When you have two very strong-willed characters at home, sparks can fly easily. My husband and I are both what you might call “alphas.” He’s very Type-A and so am I. We both make lists, we love order and organization, and we like to delegate chores and responsibilities to others.
You might say being likeminded is a good thing for a relationship; and when it comes to some things, you’d be right.
But at this point in our marriage, our sparks more often turn into fireworks (and mind you, not the good kind, which usually lead to a night of heated passion). Because of our constant need for control, we butt heads — a lot. And recently, it reached a fever pitch. To the point where I realized it was hurting our marriage, and it likely had been for some time.
From the outside looking in, we tend to argue about the same things most married couples argue about: financial decisions, home renovations, future vacation plans, and why there’s no toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom. I want him to cut the grass in the backyard, he wants to make sure that I buy his favorite brand of chips, crackers, salsa, and guacamole for this Friday night siesta, party of one. I expect him to help with math homework, he expects me to pack everyone’s bags (and not forget one thing) before a weekend getaway.
Honestly, there’s no end to our long list of expectations for each other. Our problem is that we’re both so damn head-strong and stubborn that we often end up arguing more about who should do the task than just doing it. And it had gotten to the point that both of us were sick and tired about being sick and tired.
Now, that doesn’t mean we were looking to pull the plug on our marriage (and certainly not over a missing toilet paper roll), but we realized that a change was needed. For our sanity’s sake, if nothing else.
So we decided to try something a little different — an “experiment,” if you will: We stopped telling each other what to do and when to do it. For one. whole. week.
I know, it sounds simple enough on paper, but believe me — when you’re each used to barking orders at the other on a daily basis, breaking the habit can take a little … adjusting.
Together, we agreed to stop delegating chores and expectations to one another for seven days straight. Instead of expecting the other person to drop off our packages at UPS or cleaning the kitchen sink after dinner, if we wanted it done, we would quietly (albeit grumpily) do it ourselves.
I won’t tell you that it was easy. Hell, I fantasized about wanting to dump my husband in the ocean after he forgot to drain the tub after taking a bath with my Lush bath bomb — not once, not twice, but three times in a row. (I mean, have you SEEN the gunk that stuff leaves behind?) I nearly tore my own hair out trying to get the lawn mower to work on one miserable, 95-degree afternoon. And the dishes were left in the sink overnight so many times that an army of sugar ants set up camp in our kitchen.
For a Type-A lady such as myself, it wasn’t an easy week. But for my husband, it wasn’t easy, either. Because clearly, the things we are Type-A about don’t always seem to jive.
For instance, I may or may not have forgotten to buy his salsa and guacamole during my Friday morning grocery run. And because we both didn’t communicate our pick-up schedule one day, no one picked up our son from basketball practice (his tears that day were like a shot in the heart for me). And much as I hate to admit it, certain bills weren’t paid on time, either.
Simply put, our experiment didn’t really work out for us. At least, that’s how it felt at the end of our seven-day run — like a big fat failure. Doing everything on our own, without another person on our backs reminding us of what we were inevitably forgetting, completely sucked. In some ways, we were more tired and miserable at the end of it than we were when we argued.
But something good did happen during those seven days without either of us even realizing it. I guess you can call it a quiet revelation of sorts. We each realized that doing things completely on our own and not communicating wasn’t working out; but neither was barking orders at the other about when and how to do them. I don’t know when it happened, but sometime during our 15-year marriage, we stopped acting like a team. We stopped helping each other. And we certainly stopped listening to each other’s needs.
Luckily, it only took one week for us to realize that our formula at home wasn’t working and what we really needed most was to be each other’s support system rather than delegators. There was no reason to lay the blame at one another because we were both at fault. Sometimes, in between the stresses of careers, family life, mortgage payments, and someone forgetting to buy dog food, your needs and priorities can shift without you even realizing it. And that’s OK. You’re not the same person you were the day you got married, but from time to time it’s important to hit refresh on those promises and vows you made to each other all those years ago.
I can tell you from experience that the best thing we did for ourselves, our marriage, and our family was to stop acting like dueling CEOs. No country needs two presidents, two prime ministers, or two heads of state for that matter. But that’s not to say one of us had to be knocked down a peg, either. No — we’re better off as partners more than anything else. And as with every partnership, each person has to equally give as much as they receive. (And not bark orders in the process.)
With all of that being said, on some days there’s still no toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom. But that’s OK. I no longer yell about it the second I make my discovery. After all, that’s why there’s a downstairs bathroom, too.More On