The Surrendered Husband
Now that I have better comment spam management tools, I’m able to leave comments open on older entries, so occasionally one will sprout a new comment. One recent addition occurred in the Covenant Marriage is Stupid comment thread, in which a new poster comments about the desirability of covenant marriages and how, among other things, "wives must submit to their husbands" and "You, as the husband are head of the household and are responsible to God for your actions and your families." My response to this was as follows:
Leaving aside the fact that I am agnostic (so being responsible to God is not something I worry about) and that marriage in this country is a civil ceremony and that my wife has the same rights in marriage that I do, and because of all of the above the religious aspect of marriage is non-applicable to us in any way — even if my wife were amenable to submitting to my role as head of the household, which she is not, why would I want that? My wife is smarter, more competent and more organized than I; if we had to pick one of us to be head of the household, it should be she.
And in fact, while as a theoretical matter we both share equally in the "head of household" duties — I can’t think of major family decision that was not jointly signed off on by the both of us, and both of us can exercise a veto on any major commitment or expenditure, and also on the matter of child-rearing — as a practical matter, Krissy is indisputably the head of the household on a day-to-day basis. Evidence:
* Krissy tends to be far more proactive on household issues than I am by a rather significant margin, so leadership devolves to her simply as a matter of default, and to my immense relief she doesn’t seem to mind (usually). The vast majority of the choices she makes in running our household are so common-sense smart that I would be a moron not to concur.
* While there’s no doubt that the fact that I am the stay-at-home parent gives me a rather high level of minute-to-minute involvement in the child-rearing of our daughter, it’s pretty clear to me that Athena considers Krissy to be the Alpha Parent, which she will occasionally express by saying to me "you’re the boss of me, but mommy’s the boss of you." When Krissy and I note that neither of us is the boss of the other, she gives us a look that says "yes, that’s what you say," and then sort of changes the subject.
* So competent and efficient is Krissy with our finances that when checks come in, I hardly bother to look at them; I just sign them over and let her handle it. When I want to buy something over a certain pre-established amount, I ask Krissy if I can. If she says yes, then I get it, if she says no, then I don’t. It’s really just that simple. To be fair, when Krissy wants to buy something over our pre-established amount, she asks me about it, too. But as my response tends to be "well, as long as you think we can afford it," we’re once again relying on her stewardship of our finances.
In fact, Krissy’s assumption of household responsibility — and my ceding of said responsibilities to her — is so practically complete that one could make the not entirely facetious argument that I am the definition of the "Surrendered Husband," per the odious concept of 2001, the "Surrendered Wife," in which women are supposed to let their man handle all the hard stuff in the relationship, like finances and thinking, in order to be better ambulatory pleasure receptacles or some such. Sadly, in our own relationship, I am not merely allowed to lounge about in a loincloth, oiled and shaved, tasked with nothing but the unending pleasure of my mistress Kristine — I do actually have to make some money in there, and also watch the kid, take out the trash, kill spiders, and occasionally make Krissy laugh. But someone observing our relationship from the outside would find it hard to miss the extent to which I defer to my wife in many things, and rely on her in many others.
And why do I do this? Because, as I note, she is smarter, more competent and more organized than I am. This is not to say I am not smart, because I am, nor not competent, because I am (I make no claims regarding organization). I don’t doubt I can handle things, and from time to time Krissy will take a step back on a household issue and I’ll take the lead. However, experience tells me over and over that Krissy is the go-to person in our relationship to make certain things happen, and in a marriage as in other circumstances, one would be foolish not to let the most competent person for a task handle the task. While I am amusingly belittling myself in this entry, I will note that in our relationship and in our life there are several areas where I take the lead, because I am driven and competent in those areas and it makes sense for me to do so. Between the two of us, we make a damn fine team.
As a practical matter, my asserting that I am head of the household (and the marriage) would be foolish, particularly if the rationale behind it was a presumed God’s presumed preference for testicles over ovaries. As a theoretical matter, I am almost violently opposed to it, because implicit in the assertion is the idea that my wife is somehow lesser than me, which I find insulting, not only to my wife, but to me. Why on God’s green earth would I want to cleave to a lesser being than myself? What possible advantage could that confer? I am not so venal that I cannot accept a marriage of equals — indeed that was what I had always sought and was fortunate to achieve, and what I work hard to maintain, every day. Even if I could assert a "leadership" role in this marriage I would not; I did not marry to rule over a family kingdom. That my wife is my equal (at least!) is one of the primary benefits of my marriage. I can’t possibly imagine why I would want it any other way.
And as for passing along the "the husband is the head of household" meme to my daughter, well. Here we pause for a long and hearty laugh. I’ve already given Athena permission to kneecap the first jackass who tries to pass that one off to her. And you don’t want to know what Krissy’s given her permission to do.