I want to share with you an excerpt from my new book The Right One: How to Successfully Date and Marry the Right Person. I also encourage you to forward this Marriage Builder to your single friends or family members and consider getting them a copy of the book. It is full of practical answers to the most critical questions people face regarding their future. Visit therightonebook.com for more details.
Clearly-defined roles and expectations are critical to keeping peace in a relationship. They not only keep the home running, they alleviate confusion and resentment between married couples.
Roles serve two purposes in marriage.
First, they serve to fulfill each partner's basic needs. Though it's true that no two people are alike, and we all have our own unique traits and personalities, men and women are hard wired with distinctly different needs within a marriage. And though these needs differ in importance from person to person, I've found them to be universal to every relationship between men and women.
The four primary needs of women are: security, open and honest communication, non-sexual touch and affection, and leadership.
And the four primary needs of men are: honor, friendship, sex, and domestic support.
I have counseled married couples for over thirty years, and I have yet to see a relationship where this didn't hold true. Men and women are designed by God with very different physical and emotional needs, and the roles we perform in marriage must serve to fulfill these differing needs.
Second, clearly defined roles help fulfill the basic functions of marriage. In real terms, they make sure that the daily tasks of running a home get covered. Falling in love is often filled with unicorns and rainbows, but being married means someone has to mow the lawn and do the laundry.
Roles are like the pistons of the marital engine. In order for the relationship to run smoothly, all the pistons have to fire in sync.
And the functional roles you play are adaptable to your own specific gifts and personalities. In a traditional marriage, the husband often works outside the home while the wife takes care of the children, then they each have specific chores in order to keep the house running smoothly. Maybe the husband will do the lawn work and keep the garage clean, while the wife takes care of the housework.
Feminists may balk at this stereotype, but that's how men and women have traditionally defined their roles—at least in past generations. But these are not hard and fast rules, and today things are very different. I know couples who have completely reversed roles in their relationship and it works well for them.
In some homes, the wife may decide to work outside the home and the husband might stay home and take care of the children. Maybe the wife is better at yard work, and the husband enjoys vacuuming. It doesn't matter what you do, or how your roles are defined, only that you take time to clearly define them. Otherwise you may find yourself arguing over menial tasks, like who is supposed to take out the garbage, how the plants will get watered, and who keeps the house stocked with groceries.
Often during pre-marital counseling, I will ask these types of specific questions and the couples learn for the first time that they have completely differing expectations regarding their roles in the home. They will discuss it and come to a workable compromise. Five minutes of discussion has likely saved them from five years of arguing, simply because they took the time to talk it through and come up with a workable solution.
Most of us come into marriage with very specific ideas about who should do what within the marriage. And these ideas were usually formed by our own experiences in childhood. Talk about how you imagine that things will be in your home, and how your potential mate feels about these things. See how similar—or different—your ideas might be.
Marriage is designed to work as an honoring partnership, without competition or dominance. In marriage, men and women are completely equal, but still different by God's design, and we each have specific biblical roles to fulfill.