On a church retreat weekend a few months after we got married, my husband Ben and I found ourselves eating dinner at a table of other similarly excited newlyweds. Over salad and iced tea, we compared notes to find out which couples were still keeping the bed made and who hogged the blankets at night.
As I was chatting with one of the women, I overheard my husband enthusing to another husband about the dinners I had been making for us.
“She’s like, super domestic,” he said.
Whaatt? I thought to myself
I should have been flattered, but as I tallied up my paltry homemaking accomplishments in my head, I was more embarrassed. Since we’d gotten married, I had done my best to plan out four or five reasonably healthy dinners a week, keep the house tidy, and set up a weekend chore chart for bigger jobs that we’d take turns doing. And for me, it was by far the hardest part of adjusting to our new married life.
To be clear, I had no illusions about becoming a ‘50s housewife as soon as we said “I do.” I had worked full-time-plus for as long as Ben and I had known each other, and I’d lived with roommates much of that time.
Ben had been around me enough to know that I was happy to throw leftovers into a tortilla and call it dinner most nights. He’d observed my tendency to let laundry and shoes pile up on the floor of my bedroom, and he definitely knew I didn’t dust and vacuum for fun.
My husband’s amazement at my small efforts toward domesticity could only mean one thing: he’d had no expectations of me in that department going into our marriage. Now, I know my husband: he likes things clean, and he craves homemade meals like the ones his mom made for his family growing up.
This made me realize that he’d been willing to take on the brunt of the housework and the meal planning after we got married—no matter how much he might love perfect order in the home, he loved me more.
He’d been prepared to share a bedroom with a woman who left piles of clothes on the floor. He was okay with reheated leftovers for dinner. More than that, he loved that I was making an effort at something that was difficult for me because I loved him, and he wanted to brag about it.
Since that evening, a few things have changed. I don’t make the bed anymore and the chore chart has become more of a guideline. I’ve really come to enjoy the challenge of planning creative and healthy meals, especially with the advantage of a recipe tester who will try anything. I still, somehow, manage to keep my clothes off the floor most of the time.
Meanwhile, our love has deepened. It was comforting to know that, when I spent most of my first trimester of pregnancy on the couch battling nausea and exhaustion, Ben didn’t mind doing much of the cooking and cleaning for the two of us. The same was true when we brought our newborn baby home.
In a larger sense, this grace of thinking of the preferences of the other person first means our marriage is bigger than the roles we fulfill within it and the things we can do for each other. It has inspired us to grow and change for each other and to seek out ways to make each other happy. I doubt I’ll ever be truly “super domestic,” as Ben put it. But it’s comforting to know that I don’t have to be because boxed mac and cheese in a happy house still tastes good.