The problem with egalitarian marriages is that every unpleasant task you have to do comes with the slight undercurrent of resentment that your spouse left you with the dirty work.
In fairly traditional marriage where roles are relatively defined, there are pleasant and unpleasant tasks that come with your role, but it is just part of the job. If your spouse steps in to help you with some unpleasantness or something you just can't do right now, the action is met with gratitude that your spouse is lifting your load.
When every task, pleasant or unpleasant, is open for a negotiating free-for-all, every task you do is because your spouse did not do it. This means when you do something unpleasant, it is directly because your spouse did not do the unpleasant thing which can feel irksome. When your spouse does do the unpleasant thing, the response is not necessarily gratitude because it was part of the expected job anyway. Everything is your spouse's job so nothing your spouse does seems above and beyond. Everything is also your job so there is nothing you can let go. The temptation for score keeping must be higher when everything is always up for grabs.
Nota bene: This observation was not generated from any particular real life event.
I can't complain because my spouse normally does EVERYTHING, but sometimes I grumble anyway for this reason. Just a little grumbling. But I *do* notice that when he's not there to do everything--if he's out of town, for example--I am very efficient. So yeah, good observation. It's rather like portioning chores with siblings that way, isn't it? That doesn't really mean that I would change it--the egalitarian marriage. Is there a solution?
I think this is exactly right. The biggest advantage of well defined roles is the lack of temptation to score keeping and grudge holding.
Well, at least, household score keeping and grudge holding. There might be the "why did you get to develop your talents and I didn't" grudge, and I think that's an important factor, and women absolutely *did* traditionally suppress their own talents and abilities in the service of their families (says the non-feminist). I'm just not convinced that being mom or dad or husband or wife is the right basis for a choice of career or no career. But then, if both have careers, there can be a "whose career is more important" battle. And, that's a COMPLETELY different discussion! :)
In the home, I think managing this tendency to grumble and keep score (I grumble--a little--but I don't keep score!) has to do with taking responsibility for what needs to be done, and agreeing on what can slide. Not everyone can manage that. It takes maturity, practice, and compatibility in terms of what an ideal living environment looks like. As oldest children, both A and I were used to doing what needed to be done. He's better at it than I am, and actively allows me not to do a lot of the routine housework. But I will pay the bills. ;)
I think the modern solution is to take the time to intentionally create spheres of duty where one spouse or the other is responsible. To establish as much clarity as possible. I say this like I do it. Ha! Not so much. It doesn't have to necessarily fall down traditional gender lines, but I suspect that if each spouse takes responsibility for the areas which are most important to him/her, the duties will look more gendered than any modern-day feminist would ever want to admit. False-consciousness and all.
Very well put. I have no idea what to do about it, but very well put.
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