Equality is at the heart of marriage. For true intimacy to be present, a husband and wife must have equal value and worth within the relationship. One of the characteristics which distinguish a marriage from all other relationships is that it is truly a partnership of equal power. One is not the boss while the other is an employee. One is not the parent with the other being a child. While they might play different roles, both individuals have equal input and influence. Both are equally responsible for what the marriage produces.
But equality doesn’t come natural for us. If we don’t have the upper-hand on someone, we assume that they will have the upper-hand on us. Afraid of what might happen if we aren’t in charge, we risk intimacy in order to have control. Many couples engage in an unending power struggle because they don’t know how to exist in a truly equal relationship. It’s a struggle which should be avoided. When we are trying to control our marriage (or spouse) we are failing to love properly. In marriage, we can either love or control, but we can’t do both.
In most situations, a couple is unaware of the power struggle taking place between them. A husband that acts like a child is seen as immature instead of being viewed as someone who has skillfully found a way to control his wife through child-like behavior. At the root of many behaviors within a marriage is a desire to gain control. (See: Avoiding Power Struggles in Marriage)
While a power struggle is often taking place behind the scenes, there are some ways we can see it at play. Here are four common statements which husbands make that reveal a power struggle.
4 Dumb Sayings that Reveal Inequality
1. Babysitting. It’s fine to use this term to describe what a person is doing when you hire them to watch children. This is never an appropriate term to describe what is happening when a parent is with his or her children. I hear it all the time, “I can’t go to the game, I’ve got to babysit my kids.” I always respond by saying, “You mean you have to be a father?” When a dad describes himself as babysitting, it’s evident he does not see parenting as an equal responsibility. He sees it as his wife’s job. Parenting is not the role of a wife; it is the role of a mom and a dad. You can’t babysit your own kids.
2. Honey-do list. The honey-do list is a holdover from 1950s thinking that women are in charge of the house and men are in charge of fixing things. The wife makes a list and the man gets it done. An aspect of this is okay, but if a couple isn’t careful it can connote the work a man does is for his wife while the work a woman does is for the home. Most of the time it’s not a honey-do list, it’s a man doing his part as a home owner. Part of having a home is upkeep. Whether you hire it out or do it yourself, it’s just part of your responsibility. I’ve never run into a wife doing the grocery shopping to have her say, “I’m just doing my honey-do list.” No, she is grocery shopping because that’s part of having a home. (See: This Is Who You Want to Marry)
3. My money. In some relationships both spouses receive a paycheck. In other relationships one works outside the home while the other works inside the home. No matter whose name is on the check, the money belongs to the couple. I can’t spend Jenny’s money; she can’t spend my money. All the money is our money. By calling it “my money” or “his/her money” we are losing sight that no matter whose name is on the check, we are both working together to earn the paycheck.
4. She won’t let me. Notice the avoidance of responsibility. It’s not that “I don’t want to,” but that “she won’ t let me.” That’s not something a man says. That’s something a child says. In most cases, it’s a passive aggressive way for a man to get out of something. He doesn’t want to do it, but he’s going to blame his wife. Even in cases where he wants to do it, but she doesn’t want him to, he is still making the choice. I might want to play golf on a certain day, but my wife would prefer that I not. If I don’t play, I’m choosing not to play because I would prefer for her to be happy than for me to play one round of golf. It’s still a choice I made.
In some cases, these four statements are benign. They are simple holdovers from another time. In other cases, they are telling clues to a relationship in the midst of a power struggle. Anytime you hear one of these phrases, pay attention. There might be more going on than you realize.
What would be a 5th statement which reveals inequality in a relationship?