I do not adapt easily to gender stereotypes. During my years of living the single life, I was not one of those women, who for instance, follow a dating strategy of preparing elaborate romantic meals to impress potential partners. No, I was not one of those women, despite the fact that I love good food. My idea of the perfect get-to-know-you date was throwing a football at Spanish Banks or tossing a game of darts and sharing a pitcher of beer at the neighbourhood pub. Not particularly interested in nurturing anyone’s over-inflated ego, I took great pride in demonstrating my throwing arm, driving skills and mechanical abilities. I never pretended that my boyfriend had already loosened the cap of the ketchup bottle.
Perhaps it is for this reason that my series of partners, up to and including my husband and partner-for-life, has almost exclusively consisted of men who are not threatened by a woman’s independence of mind and spirit. Any man that felt threatened simply never tolerated me beyond the first date and vice versa.
This sense of independence and mutual respect in a relationship is a two-way street. I am not willing to play the role of the helpless female, and by the same token I do not expect my spouse to be the strong and silent type, always coming up with the answers and the solutions to every problem, always shielding me from the harsh realities of life. A truly effective spousal partnership, as I see it, is a relationship between equals, both of whom are expected to be committed and loyal, both working towards agreed upon goals. Both individuals allowed to simply be human, with all of the strengths and frailties that that implies.
Being together in such a partnership means being able to openly share the whole spectrum of fear, desire, joy, frustration, anger, and beauty that makes up human life. It means being able to laugh together and cry together, and to share in each other’s triumphs and defeats. I don’t see how this is possible within the context of a relationship that is defined and constricted by traditional ideas of acceptable gender characteristics. In my own relationship, I have usually, although not always, been the major breadwinner, while my husband has typically taken on the bulk of the domestic duties. He cooks during the week and I cook on weekends. He does the dishes and I take care of the garden. If a washer needs to be replaced, chances are that I’ll be the one to do it. When one of us is feeling down, the other one is there for honesty and support — always.
“Start out as you mean to continue,” my mother once told me, “and you can’t go wrong.” I think that truer words have never been spoken.