I recently read an, um, enlightening book trilogy called “Fifty Shades of Grey.” In a nutshell, the story is about a woman who becomes entangled in an S&M relationship. One of the ideas explored in the book is the concept of “hard limits.” In the context of the book, a hard limit refers to sexual behaviors that a person will absolutely not engage in – in short, a deal breaker.
The book got me thinking about the hard limits my husband and I have established in our marriage. No, not those kind of limits…this is a family friendly forum, people. Besides, I don’t kiss (or tie up or smack with a riding crop or anything else) and tell. But after almost thirteen years of marriage; one or two or a thousand fights; and a fair amount of negotiating, we seem to have come to an overall understanding of the roles and responsibilities each of us is willing to take on, and those things that are, well, not exactly hard limits but not quite at the top of the list of things we want to do.
And, in fact, we’re still learning. Last night I came home from running the kids around to their various activities to a sink full of dishes. My husband was home during this time, after work hours, but the dishes went undone. I’m not good at hiding my irritation, so as soon as the kids were in bed, he asked what was wrong.
“Did you think those dishes were going to wash themselves?”
We bickered a little back and forth, him justifying how he spent his time, me annoyed that this particular area of responsibility always seemed to be completely out of his line of vision. Until, finally, he confessed:
“I hate doing the dishes. I just don’t want to do them.”
Early in our marriage this level of brutal honesty would have probably been like a first strike nuclear assault, with accusations of sexism and inequality, some kind of laundry list about the inequity of our assumed roles, and at least twenty-four hours of me giving him the silent treatment. But not now. “OK. The dishes are a hard limit. I won’t ask you to do them anymore.” I think he was a little dumbfounded considering I’m not one to fold all that easily in an argument. However, this time I got it. He hates doing the dishes. I don’t. So, no big deal…the dishes will now and forever fall into my domain (until I make my kids start doing them). Some people may think I went easy on him, but the fact of the matter is he’s not lazy. He’ll clean the counter. Pile the dishes in the sink. Vacuum the crumbs from the floor. He’ll even clean the bathroom without prompting. He just happens to hate doing dishes. I can live with that.
And, honestly, I have a hearty list of hard limits myself that he’s come to accept and accommodate over our years together. I do not like highway driving. Yes, kind of difficult when you live in New Jersey, but I’m a city girl! I can ride a subway standing, without holding onto anything. I can flag down a taxi…in the rain…on New Years Eve. I can tread in and out of NYC foot traffic like an human Formula One race car. But I break out into a cold sweat when I have to merge onto a highway. That’s not to say that I never do it, but I avoid it when I can because I just don’t like it. And you know what? He never makes me feel bad about it. Never makes me feel foolish or ridiculous for something that I know is. He just accepts it and understands that when we go somewhere and we need to take a highway, bridge or tunnel, he’s going to be the one to drive.
He’s also my in-house tech support. One time I told him about some problem we were having with the computer and he said, “Oh. That’s easy. You can fix it by…” Everything after that point sounded like the voice of the grown-up from a Charlie Brown television special. “No,” I cut him off, “I don’t do technology. That’s your job.” And so he fixed whatever problem we had and continues to do so. He set up my iPod, my Kindle and my MacBook Air without me even having to ask. He never seems to think it’s unreasonable for me to expect him to manage my gadgets. He just accepts the fact that not only is technology not my area of expertise, but that I have no desire to do it myself. Could I do it? Sure (after a lot of cursing and several hours on the phone with some tech support person that I have to pay). But I don’t want to. So he does it.
He’s the car guy as well, making sure the oil gets changed, the cars are serviced routinely, the insurance is up to date, and the cars are always inspected on time. I’m not saying that I can’t or won’t do these things. But he does it so I don’t have to. And that’s why I’ll keep doing the dishes (and the list of other things that he doesn’t really want to do) without complaining (too much).
Next month we’ll be celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary. If we were going to renew our vows, I think I’d like us to write our own this time and mine would sound something like this:
I promise to do the dishes, the laundry and the cooking (unless it involves grilling or making paninis, because you are the one who wanted the big grill and the panini maker, so live with it). I promise to help the kids with their homework (but by third grade you need to help with math). I promise to read stories to the boys every night because your old man eyes can’t see all that well anymore. I will be the frugal miser to balance out your love of spending money on Apple products and musical instruments (so that our retirement nest egg doesn’t only consist of a large collection of Apple products and musical instruments). I promise not to expect you to read books that I like (or, really, any books) as long as you promise not to expect me to watch science shows about black holes or wormholes or any other type of holes. I will sing along when you play the guitar (but not the ukulele because that thing is really annoying). However, I will keep my snarky comments about how annoying a ukulele is to a minimum. And I promise, one way or another, we’ll keep laughing. Until death (or the rapture or a zombie epidemic) do us part. And I will do all of this stuff not because of what you do for me, but simply because I love you, hard limits and all.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.