Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Good Wife

photo by Tarah Coonan

What does it mean to be a good wife?

Unsurprisingly, given that Jon and I have physically been together for only six days out of the 67 since our wedding, I have no idea.  To be totally honest, though, it's actually not something I ever thought about until recently.  Does that automatically make me a bad wife?

I know that if I asked Jon what would make me a good wife, he'd look at me like I was being foolish.  "Being a good wife is the same thing as being a good person," he'd say, "only one who happens to be a woman and married."

That must be too simple.  I mean, right?  It can't be that easy.  So, in earlier drafts of this post, I made it harder, reading traditional Bible passages from wedding ceremonies and delving into Jewish midrashim and exploring evangelical perspectives on Proverbs 31 until I nearly threw my laptop across the room.  But none of those things are really relevant to me; my life is too secular.  Being a good wife isn't defined for me in relation to God.  It's defined in relation to all of the other roles I hold.  I'm a wife, yes, but I'm also a daughter and a sister and a friend and a college graduate (and the proud recipient of an MA that required me to parse medieval French on top of studying Latin, for crying out loud) and a fundraiser and a singer and, one day, I hope to also be a mother.  That sounds like a lot of things to be, when I write it all out.

I wonder if men feel they they have to juggle all of their identities, too.  They don't have any fewer - not the ones I know - but they don't seem to be plagued by the same questions, at least not to the extent that women do.  I wonder if they have to ask themselves what they need to do to be good husbands.  (I really like Deborah Spar and I do want to read her most recent book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, but I can't imagine men feeling they have to tackle the issue of satisficing.)  A few weeks ago, my blog friend Julie published her own "The Good Wife" post; it's what inspired my suggestion that we use the topic as our prompt today.  She concluded,
What I’m getting at (if there’s anything to be gotten) is that, to [my husband]: all of these things are just chores to be done... but I feel like there’s some phantom paradigm that I’m not living up to. I’m supposed to be able to handle everything with grace, and more often than not, it’s more: close enough/kind of sweaty.
I, too, have felt that phantom since I started thinking about what it means to be a good wife.  But again, if I asked Jon if he expected me to be a good wife with grace, he'd laugh, as I bet Julie's husband would.  Grace is not my strong suit.  He knew that when he proposed to me.  He expects me to be a good wife just as I approach every other role I own: making things more complicated than they need to be while simultaneously trying to maintain order and sense with some cursing, a lot of coffee, and all the love in my heart.  It would definitely be kind of sweaty, and Jon wouldn't ask for anything more or less.

So maybe it is that simple.

I think I can work with that.

How about you, dear readers?

 photo 866de425-8336-4c63-9efd-1c4dd8bf0e62_zpsafe0d56b.jpg

19 comments:

  1. I loved this prompt and like you when I first started drafting it was long and involved but the more I thought the more I realized that being a good wife is not something that can really be quantified. Each relationship is so unique and each time in life is so unique, what it means for you to be a good wife now with you and Jon so many miles apart will be so different than when he is in the US and when/if you are both back in the UK one day. That is one thing I have really learned over the years that is as we go through life together it is ok for me to evolve as our life and relationship does and it does not mean that Fredrik will no longer love me as not being the girl he met because I am now the woman he is married too.

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  2. Jess Gerrow / The Stroke BlogOctober 30, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    "I wonder if men feel they they have to juggle all of their identities, too. They don't have any fewer - not the ones I know - but they don't seem to be plagued by the same questions, at least not to the extent that women do."


    What a lovely, deep thought to roll around in my head on a Wednesday afternoon. Thank you for this.

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  3. I definitely agree with what Jon said about being a good wife is the same as being a good person. Also for me, being a good wife means supporting my husband emotionally, making thoughtful gestures, laughing with him, being his buddy, and cooking his favorite foods (food is very important to Gregory) x

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  4. the "thoughtful gestures" are what I have a hard time with! going back to the post I wrote about Love Languages a few weeks ago, it's a process for me to recognize that my thoughtful gestures aren't always Jon's thoughtful gestures - does that make sense? I definitely have to be intentional (as much as I hate that word) about supporting him sometimes because I can show my support in ways other than how he needs to see it. You know?

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  5. can you imagine writing a man version of Lean In? I mean, really!

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  6. Philosophical questions for a Wednesday morning. It will take me awhile to process. I know this is something I've been thinking about lately. With Ben's new job (well we're a year in so not exactly new) and being in a new town, I've had a hard time adjusting to the amount of work hours he has to put in and what that means for our life. I do a lot of thinking about whether a good wife would just be supportive and deal with it on her own or what. I absolutely think being supportive is important, but I struggle with the dealing with it on my own and whether that's truly being a good wife or not. Hard questions, and we're figuring it out as we go along. I do think regardless of anything else that a good wife is supportive and loving and a friend, and it has to work both ways too. There needs to be a good husband to be a good wife, right? :)

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  7. Lovely post and I love how you mention all the roles we play, because I'm the same way, sometimes I feel like my role as wife gets overtaken by all my other roles and I guess the trick is balancing all of our roles and finding the priorities in each one.

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  8. Thanks for the share, dude! Obviously this is a topic near to my heart. I think you have it right there, at the end, when you say that you're approaching the role with "all the love in your heart." What is being married other than saying "I love you" with your actions, every day until forever? I'd bet you're a stellar wife :)

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  9. After that post we took the love language quiz and that's helped me with it a lot. I now know that sending G a quick text to let him know that I'm thinking about him makes him happy (he's words of affirmation). I get what you're saying about being 'intentional', it's tricky since the thoughtful gesture that he needs, isn't one that I would, but I just make sure I take the time and do it. It makes all the difference :) x

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  10. oh my goodness of course - I've been mulling over your post since I read it! thank YOU.

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  11. YES and you know I bet the properties in each role are actually quite similar, don't you?

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  12. I think Jon is too! whereas I'm "acts of service." I'm like, SHOW ME YOU LOVE ME BY PICKING UP YOUR SOCKS. or whatever. and now that I recognize how much a difference that makes to me, I know how worth it it is to make the intentional effort for him!

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  13. HA! I'm 'acts of service' as well :) Since explaining that to G, he now helps around the house a whole lot more! That quiz has had such a great influence on our relationship. x.

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  14. Oh, why did I have to pick now to get off the blog? I hope this link stays open long enough for me to pen an entry because this is such a good topic. What does it mean, especially in this shifting modern environment, to be a good wife?


    I think Jon's right, that being a good wife is being a good person. But it's also being strong enough to both carry the load and share the load at the same time. It's not setting someone else's welfare above your own but making them a part of you. And it's about being yourself with someone who not only gives you room to be you, but loves that about you, and doing the same for them.


    'Scuse me, I have to go write.

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  15. I love that Jon's reply would be so simple, and I hope that we can really take that in. There are so many pressures to do things perfectly and execute it all with ease and a big smile, but in reality, we are merely human. It can be hard to fulfill all of our roles well at the same time, but if we can look at the core of what's most important (like being a good person), then I think we find the answer in that.


    Thanks for hosting this! :)

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  16. The love languages is so awesome. It helps not just in being intentional with speaking your partner's language, but recognizing when your partner is speaking a different language. Beau and I took the quiz while we were long-distance. We're still medium-distance, so I want to wait til we're married and living together before we take it again. I don't know if physical intimacy will rank quite so high for both of us if we actually see each other every day. :) My primary language is still Words of Affirmation, though. I think his might change from Physical Intimacy to Acts of Service, but we'll have to see!

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  17. That's me! My bf has become a lot better about giving me specific compliments for no reason. :D

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  18. Both spouses need to be good! But sometimes one spouse needs extra help. I couldn't be as awesome of a girlfriend when I was working two jobs. My boyfriend was amazing and supportive and understanding, and I appreciate it SO much. I did ask for time off quite frequently, and almost always for stuff he or his family wanted to do. But now I only work one job again, and the 2 1/2 weeks of freedom I've had so far have been wonderful for our relationship!

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  19. Great post! Interesting topic and lots to think about. You summed it up really well though!

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