Marital Power Plays
- 2011 30 Aug
Inevitably in marriage, an over-the-top of the roll marries an up-from-the-bottom type person, and the toilet paper becomes the focus of many a power struggle.
Or squeezing the toothpaste is where this tension plays out. Do you squeeze from the bottom? Squeeze from the middle? Put the cap back on? Wash off the screw-on threads before screwing the toothpaste cap back on? Or do you really not care?
When we married, we were both under the naive impression that everyone did things the way our parents and siblings did. That wasn’t just the right way, it was the only way. We never noticed that other people did things other ways, so we were quite surprised. Toothpaste, toilet paper, arguments, power – how were we to work these out?
In 1 Corinthians 7, the chapter titled “Advice on Marriage,” we find some poignant words:
One who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.
And a few verses later,
One who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
These verses don’t specifically talk about hygiene rules, but they allude to these all-encompassing questions: Who wins? Who matters most? And the best answer is:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. ~ Romans 12:10
In other words: not pushing for my way but finding out Spouse’s way, sharing my preferences and deciding together which one makes sense for our union.
The Closet Conundrum
My closet boasted neatness. As a wardrobe and image consultant, clothing was important to me. Styles, colors, fit, coordinating were all aspects of my business. So the organization of my closet was a point of necessity on my part, a “walking the talk” that I taught. With a busy life, dressing quickly, efficiently and well was my livelihood. So to keep everything straight, all my clothes were hung with the fronts facing towards the right. That was the choice I had made, and it made my closet – and my life – flow more smoothly. Mental and physical organization.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, I married a my-clothes-hang-towards-the-left. I realized that this could become a big deal -- an “I have my rights and my way, and this benefits – not only my personal life – but my business life as well!” kind of deal.
However, as I thought through the whole scenario and the repercussions this battle would have in our lives, it seemed so silly to demand my way. It was personal preference, not rocket science. We had several options available to us:
1. Choose my way
2. Choose his way
3. Each choose our own way
Since I had opted to do the laundry for our marriage, option #3 didn’t seem too time-efficient. I could envision as the children came along having to think through, “Whose shirt is this and do I hang the front facing towards the right or the left?”
So without my husband even knowing it, I chose to change my direction. My clothes now face towards the left like his. It was easy, it saved time in the long run, and it never had a chance of toppling our new union.
Is It Really That Important?
When we closely dissect these points of power struggle, they are actually such minor points. Sometimes in marriage, however, we let our desire for dominance be won or lost in such miniscule arenas. To put it in perspective, in the face of cancer, does it really matter what the toothpaste tube looks like? When a spouse is deployed overseas to fight the war on terrorism, does the direction of the toilet paper have any place in our thoughts?
So next time you face an area of potential power plays, how about making it a win-win scenario? Separate toothpaste tubes for all?
For Spouse and me, with a large family to run, we like to use our dressing time to talk about our eight children: who needs time with daddy? How is our special son doing in school? Who needs to begin with the orthodontist next? If we are struggling for dominion in the minor areas, we can’t move on to work together as a powerful force to impact our spheres and make our lives run more smoothly.
There is an insightful verse in Genesis about the power of people talking things through to accomplish goals: And the Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” (11:6)
As a couple, let’s choose to “speak the same language” and make plans that nothing can stop. Let’s work together to make a dynamic union that empowers each of us to live a life that counts. Let’s find solutions to the mundane so we can get on to the exciting job of living the life we want.
Originally published February 17, 2009.
After 30 years of marriage, Mark & Kym Wright now have eight children. She is a national speaker, author and writer. You can visit her website at: http://www.kymwright.com/Her online publication is The Mother’s Heart magazine, for wives and mothers with hearts in their homes.