I’ve written a few times about how I’m good at a lot of things, but this isn’t one of those times. I have zero upper body strength (actually most physical ability is beyond me, although I am very good at the cereal box game). Any kind of situation where I have to deal with money stresses me out. I don’t really do anything around the house unless someone I know is coming round and I need to pretend I’m an actual, functioning adult. And you may ask, “How have you managed to get through life being so physically, financially and domestically challenged?” It’s simple really: James does it.
I’m not usually one to go on about how being in a relationship is great, but – if you’re a lazy human like me – being in a relationship is great. If there’s something you can’t or don’t like to do, chances are there’s another person in your house who can do those things for you. I haven’t had to open a jar in nine years. We have a joint account and I rarely have an idea of how much is in it. In three years of being married, I think I’ve vacuumed about three times. And there’s a bunch of stuff I do for Team Cobbalobb that James doesn’t want to do (if you can call “painting the living room that one time” a bunch of stuff). It’s the perfect system…until one of us isn’t around.
If I feel like baking and James is out of the house, you can say goodbye to peanut butter cookies because I can’t get the jar open. My friend asked for my bank details so she could pay me back for something, and I couldn’t tell her what they were. If James is ill and needs me to step up and make dinner for once, his options are tuna pasta or oven food because I don’t know how he makes anything else (and I can’t just throw a jar of sauce in a pan because of aforementioned jar issues). In the grand scheme of things the Marriage Team System still works, but a few weeks ago I realised: I want to be able to open jars.
I want to be strong enough to do basic, simple tasks without a man to help me. I should know what’s going on with my finances. I should be able to throw fajitas together without melting into a panic on the kitchen floor. I consider myself a feminist, but the second something is boring or difficult I snap straight into, “Oh, my husband takes care of that for me.” Suddenly the proud, strong, independent woman becomes a shameless, weak, co-dependant whingebag. Because that’s the temptation with marriage; to lean on each other for the things we can’t do ourselves. There’s a usefulness to that, a beauty to it, but if James got hit by a bus tomorrow I would probably die a week later from a chicken nugget overdose. That’s a risky way to live.
And if you’re sat there reading this and thinking, “But I can’t do X, Y or Z – that’s why he does it,” yes you can. Because while I love the marriage system, while I do believe two people bringing two sets of skills to the table is a wonderful, symbiotic thing, sometimes it feeds us the lie that we can’t do something. Just because they always do the DIY and you haven’t had to yet, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be able to do it if you tried. If you were single, you would just have to find a way. And often, when you do get involved in some of your partner’s responsibilities, you realise it was never that hard to do in the first place – you were just using marriage as an excuse not to try. We shouldn’t be using each other’s different strengths as a way out of doing things; we should be using those strengths to teach each other something new.
I’m not saying we should all do all of the jobs and never lean on our partners for help, but maybe we need to at least know the basics. Whether it’s the DIY, the important documents, the kids’ extracurricular activities, you can’t leave a whole realm of responsibilities up to your partner – it’s not fair on them or you. Because if you panic about the idea of them going away for a week, if your life would crumble if they were out of the picture altogether, that’s not OK. They’re only little things, but if our partner suddenly can’t serve the team the way they usually do then we need to be prepared to step up. An understudy might never have to take to the stage, but they still need to learn the lines just in case.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti