“It took me years to figure this out, but people who are incredibly talented in one respect have to pay for it in another. There’s always a price. There’s only so much space in our brains and so if we’re incredibly good at one thing, something else must suffer.”
“So how did you pay?” It was the first thought that entered my head. By a long shot, he’s the most intelligent, most emotionally adept person I’ve ever met.
“Me? I was an odd child, Veena– a really odd child. Like you were talking about Oliver’s friend: one of the sharpest, smartest people you know. He certainly had to pay for it by losing out on some measure of social skill.”
I recounted this exchange to my best friend.
“Oh yeah. I hate hearing stories about my dad’s childhood. An odd child is a hard-to-love child. My mom just wishes she could have known him longer so she could have loved him longer. I think that’s why partnership and marriage are so important. Our brains can only hold so much and so our partners bring to the relationship all of the wonderful qualities that we can’t.”
What a stunningly honest and inspiring description of the purpose of marriage. We join in union to complement each other’s unique strengths and shortcomings, to form a complete whole and grow with each other and to each other.
On the flip side, a surefire way to shoot a relationship in the foot is to insist on equality and fairness. If we demand that our partners be more like us we lose out on the entire purpose of the partnership and the beautiful new dimensions that it could add to our lives.
Allow me to illustrate. Before leaving for California for a week, I meticulously stocked our freezer full of extra meals for Oliver. It’s part of our division of labor. I cook. Then I’d talk to him on the phone while I was gone and our conversation would go something like this:
“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”
“Okay. I had yogurt for dinner tonight.”
“Oh dear. You know there’s leftovers in the fridge? And I made a bunch of freezer meals for you?”
“I know. But that would have required me microwaving something.”
“Yesterday, I ate a can of beans.”
“Mhmm. Was it good?”
“Yeah. But the day before that I ate one of the burritos you made!”
“Wow! You turned on the oven? Good for you.”
“I know. I was very proud of myself.”
It’s worth noting here for those that don’t know us very well that there was absolutely no sarcasm in this conversation.
In our marriage, I cook. So Oliver is not particularly inspired by kitchen appliances. So what? He is not the one that cooks. He is, on the other hand, the one that works 12 hour days in a high stress job in the finance industry. I’m equally uninspired when it comes to interest rate derivatives.
This is just one obvious physical example about the division of labor, but it applies to all aspects of a relationship. Our roles are equally uneven in emotional health, in providing for the family, in keeping the home, you name it. We’re different people. When two people are on the same team, there’s no room for keeping score. You complement each other.