Thursday, July 31, 2008

Work and Play

There seem to be two kinds of activities in our arrangement: things that my beloved has been doing that make our household run, and things that I can do for her. I've mentioned this before, I know. But now that we've been living with our arrangement for a while, I want to reflect just a little on them.

Prominent among these reflections is wondering what in fact the distinction is between a hen-pecked husband and service-oriented wife-led marriage. Distressingly little, it seems to me. As far as I can tell, the sine-qua-non that distinguishes them is the woman's acknowledgment of the arrangement and her communication of that to her husband. I'm sure these two sides of the balance have been juxtaposed before, but I don't recall having seen that in a post.

To be clear: Unless she explicitly agrees "Yes, we're doing this," and unless the couple together comes up with ways of communicating to the husband, "You're doing this because we're in a wife-led marriage", then I don't think one can distinguish a WLM from a hen-pecked husband.

Wow - I'm not prone to absolute statements, and I certainly wouldn't defend that one to the death, but without those two things, it's hard for me to imagine how this could work in the long term.

So the fact that I'm paying bills at 11:00 at night, when I'd rather be reading or sleeping is work. Doing the laundry at 7:00 in the morning is work. Both become play when/if/were-she-to acknowledge that that's why I'm doing it.

Frankly, I can't make any useful progress on the question of why I shouldn't just be doing these things regardless, just to be a considerate spouse. I can see no logical reason why I should get "service" credit for doing these things, when they just need to be done. To her credit, when I mentioned this yesterday during our evening check-in (me kneeling by the bed before being given permission to enter - favorite moment of my day - how pathetic is that?) my beloved said, "You're doing this so I don't have to, and that counts for me." I guess I'll take that.

How will I know that we've "gotten there?" - to a WLM? OK, I acknowledge that it's all about process. VeezKnight said it better than I could, over on She Makes The Rules (though the link to the posting won't come up unless you have an account - get one, it's worth it). But I'll know that we're walking down this road when my beloved says to me, "Why didn't you ..." during one of our nightly check-ins. Or "You need to ..." about something I haven't gotten to. Basically, when the expectation is there, and there's a consequence for not meeting the expectation.

And frankly, we're getting there. Sunday night, I was exhausted and I thought I had covered all the bases when a voice rang out from the bathroom: "Hey, where's my vitamin?" Oops. I'm supposed to do that. But she bought my silver-tongued excuse about being tired.

And then we were on the phone while she was out of town; I was eating dinner. Sometimes our conversations are good and sometimes they're strained. Strained, in this case. Which she finished off by something like "I don't want to be listening to you chew, goodbye." It was kind of peevish and I was a little ticked off. Next morning she called to apologize (that was nice), and said "If you're asking me to be capricious, you're probably going to get some 'mean' as well." Could have knocked me over with a feather: She was thinking about this. First time I can remember that happening (which is maybe why I need to blog more often).

I said that was totally OK, and reiterated it last night at our nightly check-in: distinguishing "mean" from "capricious" and learning how to do what she's comfortable with is going to be a task for her; she's always been the "please others" sort. I told her I was happy to be part of that process and if it seriously wasn't working over the long term, we'd talk about it. I hope (and think) she took that to heart.

The challenge for me: last night I said I was coming to bed, and she said she'd be in shortly. But she got involved in a movie. I wasn't going to bug her by going back and saying "What about me, I'm exhausted." Inspired, perhaps, by Her Knight, I thought to myself, "This is what you wanted. She's doing what she wants to do and you're waiting for her convenience." So I sat on the floor beside the bed and dozed for a half hour until she came to bed. And thanked her for doing so. She seemed a little ambiguous over whether she decided watching the whole rest of the movie would have brought her to bed too late, or whether she was concerned about me. But I think that means she thought about it and decided that I could wait. If that's true, that's wonderful.

So what do I need? Isn't that that constant refrain of the submissive husband trying to seduce his wife into a WLM? Acknowledgment and communication. And, as I read this, we do seem to be getting there.

It's all about the journey. Right.

1 comment:

At all Times said...

You are so right,acknowledgement and expectation, the two most important ingredients of any WLM, and the two most difficult to find.