While Herman held up one end, I hefted my end of the sofa and started up the two flights of stairs. We were moving into our first apartment together. As we maneuvered our way along, one of our new neighbors came out of his apartment and saw what we were doing. “You need help?” he asked.
“No, thanks,” Herman told him. “She’s got it.”
The neighbor looked at me and shook his head. “Girl, you don’t need to do that,” he said, and he came over to lend a hand.
That little moment planted a seed in me. Maybe, just maybe, Herman and I had different roles to play. Maybe I didn’t have to do everything he did. It would take years for me to really get this, but that was the first time it even occurred to me that the differences between men and women might lead us to take on distinct responsibilities in our relationship. Obviously, I knew he was physically stronger than I was, but that didn’t stop me from trying to match him step for step in moving furniture, mowing the grass, landscaping the yard and even in our career aspirations. I’d watched my mother do it all as I was growing up, and I became convinced that was just the role of a wife.
Now don’t get me wrong, Herman had no problem taking care of the “heavy” lifting and pulling and dragging in our relationship when we first started dating but in the beginning, it was just the two of us, there weren’t any other people around to call to help us out, so I “pulled” my weight! We pushed, pulled, lifted and dragged everything, including our incomes, “together”! I think it didn’t bother me so much because I grew up watching my mom get down underneath cars to change the oil in them. I saw her dig huge holes in the ground to put in a fence, and so on and so on, therefore helping out and pulling my weight was nothing new to me. I thought, “this is what you do in a relationship, you help out”! Well, unbeknownst to me, we were all kinds of out-of-order. Now don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that everybody wins when “everybody” pitches in to get the job done, however for me, I honestly thought that going as hard as my husband did equated to me being a good wife.
This idea of the “go hard good wife” played out fairly well in the early stages of our relationship because quite honestly, there was nothing else to contend with. It was just Herman and myself, doing laundry, climbing on ladders to repair broken light fixtures, me holding a flashlight in the freezing cold of the night while he fixed something under my car, you know, the everyday, single people quick fixes. Well, after we were married and purchased our first home and our twins came, this is where the problems with the “go hard good wife” began to surface. I had always agreed to take care of the inside of our home as well as run outside to steady the ladder while he balanced himself on top to clean out the gutters or rake the yard while he cut the grass or even hold the limbs back while he chopped the trees and even sometimes just getting right in the bush to chop the trees myself if need be. It was my decision to always be there to do whatever needed to be done, after all, this was all I knew because as a little girl I had watched my mom do all of these things. Well, a clean house, loads of laundry to fold, prepping dinner, breastfeeding and tending to “2” babies at one time all the while holding down a demanding, full-time job was never apart of the equation when I made this “agreement” with myself early on.
I tried desperately to keep this act up after the kids were born but after a while I begin to become irritated easily and somewhat angry and bitter that I had to do “All” of this work. “Who’s going to help me”? Is what I began to lament constantly to my husband. The “go hard good wife” model was starting to unravel. I had no idea what was happening but all I knew is that I “could not” take on all of this work and responsibility alone. We began to fight and argue a lot about whose responsibility it was to do what in and around our home.
So fast forward from those really tense moments in our home to our counseling sessions that we were going through after we had decided to repair our relationship and were in talks to remarry. A very wise pastor in our hometown of Prattville sat us down after hearing about how we had messed up in the beginning with me trying to be all things to Herman in our marriage, and he said something to us that honestly changed our “Lives”! He looked at me and said, “this time around April, let him be the husband. God made him to take care of you, not the other way around. He was designed to protect and take care of you and the family you both created together. And then he turned to Herman and politely and quietly whispered, allow her to be your wife, nothing more, just your wife. She’s a beautiful, sacred gift from God, treat her as such”. We looked at each other and you would’ve thought somebody had just given us the cure to cancer! “We know the secret”!!! Lol! And we were ready to put this little information to work! We thought, “Wow, it really is that easy isn’t it! Why has no one ever said this to us before”! Well, we took that word and we were on a mission from that day forward to treat each other with the respect and care that each required. Not as our parents had done it but as we now knew how to do it. It was our goal now to take care of one another and to make sure the other wasn’t too stressed or too overwhelmed or too tired at any time in our relationship, well, as much as we possibly could.
Those words echoed in my spirit daily as we began on our new adventure as a newly second time around married couple. I began to embrace who God made me to be in our second marriage, my husband’s wife, nothing more. And as I began to loosen the reigns of taking care of everything and everybody and looking after every situation, which in the end, only made me bitter and angry and tired all the time, I began to see my husband easily take on all of those responsibilities of which he wanted to do in the beginning but couldn’t because I was the “Good Wife”. In stepping back and embracing who I am to my husband, he became so much more attentive to my needs as his wife, not “doer of all things”.
I found that as my husband’s wife, all of my needs are met but when I was playing his equal, it seemed as if I was never fulfilled. Always requiring or needing more. More time, more rest, more space, more money, more help, just more! The responsibility of taking care of, seeing after and providing for me and the kids ultimately falls on my husband. His job and/or role in this marriage is pretty significant and probably the most important. He is to ensure that “all” of us are okay, at all times. My role, ultimately, narrows down to merely making sure he is! When many of us begin to see that this is the true secret to a happy, healthy and thriving marriage, everybody Wins! I’m forever embracing my role as his wife, his “helper”, not his equal. #HowMyDivorceSavedMyMarriage #HMDSMM