Facets of Marriage (Part 3): Partners

Posted on March 20, 2014


“Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more? Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?”  Lennon/McCartney

“Cause I love-a you, and love-a you true, and if you a love-a me, one live as two, two live as one, under the bamboo tree.”  Cole/Johnson

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

Most of life is just taking care of business, right?  First, you spend a large chunk of your waking hours working.  Second, there are all of the regular things that have to happen so that you can function.  You need to spend a certain amount of time on personal hygiene.  You have to eat, which means you also need to spend time on grocery shopping and meal preparation.  You need clothes to wear, so laundry needs to be done (that includes folding or hanging it up and putting it way).  You don’t want to live in squalor, so your home needs cleaning too.  Third, if you are going to keep your genes in the genepool (i.e. have children who survive to adulthood), there is a large amount of time that needs to go to meeting their basic needs.  This does not include the time you invest proactively engaging with your children (which is essential to their healthy development).  Fourth, if you own a home, there is always something that needs to be maintained or repaired.  The “honey-do list” is endless.  Fifth, you may also feel that you want to serve in some ministry or non-profit organization.  There is no end to the human need.  And there is no escape; this is how life is.  It’s busy.

For couples, this busyness can either drive you apart or pull you together as a team.  Carving out time for each other is important, and it does mean that we probably have to say “no” to other demands more often than we say “yes.”  That is not the point of this post.  The point is that when you are married, you are partners in life, taking care of business together.  When done well, it makes life much easier.

This is not a political blog, and I have no desire to make it such.  I offer this only as an illustration.[1]  Communism is a form of government that has essentially failed[2] every place it has been tried.  The idea that everything is owned in common, that everyone produces according to one’s ability and takes according to their needs has not worked for any society.  It seems to run contrary to our human nature to make our maximum effort without the hope of personal gain.  My assertion here would be that the one place this model might make sense is in a marriage.  Here me out on this.

If we are both really committed to one another for a lifetime, what is good for us as a unit is good for each of us individually.  This is not about giving up one’s voice or one’s individual identity to the relationship, but rather it is about doing life as a team.  Both partners give the best that they have and in the process find that their collective needs are met.

I had a man express concern that upon arriving home from work on an evening when the kids needed to be taken places for their activities to find his wife did not have the household on track (i.e. dinner started and kids ready).  Part of his concern was that he felt that on the times when he was in charge of the household, that he had things better under control and that on this night it was a fire drill.  In the end everyone got fed and where they needed to go.  Here is (are) my question(s), “If you are the more efficient worker of the two partners, is that a problem?  If so, how is it a problem?”  It is a team effort, right?  The point is to get the “W” for the team.  When you arrive home tired and the house is slightly chaotic, you have a choice to make.  You can choose to focus on the feeling that your partner did not hold up his or her end to your satisfaction, or you can seize the opportunity to step up for your partner and the team.

Now I will concede that if you go through life always having to be the one who picks up the slack, it can get old and perhaps exhausting.  But if two people are approaching the relationship with a view to how can I give my best for us, it is beautiful.  The word “partner” has become the standard euphemism for one’s significant other and encompasses spouse, live in companion, and lover.  Perhaps we need to recapture what it means to be a partner.  “We work together as a team.  I am there for you.  I’ve got your back.”

[1] In other words, I welcome comments about my ideas about relationships but have no desire to begin a political discussion.

[2] That is to say, these governments have not created the promised equality, freedom, or prosperity that Marx or even Skinner (in Walden Two) had hypothesized.

Posted in: Marriage