What Trading Places Taught Us About Giving


Early in our marriage, Victor and I started out with the fifty-fifty mindset.  We spent the first few years of our partnership sharing the tasks equally.  Like the average couple, I took care of the house, the bills, the children, and worked part time; Victor took care of the cars, the lawn, and was the breadwinner in our family.  We both worked hard and were exhausted at the end of the day.  We had different tasks, but we were each carrying one half of the family.  

Though we didn’t say it out loud, we both were feeling a little un-supported.  But why?  We were both giving all we could give.  We were both hitting the bed at night with that spent sigh that says, “at last, the day is done, and now I can rest.”  But that 50 percent we were each giving was not enough.  There was still that haunting voice that whispered, He/She doesn’t understand how hard your day was.  We needed more from each other.  We needed one 100 percent.  

In light of our already exhausted lives, how on earth were we going to muster the strength to give more?  Well, it wasn’t actually a matter of putting more on our plates; it was a matter of mixing things up a bit.  This happened when our lives changed unexpectedly.  Suddenly, Victor was laid-off. My part-time job became full-time, and our roles were reversed.  

It was the start of summer and our kids were home from school.  I was working all day so Victor became the house-keeper, cook, nanny, and errand-runner.  I was now in his shoes, and he was in mine.  It only took about a week for us to look at each other and say, “I have so much respect for what you do.”  

We both now understood the hardships and efforts that went into each other’s days, and we started to find new ways to partner with each other in more things.  I knew what a nightmare it is to go grocery shopping with our kids.  So I would try to help Victor out by picking up what we needed on my way home.  And Victor knew how important just a moment to unwind is when you first come home from work, so he would try to give me a few moments of uninterrupted rest.  

As life would have it, things soon changed again.  Victor got a new job, the kids went back to school, and I became self-employed.  You might say we went back to sharing the responsibilities fifty-fifty again.  After all, Victor’s paycheck is bigger than mine again, I cook the meals again, and we’re pretty much back at the same game.  But not quite.

Now, we understand.  Victor comes home from a 10-hour work day, and I know how tired he is.  I give him the space and time he needs to unwind.  When I get the chance, I take care of the lawn so he doesn’t have such a big job waiting for him.  Victor puts his dishes in the dishwasher now.  And when I look like I got caught in a preschool tornado, Victor takes the kids for a bike ride to give me a much-needed moment of sanity.  

On paper, it still may look like we are each giving 50 percent.  But in our home, it feels like we are each giving 100 percent.  

And I would much rather be in a 100-100 relationship than a 50-50 one. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an average marriage; I want an epic marriage.  And I believe that we can get there if we each give 100 percent.

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