When I started educating myself on feminism and decided I wanted to be a feminist, I began to look at my life differently. I realized that the patriarchy affected pretty much all my relationships: my relationship with myself, my relationship with my body, my relationships with girlfriends, and especially my relationship with my husband.
It’s not like my husband is an anti-feminist or a meninist or anything, but when I started to examine our relationship through a feminist lens I discovered, to my dismay, that we both had some very patriarchal ideas about how our relationship should function.
We are told from a young age who does what in the relationship, and those ‘rules’ are deeply rooted in the patriarchy.
Though we typically don’t subscribe to the idea that women should be home raising the babies and men should be out working, they do still subscribe to patriarchal gender roles in relationships in more subtle ways.
[bctt tweet=”Millennials still subscribe to patriarchal gender roles in relationships in subtler ways.” username=”wearethetempest”]
For my husband and me, our patriarchal ideas of gender roles manifested in three particular ways: chores, financial decisions, and emotional labor.
When we first moved in together, chores quickly became a problem. I am not a fan of cleaning and I have never been. I’m the type that lets the house get to a critical mass of messiness and then spend six hours deep cleaning everything.
Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t like to clean either.
After some months of living together, chores became a passive-aggressive battle. If I didn’t think he was doing enough dishes I would let them pile up until we lost the counter. He would let the trash in the bathroom overflow. We would have screaming matches over these chores, but we never actually talked about how we thought they should be handled.
Finally, we sat down and had a real conversation, like real adults. He admitted that he’d just expected me to do the chores when I moved in. For some reason, he thought I’d like doing chores. He hadn’t connected his assumption to sexism or gender roles, it was just a casual assumption.
[bctt tweet=”He hadn’t connected his assumption to sexism, or gender roles.” username=”wearethetempest”]
We talked about how this assumption had created tension in our relationship and how unfair it was to expect either of us to do all of the chores. I told him that as a feminist, I was committed to making our marriage more egalitarian, which included making chores more egalitarian. He agreed and we worked on a chores list, and it gave us both accountability. Even when we stray from the agreement (and we have!), we always try to respect the intent, which is that we’re both responsible for housework.
Splitting the housework is key to our feminist relationship.
Our ideas about finances ended up exposing more of our patriarchal ideas after we got married. About a year before we got married, I’d quit my job in the tech industry to become a nanny. I was making less than half what I was making before, but I refused to ask my partner for financial help. I was stuck in the idea that it would be anti-feminist of me to be financially supported by a man.
So, I struggled to pay my bills all on my own, clinging to the idea that this meant I was an “independent woman.”
[bctt tweet=”We are told from a young age who does what in the relationship.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Since my husband and I managed our finances separately (by my insistence) he ended up making a few major financial decisions without discussing them with me first. He assumed since it was his money, I wouldn’t mind. I flipped out and we sat down for another long discussion, and eventually, I realized that part of being in a partnership was allowing your partner to help. I agreed to combine my finances with that of my husband’s.
I didn’t realize that being a feminist could include being financially supported by my husband because even my ideas about what feminism is had been influenced by the patriarchy. The patriarchy has worked very hard to make feminism seem like it’s about hating men and, in some ways, rejecting them.
What feminism is actually about is making sure that men and women have equal opportunities and are treated as equal human beings.
Part of me having equal opportunities in my relationship was being able to be happy in my career, which meant I had to be humble enough to accept that I could rely on my husband’s money and still call myself a feminist.
[bctt tweet=” Part of being in a partnership is allowing your partner to help.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The hardest part of making our marriage more feminist is our expectations about emotional labor. Men are taught that they are not supposed to show their feelings. By extension, they learn that they are not responsible for the emotional labor that goes into relationships. But make no mistake, relationships require a lot of work, and most of that work involves feelings.
What happens in most relationships, including mine, is that women end up doing most of the feelings work. They manage their own feelings, their partner’s feelings, their partner’s reactions to their feelings, and they spend countless hours trying to get their partner to discuss feelings.
[bctt tweet=” Men are taught that they are not supposed to show their feelings. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Throughout the years we’ve been together, I’ve done a lot of emotional labor to keep our relationship going. My husband, not so much. Eventually, I became exhausted with managing all the feelings and asked him to start doing his part.
This is one we’re still working on.
Being a man raised in a patriarchal society, he’s not comfortable discussing his feelings and it takes a lot for him to move past this discomfort. I need to be patient with him. Overcoming years of patriarchal programming takes time. We have agreed to keep the lines of communication open at all times and to do our own work on ourselves so we can bring better versions of ourselves to the relationship.
Splitting the emotional labor is essential to our feminist relationship.
[bctt tweet=”Feminist relationships are founded on equality. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Feminist relationships are founded on equality. Each partner contributes to the relationship. Each partner helps with the housework, contributes financially, and has a say in major decisions. Both partners confront their discomfort in order to keep the lines of communication open.
It’s been hard, but working with my husband to make our relationship more feminist has vastly improved our marriage.