Marriage Roles: The Odd Couple

Josh has a love for cooking. I have a love for baking. Josh wants to learn more about baking. I want to learn more about cooking. When our worlds collide, it hasn’t usually gone that well for us in the kitchen. Usually someone is asking the other to back off or step out of the kitchen. We did a fundraiser dinner last spring for Mission Year and my sister-in-law was Josh’s assistant. Even when we’ve worked it out where both of us are cooking, it has usually been bumpy. So we have tended to back off and leave the other person alone when they’re cooking or baking unless asked to help.

The cause of many of our issues within the kitchen isn’t our communication but how we each approach the task at hand. Josh is much more willing to wing it, freely adjust recipes, and experiment. On the other hand, I tend to be much more exact in my cooking and baking, relying heavily and following closely what the recipes says. While I prefer to precisely measure out ingredients, Josh is willing to eye it. Our techniques are different. Both work, but it has been hard to recognize that.

Throughout our marriage, this has been an ongoing trend for us. While sometimes we approach issues the same, most of the time we can approach them very differently. Josh is much more free floating and easy going, wanting to get the most out of every situation and experience. He grapples with hard issues relationally and conceptually. In comparison, I tend to be much more goal oriented, with a strong desire to complete all tasks that are started. I would much rather find a solution for a problem than sit and have long discussions about what is going on.

What we struggle the most with is that our roles in marriage seem reverse from what society deems as the “normal” roles. Due to how I function, multiple times I have been told by both males and females that I make them uncomfortable because of my drive, willingness to confront, and tendency to take initiative.  In return, Josh has been told that he makes people uncomfortable with his openness, willingness to show and share emotion, and more compassionate personality.

Last month we read a marriage book, Not Your Parents’ Marriage, which focused on the need for partnership within marriage. The call for oneness. The call to move beyond the expectations of marriage that you hold and to recognize the uniqueness that each of you bring. The call to recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and use those to build each other up.

What struck us most within the book, wasn’t this call for partnership and oneness (we’d heard this before), it was the recognition that our style of marriage wasn’t wrong because it doesn’t fit with society norms. Actually, the couple that wrote the book dedicated an entire chapter to this topic because they fit into similar roles as us. Rightfully so, the title of the chapter is “Affirming the ‘Odd Couple.’”

Traditionally the church has done a fairly good job at teaching the “traditional” roles of marriage, but when you don’t meet those it can definitely make you feel out of place. We attempted to attend a small group of young married couples and stopped going because of this issue. We were the only couple out of the entire group that didn’t fit the “norm”, so we weren’t included in many of the group’s dynamics.

This book opened us up to the notion that there is a place within the church for us, that there is no norm for marriage roles. God didn’t wire us wrong. Instead he wired us exactly how we’re supposed to be. If we were to change to try and fit the norms of society, we would face a lot of inner conflict. God designed us this way for a reason.

We also recognized that multiple areas of conflict within our marriage were based around the issue of us trying to take on the “traditional” roles of marriage that we don’t fit into. So over the past month, we have been very intentional on how we work together in the kitchen, recognizing and appreciating how the other person works. While some experiences have still been bumpy, others have gone much smoother.

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