There’s one story my husband likes to tell to illustrate my wifely qualities to new friends. It’s a bit embarrassing for me, but I don’t mind retelling it here, because I learned from the experience. And I think all newlyweds can learn something from my mistake.
Let me set the stage: After our wedding, my husband, Russell, and I had discussed who would do which chores. We were both in college and both working part time. So it seemed logical to divide the chores evenly. But I had a very traditional idea of a wife’s chores. I insisted upon making dinner, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry, as long as Russell would take out the trash and clean the bathrooms. The rest of the housecleaning we would share on the weekends.
About a month later, I had fallen woefully behind on the laundry. Our kitchen (which was also our laundry room) was half-full of dirty clothes I had not yet sorted. I came into the kitchen one afternoon and found Russell sorting the laundry. When Russell tells the story, he begins laughing uncontrollably at this point as he remembers, “And she screams at me, ‘What are you doing?! That’s MY job!’ I was helping, and I got yelled at!”
Let me explain. When I saw my husband doing something I had promised to take care of, I felt it was a reflection of my not being a good wife. Only a month into our marriage, and I felt like I was failing at my job! I wasn’t mad at my husband; I was mad at myself.
But then I realized something; I was missing the point of marriage. When you marry someone, you become their partner for life, for better and for worse. So when you are at your worst, when you are failing, your spouse is there to help you pick up the slack, to do your job and their’s, and to help you get back on track. And you should be there to do the same for them.
We have been married six years now, and I can’t tell you the number of times Russell has been there to clean up my messes, help me get back on top of things, and, well, sort the dirty laundry of my life. And I’ve done the same for him.
We still share the chores, but we don’t worry as much if they aren’t always split up “equally.” Because we both know that we will contribute as much as we can when we can.
And my attitude toward his help when things fall through the cracks has changed a lot since that first time. When I find him picking up the slack, I try to simply be grateful that he’s there for me, and I resolve to do my job better in the future. With his support, I know I can and will.