At The Atlantic, Connor Friedersdorf asks whether his marriage is really that different than those of his grandparents. After all, he points out, for all our talk about how marriage is changing, the idea of marrying for love and friendship is not exactly new.
This got me to thinking: exactly how is my marriage different than those of MY grandparents?
The answer: in pretty much every way possible. Thank God.
My maternal grandmother had a college degree and worked as a teacher after graduation. But after getting married, my grandfather (by all accounts a sweet and loving guy) told her to stop working, because he wanted to “take care of her.” To keep herself busy, she helped out at his upholstery company, looking at fabric samples and planning dinner parties for employees.
When my grandfather died, suddenly, when my mom was 12, my grandmother had no idea what to do. Ignorant of how the company worked, she managed to run it into the ground within a few years. She was left broke, supported by her children for the rest of her life.
My paternal grandparents bickered their way through nearly 70 years of a marriage with extremely traditional gender roles before my grandmother died two years ago. My grandfather, God love him, never so much as got up to get himself a glass of water in his married life. That was my grandmother’s job. She, in turn, raised the kids and fussed over the food. She was so invested in feeding others she rarely sat down at the dinner table herself. Instead, she buzzed nervously in the doorway, asking again and again if everything was OK, darting back to the kitchen for more ketchup, more bagels, more milk.
So how is my marriage different? I wouldn’t even know where to start.
What about you? What similarities and differences do you see between your own marriage/partnership and that of your grandparents, especially when it comes to work and domestic roles?