This week at NLQ I've quoted one of the few soft complementarians I've run across who preaches that a woman's submission is predicated on her husband being a blessing to her first. Sounds good, right? A man that puts his partner first just like Jesus did the church, who doesn't harshly deride her for little things, that doesn't openly criticize her, treating her like a queen so she'll treat him with the same or deeper deference and be fully submitted to him. Treat her right and her trust in you will lead her to submit.
While that might work for some, along with those strict gender roles the patriarchy loves to enforce, it never worked here. The only thing that happened was that both my husband Jim and I became ever more frustrated when we tried earnestly to do it the fundy way.
Take this weekend for example. Jim tried to book hotel rooms in Florida just before and after our Costa Rica trip. I always pick the hotels and pay online, but this time he wanted to do it. He called up the hotel chain we always use and it turned into a three-legged goat rodeo. Part of the problem is that this chain, that has very low end and very high end hotels, is using an overseas call center staffed by people with varying English speaking abilities. Jim ended up angrily ranting to the supervisor before cancelling our hotel reservations and hanging up on him. He asked me to then do the thing I always do, book online. He has no patience for technology. I'm fine with that.
Last night I had to keep going into his office to show him where his Excel spreadsheet was saved, show him how to create a new spread sheet and basically be his unpaid tech support.
This week I booked the hotel rooms, make arrangements to park our car at the airport in a guaranteed slot, finished and submitted our taxes, took apart the drain to the upstairs tub, snaked the drain in the downstairs bathroom sink, tweaked our investment portfolio and worked in the garden. Oh, and picked out paint for the downstairs bath, making plans to repaint and regrout the tile floor.
Jim washed dishes one night, he balanced my checkbook, paid the credit card, detailed both cars, cleaned the bedroom, cleaned the master bath and a bunch of other things.
Together we planned more about our trip, discussed upcoming home repairs including picking out a contractor, worked in the yard on the landscaping, went over the final taxes, went grocery shopping, and a pile of other things that in Evangelical Christianity would be things delegated to one sex or the other, not both.
I'm sure there are some good True Christian's out there that would look at these lists and tell me I am usurping the masculine role or that I'm not a good Christian submitted wife, that I'm controlling Jim. But the fact of the matter is there are just things I am good at that he is not and visa-verse. I cannot balance my checkbook to save my life, I understand the steps but tend to flub them up. He cannot run a plumber's snake down a drain and unclog it, the last time Jim tried he broke a pipe! I'm good with home repair, picking stocks, reading a P&L sheet, working with computers and quickly making decisions. Jim is awesome with money budgeting, planning out things, researching. He has the patience I don't have to work with getting contractors in and getting them to give him an estimate. He's a more careful laundry folder and dishwasher than I am. But I swing a mean paintbrush.
It works for us, in the nearly 29 years of marriage we've settled back down into what we used to do pre-Evangelicalism, we both do the things we actually have talent and interest in and let the other partner do those things that they excel at and we're both okay with that.
Back when we were both trying to toe the Evangelical line it was galling to me that he handled all the taxes and investments. He's spend literally every weekend for the better part of two months moaning and groaning while doing the taxes on the computer. I'd grit my teeth and wait for him to paint, or caulk, while I tried to content myself with doing the dishes and other domestic chores, all the while itching to jump in and do the things I saw him struggling with that are traditionally 'male' things in patriarchy. It was a miserable experience for both of us.
Now I zip through the taxes at the speed of light and he gets those dishes done. We're all the more happier for it, no sacrificing or submitting, just both of us working as partners with the tasks tailored for our strengths without the false construct of gender roles.
What is it about fundamentalism that makes all the simple stuff so damn hard all the time?