By Sabrina Almeida
It’s called power play, I’m told! Meaning who calls the shots in your marriage or relationship. I never looked at it that way in my 20-odd years of being married. We each had our portfolios, but always consulted one another about important decisions. Even in situations where consultation was not really required we still kept each other in the loop. It was just our way of doing things and it seemed simple enough.
Over the years we’ve come across different dynamics which has led me to believe that one ultimately works it out according to one’s situation. An interesting observation made by a friend this week and an article I read about a couple who died within hours of each other (after being married for over 70 years) caused me to think more deeply about it.
While traditional marriages were always based on the assumption that the woman would compromise, today’s modern relationships insist that she shouldn’t back down especially when it comes to career. I don’t subscribe to stereotypes nor do I believe that one should assert herself just because the feminists say so. Also, relationships and decision making is far too complex to be based on a single maxim. Judging from the number of marriages that are breaking up these days, I’d say that many of these personal mantras we have get in the way.
Does the main breadwinner get to make the financial decisions?
That was the observation my friend made. And he might be right in many cases… but that could also be because the other partner prefers it that way. Going back to the traditional family, men were the providers and considered to be more financially savvy so they just assumed fiscal responsibilities. Women looked after the home and children so those decisions fell to them. Many women are not looking to rock that boat irrespective of who brings home the bigger pay packet. One reason could be that they don’t want to. It’s not that cut and dried. It’s also a question of who’s better at it. There are a couple of men I know who would have no savings if they were given charge. At the same time a few women who have been more successful than their partners expect them to toe the line and the men are not complaining.
Who stays at home with the kids?
This is a big one. Having being the stay-at-home mom for more than a decade I’d say what happens when (or if) you try to salvage your career is what really determines whether you have any regrets. Yes, by and large the mother is expected to make the ‘sacrifice’ and that has many career-oriented women all riled up. It is after all difficult to withdraw after you have just got into the game or seem to be having the winning hand. Yet I know that for some couples the decision is a monetary one. A close friend opted to cut short her maternity leave because it would mean more money coming home. So her husband became the stay-at-home dad. That being said what happens if both partners are at the peak of their career?
It’s a no-brainer really… at least for me. If staying at home is not your choice don’t do it. The kids aren’t going to benefit from having to deal with a disgruntled parent. Almost all my friends opted for daycare and their children turned out into fine individuals.
Yet this can be a bone of contention. So it’s better to have the discussion at the start of the relationship especially if you’re not flexible, rather than take things for granted.
Are household chores solely a woman’s responsibility?
Some men, especially of South-Asian descent seem to think so. And it is in their partner’s best interests not to aid and abet them. That being said if the woman is at home all day then… I have come across some relationships where the man works and does all the chores at home. These men are following in their fathers’ footsteps. So once again it is our personal perspectives that we operate from and these can make or break the situation.
Does your professional success affect your position at home?
I’m reminded of an interview with restauranteur Vikram Vij who said that irrespective of his professional success he still takes his plate to the sink at home. I also recall a conversation with a woman who recently separated from her husband. She believed that his professional accomplishments had made him insufferable at home. He expected to be treated with same awe and celebrity status that his employees provided and that caused problems in the marriage.
I’m no relationship guru so I’ll refrain from handing out advice. One thing is certain, the challenges and pressures we face today make it tougher for any marriage or relationship to succeed. A couple who was married for more than 60 years told me they too had their fair share of ups and downs. There was no secret recipe or proven formula. In the end it comes down to what’s important or should I say who’s important.