Honey, where are my navy pants? Didn't you wash them?"
"I can't worry about your clothes because I've got to get your son ready! Who else is going to do that?"
"Well, I worked overtime last night! I didn't have time to wash and press a pair of pants."
This was normal conversation in our house—one spouse offering up a sacrificial responsibility, the other countering with greater sacrifice. I even recall one or two arguments over the fact that he keeps more pillows on the bed than I do. (It seemed important at the time.)
Our marriage had become little more than dueling to-do lists—a competition to establish who had the most hectic schedule, as if that were the secret of marital superiority: "She who works hardest wins."
But what did I expect to win?
Why was I competing with my husband over duties and responsibilities, eager to convince him that my burdens were far greater than his? How did it benefit me to prove that my husband "just didn't understand"? Why did I desire the title of "Most Taken for Granted" anyway, and why was I willing to spend hours of energy maintaining it? It's not as if there's a beauty pageant for martyred mothers and wives. And if there were, what would be my platform? "Of course I'd like to establish world peace, but I simply have too much laundry to do."
I remembered our courtship years and the excitement I felt when I'd get ready for one of our dates. I'd spend hours thinking about it and preparing for it. What should I wear? I'd think. Something he hasn't seen me in before. Where's my good perfume? Does my hair look okay?
I wondered how a relationship once so carefree had turned into a competition dominated by one-upmanship.
I was having difficulty transitioning from the fun-exciting-butterflies-in-the-stomach stage of dating to the mundane, everyday frustrations and hectic pace of modern married life. Though I'd been blissfully happy while we were dating, once the honeymoon was over,
I felt increasingly dissatisfied. I focused constantly on the things my husband used to do for me but now neglected. I was alert to any discrepancies in our workloads, and determined to maintain equality. I was playing to win, and I was keeping score!
While my lifestyle and responsibilities changed after marriage, my expectations remained the same. As a girlfriend, I could pick and choose the parts of his life I wanted to share. This freed me to come and go when things got bad. I enjoyed low investment and high returns. But as a wife, I found myself committed to endure both the pleasant and unpleasant sides of life with my husband. Over the years, as my expectations gave way to reality, I compensated with self-pity. This also gave me a great excuse not to work on my marriage. After all, as the mistreated wife, I never had to acknowledge my husband's good points or understand his feelings. I couldn't be expected to praise his moments of better judgment or take responsibility for overcoming the lack of romance in our relationship (one more task for my mammoth to-do list!).
Read These Next
- Back From the BrinkIt's Over.