a wife in my mind was different from what Kris grew up in and the definition of what a wife did in her mind (in her family). This didn’t mean that Kris’ point of view was wrong; it just meant that she was different from me.
Kris and I had to sit down and talk about what each of us expected the other’s role to be in our marriage. You know, it’s easy for us to see what we grew up with as “the way things should be” and see any other perspective as “wrong.” If we give in to that kind of thinking, chances are that role expectation discussions probably won’t go very well…assuming they do!
I have some suggestions for you:
1.) Commit to solving any of these issues with your partner…or soon to be your partner…with an open mind.
2). Learn from what your family of origin gave you…but don’t get too attached to it.
3.) Having done 1 and 2, commit to openly and prayerfully exploring the possibilities with your spouse of how you will allow God to craft your unique relationship and what each of your roles in your relationship will be.
Here’s a short build for you and your partner to work on. Answer these questions and then discuss them… paying special attention to the ones you answered differently:
I think it makes sense that the husband is the main breadwinner in the family?
1. Do I think it makes sense for the husband and wife to work?
2. Whose responsibility do you think it is to keep the house or apartment clean?
3. Whose responsibility is it to prepare dinner in the evening?
4. When children join the family, who is responsible for taking care of them?
5. When the children are part of the family, the children will go to day care or a babysitter so that both mom and dad can continue working.
6. When the children are of school age, whose responsibility will it be to take them to extracurricular activities; scouts, soccer practice, piano lessons, etc.?
These should “prime the pump” and get you going. Now go and have some meaningful conversations!