Taking turns. This quote from A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance holds true for me and my husband.
“Living as a couple never means that each gets half. You must take turns at giving more than getting. It’s not the same as a bow to the other whether to dine out rather than dine in, or which one gets massaged that evening with oil of calendula; there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch. One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something.”
As the years have passed, I’ve been noticing this same pattern for me and my husband. It hasn’t always worked out perfectly, but we more or less have fallen into a rhythm of taking turns.
One example is the work life. We both are career-driven and enjoy what we do. We also need to be a double-income household. When we had our first child, I knew I wanted to stop working and spend the toddler years at home. It was a tough decision on our part, but we made it work. My husband took the lead in the household and I stayed home to nurture our little boy. That was one way to take turns. While to others this might be what is expected of a typical family (husband works, wife stays at home), it was a struggle on my part too as my career growth was put on hold. The funny thing is, that’s what I thought at that time. The blessing was by staying at home and taking on stay-at-home work not directly related to the industry I had grown accustomed to (advertising), I built my skills and expertise in other areas (social media and community management). Ah, the blessing of taking turns!
There’s still compromise, but I see it more as falling into the rhythm of supporting what makes the other happy (without the other sacrificing for it). Those usually come up during weekends, when he wants to do one thing, and I want to do a totally opposite thing. Truth is, he almost always wants to go out and I almost always want to stay at home. Ha! We recharge during the weekends differently. He likes playing sports, I like curling up at home with a book. He likes hanging out with friends, I like cooking in the kitchen. It was a dilemma in the early years of our marriage, but as we grew older together we fell into a rhythm that worked for us. Some weekends, we recharge individually — he with sports, me with my books and the spatula. Come evening time, we cuddle up together with our little boy and watch a movie together.
There have been decisions that made the other feel a little left out and neglected. Those are experiences we learn from. We make mistakes. What I like about our relationship is we talk about a situation gone wrong, figure out what should work better, then move on to a better space applying what we learned. No bitterness allowed! That just eats you up inside. My husband and I also know we’re a team and that we make a good one. We wholeheartedly support each other, and acknowledge when we work better alone, and when we work better together.
Taking turns in a marriage seems like a simple concept, but it can get tricky. What we bear in mind is that whatever decision we make, it has to be a win-win for both of us. When one party feels like or she got the short end of the stick, results are often hurtful and disastrous. When there are situations that make us feel that way, we voice it out. “Wifey, I felt hurt when you did this.” “Husby, I feel neglected when you do this.” While taking turns allows one to shine more than the other, the other shouldn’t retreat into the darkness. You’re both shining! You’re still both stars! There are times when one just has to shine brighter than the other, with the other playing a supporting role. It happens. It can be managed. Just remember that you’re both on the same team.
Word of warning: You may be judged. I’ve run into my own share of “You shouldn’t be doing this!” “Your husband should be doing this!” “Why aren’t you doing enough of this?” “Why are you too much of this?” Those comments got under my skin a lot in the beginning, and there are times today when they still do. When these judging moments come, I take a deep breath and try to stay calm. I try to remember that what works for our marriage doesn’t necessarily work for others. My husband and I have our own style of working together and taking turns. It works for us. Just because this style doesn’t work for other husbands and wives, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for us. Every relationship is unique.
There are some cultural expectations that often have this pattern: Husband should take care of ABC. Wife should take care of XYZ. So when someone calls out that I’m taking care of ABC and my husband is doing XYZ, I’m like, “It works for us.” They usually go, “But that’s not his job! That’s not your job!” I admit it annoys the hell out of me. I want to shout out “Mind your own business!!!” But hey, I just keep calm and carry on. You’re judged whatever you do. So you might as well just do your own thing for as long as it’s grounded on love, trust and respect.
Going back to the lovely quote above from A Thousand Days in Venice, author Marlena de Blasi calls out something that resonated with me beautifully:
“There are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch. One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something.”
The key word here is “seasons”. In our eleven years of marriage, my husband and I have gone through winters, summers, springs and autumns. There have been seasons when we chill together at the same time, and there are seasons when taking turns is necessary to progress.
When you find yourself at that season in your marriage when you have to take turns, do not be discouraged. Everything will work out beautifully, for as long as you both acknowledge that you are indeed taking turns, and that you support each other wholeheartedly. It’s integral to nurturing your marriage and growing as individuals. Taking turns is beautiful for a marriage. Always remember to trust yourself, to trust each other, and to trust your journey together.