destroying double standards

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Last week I re-posted in honor of my anniversary,”Tips for a long-lasting marriage or friendship“. The first tip I listed was partnership.

Then this morning I was reading the chapter, “Making Your Partner a Real Partner” from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg… so I have partnership on the brain today!


Sandberg writes mainly advocating for women in leadership, but this chapter
advocates very much for men.

One thing that has concerned me through the years has been the limited role of men in home and family. As a woman blessed to have a spouse who has been a “real partner” for our 28 years of marriage, I find it easy to advocate for real partnership in marriage, home, and work.

Sandberg mentions various barriers to real partnership at home that I have seen and experienced myself. She also suggests ways to overcome the barriers. I wonder if you can relate to any of these?

1. Empowerment

Just as woman struggle with lack of empowerment in the business world, men often face a lack of empowerment at home.Too many times I have heard women criticize their husbands’ for how they feed, dress, or interact with their children. In my opinion, these women not only sound disrespectful and insulting, but also prideful, and they are doing their marriage partnership a great disservice (and increasing their own work load). Sandberg correctly states, “Anyone who wants her mate to be a true partner must treat him as an equal–and equally capable–partner.“¹ it is fine to choose task assignments according to preference or skill, but assuming and communicating that a man cannot do (or learn to do) a good job at home is demeaning and de-motivating. On the other hand, empowering will help to take down the barriers between real partners.

2. Encouragement

Derogatory jokes, lack of role models, and social stereotypes all make it more difficult for men to openly and actively participate as full partners at home. I have known a few men who were the primary care-givers for their children. I have known more men who shared equally home and family responsibilities (my husband included).Others teased, questioned, and sometimes isolated these men because of their desire and commitment to actively engage as true partners, rather than praised and honored for their choices.Thankfully, these men did not have the (oft-ascribed) fragile male egos I am frequently warned about, and they refused to be discouraged or dissuaded by stereotypical expectations. Men and women both can do a better job at encouraging men when they act as true partners.

3. Employment policies

Most companies do not offer men the same paternal benefits that are available to women. According to Sandberg, “Only two states offer paid family leave that fathers can use”². Men often pay an even bigger penalty than women via social pressure, low performance ratings,and fewer advancement opportunities if they take time off to prioritize family needs. I believe we need to improve the organizational/governmental policies and laws to support true partnership.

Sandberg claims that true marriage partnership results in greater satisfaction, less divorce, and more sex³, and greater father involvement produces “higher levels of psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities”⁴ and “higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates”⁴ for the children. These benefits motivate me to work to eliminate the double standards that inhibit true partnership.

Are there ways you can improve true partnership in your marriage?

If you are dating, are you establishing true partnership patterns today for future marriage? 

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**For more chapter summaries from Lean In, read here and here.

¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, pg. 109, para. 2. 
² Ibid, pg. 113, para. 2.
³ Ibid, pg. 118, para. 1. 
⁴ Ibid, pg. 113, para. 1.

tips for long-lasting friendship and marriage

A few weeks ago I celebrated 27 years of – almost entirely 🙂 – blissful marriage to my best friend.  That same week some of my children struggled through heart-breaking roommate conflicts with long-term friends.

Making a friendship, marriage, or other relationship last requires certain fundamental basics… and lots of hard work. These are a few of the aspects I appreciate in a friendship.

partnership

In a healthy (adult) relationship the two people are partners. There is mutual respect, shared responsibilities, and lots of together experiences. In a sense, we need each other. My husband and I are advocates for each other. We encourage each other and help each other be the best we can in all life areas. I support his dreams, and he supports mine. I point out errors; he does the same for me… so that we can grow. We speak well of each other and do whatever we can to strengthen each other. Partners are stronger together.

believe the best

Every relationship goes through mis-understandings, false impressions, erroneous assumptions. When I believe the best, I don’t guess at motives or intentions, but instead look to communicate honestly, try to understand, and attempt to clarify the situation. In the past, I have sometimes feared looking foolish or naive by trusting someone, but I would rather believe the best in people until they prove unworthy. More often, I am the one who doesn’t have the full picture.

shared interests

Great friendships are often welded strong through lots of important time together… Intellects read and discuss together. Athletes play together. Musicians jam together. Others eat, craft, camp, travel, pray, create, or go to movies together! For my husband and me, our faith is the most important shared interest we have as a couple, and I am really grateful for all the adventures we have enjoyed together. Shared interests are a glue.

forgiveness

I make mistakes all the time. I say the wrong words, do the wrong things, have really lousy attitudes… every day. I need to apologize and receive forgiveness… all the time. I have hurt my husband. He has hurt me. If we weren’t willing and able to forgive, we would not still be together. Forgiveness is easier when we recognize our own imperfections and have realistic expectations of the other. Forgiveness happens when we value being together more than we value getting even.

communication

Healthy relationships require healthy communication skills. Through the years I have had to learn to control my “explosive” discussion style while my husband has learned to talk more freely and not “stuff” his feelings and opinions. One of us sometimes needs a bit of time before beginning a difficult conversation, but an “I’m not talking to you” escape is not an option. We have also sought help from others when conflicts were really bad. Honest, vulnerable, respectful communication can resolve a lot of problems.

What about you? What aspects of a friendship/marriage are most important to you?

cleaning house, cooking meals and a greater cause

I came to know Christ personally in college and like many young single ladies, I started hearing immediately how to catch the man of my dreams be the submissive, supportive, spiritually attractive woman who would cause some dreamy man to pursue me. For those of you who know me, that was no easy task!

If you had asked me years ago about my marriage, I would have obligingly regurgitated many of the cliché Christian lingo regarding men’s and women’s roles that I had read in books and learned in seminars… woman is the “helpmeet” while man “works” and makes the decisions; woman’s job is to keep a clean home, fix nutritious meals, keep the kids under control, and be a great lover so the man is always content. If the woman is more gifted in an area than the man, she should limit herself and focus on making him look good. Somehow what the man does is always slightly more important because he is the “head”. (Disclaimer: I’m not sure that is always exactly what was actually said, but it is what I heard.)

I have been married now for almost 30 years – most of them quite happily – to my dream man (dreams can vary depending on the evening snack!). We have four amazing children. I was talking with one of them when he was home for Christmas, and we somehow arrived to the topic of marriage. As we talked, I realized my husband and I never really lived out that marriage cliché.

Instead, in our marriage, we were partners, co-workers and friends – both with equal value as God’s image bearers and part of His body. We made decisions together. We both cleaned house if needed – or even hired someone (a perk of being an international missionary) so that I could invest more time in homeschooling our children. I’ve cooked; we’ve had help cooking, and my husband does most of the cooking these days. We were both very involved with our children. We mutually submitted to each other’s needs. The truth is… we both saw home and family as a priority and a joy, but there were no specific rules about who should do what, and it often changed depending on the need.

We were also both involved in ministry. I realize now that was in perfect alignment with God’s Word… and the correct and complete understanding of that word “helpmeet”. The word translated “helpmeet” in Genesis 2:18 comes from the Hebrew words ezer kenegdoezer means help, and the word kenegdo implies a counterpart. The word is found in a military context and is used 19 additional times in the Old Testament – three times for country allies and sixteen times for God Himself when Israel needed help in battle. Since the same word that we use for women is used for God, I believe it implies incredible value and strength. God meant for women to be full-partner, strong warriors with men in the spiritual battles we fight against evil in this world.

Many of the decisions my husband and I made through the years were to enable me to participate as a full partner in the battle for God’s kingdom. I have hobbies, but much more importantly, I have a calling from God. Different life stages mean different daily tasks, but what I choose to do is important. Rather than limit my gifting, it is crucial for me to continually grow and develop, so that I can serve the Lord better at home and in ministry.

If you are a woman reading this blog, I encourage you to further study your calling as a co-warrior in God’s kingdom battle. I learned a lot from Carolyn Custis James’ book Half the Church. Your partnership strengthens God’s army. No matter your marital status, your stage of life, or your lifestyle… you have been called to be all you can be for Him! Never see yourself as less important. We all have daily tasks to do, but we should do them within the context of our primary calling. Never put limits on what you can do for Him.

If you are a man reading this, please consider being an active advocate for the women in your life. Encourage them in their worth and development, and facilitate in any way possible their full involvement in God’s Kingdom purposes.

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**I dedicate this blog to my incredible husband, Steve: my greatest fan, my most enthusiastic encourager, and my strongest advocate. You should follow him on twitter at @stickymex and read his blog: LeaderImpact or EquipoVida

I also want to thank my professor, Dr. Ray Wheeler, (Azusa Pacific – M.A. Global Leadership) for believing in me and helping me to believe more in myself.