In five years of what I consider a happy marriage, I’ve learned one major thing: wearing pants isn’t always a good thing.
When we talk about marriage, there’s often this negative connotation. We associate marriage with giving up one’s identity, with letting go of our individuality, and even with legal ownership. Especially as women, we assume marriage and equality cannot co-exist.
We cling to the pants in our relationship in a vicious power struggle, feeling like we have to grasp the metaphorical power in our relationship to find happiness. We even joke about who is wearing the pants, associating an upper hand in a marriage with strength and courage.
However, in my own marriage, my husband and I have let the pants fall to the floor. In our home, the pants sit abandoned with no one clutching at them.
And guess what? We’re happier for it.
Equality Can Exist in a Marriage
Our main goal in dropping the pants is finding true equality in our marriage. I know skeptics say it isn’t possible, that the institution of marriage is demeaning to an individual and that there will always be someone with more power.
I agree we’re not perfect. No couple is. But we have made it our main focus to have equal voices in our relationship and in our household. Unlike past generations, there is no head of the household. We do not determine who is in charge of the house by things like salary, strength, gender, or anything else. We both take hold of the reins of our home, of our marriage, and of our life together.
What does this equality look like?
It means that we maintain autonomy when it comes to our basic decisions. We each have our own bank accounts, which we both have access to as well as a joint account. We don’t approve every single purchase we make with each other. We trust each other to keep the partnership and the common good in mind. We each have the freedom to make choices and to pursue what makes us individually happy.
However, we also respect each other and our partnership enough to communicate about bigger decisions, wants, or needs.From my husband getting a new tattoo to me considering a large investment in my writing, we talk about everything that could impact us as a unit. We value each other’s opinion and intelligence. We value each other’s career goals and passions equally and try to make choices in our marriage that bring out the best results for both of us.
Equality means we both matter. We both trust each other’s decision making. We value each other’s opinions. No one’s voice trumps the other’s. Neither of us has a “final say” vote or veto power.
This does sometimes lead to more frequent debate. We argue, and we argue often. There is not a “what I say goes” mentality or a final decision maker. Sometimes our passionately opposing views make it a struggle to find common ground. However, because we are equals in our marriage and in our lives, this communication helps us feel valued and find a way to move forward hand-in-hand.
Our partnership has equated to relationship in which both voices matter, which has enhanced our sense of worth as individuals while fortifying our connection.
Marriage Always Involves Sacrifice
When two lives are joined together, there will always be some sacrifice. Even though we aim for equality, there is always a give and take process underneath our best intentions. Sometimes I have to give a little. Sometimes he has to give a little. We can’t both get what we want all the time. I realize that complete, true equality all of the time isn’t realistic.
Equality in a marriage does not equate to a marriage free of sacrifice. I know that.
Equality in a marriage, however, does mean that we are a unit, a team, and a partnership. It means that we both realize we have to sacrifice. It means that we both matter. It means that we make decisions for ourselves as a cohesive unit. We respect each other enough to make choices together.
Sometimes it seems like society can’t fathom a partnership where someone isn’t grasping for the power. In previous decades and even today in some relationships, men were automatically the head of household. Men had the final say because of their gender.
In recent years, it seems like it has, to some extent, gone the other way where women feel to be strong, they have to be in charge in the marriage. Wearing the pants is seen as an accolade. We seem to admire someone who can grasp the power even in a relationship that is supposed to be a partnership.
According to so many, pants are power, and power is strength.
I don’t believe that. I believe strength comes from the power to find equality in a marriage to the greatest extent possible, to make each voice count, and to communicate as a team. I believe a truly strong marriage involves two voices with equal say.
Is this sometimes more difficult than one person making all the final decisions? Absolutely. We are not always rowing the boat in the same direction, and we don’t always find it easy to stay on the same page. However, at the end of the day, I truly believe we are happier in our marriage because our desire for equal voices has enhanced our communication, our self-worth, and our union.
In the best marriages, no one wears the pants. Instead, when you say “I do,” leave the pants on the alter—metaphorically, for your guests’ sake— and walk into the future hand-in-hand, determined to avoid the power struggle we seem to think marriage has to be.