Friday, July 2, 2010

Defining Roles

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate. ~Barnett R. Brickner

I think one of the hardest parts of having a multi-cultural marriage is defining roles. The expectations are vastly different, so the adjustment period takes a little longer.

In a "westernized" Americana marriage - we are pretty clear how that works. The man is still thought to be the "provider", however the wife is equally working to make sure not only do they have everything, that they have more than they could have ever hoped for. Then the wife, husband, and kids all participate in the cooking, the cleaning, and basic budgeting of the home. The husband will take care of the yard work, and of course the yucky things like: taking out the trash, cleaning up the toilet, or whatever the wife deems "gross." The kids are responsible for the dishes.

Obviously, when it comes to the nest itself - the wife rules the roost. She will decide how things are decorated, where things will go, what is needed. The husband will traditionally want to pick out the barbecue, the lawn mower, the big screen tv with surround sound.. etc. These are the basic "rules" of the roost.

That's how I understand it to be.

Then I was blessed to be paired with a middle eastern man. There are so many joys that come with that. But understanding the cultural differences have been a difficult boat to row. First of all, before we got married I asked my now-husband, "Do you have any expectations of what a wife should do?"

I thought it was a fair question. I found that most of my problems (when it came to domestic items) in my first marriage fell around the expectations & compromise arena. Of course, he said, "No, no. Just normal."


What is your norm?

Well, here is where I messed up. I did not ask him to define his norm.

In his world - the wife is the second in command. She cleans (perfectly), cooks (three square meals), and remains modest and demure. Most women in his country do not work, instead they have children.

So here I am, with a full time job, working my tail off (I wish literally.. unfortunately no matter how hard I work - my ass is still there), and then I am expected to be the only one who cleans, the only one who cooks - BUT - the trick is, it is typically frowned on for me to make any "household" decisions. Down to the decorating - he redecorated the house to his specifications.

Now before you get your feathers ruffled - this does not have to be a negative thing. This is a cultural thing.

I understand that. However, it does not make it any easier to adjust to. This past year of marriage has been a period of adjustment. For both of us.

For one, we both have very strong personalities. I like that. I needed a man who would stand up to me, and not let me run all over him. I like to be in control - and so does my husband. It is teaching BOTH of us to let go a little. That has been the hardest part for us.

I am completely outspoken. (I guess you never realized that.. right? ;-) ) He is adjusting to a woman who will speak her mind.. and I have to admit, I generally speak my mind more than the average person, so don't think this is normal. It honestly gets me in trouble with my american friends.

What I am embracing now is our new "defined" roles. I am learning to be the one who is expected to clean. Okay. If this is what I have to do to have a happy husband, I will do it. I am finally establishing a routine, and I am not so lazy about it. Not that I was ever dirty - I just would let things slide through out the week, then on the weekend spend a majority of my Saturday cleaning. NOW - I only spend about 30 minutes cleaning on Saturday, and this new way of life has afforded me the opportunity to have more time to myself. If you can believe that?

He is learning to be more patient. He is learning to accept the fact that I work a very busy, sometimes stressful job, and is a bit more understanding if I don't feel like doing a load of laundry.

Big purchases, we have not had to deal with that yet. I am sure that will be a completely different post. Decorating - we are still in negotiations for a new couch and wall color... I used to be on a debate team, I know I can win this one! LOL

Yes, this seems petty and silly - but let's be honest. Those of us in a relationship (living together or married) know this is the domestic life. As much as I try to avoid it - I have one.

What roles have you defined in your own relationship? How did you get to the point you have a routine? What works for you? What did not work?


Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea. I have to say that I am fortunate that my husband and I don't often have to compromise. We seem to be that couple as one of my old co-workers said "they are the only people I know who never fight and truly like being together". And no, we never fight -- we talk things through and usually find a middle ground if it is something both of us feel strongly on, but that has always been regarding a circumstance outside of our marriage. Between us, we have always just blended perfectly. (oh and I left something for you on my blog Oh to Be Recognized for Substance)

Nicole said...

Mitzi - then you definitely found the perfect soul mate for you! I always said I wanted passion - and lord have mercy, my relationship is nothing - if it is not passionate! LOL As for the award - WOW! I am touched, thank you.

Syeda Zehra said...

wow..You have a rather happening lyf then.
And yeah you rather drew a nice picture of the western women.women usually don't work,instead spend all day shopping or in palours not caring who hardly earned money they are spending extravagantly.Infact I regard the Western women life as of a princess as compared to the western ones.But this only stands for the top and upper middle classes,the lower and middle class women have a hard life here too.

Leanne said...

I am always so interested to hear about your marriage and relationship, Nicole. Thanks for sharing with us. One of the things that I think makes my marriage work is that we both compromise a great deal. PG travels alot for work, which then puts a lot of the responsibility for our life (cleaning, cooking, paying bills, taking out garbage, laundry, raising the kids, etc.) on me. However, when he is home - I am so very very blessed because he is a hands on guy for ALL (everything I listed above.)


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