Give a Little to Take a Little

My hand will never be cold again

I live in a small town with my husband, our son, two dogs and baby-on-the-way. Our town isn’t so small that everyone knows your name, but small enough that if you run to Target {where I frequent at east weekly} you are going to see someone that you know. Neighbors are friendly with each other and often know the ins and outs of your life. They have memorized your comings and goings and often inquire as to your whereabouts.

We have one neighbor, a retired couple, who have lived in our neighborhood since the beginning of time. Well, maybe not that long, but much longer than the 6.5 years that we’ve lived here. They’ve been married for just as long.

Now this neighbor, while friendly, likes to gives us random pieces of advice. It’s often times unwanted, sometimes rude and can be so completely off the wall that we walk away from the conversation with a confused look on our faces, shaking our heads as we go. But he’s our friendly neighborhood Grandpa, so we just go with it. Best not to ruffle feathers sometimes.

On one summer afternoon about 9 months after we had moved in, not even a year after we had been married, I was standing in our backyard day dreaming about plants to plant and gardens to grow. My neighbor approached and revealed that it was his anniversary. I can’t remember the exact number of years they had been married, but if I had to guess I would say it’s around 30. That’s a long time to live with, love, and stay in love with the same person. At the time they had been married longer than I had been alive.

In the midst of this conversation he tossed me a gem of wisdom. Something that I hold close to me every day, and reach for when I’m particularly frustrated with my husband. He said that marriage isn’t 50/50. It can’t be. It just won’t work. Because sometimes in marriage you have to give a little more to help out your spouse or to pick up ground when they can’t. And sometimes when you can’t seem to give anymore, your spouse sends a little extra your way to pick up the slack. Marriage is about balance. Not 50/50 balance because nothing in life is ever perfectly fair. We learn that as children. No, marriage is about giving and receiving. It’s about being loved and returning love. It’s about supporting your other half when they need a little extra. And it’s about learning to ask for more when you need it.

Growing up in a family of three girls I remember constantly making sure that neither of my sisters received more than I did. We all had to have the same. The same number of toys, the same number of clothes and the same amount of attention. I think that’s just the way sisters work. We love each other but we’re in competition with each other at the same time. Unfortunately this competitiveness, this desire for everything to be equal, is something that I’ve carried into marriage. I’m notorious for keeping score. Each day I tally up what I’ve done while staying at home with my son. And each day I tally up what my husband does. I’m in charge of making sure that the house runs smoothly, that our lives are in order and that there’s fresh food on the table. My husband goes to work and earns the paycheck that allows me the choice of staying at home. But when you tally up the individual things that we do each day, I always come out on top.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband is amazing and I’m constantly thankful for him and his job. But in my mind it’s only one thing that he does during the day, while I’m doing 8 million things. At the end of the week when I’ve added up the totals and see how much more I’ve accomplished I feel like I’m carrying more than my fair load. It makes me made. It makes me shut down and disconnect. It causes a rift in our marriage.

But that isn’t healthy. I know it isn’t. Keeping score only creates hurt feelings. It creates walls where communication gets locked out. It creates resentment. So during the worst of my score keeping days, I pull out that piece of advice my surprisingly wise neighbor tossed my way years ago. It’s not about 50/50. It’s about giving a little more at times to balance out life. And it’s about learning to take more, and ask for more, when you have nothing left to give.

Allison is a slightly OCD momma (yes, M&Ms must be eaten in pairs of matching colors) who blogs over at Alli ‘n Son and tweets at Alli_n_Son. She’s the momma of a spunky, energetic, and frustrating two year old boy. You can often find her up to the knees in potty training, bubbles and all things balls. She’s also a wanna-be photographer and gourmet chef, a highly creative woman and one-time graphic designer, all rolled into one.

9 Responses to Give a Little to Take a Little

  1. I really enjoyed this guest post! And I believe in your neighbor’s advice whole-heartedly, even if it sometimes hard to follow. From one slightly OCD mama to another ;-)

    Pamela

  2. Thank you for posting this. Although I am not a SAHM, it really hit home because I see myself comparing what I do for my daughter vs. what my husband does for her all the time. And it has caused the rift and resentment. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who feels this way!!

  3. That is some honesty right there. Give and take is so true. I forget to give to my wife sometimes and have to remind myself. Just remember Allison that your husband may feel the same. He may feel like he doesnt help you enough, but some of us guys are too scared to ask for help or if we can help.

  4. Thanks for this post. My husband and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary and are still working on our communication skills and division of household duties. I’m definitely bad about keeping score! I will have to keep your neighbor’s advice in mind more often.

  5. Great post Allison! Thank you again for participating. That compromise and not either being a martyr or always demanding is a pretty difficult balance to figure out the first few years. Good post!

  6. I think every married person, woman or man, needs to read your post. I will always keep it filed in the back of my head for those days when I need it most.

    Thanks! You have a smart neighbor!

    • It was a great one, wasn’t it? I can’t take credit though – it is a guest post from Alli-n-son. Go ahead and follow her -she has great articles!

      And thank you for following Mom in Management! I am now following you via GFC. :)

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