The first 8 months of my marriage has begun to reverse something that I’ve been taught all my life. This is something that every self respecting parent teaches their children when they are very young. When kids are little, it prevents them from becoming bratty. The last eight months of marriage has taught me that taking turns can actually be quite a harmful and selfish way of living.
Let me explain…
Mrs. L and I have worked out a general system of household chores that we are each responsible for. I am generally in charge of taking out the garbage, feeding and letting out the dog in the morning, I help with dishes, and I handle all the car stuff (not that that’s too demanding). She, in general, does most of the cooking, takes care of the dog at night, and all around does more work than I do.
This delegation of chores is healthy. It helps us to know each other’s expectations, hold each other accountable, and plays to our strengths in the relationship. Still, despite this, after a long day or week, after one person has tended to do more than the other, or if one of us, really just doesn’t want to do something that needs to be done, we fall into the “it’s your turn mentality”.
The “your turn” mentality is when, after I’ve taken the dog out, its Mrs. L’s turn… even if she’s cooking dinner while doing dishes and studying for her class. It’s her turn, plain and simple. Or, after she’s cooked often she may say its my turn to cook, even though typically that’s “her job” (for the record, I do cook once in a while, especially if I know she’s had a long day. I just don’t like being told it’s “my turn”). Mrs. L and I fall into these habits quite often, and are consciously trying not to do so. And here’s why:
Taking turns is good for five year-olds who haven’t even learned how to share yet, but in a marriage it can be an obstacle to a fully self-giving and unconditional love. I don’t love my wife only when she does stuff for me. I love her because she’s her. So my love, and thus what I give and do for her, should not be dependent on what she does for me. So I’ve taken the dog out every morning and night for the last week? I should gladly and joyfully do it again, especially if she asks me to. Because I LOVE her. The “Taking turns” mentality robs us of opportunities to give even when we don’t want to give, especially at those times when we’re too busy or tired (or lazy) to give. Marriage (and love) is a complete gift of self.
Now believe me… this is hard. Like… almost as hard as that whole “loving your neighbor” thing that I still don’t really have down really well. I’m tempted to “take turns” with Mrs. L daily so I can spend a little more time being selfish, or relaxing after work, or whatever else may be distracting me from loving her at the moment. But it turns out that that is where the beauty in marriage comes in–not in that “honey moon phase” when everything comes so easy, not in the joys, or in the quiet cradling of each others arms–those are all necessary and important things in a marriage–but the real importance is those every day small challenges that call you to holiness and truly teach you how love. It doesn’t have to be epic, you just have to take out the trash when your feet are hurting.