I’m curious this morning about the fine line between independence and interdependence in a marriage. This issue comes up for me when I am camping, because I rely on Jason to do so much. He has always been the breakfast cooker in our family, and so even when I’m hungry, I wait for him to get the bacon and the eggs and cook them on the outside stove. When ants began scurrying around my feet and legs, I jumped and screamed and ran away while he calmly came in with the ant killer.
He’s just so damn capable at everything, and I tend to shrink a bit into his shadow. I think what I find frustrating, is that his natural machismo comes to the forefront, while my contributions to our camping life are more subtle and therefore more easily overlooked, even by me. I hand him the spatula and the dishes and make the toast in the trailer. I pack everything except for his clothes, so that we have what we need as a family for a week in a trailer.
I have to remind myself that what I do is important as well. We need each other in our marriage, in order for it to function as well as it possibly can. I have always struggled with this, for the twelve years we have been married, because the skills I bring to the table are softer and therefore harder to identify.
I’m good at the people side of things; reading the emotions and having the tough discussions with our kids, family members and friends. Jason is better at the outward things, and I excel at the inner ones. One is not more important than the other, but sometimes I worry that I am too dependent on what he does for me. I don’t want to kill the ants, or string the clothesline, or make sure the trailer is level. He is better at those things and so he does them, but I hate that I am becoming afraid of some of these tasks, or worse, certain that I am incapable of doing them myself.
There is a line where it is important to need each other and rely on one another, but also to flourish as individuals inside of the marriage, and not lose the characteristics which make us unique and separate. I don’t want to be fearful of camping here on my own with the kids when Jason goes to work. I want to be sure of myself, and confident with mechanical things the way that he is.
I don’t know that I will ever want to take over Jason’s roles in these areas, but I can push myself to fake a bravery I don’t necessarily feel. I can try my best, and show that effort to the kids instead of passing along my anxiety and uncertainty. I can be independent when I need to be, and interdependent when I can be.
And perhaps I need to bring my regular contributions to the light a little more often, so they aren’t overlooked. The behind-the-scenes work that most women do is the lifeblood of the family. Nothing would happen unless a woman was making lists somewhere, and dragging the kids to the grocery store, and doing the fourth load of laundry in a day. It may not get much credit, but it’s equally valuable, and must be recognized as such.