I have a confession to make. Do you know all of those articles about spouses who can walk into a room with a sink full of dirty dishes, completely oblivious to the mess all around them, then walk out? Or can walk into a room where one spouse is madly folding laundry, and not process that the helpful thing to do would be to offer to help? Most of the time these articles are written from the perspective of the wife who is crazy about her husband's lack of help around the house. Only in our house, this is often . . . reversed.
I have been reflecting recently on the different attitudes toward housework that my husband, Will, and I bring to the table. We have been married for over 18 years. And when we were first married, in our tiny 404-square-foot apartment, we divided up the jobs that needed to be done evenly. One of my assigned tasks was scrubbing the bathtub. I dutifully scrubbed it one day, and then found out later that my sweet husband had actually re-scrubbed the whole tub without saying a word to me, because it was still so dirty that he did not realize it had actually been cleaned. And this was our first clue that perhaps we viewed household jobs through a different lens. I viewed them as a transaction, a contract, something that we each agreed to do a part of and then did. Will viewed them as something larger, part of the new family unit that we had now created, in which responsibility transcended any one person and was shared throughout the whole unit. And that was eye-opening to me.
Will and I were married very young and I feel like in many ways we have grown up together, with our lives entangled together so much that it is often hard to see where one person's influence ends and the other begins. But I am positive that Will is the influence in my life that has single-handedly broadened my view of what it means to truly love another person. I realize that this sounds like a ridiculous statement, because Will is the only person that I ever even really dated. So how could this not be true?! Nevertheless, when we were first married, I think that I approached the idea of love almost as a barter system. You do something nice for me, then I do something nice for you, and then we will all love each other and live happily ever after.
The problem with the "barter system" approach to love is that it is fleeting. Does that mean that when you have had a stressful day, come home, and snap at your spouse, that they might think that you no longer truly love them? Or that you yourself are no longer truly worthy of being loved? I struggled with those fears. Will has the patience of a saint, but I can easily lash out, especially if I am, heaven forbid, hungry. ;) So I would lash out, and worry. Or not contribute enough, and worry. Worry, worry, worry.
I wish I had a cute story, or a witty anecdote, or a concrete moment that I could reflect on when my attitude about love changed from a "barter system" mentality to one of "unconditional love." Alas, no such factoid exists. Instead, I gradually realized over time that love means that we both value the needs of our marriage and family above any of our individual needs. So sometimes, I do more. And sometimes (okay, most of the time? all the time?), Will does more. And sometimes, someone re-cleans the bathtub for you without expecting anything in return. And if that isn't true unconditional love, then I don't know what is.
Amy spends her days as the world's most unorganized accountant professor, and her nights chilling with her crazy, equally unorganized family. She is blessed to be part of a wonderful church family both near and far who pushes her, challenges her, and loves her. Amy loves chocolate, reading, running, and ignoring the dishes.
You can enjoy more of Amy's incredible writing on her blog 4 is More.