I was reading The New Yorker from May 29, 2006, and spotted a cartoon that had me laughing out loud. A guy in an SUV stuck in traffic is saying into his cell phone, “Hey, baby, I just dropped the kids off at school, and now I’m going to the grocery store, and then I’m going home and unloading the car—am I making you hot?”
Very funny—and it makes the same point emphasized by all the marriage studies I’ve read: that being helpful to each other does much more to strengthen passion within marriage than a romantic island get-away. The determining factor of spouses’ satisfaction with their marriage’s sex, romance, and passion is by 70% the quality of their friendship.
As the cartoon shows, a big issue in marriage, alas, is trying to get everything done without doing it all yourself.
One of my friends takes a completely different approach. She and her husband have a tacit agreement, “Don’t assign.” No saying, “Would you…” “I’ll do X while you do Y…” “On your way home would you…” And they have three kids! The only reason this works is that neither of them is a shirker, and they have almost exactly the same idea of what needs to be done. But still. Think about life without assigning tasks.
I’m trying to do a better job of pitching in more and barking orders less. For example, when I saw the Big Man unloading the dishwasher yesterday (a job he hates, so extra credit for him), instead of slinking away and congratulating myself on dodging that minor chore, I started helping out.
And I’m trying to do less assigning, too. I used to think it was the Big Man’s responsibility to keep some cash in the house. He never did, which constantly annoyed me. Then I realized: why do I get to decide that that’s his job? Now I do it. We always have cash, and I’m not annoyed. For his part, he’s been replacing a lot of lightbulbs and dealing with the digital camera. It’s all very romantic.