If you’re part of a couple that shares household responsibilities, you’ve probably experienced what I like to call the “Contest Mentality.” It’s when you’re sure that you do more than your partner in the relationship, household chores, work, raising the kids or (insert your own contest phrase here).
For me, it’s especially noticeable because I have a husband who travels on business. There’s no contest. I clearly do more by virtue of my being a work-at-home mom. However, we still like to argue about it until it’s turned up to 11 on the ridiculousness dial. Our conversations go something like this:
Me: It’s time for bath. Can you give the kid a bath?
Him: But I just got back from traveling!
Me: I just finished swim lessons, coloring a three-dimensional pterodactyl, and having a conference call.
Him: I just flew four hours, had a time change, waited 20 minutes in the airport parking lot and brought home fast food for dinner.
Me: Well, I just closed four deals, finished writing a book, fed 14 kids through our non-profit, and helped another blogger get a paid gig.
Him: Well, I just closed a $14 million deal, sat next to a woman on the plane who talked about the custom-tailored tutus she makes for her Chihuahua for four straight hours, and then closed another $10 million dollar deal while I was stuck in the airport parking lot.
Me: That’s nothing. I just baked 17 dozen cookies for preschool, sat in a group of moms at preschool gymnastics who were complaining that the local store didn’t carry the right shade of indigo $200 yoga pants, ran out of Diet Coke, sewed a costume, and talked to four different non-profits who had no food for families in their area.
Me: Oh, and some kid at Chik-Fil-A puked on me BEFORE we ate.
Finally, we have a stare-off until we spontaneously launch into a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors for who has to give the kid a bath.
Jacqueline Wilson is an author, educator and consultant. She is the founder of PrimeParentsClub.com, ProjectPurseClub.com and the non-profit MonkeyDoProject.com. You can read about how she does more than her husband on her personal blog, Writer Ramblings on Parenting Imperfectly. Follow her on Twitter as @WritRams.
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What’s More Important: The Relationship or Being Right?
Early in our relationship, my wife and I promised not to take score because we didn’t want any winners and losers in our marriage. However, after nearly 20 years of being together, we haven’t always been faithful to our pact.
One of my favorite episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” is called “Baggage.” In the episode, Ray and Debra are locked in an “unspoken” battle of wills over who is responsible for putting the suitcase away from their weekend trip. The two of them continue to ignore the suitcase for several weeks because they believe the other person should move it.
I could relate to that episode because my wife and I often have our own versions of the suitcase. Sometimes I pretend not to hear the dog’s barking because I’m engrossed in my work and I feel it’s my wife’s turn to take her out. Or my wife will place my items in a conspicuous location hoping that I will see them and move them. This behavior often leads to anger, frustration, and resentment. We both know what the other person is doing, but we are too stubborn to give in and allow him or her to win.
When things have gone too far, my wife has a saying that she likes to evoke: “Which is more important to you? Our relationship or being right?”
I know what the correct answer is, but I often like to be right. So does she. Thankfully, we both respect the relationship enough to choose it over being right. I move my stuff. She takes out the dog and all is well…until the next time she is wrong.
Question: Do you and your spouse have an ongoing contest to keep track of who does more?