Equality in relationships

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 7, 2011, 10:19 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that our world of life changes has brought about is something of a 50's-style housewife arrangement. I think for people our age, that's extraordinarily weird, but we like that Diana is able to be a mom full-time. Simon won't be pre-school age ever again, after all.

But as you can imagine, it's uncharted territory for us. Diana has worked her entire life, and was hugely independent for most of her adult life. To be entirely dependent on someone else at 40 is a strange thing. Conversely, I've never had to truly support a family. Even when Stephanie and I were married during her grad school, she still had income. I've always had the freedom to just do my own thing with little risk.

It would be pretty easy in this situation for things to become toxic if one or both of you are the type who like to keep score. The problem is that there are a great many dissimilar things that you contribute to the relationship that make it complicated to determine how well balanced your relationship is. While I work as the "breadwinner," and that can be a huge and stressful responsibility, Diana is shaping a human life by herself most of the day. Both "positions" are a lot of work, but they're not the same. We tend to be fairly sensitive toward each other about what we both have to do each day.

This is not to say that different kinds of responsibilities mean you can't have problems. One of my friends back east kicked her boyfriend to the curb after something like ten years. While she busted her ass to improve herself and secure her own life, he was little more than a freeloader. She finally saw it, and of course the hindsight that brought was enormous.

If I've learned anything from experience, it is to avoid getting to a point where resentment builds toward the other person. For example, I don't want to resent Diana for having more Simon time than me. I don't want to resent Simon for keeping me from things I want to do for me. I don't want Diana to resent me for bringing home money and working with grown-ups. To avoid that, we have to check in with each other at a deep and meaningful level, and not pull any punches. Well, except that Simon isn't quite ready for these exchanges.

Of course, you should probably try to make sure you're willing to find that balance before you endeavor to procreate. I don't know that we had those conversations until after conception, but honestly it's a constant battle to remind ourselves to check in regularly. It's also hard to remember that sometimes we just have to ask for "us time," and also "me time." It might be a mom's night out or a solo movie, maybe even a simple nap, but as non-mind readers, we have to verbalize this stuff.

Why bring this up now? I think it's because we've been talking a lot about what we need from life, what makes us happy and how we're going to get there. The natural extension of those conversations is to discuss how we're doing and if we need to adjust for each other. It's not that we're over-thinking it, but we're totally willing to over-communicate.


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