In school the teachers would often say “Find a partner.” when we were going to do some activity. Or if she was more controlling, I mean smarter, she’d pick partners for you so that you wouldn’t pick your best friend and get in trouble when you were supposed to be learning something. That partnering up thing always made me nervous until it was settled. Would I get a partner that I liked? Would I get a partner , period? Friends and social skills were not my strong point, even though I was and still am a friendly person who likes people, I was just shy and insecure and thought no one would want to be my partner, even my ‘friends’ , for no real reason. I was smart and did my share of the work, if not more. I think the real problem was that I didn’t want to be responsible for the outcome and I still have that fear of taking on important responsibilities , fear of doing it wrong. I think that may be related to Imposter Syndrome, which I recently learned about. But that’s another subject.
Today I want to talk about the word PARTNER. In other countries, it’s more common to refer to a person that you are married to , or living with, as a partner. I know some people in the United States do use that term, but they are mostly hipsters on the West or East coast. Only slightly joking. We in America usually say spouse, husband, wife, better half, hubby, or wifey . Maybe that is because in America we don’t really see marriage as a partnership. I was mulling this over and I came to the conclusion that for me, I don’t see my marriage that way.
When I think of the word partner I think of business partner, lab partner, dance partner, and then the word starts to sound weird in my brain. Partner, partner, partner! To me the definition implies that two people are actively working together in the same moment at a singular task, such as running a business with a goal of making it profitable, or performing an experiment or dance. There must be close communication, mutual agreement to the methods and goals, time spent working together on those goals, and the goals must be the main focus of the time.
I don’t think every marriage is like mine, but I know plenty of them are. In my marriage, we each have our own separate roles. He works at a job, fixes things when they break, manages the property and yard, and provides security in times of danger (rarely). I do everything related to the home and children, manage the bills and planning, handle the child-related crises, healthcare issues for everyone, social calendar, holidays, pets, and counselling everyone. We come together for recreational activities, occasional discussions about issues, occasional home projects, and of course, sex. Do I wish there was more ‘partnering’? Sometimes, but this is what I am used to and I don’t necessarily like change. Sure I could use more help in all of my responsibilities, but he probably feels the same about his jobs. I appreciate that he trusts me in so many areas and it can be much easier to just do the stuff without asking him, although I do try to keep him informed.
The thing that is missing and is a problem, in my opinion, is the mutual agreement on goals and time spent working towards those goals. Both of us are very independent people and we are used to working that way. But I think our children have suffered from this type of marriage non-partnership. They need to learn that a healthy, happy marriage requires communication and discussion about important topics, such as finances, education, health, goals, plans, etc, not just leave that to one person to figure out and hope that the other person is going to go along. In my case, my husband doesn’t want to discuss these things. But he doesn’t always want to go along either. That puts me in a difficult position of trying to read his mind and trying to please him. We all come to a marriage with personalities, habits, and preferences. But to be a real partnership, we must be ready to adapt and adopt new habits, learn new skills, throw out old ways that no longer apply in a marriage that may have worked in a single life, be less selfish and independent. Even though talking about problems and planning for the future cause stress, they are necessary and for a successful partnership, they are critical. Now that we are getting older and the kids are growing up and hopefully moving out, we need to brainstorm and make plans, something he’d rather not do. It’s easy for me to just say, what will be, will be, but I know that is not responsible. I need my partner to join me in the discussion.
What do you think? Would you call your marriage a partnership? Why or why not? Did you have to work to make it like that or did you start out that way? Do you think it’s necessary?