When we say “I do” we promise to love, honor and respect our partner. They agree to do the same. And then for some reason we each end up insisting on getting our way in every discussion and demanding our spouse’s agreement in every difference of opinion. Neither of you signed up for that!
Western marriage, however, with its ideology of “equal” partners is a tricky union, first because we are not really clear on what it actually means in real life and second, true “equal-ness” circumvents Mother Nature’s basic law of Hierarchy, where no two animals share the same power rung on the social relationship ladder. Since humans are animals, too, this conundrum of equality vs. hierarchy ends up being one of the fundamental sources of conflict between husbands and wives. While our brains may embrace the idea of equal-ness, our Inner Animal cannot. This means that if a marriage today is to be sustainable, the relationship must be finessed in a way that keeps both partners happy without rubbing Mother the wrong way.
I like to equate marriage to a husband and wife driving their car down the road of life. They each think they know where they are going on a particular trip and the best way to get there, but if both grab the wheel and try to drive at the same time, inevitably their routes will differ and arguing over the steering wheel will end in a crash.
Instead of “sharing” the wheel, try taking turns driving. Sometimes you drive. Sometimes your spouse does. The hierarchy of power will change with each trip, with your spouse being the one in charge sometimes and you calling the shots at other times. Mother Nature is kept happy because a hierarchy is in place in each situation, but at the end of the day, you and your husband have each had your fair share of power and say in the relationship. It all works out in the wash. A fair share of power and say, however, does not mean 50:50. In fact, if you are obsessed with “winning” at least 50% of the time, to the point of keeping score in your head, you’ve missed the point of a loving relationship.
Taking turns driving and this back and forth of power and control is the art of marriage! Pride and entitlement will spell disaster and the failure of the relationship. Those vows of love, honor and respect are truly put into practice when you have the trust and guts to give up the wheel – at least some of the time.