I guess you could say we’re complementary egalitarians.

Despite the fact that it has been a little over eight months since our wedding (HOW DID IT GO SO FAST???) I still look at our photos on a daily regular basis. Judge as you will. I go through cycles of which one is my favorite (I know, now I’m getting really narcissistic) and currently it is this one:


But if I had to pick one picture that actually spoke the most clearly of our marriage, and not just our wedding, it would be this one:


I suppose that technically, we have what would be called a Very Traditional Marriage in terms of gender roles: I do all the laundry, all the cooking, all the grocery shopping and meal planning, and 95 % of the house cleaning. I delight in puttering around our home and I am crazy proud of having good dinners ready when James gets home in the evening. I pack his lunch every day, alongside my own.

But every evening, regardless of how tired he is, how busy his own day was, or how much work he still has to do, James does the dishes. And with that simple daily act, I am reminded that what I do for him and our home matters, is valued, and that we are partners, rather than me just being his housekeeper.

We talk a lot about gender roles in marriage, especially within the Christian circles. We debate “complementarian” vs “egalitarian” views, thought of by opponents “abusive male headship” vs. “feminist control freaks.”  The homemakers attack the working moms, the working moms judge the homemakers, and the men can’t seem to do anything right as they are either chauvinistic or weak. We hear sermons about woman submitting and men loving and we get all upset about what this means in our everyday lives, so we either wave it around as a banner to justify whatever we want to do, or we reject it as outdated and irrelevant.

Frankly, I think if everyone stopped stressing about how to label their marriage, and just lived it, maybe the state of marriage in our nation – especially among Christians – would be a lot better.

Because James and I have an egalitarian marriage, in the sense that we are equals. I am a person, he is a person, and we are both equally invested in our marriage, and we both work hard to make it work. We are both equally valued by each other, by God, and hopefullysomeday by our children. My opinion matters no more and no less than his.

But we also have a complementarian marriage because we complement each other in marriage. James makes most of the money, which lets me be in school. Our tasks are different because I am better at cooking, cleaning, housekeeping, and I like it more. Is that because I am a woman and it was decided by society that I have these skills? Maybe, but I don’t really care.  James delights in providing, so he does most of that. And I defer to him for big financial stuff, since he has a better grasp of our long-term finances. Thus, I guess you could say he is the leader.

I’m getting at is that I don’t think marriage should be about naming roles for each other. By getting married, didn’t we kind of promise to put the other person first, to love and serve them? And doesn’t that apply to both parties? It’s not like men have a monopoly on the love task while women do all the serving.  For me, this means that when I am home all day, it makes sense for me to do some housework and make some food. To refuse that because I wanted to prove a point about us being equal would be selfish, just like James refusing to let me use money just because he is the one who makes more would be selfish.

Yes, maybe I am under-qualified to write this, given my pretty short window of experience. However, I feel like must of the discussion about this topic has little to do with marriage and a lot to do with selfishness. Selfishness is always something that we should seek to limit, be it in a marriage or elsewhere. This means that the same things that make someone a good spouse makes them a good person, a good employee, a good friend. We spend so much energy discussing gender roles in marriage, that we kind of marginalize unmarried people. Service, selflessness, keeping a home, managing finances, helping out people around you – aren’t those really just qualities of good people?  And I’m not talking about “grooming qualities during singleness so that they can help you out in marriage.” If that isn’t demeaning, then I don’t know what is. I’m talking about grooming qualities during life that make you better in every relationship imaginable.


So I guess you could say that we’re complementary egalitarians. As most good marriages probably end up being.

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13 Responses to I guess you could say we’re complementary egalitarians.

  1. Ashley Beitz says:

    Hannah, that was lovely!

  2. abby hummel says:

    Yes, yes, yes. x10,000,000. I could write a book in response. I should probably just get brave enough to blog about it.

  3. Rebekah says:

    I think this is great! If I had to, I’d label myself a complementarian, but ugh, I do hate sticking myself in categories. They all end up leaving out something important. I’d prefer to just say that I am a woman happily married to a good man, and we enjoy being different in all the ways God made us to be… which are many… and we also appreciate all of the ways we are the same… which are also many. As you said, “I am a person, he is a person, and we are both equally invested in our marriage, and we both work hard to make it work.” Sounds pretty egalitarian to me.

    Dumb labels.

  4. bkjergaard says:

    Three cheers for not marginalizing the single people! And I am so sick of hearing the advice that I ought to focus on becoming the kind of person I would want to marry, or some such nonsense. And I am glad for the both of you that James is not the one doing all the cooking!

  5. Jaimi Swenson says:

    I second Bethany’s comment — [BOTH sentences, for that matter ;)]. And I must agree about your choice of current-favorite-wedding-photo — a great shot of you and James . . . and that practically-perfect-in-every-way bustle. SO fantastic. 🙂

  6. Heidi says:

    Well spoken (er, written) Hannah.

  7. E. Henry says:

    You need a “love” option instead of having just “like” for this post. 😉 *LOVE* I think it is really neat how a lot of the musings you have written, especially on marriage lately, are exactly what my husband and I have or are experiencing. There is something so perfectly wonderful and encouraging to know that there is another young, newly married couple that has similar experiences. I don’t know, I guess it is just nice to have community – even if it is through a blog. 😀 I love your photos and posts. Keep it up! We should hang out sometime this summer!

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