These Women in Tanzania Are the Change We Need in the World


Boy, bye

by Stephanie Kaloi, Content Manager

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On my bad days, I like to pass around this video and talk about how we all probably need to be more like the female praying mantis. When it comes down to it… just how useful are men, anyway? “Thanks for the kid(s), dude. See ya!” I’m kidding, mostly, but whenever I stop and think about my life and the lives of my friends, it seems like women are actually running the show in even the most egalitarian households. My male partner is incredible, and yours probably is too (if male partners are your thing)… but are they vital? (Rest assured, APW: I do love my husband lots.)

It seems like a lot of Americans tend to think (to put it bluntly) that the way life is lived in America is the best. No exceptions, no misconstruing it, just a blatant “what we’re doing here is the best for everyone.” Of course, this ignores the fact that life is lived many different ways in America (which is kind of what makes it amazing, if you ask me). Also, it assumes that societies we consider “less developed” (like, say, the entire population of the continent of Africa) are living their lives in a way that we could never consider, and that women are suffering for it. So today, I invite you to step back and take a look at a tradition I just learned about—and see if we all can learn a thing or two.

In Nyamongo, a village in northern Tanzania, the straight women within the community have taken a novel approach to life partners: they’re marrying each other. In other words: boy, bye.

As members of the Kurya tribe, a cattle-herding community with a population of roughly 700,000 spread across northern Tanzania, Juma and her wife, Mugosi, 49, are married under a local tradition called nyumba ntobhu (“house of women”). The practice allows women to marry each other to preserve their livelihoods in the absence of husbands. Among the tribe—one of more than 120 in the country of 55 million people—female couples make up 10 to 15 percent of households, according to Kurya elders. The unions involve women living, cooking, working, and raising children together, even sharing a bed, but they don’t have sex.

The best part? This type of relationship isn’t anything new. No one remembers how it began, but straight Kurya women have been marrying one another for basically… forever. According to Kurya law, only men can inherit property—unless a woman is widowed or her husband leaves her (and she doesn’t have sons, naturally). Then she can take a younger wife, who can, in turn, take on a male lover and give birth to heirs for her wife. Y’all:

There is no shortage of men keen to sleep with women in all-female marriages, so Juma is in a position to be picky. “They think it’s easy sex,” Juma says. “But I am choosing carefully because I want a man who is kind and reliable.” She hopes to find a lover who is willing to be the biological father of future children. “Mugosi and I would like at least three more children to expand our family,” she says. “In our culture, the more children you have, the richer you are.” Nyumba ntobhu marriages are not recognized in Tanzanian law, only in tribal law, so any man who fathers the children must agree to honor tradition and give up all paternal rights. “He has to respect our household and not get jealous,” Juma says.

The Kurya are quick to point out that this relationship is different from same-sex relationships and marriages in the Western world, but that’s mostly because homosexuality is illegal. As such, a lot of Kurya don’t know that LGBTQ relationships happen, and the idea of two women having sex is not a consideration. Instead, according to the original article on Marie Claire, these marriages give the women and children the types of lives they want to lead, complete with stable households, and lower the risk of female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, and child marriage. Plus, everyone is more than welcome to take a male lover when moved to do so… so it’s kind of the best win-win.

These pairings offer other benefits: Abigail Haworth (author of the original piece) writes about Juma and Mugosi, two women who opted to marry one another after a series of useless men abandoned and/or abused them. Juma escaped marriage to a fifty-year-old man (she was thirteen at the time) and took her young son with her—and then had two more children by boyfriends who didn’t stick around. Mugosi’s husband left her because she was infertile. Mugosi and her husband never actually divorced, and when he died she inherited his property. Since she didn’t have kids, Juma’s sons are now Mugosi’s heirs. Boom, boom. Problem solved nicely, ladies.

“We divide everything equally,” Mugosi says. “We both have peaceful natures, and so far we haven’t had any arguments.” While she is no longer interested in romantic relationships with men, she’s happy for Juma to have an independent love life. “Anastasia is still young, so it’s natural for her to want a man to keep her company at night,” Mugosi says. “I won’t interfere with her choice of boyfriends. That is up to her.”

In my life, I don’t have to contend with female genital mutilation, an abusive husband, or needing an heir (I mean, my son can totally have all my books… and that’s about all I’ve got), but I love this solution to a world ruled by male-created rules and outdated modes of thought that need to be challenged.

Plus? Women finding ways to circumvent the patriarchy and burn that mother down? YAAAAAAAAAS.

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her husband, their seven year old metalhead son, and a crew of beasts. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and smiley faces.

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  • Rebekah

    My best friend and I often joke about marrying each other but keeping our husbands for husband-y stuff. This…this sounds ideal.

  • Constance

    This is very informative, interesting, and in some way I can relate to it because my best friend and I also fantasize about doing this (if only same sex unions were an option in our country). But I have to say I am pretty uncomfortable with the first paragraph. I mean – “but are they vital?”? Am I missing some subtle irony?

    • stephanie

      HA just this morning I was like “Should I remove this paragraph? I’m not sure it translates as humor.” Clearly… it does not?

      • LJ

        “I’d rethink treating [your husband] that way.”

        >< hahahahhahahh hopefully people learned to take a chill pill. You're fine IMO, and I'm someone who is VERY attentive to misandry masquerading as feminism (because they make our cause seem like propaganda and garbage and not taken seriously)….

        • stephanie

          Right, same! I thought about that, too. <3

      • Constance

        There might be something linguistic or cultural eluding me, as I’m not a native English speaker and have never even lived in an English speaking country. But I found myself thinking: if that’s humorous, it sort of sheds a humorous light on the usage reported, and I don’t think that’s the purpose or the case. So it doesn’t quite fit with the tone of the rest of the article for me, so I thought: that’s not irony. Does it make sense?

  • AtHomeInWA

    I know this is supposed to be inspirational, but I find it deeply depressing. You said it all right here:

    “whenever I stop and think about my life and the lives of my friends, it seems like women are actually running the show in even the most egalitarian households”

    It is my job to make sure we have an egalitarian household. It is my job to not be a nag. It is my job to educate my partner on why him remembering to take out the garbage is good for our relationship and apparently it is my job to thank him and appreciate that he remembered even though he LIVES THERE TOO.

    I’m not even angry. I’m sad.

    • LJ

      Who cares who does all the chores? So long as the women carry the emotional labour of it all, it’s not egalitarian.

      Totally agree.

      • AtHomeInWA

        I don’t think I’d mind so much if I didn’t ALREADY HAVE A JOB!!!

    • Guest

      Don’t you love how it’s also your job to come up with tools and reminders to help him? Because in order to not be a nag you have to help him stop being a fuck up and make it a pleasant experience.

      Also if anyone chimes in with #notallmen or “my husband is perfect”, I am going to virtually punch them in the face. That’s where I am at this week.

      • AtHomeInWA

        And how when you say “our current chore arrangement isn’t working, maybe we should try a chore chart” he says “no, that won’t work.”

        *crickets*

        THEN YOU SUGGEST SOMETHING!!!!

      • NolaJael

        We are ten days out from the wedding and had a rather tense conversation about errand scheduling that ended by me saying, “I will not argue over something that we can just look up on the spreadsheet.” (Seriously, just look it up! Don’t ask me!) But later that day I overheard him talking on the phone to his stepdad and he enthusiastically said, “No, we’ve got that covered. She has a list for everything!” At least he noticed?

      • anon

        Me: Can you vacuum tomorrow (while I’m at work and you are not)?
        Him: I’ll…try…

        *I’m not doing it, dammit!*

    • sofar

      Yeah, the biggest fights we have are about how it’s unfair that I should have to carry around a load of so many little chores, duties, obligations, etc. And how he always checkmates me by forgetting to do something, thus forcing me to do it. Like finding a birthday present for his mom, for example. Or making sure a house guest HE invited has clean linens. Or finding a wedding present for HIS college friend. Or donating to HIS cousin’s charity cancer walk. Or writing thank-you notes. Or keeping the apartment stocked with groceries. Or managing our social obligations.

      The worst part is, society expects women to do all those things. So if they don’t get done, I’m the one who looks bad, not him.

      I joke (but secretly rage) about the fact that, when I had female roomies, I’d often come home to find the bathroom cleaned, a new pack of TP in the bathroom, a pot of coffee brewing, the mail sorted, or the livingroom floor vacuumed. And then I’d repay that by cleaning out the fridge, making a big lasagna to share, or buying new Glade plug-in room fresheners. My husband tries to be thoughtful (I’ll often come home to chocolates or new jewelry, for example), but I feel like a lot of men don’t do that kind of everyday maintenance thoughtfulness.

      • Amy March

        He isn’t forcing you to do it! I really wish people would stop. If he doesn’t get his mom a birthday present, she doesn’t get one, and if she doesn’t like it “well you raised him!” What actually goes wrong in your life if his cousin doesn’t get a charity cancer walk donation, or his college friend doesn’t get a wedding gift?

        I agree with you that women are the one blamed, but a lot of that blame doesn’t actually matter in any real way, and if you weigh the cost of “displeased cousin” against the cost of “me doing all the work and not having an egalitarian marriage because of it”, does it really come out in favor of you doing it all?

        • laddibugg

          I only do things that truly affect or reflect on me. I’ll make sure the sheets are clean but it’s your job to pull out those clean sheets for your overnight guest. I don’t buy gifts for his mom, rsvp to his things (unless I actually want to go) or anything that is strictly for him. When we were doing thank you notes for our shower, I sent ones to my friends, and our joint friends, and gave him the ones to do for his friends. I don’t know or care if they got sent.

          • idkmybffjill

            Ooooof – how did you divorce yourself from that feeling? I have a nagging feeling in my stomach when I know someone hasn’t been thanked for something they’ve given us. How did you get to a mental place where you don’t care?

          • laddibugg

            Out of sight out of mind lol.
            I made sure anyone we spent time with together, even if they were really his friends was thanked. Or if they reached out to me directly in some way. But if I had never met the person before or talked to them? I don’t know—I guess I just am kind of cold like that. I *do* feel a little bad, just not enough to do his work for him.

          • idkmybffjill

            Ahh I see. I guess we just don’t have any of those folks – *all* of our people who need to be thanked are people we see regularly together.

            Although to be fair, he has really stepped up his game lately. So I sort of feel bad for venting here when the situation is def improving.

          • sofar

            See … I’d be overcome with guilt if his aunt I’d never met before never got a thank-you note.

            So, I’ll write and send it. But next time my husband wants me to come with him to some boring family event that involves church, I’m like, “I wrote auntie what’s-her-name a thank-you note, so you’re going ALONE. Have fun.”

          • LittleOwl

            I know that feeling. It helps me to remember that my husband is an adult – if he doesn’t send a thank you note to his friend, then that’s between them. I remind myself that it would be disrespectful to interfere!

            I also try to remember that all relationships have different foundations- if he’s been friends with them for years, then it’s likely your spouse has NEVER sent a thank you! And maybe that’s just not important or relevant to their friendship, although it might be important to your friendships.

            My exceptions are:
            1) doing things simply because I want to (buying matching outfits for his nephews!)
            2) if a gift/nicety is from his family to us, but clearly directed to me. (All my shower gifts)

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            My feeling is his friends are his friends. If he doesn’t care enough about his friends to properly thank them, then I don’t either. I will also say that I don’t really have a relationship with my husband’s family and friends apart from our relationship which makes this easier.

          • idkmybffjill

            I think that’s a refrain I’m hearing a lot from – dynamics are just different! I care about the notes because even if all these people fall in the category of his friends and his family, I spend time, have relationships with them and care about them.

            Honestly, he’s really understanding this lately so hopefully it will all be moot soon and I can join the ranks of all the folks for whom this is a non-issue!

          • JLily

            I draw the line here, too. But its still too much work I think, and still unfair. Because the amount of things that I don’t care about or don’t reflect poorly on me/us is so small! And I feel like the longer we are together (his friends become my friends, etc.) the smaller that list will get.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Same re thank you cards!

          • I did all the bridal shower ones, because it was my bridal shower…but now he gets to do the next ~40 thank you cards, lol.

        • Guest

          Yeah I just don’t do this stuff or bother to remind him usually. I never started partly because his family of origin is from another culture so some of these gestures are not as common, or they are and he just isn’t clued in. Not my problem. His friends and family are his call/responsibility to take the lead on. I will help, but thinking of them in that way doesn’t belong to me.

        • sofar

          It’s not so simple as “avoiding blame,” though.

          His family does a LOT for us. It’s how they are (old-school, immigrants, we-all-lean-on-each-other kinda thing). While they wouldn’t get mad at me for not doing something they expect, the alternative is showing up at his parents’ house without a bday gift for his mom (gifts are her love language). I don’t have the personality that would let me say, “Well, your son was supposed to do it, so that’s not on me.” She doesn’t get a gift, and she’s sad, and that makes me sad. And, yes, because they’re old-school, any disappointment will not be toward her son, but to me.

          But the bigger issue is that my husband and I ARE on the same page, in that we WANT to be thoughtful to our families. We both agree that we should get them shower gifts (they’ve gotten us gifts), donate to some of their causes (they’ve supported ours), and make sure we’re there for major life events (they’ve traveled to be there for us). But the nitty-gritty of actually DOING that stuff falls to me.

          Put more simply: If someone does something nice for you as a couple, you should do something nice for them back down the line. I’m frustrated that all that automatically falls to me — and many other women I know.

          • idkmybffjill

            Yes! This!

            And frankly, I don’t always want to throw my fiance under the bus like that. Or start a weird confrontation at a family function in response to a passive agressive comment from a family member. I just want us as a couple to do things that I know are in line with our values… and I want to not be the only one who remembers what all the things are.

          • Amy March

            I totally get that. I just think letting him fail is a tool for getting to a place where you both remember.

          • idkmybffjill

            Yeah. For sure. I guess there have definitely been some wedding tasks that I straight up didn’t care about and let him just do in his own time. It sucked to have been right about things needing to be done earlier and seeing him suffer the consequences… but he has gotten right on other things after learning for himself.

            I think in life there happen to be less things that I just don’t care about enough to let not happen.

          • sofar

            Totally. Being an adult sometimes means buying your MIL a gift even though your husband promised to and NOT making a weird passive-aggressive comment at her bday party.

            It sucks always having to do that, and maybe your husband never “learns,” but the alternative is looking like a petty jerk yourself.

          • Ashlah

            So even if you sit him down a week before his mom’s birthday (which, still, emotional labor falling on you) and say, “I am not buying your mother a gift. You need to buy her something within the next week.” He won’t do it? Your husband is capable of learning.

          • Guest

            Agreed. Give him some notice that shit changing lol. And let him know it’s his job to apologize if he effs up.

            You’re not a petty jerk for delegating one task that’s not solely your responsibility to begin with. You’re not a petty jerk for taking steps to pursue equality in your relationship, which I imagine your husband, like mine, insists he agrees with despite his actions from time to time.

          • sofar

            He will say, “OK yes I will do it.” And then he will have to work a double because someone called in sick. And then his friend will ask for help moving. And then he finds out an old friend is in town, so they *have* to hang out. And then, suddenly it’s her bday and he calls from work and goes, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get her anything yet. Can you run and buy her some chocolate truffles and a bracelet? I won’t be home til 4, and I have to shower, and we won’t have time to pick them up on the way.”

            He is notoriously bad at planning, executing that plan, and budgeting time for it. That is who he is. I knew this before I married him. And my original post was to vent because I know I’m not alone in this.

          • NolaJael

            He seems to be remarkably good at remembering to remind you once enough time has passed that he “can’t” do it. Maybe try, “I don’t have time either. I guess we’ll have to pick up something on the way and be a little late” and let him explain the tardiness.

          • sofar

            Yep. I have totally done that. And the remembering-last-minute thing is because he sets phone reminders and then hits “snooze.” So that call comes when his phone pings him for the 80th time that week to “BUY MOM PRESENT” and he finally goes, “Oh crap, now I’ve actually run out of time. Better call sofar.”

          • Sarah

            Hey Sofar, just want to say that I totally get this! My fiance is pretty bad about emotional labour and usually I let him fail/figure it out himself at the last minute, but there are occasions where I feel the need to step in. Forgot to check what time we’re expected at your parents’ for dinner? Fine, I’ll go about my business and if you don’t let me know in time then I guess we’ll just be late. Forgot that your grandmother’s 90th birthday party is on Sunday and made other plans? If you haven’t realised by Friday night I’ll say something, because it’ll break her heart if we don’t turn up. Sure, it’s not my responsibility, but I still care about her feelings and don’t want that to happen.

            Also, I’ve told my fiance that I’m happy to buy gifts, bake things to take to his family functions, etc as long as he arranges it with me ahead of time and recognises it for the chore/personal favour that it is and not just something I’m expected to do. It’s not on me to remember whose birthday is coming up and figure out a gift, but if he says “here’s $50, if you see something nice for my mum while you’re out shopping could you get it please?” I think that’s reasonable. Maybe this could be a solution for you too?

          • Guest

            I don’t want to keep “chasing” you in the comments, because now it sounds like this particular thing might be one of your husbands quirks and we all have quirks and things we’re bad at. That’s life. So last thing.

            That hang out sounds an awful lot like an optional activity to me. Which I point out because my husband is a gym rat and likes to think the hours he spends at the gym every week means he doesn’t have much free time, but “does his best” to get his chores done. NOPE.

            Everyone is responsible for living their priorities, no excuses.

          • LJ

            AMEN

          • sofar

            haha yep. One of his many quirks is that he always says “yes,” to friends who want to hang out because he is extroverted, and having a friend say “no” to him makes him sad. So he never wants to say “no” to anyone.

            To his credit, when it comes to quality time with me, he always says “no” to his friends, because he knows I NEED alone time with him. But if it’s something more nebulous, like “getting mom a gift before Friday,” he’ll go out with the friend.

          • Amy March

            Then buy her a gift from you personally, and a card with only your name on it? He doesn’t actually WANT to be thoughtful, since he isn’t actually doing the work. He’s only on the same page in that he wants you to take care of it, and doesn’t care about it enough to figure out how to contribute.

            I work with so many men who just can’t seem to remember birthdays or anniversaries. Tell me more, men, about how you can’t be a lawyer because you can’t figure out how to calendar deadlines. If you actually value it, show it.

          • sofar

            Well, I still have to buy the damn gift. To be truly egalitarian, he’d have to then buy *my* mom a gift (to save me that time), which he won’t do. So I’m still stuck in the gift-fairy role.

            Trust me, I do all I can to make the consequences rain down upon him, whenever it doesn’t involve making his family collateral damage. Drives me nuts when people claim they “can’t” do things they do regularly for their JOB. Like chronically late people. Um… you show up to work on time. And to meetings on time. And to the airport on time when it’s a business trip.

          • He has no motivation to remember, because he knows you’ll pick up the slack. Knowing someone else will pick up your slack, will legitimately make it “harder” to notice the messes you leave behind, forgotten birthdays, dropped reciprocation of niceties, etc. You need to stop. Full stop. Or you’ll be doing this for the rest of his life.

          • sofar

            The advice here is helpful, but I’ll never feel right not getting my MIL a gift, especially when I know she cares so damn much about opening presents. Even if my husband throws himself under the bus and says he dropped the ball. And, for the record, he does always give me full credit for the gift, saying, “Sofar picked that out mom. She’s the only reason you got a gift from us.”

            When our loved ones aren’t collateral damage, I don’t swoop in to fix his mistakes. My current solution is to put firm limits on my bandwidth: “Hey, I spent a lot of time getting your mom her gift, so I won’t be coming to your work event. I need an emotional break.” And, if he really wants me to do something (say, see a movie I don’t really want to see), I will say, “I will only do that if you buy your cousin’s shower gift.”

          • One person’s solution is another person’s nightmare, I guess. Because negotiating my appearances based on what I’ve done for him/his-family in the past, sounds like lifelong torture and “counting.”

            Why spend all of life counting what you did for each other to make sure it’s equal, when you can get him to take on the responsibility himself after a little bit of hurting family’s feelings?

          • sofar

            Because showing up without a gift for his mom and spending a party just knowing how much she wanted a gift from us would be torture. And deciding which family members I’m going to hurt is just as much “keeping count” as not doing certain things for him.

            Trust me, if it’s an appearance I want/am excited about, I go regardless. If it’s something I’d do only to make him happy, I’ll use it as a way to say, “If you want me to join you in seeing Suicide Squad, which, by all accounts SUCKS, then you’re gonna sit down and order your cousin a gift.”

          • Yeah, but it’s only keeping count until the behavior rights itself. Which it generally does (unless he enjoys disappointing his mother), and then you no longer have to monitor it.

          • sofar

            lol he doesn’t care about disappointing his mom as much as I do. That’s the problem. I’m thinking, “OMG this woman cared for me when I had the stomach flu and took me on vacation with them, and she deserves a bday gift.” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s what moms do. She will understand and love us anyway if we don’t get her a gift.”

          • NolaJael

            That’s fair. You are a separate person from your partner and you are going to have a separate and slightly different relationship with his mother.

          • LJ

            I’m glad you found a solution for yourself. This entire comment section is frustrating as hell to read.

            All people need to do is say “Hey, you didn’t do this thing you said you’d do because you would rather hang out with your friends/go to the gym/play lego. I had to cancel hanging out with my friends/going to the gym/playing lego so that it could get done. That really sucks for me. I feel like my time isn’t being respected. You need to get your sh*t together because this is building up resentment over the longterm. It isn’t fair to leave these things to me because I also like to hang out with my friends/go to the gym/play lego.”

            If they still don’t do it, then this is an issue of respect. If I was in a relationship where this was the norm…. BOY BYE.

            Gifts or chores don’t have to be missed. He just needs to respect your values.

          • idkmybffjill

            This sounds theoretically very easy. And perhaps this is an issue of growing up in the south, being surrounding by family that isn’t necessarily as progressive, etc. But it HURTS to feel this process of feelings:

            1) Society has conditioned me to do all this emotional labor, that is annoying.
            2) I would like for my spouse to take on emotional labor, I’ll talk about it with him.
            3) That preconditioning on both sides makes this an issue that requires work over time, and isn’t an instant fix, okay – let’s keep working on it. (even though it’s hard and society KEEPS reinforcing that original conditioning)
            4) If we’re working on it and it’s not just fixed then I’m totally being disrespected and putting up with a terrible relationship that a better feminist wouldn’t put up with. Also I’m a poor communicator, because duh if I were better at that this would be fixed already.
            5) I’m a bad feminist and my spouse is a disrespectful spouse.

          • Yeah, LJ is oversimplifying a bit. You gotta wedge in there somewhere a couples therapist, because I don’t think most couples are (a) that great at communicating, (b) good at seeing things from each other’s perspectives, and (c) aces at creating a perfect solution the first time.

          • LJ

            I absolutely am, out of frustration.

            I mentioned a therapist in a comment in this section I wrote beforehand :)

          • LJ

            I very, very seldomly take things personally, even when I sometimes should, so I don’t see how my comments could be taken that way, because they’re meant to be read as “communicate effectively”….. like I understand I guess, but I don’t relate, I mean re #5 I am a stranger on the internet, how can I hurt you? You don’t even know me….

          • This was the line that did you in, LJ: “If they still don’t do it, then this is an issue of respect. If I was in a relationship where this was the norm…. BOY BYE.” Value judgment right there. Some people take the Internet more seriously than others ;)

          • LJ

            I thought that by saying “if I was in a relationship” than I was specifying “in my specific situation” so I was vindicating myself of that…. I was offering an opinion of myself, not telling people they were dumb?/naïve/wrong….?

          • idkmybffjill

            I think I cleared this up before but I wasn’t like… crying about it. I just wanted to articulate that it was a hurtful judgement to hear/feel. In an area that is already kinda loaded with hurt feelings.

            “If I was in a relationship where this was the norm…. BOY BYE.” is just as hurtful a sentiment as, “You shouldn’t expect your fiance to want to plan a wedding, because that’s a woman thing!”.

          • LJ

            Wow. I am learning things. To me/from my perspective, those are incredibly different…….. i’ll be more aware in the future, cheers

          • idkmybffjill

            I didn’t mean that you personally hurt me. Just that that line of thinking hurts.

            My comment just meant that it can feel like it comes from all sides. Figuring out emotional labor is hard. Combating family and social expectations of what a woman should be in charge of in a relationship is hard. Venting about that and then being told that actually it’s not hard, and is super easy to fix, that hurts.

            I don’t know you so, no – I’m not hurt by you. But knowing that some people think an issue that has been alot of work for my partner and I (and judging by these comments, for a lot of couples) should be no biggie, well – yeah that hurts.

          • LJ

            Things can be simple but not easy. It can be simple. It won’t be easy. These are super hard! Having these conversations sucks. I never said they’re easy, I said they’re straightforward. And of course I could be wrong. I’m just another ahole on the internet :) not a therapist or anything. Just someone who thinks a lot of this is overcomplicated.

          • idkmybffjill

            Ah! That makes sense. I was definitely conflating straightforward and easy.

          • LJ

            :)

          • JLily

            Number 3, totally. Its a tough and ongoing process, which is probably why there are so many similar threads on APW (and elsewhere). its not just, oh you can’t immediately and gleefully do all these things to make our relationship egalitarian and our home less gendered? Ok, you are dead to me and no feminist should ever love you.

          • idkmybffjill

            Right, totally.

            And I think when it sounds as if people think it’s no big deal (“Communicate!”), it almost feels worse than the people who think the work doesn’t need to be done at all (“You’re being so silly, men aren’t interested in those things, just do it for him”).

          • rg223

            I wasn’t going to bring up the north/south issue, but since you touched on it… there are a lot of commenters here who I know or believe to be Southerners who are saying “I’ll have guilt if I don’t get MIL a present” and people who I know or believe to be Northerners saying “It isn’t going to bother me if husband forgets a gift.” I’m seeing judgement on this thread of both sides (overall, not specific to this comment), where I think it’s helpful to take a step back and consider that there’s some specific cultural influence here, and not take it to the level of “some people are inconsiderate/heartfelt” or “some people are good feminists/bad feminists.”

          • sofar

            And, to be fair, the majority of our relationship is not fighting about this stuff. He’s amazing and kind and spontaneous and creative and fun and loving. I think internet discussions about relationships tend to go straight down the rabbit hole, until someone eventually says, “DTMFA.”

            We’ve had tons of level-headed discussions about how his actions aren’t fair to me. And tons of level-headed discussions about the things I do that drive him crazy. And we do our best to change. He’s just not wired to be a good planner. Just like I’m not wired to be spontaneous. There’s probably a conversation in the depths of Reddit, where he’s said, “Hey, my wife plans everything in advance and won’t do anything spontaneous with me.” And someone probably told him to say “GIRL BYE” to me.

          • AtHomeInWA

            The depths of Reddit. Where my Him read that “resentment kills relationships” then asked me if I resent him for not cleaning more.

            Maybe we should give them (and Reddit!) a little more credit.

          • Jess

            So this is really interesting for me, and you kind of pop up the idea of balance here. “I’ll do this area, as long as you don’t expect this of me”

            R is our gift person. Usually this just means he buys gifts for his side, and reminds me to get gifts for my side (or suggests gifts via links to online stores for me to purchase). Sometimes he’ll ask if I’d like to get a gift for someone on his side of my own, and will often remind me to do so if I say yes.

            We divide not so much straight down the middle but try to make effort = effort. He manages gifts, I am in charge of scheduling when we clean. He is our main social coordinator, I manage most errands. We do split cooking/meal planning, probably because that’s a skill we share and often do together.

            I would be really interested if that’s something you see happening in your life, or if gifts are just one part of the Stuff You Do.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Start out as you mean to go.

          • AtHomeInWA

            I worked for lawyers. They have underpaid female secretaries to worry about silly things like calendar deadlines.

          • NolaJael

            I was that underpaid underling. So true.

          • Fiona

            I second this! Calendar deadlines, presents, food, whatever

          • Totch

            For my MIL’s recent birthday, the kids had a nice family dinner for her, got her a card, and paid her way to a family reunion where she got a second birthday dinner.

            Before both dinners I went “Did we want to grab her a little gift? Just something to open?” My big concern was that she’d get things from extended family at the reunion and it would turn awkward if there was nothing from her kids. Fiance (reasonably) said “Nah, we’ve already done these other things.”

            Flash forward to the family reunion, where she announces to everyone that her children got her nothing for her birthday and they go apoplectic trying not to shout about flights and hotels.

            Love languages (service v. gifts) are a bitch.

          • Amy March

            And some people are just jerks!

          • Totch

            Yup, totally. I’ve also talked before on here about supporting my MIL financially, which really blurs the line in her mind between gift and support.

            It’s up to us to choose whether we’d rather buy her a $10 scarf and duck the issue, or stand on principle and say “rent is a constant, vacations are a gift.” Still undecided, check in with me at Christmas!!

          • emmers

            Oooh, that’s hard. When you’re supporting someone it’s hard to want to give them a gift. Whatever gift I gave, if any, would most likely be super cheap (look at this nice special tea you like from the grocery store! and maybe this nice grocery store chocolate bar!), or homemade.

          • rg223

            Gifts aren’t my top love language, but pretty high and important to me, and to me at least, birthday gifts are a given. What makes a gift a love language thing is when it’s random and just shows the person was thinking about you. I think when people demand specific birthday gifts (for example: jewlery, not an experience), it borders on straight up materialism.

          • For gift-oriented people, sometimes a shmarmy card is all you need. Stock up on ’em and just grab ’em as needed.

            But yeah, that’s some MIL guilt trip shit that needs to be ignored.

          • sofar

            Dude. Were our MIL’s separate at birth? I remember the time I suggested getting his mom tickets to a musical and escorting her there. And my husband was like, “She’d rather open a beautifully wrapped box containing a crappy bracelet from the dollar store than get musical tickets. She wants something she can keep in a drawer and look at from time to time.”

          • Totch

            Honestly, sometimes I really think they were.

          • “I don’t have the personality that would let me say, “Well, your son was supposed to do it, so that’s not on me.” ”
            It should be noted…you only have to do this once or twice, accompanied by a comment here or there about how your partner is responsible for such things on his side of the family.

            I just raise my eyebrows in surprise and go, “Oh, I guess FI forgot. Maybe he’ll remember next time?”

            FI and I had a conversation recently about his priority is making sure all the nieces/nephews feel loved (re: birthday gifts). I told him that my priority is not getting blamed for him forgetting, because if making sure all the kids felt loved was my priority, I would take over *everything*. You legit have to give any of that reciprocation up as your main priority, and put self-preservation and an egalitarian household before it.

        • what if it does have consequences for you? i am the only one with a job at the moment, and a last-minute gift or a last-minute grocery run could break our budget. so i have a job + not nagging husband to do stuff + ending up doing it myself at the end of the day = exhaustion

          • Amy March

            I’m not saying never do anything. Yeah, someone needs groceries. Yeah, clean sheets are important. But a last minute gift? Oh well. I think if this is a repeated pattern, you look for the opportunities where there really isn’t a severe consequence and let him fail.

          • Totch

            One thing someone pointed out up thread is that even in a “let them fail” situation, it’s still emotional labor to see the situation, deliberate, and choose not to act.

            I agree about the low consequence situations, yet sometimes the consequence of “I’m going to feel crappy watching you fail” is enough.

          • idkmybffjill

            “sometimes the consequence of “I’m going to feel crappy watching you fail” is enough.”

            THIS THIS THIS. I love my partner. I don’t actually enjoy being right when it means something negative for him. Cause then I feel crappy seeing in the lead up that it’s going to happen, and then feel crappy when it does happen. It’s all very hard! In my case, he does see it now and is working on it – which I really thank my luck stars for. But it’s still not easy when his whole family/society in general/some of our peers reinforce that certain things are Women Things.

          • Guest

            I personally find, unless it’s emergent you just CAN’T do it. If it’s their responsibility you HAVE to let them do it. This also means you will discover what kind of conversation you need to have.

            Does Partner intend to do X, but just hasn’t done it yet? So then you talk about timelines, expectations, and time management. Or does Partner never intend to do X, because deep down they don’t value it being done? That’s a WHOLE other conversation.

          • Guest

            Also communicate of course, because no one’s a mind reader!

          • LJ

            EVERYTHING EVERYONE IS SUGGESTING STEMS FROM POOR OR DISRESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION. Sorry not sorry for the caps, I am so exasperated reading all of this.

            If you and your husband/partner cannot have a respectful conversation about a basic chore or task, then see a g-d therapist (or do some googling if you don’t have benefits) to learn how to have these conversations. This is NOT rocket science.

            If you say it’s important to you, and s/he still doesn’t do it, that is s/he being disrespectful to you. Use your “I” statements and let them effing know. If they don’t seem to care, then them not respecting your values is an issue that should be effing addressed by both of you together, with or without a therapist.

            COMMUNICATION IS KEY, KIDS.

          • Carolyn S

            yeah… reading through this thread has me all “wow.. a lot of people don’t seem to like their spouse…”

            We’ve had to learn how to balance our chores out. There are things I do more, and I don’t mind because I want it done a certain way. There are things he does more because he notices more, and wants it done a certain way. When we aren’t happy with the balance… we talk about it.. and then work hard to make it better?

          • Eenie

            Haha, I love my husband, but like all people I love, he also drives me crazy sometimes. I do like him (the majority of the time!).

          • Carolyn S

            I definitely get that this is totally a “safe space to vent on the internet” situation, but reading it all in a row really rubs me the wrong way, because nothing is more gender roled than a bunch of ladies sitting around talking about how their partners don’t help enough around the house ha ha….

          • LJ

            We are becoming our mothers….

            ;)

          • Anon for this!

            Communication is key, sure. But what is at the heart of this issue for many couples in female-male relationships is deeply-ingrained sexism and male privilege. Seeing one’s own privilege is hard when you havent seen it before, or haven’t seen this particular bit of it, even. I don’t think it’s so surprising that some male partners are having trouble getting where their wives are coming from. When my husband and I fight about the laundry, we are fighting about the laundry, yeah, because laundry is an ongoing situation that constantly needs to be addressed somehow in our household. But what we’re really arguing about is how I am having this certain kind of gendered experience of housework that feels oppressive and unfair and hits on all sorts of weird emotions and expectations and identity stuff for ME. And he, because of his male privilege, can just ignore that whole reality. So I’m fighting with him about the laundry, but what I’m really fighting for is to be SEEN and understood by my partner, to have him try to enter into my reality. So, yeah, we could like, make a chore chart. But the REAL conversation happening behind the argument is not childish or petty or simple. Emotionally, it is kindof fucking rocket science.

        • LittleOwl

          Yes!! This has been so hard for me. I had to actually stop myself from buying extra gifts for my husband’s family, or planning all the Christmas gifts for his family ahead of time to fit in our budget, or keeping track of his family birthdays. I just… stopped.
          Yes, my husband actually forgot his mom’s birthday. I’m sure her feelings were hurt. But! I also learned that he arranged a nice wedding gift for his college friend, something I definitely would have done in the past. It’s been so freeing for me to give up the things that simply aren’t mine.

          I also try to remind myself that if the scenario were flipped, and my husband was constantly doing things for me, not out of love but out of embarrassment/social pressure/fear that I won’t follow through, I would be SO mad and hurt.

          • idkmybffjill

            “I also try to remind myself that if the scenario were flipped, and my husband was constantly doing things for me, not out of love but out of embarrassment/social pressure/fear that I won’t follow through, I would be SO mad and hurt.” I’m going to make this my mantra. I think this is a really helpful lense to see it through.

        • Alanna Cartier

          I’ve stopped with the presents for his family. Christmas, that’s it, and that’s because I celebrate with them.

          • Christmas Presents. The final frontier.

            I never handled any of his family gifts, but was relieved on his behalf when they recently switched to a “Give $X for the kids’ pile”, rather than buying each individual niece and nephew gifts (there’s ~10 of them).

          • AP

            Same. And Mothers’s and Father’s Day, because I do the minimum gift-wise and usually get everyone variations of the same thing. But he forgot his brother’s birthday this year, and that’s on him.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Girlllll. I have never picked a present for my mom in law that was from my husband. Never will. That’s his mom not mine.

          Also I agree that the fact that others may blame the wife doesn’t really mean anything. My mom has really crappy in laws and she gets blamed for everything. But also there’s nothing she could ever do to make them like her so she’s out of fucks.

      • Emily

        “The worst part is, society expects women to do all those things. So if they don’t get done, I’m the one who looks bad, not him.” Not only does my dude not think to do lots of the emotional labor/household labor stuff, but he doesn’t feel bad about it whatsoever. Meanwhile I am the one who feels guilty that I didn’t get all this crap done and society (or my mother in law) is judging me because I am only working 50 hours at my actual paying job.

        • sofar

          Yes. If you’re a nice, kind-hearted person, then GUILT is a very real consequence. In an ideal world, I’d “teach my husband a lesson,” but I’d die of guilt and embarrassment if “we” didn’t do something nice for his mom on her bday.

      • LJ

        If you keep doing it for him then where’s his incentive to improve himself? He has a perfect fallback – you.

        If it’s his, he does it. if he forgets, it doesn’t get done or it is his responsibility to rally at the last minute. If someone dares (dares!) to comment either passive-aggressively, offhand, or just plain aggressively that it wasn’t done, that’s the perfect moment to say “yes, Mr Sofar said he’d handle it” then change the subject.

        Society won’t stop expecting us to do things if we don’t let them know it’s not ok. Breaking the cycle has to happen on both sides. If his friend has to stay in dirty linens (or he has to miss something important to do last minute laundry), that’s a good lesson.

        • sofar

          But, as I explained downthread, this isn’t about teaching him a lesson.

          These lovely people have done incredibly kind things for us as a couple. And I don’t think teaching a man a lesson should mean our loved ones should be punished.

          Maybe I’m weak, but I don’t have the kind of heart that would allow me to look his mom (who has done countless nice things for us) in the eye and say, “We would have brought you a gift, but your son didn’t buy one.” I also can’t look at his friend (who put us up for several days in LA, took us around, and cooked for us) and say, “Sorry, we don’t have a clean towel for you to use.”

          I have been doing more things like saying to my husband, “No I will not go with you to your family reunion because I feel like I’ve been doing lots of things on OUR behalf for your family lately, and I need a day off.” Or, “No, you can go to your co-worker’s wedding alone. I know you don’t know anybody there, but I am feeling worn thin from emotional labor lately.” This helps save my bandwidth without punishing those who don’t deserve it.

          • Amy March

            I think there is a world of difference between being a petty, non-adult, without out a kind heart, who wants to punish your loved ones, and occasionally letting social obligations that belong to someone else go because you value not being the only one in your family who takes care of them.

            If you’ve decided you value other things more that’s totally fine of course, but I actually consider myself a nice kind-hearted person and would have zero guilt over most of this stuff. And I don’t think that makes me a petty jerk.

          • sofar

            That’s fair. Everyone’s situation is different.

            Punishing his mom on her birthday (when I know she REALLY values gifts) and then throwing her son under the bus feels petty to me in MY situation because it would make her sad. If she were the type of mom who would laugh and go, “Good on you, honey, that’s HIS job to get me a gift. Good on you for teaching him,” it would be different. That is the type of MIL I endeavor to be — but not the kind of MIL I have.

          • Maybe instead of you telling everyone he dropped the ball, you have the conversation in the car on the way over telling him that HE needs to tell everyone that HE dropped the ball. FI does this on his own. It’s his job to fess up to his failures, maybe eventually you can stop having those car conversations because he either gets better, or starts remembering?

          • Amy March

            Yeah I just really don’t see why he can’t say “mom I am so sorry I forgot to get you a gift, I picked up an extra shift at work but I know just the thing. Can I come by next week and bring it to you?” Like anyone else who forgets a gift who doesn’t have a wife to run their life does.

            There are options here that aren’t “your son doesn’t love you enough to plan ahead, no gift for you.”

          • Emily

            I’m really late to this conversation. As I was reading this thread, I started wondering what happened with gifts to his Mom on her birthday before you knew him?

          • sofar

            Before we started dating, he and his siblings still lived at home. And they collaborated on gifts (I suspect his sister took the lead). Right after we started dating, he moved out, his brother moved out and his sis went to med school, and they all got into serious relationships. So they stopped collaborating on joint-sibling gifts.

      • Elizabeth

        So I also think there’s another issue at play in addition to the rest, which is that it’s not always best for the relationship or most efficient for the couple for the person who’s better at a thing to do it, or to get it done the fastest. It seems like it should be often, because you can just get it done in a shorter amount of time, but if the person who’s better at it is better at most things, their time becomes more valuable. In this case, since it’s meaningful to you as a couple to get gifts for people, maybe it’s something you set aside to do together for a while. I’m sure it’s faster for you to just get the birthday present for his mom, and it makes sure it gets done, but it might be more efficient for the relationship for you both to shop for it together, for instance. I obviously don’t know your relationship, so take it with a grain of salt, and it doesn’t innately solve the inequality because it can be more work than the status quo, but it’s something to consider.

        (As an example, last night I had my fiancee drive us to the catering tasting. It was an hour away, and I have to spend four hours driving for work today. She doesn’t like driving, and particularly doesn’t have experience driving my car. I don’t enjoy her driving (and tend to consider myself a safer/better defensive driver, an assessment she agrees with) and in addition she isn’t yet used to the brakes on my car and tends to be very stop-and-start. We will be taking my car for any sort of long-distance trips because her car gets 15 mpg and mine gets 50, as well as the fact that mine is newer and more reliable. It’s important to me that we be able to trade off driving, and that we both be comfortable with her driving my car, so I chose to pick a time when I could handle the stress in the pursuit of getting to that goal, even though in the moment it didn’t make complete sense because we were both in the car and I could have just driven it.)

    • idkmybffjill

      “It is my job to make sure we have an egalitarian household.”

      This one hits me the hardest. It’s my job to just let things that reflect poorly on us as a family happen in order to teach him a lesson, etc etc etc

      • Jess

        Couldn’t this be rephrased as “It’s his job to make sure he is doing his share” or “It’s his job to not do shit that reflects poorly on us”

        Most of the comments on this thread are taking ownership/blame of this situation. The “It’s my job to make sure we have an egalitarian household” or the “It’s my job to teach him.”

        Sure, when people aren’t capable of doing their job, we put them on training plans and talk about revising their behavior. But it’s their job to live up to our standards, not our job to mold them into the person we want them to be.

        It just makes me really sad that even when we’re talking about wanting to be egalitarian, we’re putting the blame and failure on ourselves.

        This isn’t us failing to make a marriage egalitarian. This is the men in our lives failing us.

        • idkmybffjill

          oh – absolutely. That’s the point that was resonating with me. It’s that those blame statements are how I feel. I feel like not only do I have to be responsible for remembering allthethings… but also that I’m responsible for changing things if I want them changed. Because realistically – me doing allthethings is awesome for him! Why would he change it?

          It would honestly be easier to just accept that society doesn’t foster egalitarian households, accept responsibility for the “women’s work” and let it be. Trying to make the change to egalitarian can genuinely be harder than just following the status quo, in my opinion.

          • MirandaVanZ

            “It would honestly be easier to just accept that society doesn’t foster egalitarian households, accept responsibility for the “women’s work” and let it be. Trying to make the change to egalitarian can genuinely be harder than just following the status quo, in my opinion.”
            Omg, no.

          • idkmybffjill

            I mean. I’m not going to. But there have definitely been times when I’ve felt like, “it would be way easier for me to just write and send this thank you note/buy this gift” instead of worrying about the “should I remind him? Is that nagging? Did he get it?”.

          • MirandaVanZ

            I get that it might be easier in the moment, I’m just thinking long term. Is it easier to get stuck in a pattern of doing all the gift buying/ note writing/ life scheduling for the next 60 some years? Resounding no.

          • Violet

            I agree. But even sitting and strategizing like this is a whole burden that the men are not taking part in. The women are sitting here laying out the pros and cons of how to change their male partner’s behavior. So, still not equal.

          • idkmybffjill

            Well yes, duh. I suppose what I meant was, “Sometimes it feels as if it would honestly just be easier.”

            Because while we’re finding that sweet spot, I’m doing all the emotional labor PLUS all the emotional labor to figure out how to get him to do the emotional labor. Honestly? It’s already paying off, in the last month alone I have seen the light of our future relationship on equal footing and it’s totally worth it. But like… hell yes, there are days when it feels SO MUCH EASIER to just do the stuff.

          • Jess

            I totally agree that long term, it’s way better to fight for this.

            Having alienated a few traditional leaning friends and been in a spot of “why won’t anybody date me! All I ask for is actual respect and equality!” and suffered seeing someone I love be brought very very small by me stating clearly and angrily something that boiled down to “I expected X of you. You did not meet my expectation. That’s on you.”

            I have to admit that sometimes it totally seems easier. Not nearly worth putting up with, but easier.

          • LJ

            Hello fellow “T” ;)

          • Jess

            I don’t know what this refers to, but I’m super glad I’m not the only one!! :D

          • LJ

            Myers briggs… basically, are you motivated in your decisions by emotions and their influences/other people’s feelings (F=feelings), or by logic and rationale and practicality, generally detached from emotional fallout (T=thinking)…… I am a HARD T. it’s a spectrum so people can be anywhere between the two. My fiancé is a hard F and he’s taught me a lot/we’ve had to have lots of moments where he called me a robot and I’ve called him a delicate flower.

            A lot of the “I couldn’t possibly deal with the guilt of not getting a present” people are Fs and the “just let him fail and learn” are Ts…. generally. haha

          • Jess

            Oh hey. I totally didn’t recognize that part of Myers-Briggs. I am super hard a T! (INTJ or ISTJ depending on the day)

          • LJ

            entj/estj borderline checking in…. hello introverted equivalent :)

          • rg223

            I’m an F and in the “let him fail” camp. Although I’m more in the middle, so that could be an influence. I also don’t consider it “failing.” I just feel like, his relationships are his responsibility. There’s no reason for me to get emotionally involved.

          • idkmybffjill

            I think the “traditional leaning friends” thing is also a great point to think about. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, we have made GREAT strides. But many of his friends who I assumed had very egalitarian relationships… their wives planned their whole wedding, they literally just showed up.

            OR his family makes comments about men caring about wedding things losing their man cards.

            OR my family gives weird shower advice about how a wife shouldn’t correct a man’s chores.

            It sometimes requires constant vigilance, and it WILL be worth it, in the long run – I can already see that. But the unlearning on his side, the living with the feelings of “I feel guilty a note wasn’t sent but it’s not MY note to feel guilty about” for me, the conversations with family for both of us about how things are going to go in our relationship. All that stuff is hard work. My hope is that it all turns out to be worth it, but at this juncture it is CERTAINLY harder than writing thank you notes and buying gifts when I’m thinking about them anyway.

          • Jess

            *sigh* wedding planning. I have all the thoughts and none of the emotional energy to deal with them. Suffice it to say, it really brings out the worst misogyny in people.

            Traditional models for relationships are really hard to deal with sometimes for me, because not only does it mean I am expected to do a ton of stuff, but also it means that R gets made fun of for doing it – so there’s negative feedback for him.

            On the other hand, I’ve listened to my girlfriends complain about “taking care of their men” and been like WHY IS THIS A THING IN YOUR LIFE?! But they also fully believe it’s what they should be doing, so…

          • Eenie

            Yes on the negative feedback. But doesn’t everyone get that while trying to be a feminist? It just comes with the territory.

          • Jess

            It does, unfortunately. I just want flashing Beyonce Feminist Signs for everyone!

          • Grace

            I think my PREGNANT friend mowing her lawn, while her husband has no valid reason for not mowing the lawn, takes the cake.

          • Jess

            O.O whaaaaaat.

            I mean, I am 100% for women not being invalids whilst pregnant if they don’t need to be. Run, do things that make you happy, . But like… a little good sense never hurt.

          • Alanna Cartier

            My new mindset is that nagging isn’t a thing. If he just took care of his own shit, I wouldn’t have to say I thing. The onus is on him.

          • Eenie

            Nagging is still a thing though! You are still HAVING TO FUCKING ASK him to do something. And that is frustrating.

          • Alanna Cartier

            True. Mine’s more of a reframing that not nagging.

          • Eenie

            We have completely abolished the term “nagging” from our household. That doesn’t mean I dont have to repeatedly ask him to do stuff though. After the first time I stop policing my tone.

          • Violet

            Exactly. Even that we’re HAVING this online conversation about when to let men “fail” and when to do things to modify their behavior, and set expectations, and communicate, and time management, and on and on…. I can almost 100% guarantee my husband has never had a conversation like this before. Because he doesn’t have to. Because I get my *hit done.

          • R

            How did he manage before you got together? Presumably he can actually do things for himself, right? Unless he never lived on his own/was never alone as an adult and went from mom to partner and NEVER did anything for himself.

          • Eenie

            My husband once had to buy 10 gallons of water from the grocery store to take a “shower” because he forgot to pay his water bill. I really wonder how he has survived through life without more consequences.

          • emmers

            Lol

          • AtHomeInWA

            He ate out every day and only cleaned when people came over.

            It sounds like you are suggesting (I could be reading wrong) that he does and can clean, cook, etc. and that I am taking over those tasks he used to do and then blaming him for not doing it. He simply didn’t use to do it, or would only do it the few times a year someone came over.

            The one exception is laundry, which I did take over when I moved in because I wanted it folded and put away. Curiously enough, that is the one chore we almost never fight about.

          • R

            I was moreso wondering if this is more common in partnerships where people got together younger/right after college, than in partnerships where people get together after they’ve both lived on their own because I would guess that people who live on their own would be able to do these things/HAD to do those things and then bring that to the marriage. Although when I think about some of my male (and female) friends, I can see why that’s a bad assumption. I’m sorry if it sounded like I was blaming anyone – and I can see how it did – not my intent!

          • Amy March

            Ah yes. “Does he live in filth” is legit a screening tool I use, ditto “does he value buying groceries and cooking or is he happy to Seamless everything.”

          • Violet

            He actually went from living in a college dorm that he kept barely clean enough to live in and ate in the dining hall and regularly ran out of toothpaste right when he needed it. To then living with me.

          • idkmybffjill

            Our Emotional Labor issues have been very specifically about wedding planning, and from there familial obligations that I guess just… weren’t expected of him before?

          • NolaJael

            Yep. My partner is very liberal and very feminist and yet he got literally angry that he had to sign his own name to our Christmas/Engagement Announcement cards. I guess woman-signs-for-man was so ingrained that he didn’t think he should have to? We (later) had a calm rational discussion about how “cards” (Christmas/thank you/birthday) traditionally falls into the women’s work camp and that we were not going to start off our engagement falling into that trap…complete with foreshadowing that wedding thank yous would not be my sole responsibility either.

          • Jen

            My fiance was quite happy to sign his name to the bridal shower thank you card, but he got HEAPS of praise from my family for doing so. Like, I get no praise for WRITING the 30 heartfelt letters, but he gets a medal for signing his name?

          • JLily

            Don’t forget that changing the status quo for the future generations is our responsibility if you have a son, too!! (Sometimes I find myself blaming my MIL for doing everything for my husband as a kid and not teaching him better–and then I’m like, self, you asshole! THAT wasn’t all her responsibility either!)

          • idkmybffjill

            OOOH yes.

          • anon

            Your comment just made me realize I default to blaming my MIL, too. I also feel like such an asshole right now!

          • Jess

            Society’s expectations are truly awful for women, and you’re right in that men have little incentive to change. The expectations put on women, the conditioning we have to make sure we’re good hosts and have clean homes and send thank you notes, are what make us feel so guilty when we not only don’t do them, but also reject them and push for our partners to do them instead.

            You (we all!) deserve better than to feel like all the burden is on your shoulders.

            Striving for equality shouldn’t have to be one more thing on the never-ending, patriarchy sponsored “Why I’m failing as a woman” list.

          • idkmybffjill

            Amen!

      • Anon for this!

        I am very much feeling this with the F*ing laundry. I’ve always mostly done the laundry, and I don’t mind (it’s one of the chores that I don’t particularly dislike), but, um, we have two tiny kids now, and managing the clothes and linens situation has become exponentially more complicated! Which, whatever, fine. I’m home full-time right now, so I can do it, and it’s fine. It’s fine right up until o e of the following conversations:

        1)
        Me: you really need to not leave your work clothes in a pile on the bannister. I’m not going to go all around the house gathering up your dirty Laundry. I have a system.

        Him: your system is complicated. It doesn’t make any sense.

        Me: it’s not complicated, you just haven’t learned it.
        (Internally: you have a fucking master’s degree and you can’t learn which hamper to use? I call bullshit.)

        2) me: can you get Child dressed?

        Him: I hate doing the kids clothes. I can never find anything or know which ones fit.

        Me: all the current size clothes are in one drawer, where they have been for the past ten months. You’ll figure it out.

        Him: but that’s your area. I don’t want to be involved with the kids’ clothes.

        Me: TOO BAD YOU ARE INVOLVED BY VIRTUE OF HAVING CHILDREN.

        … We’re working on it.

        • Ashlah

          Me: TOO BAD YOU ARE INVOLVED BY VIRTUE OF HAVING CHILDREN.

          YES! Please tell me you actually say this to him! I just had a conversation with a co-worker about how useless all of the fathers in her friend group are like it’s an inevitability, and I need to hear stories about men being held accountable x_x

          • Anon for this!

            Yes, it’s been said on several occasions. This is an ongoing area on conflict, which he is finally starting to get. Thank the sweet heavens.
            But yeah, he is really not a useless father, is very involved with child-rearing activities, but the laundry thing, OMG. You really can’t just opt out of something that completely! Like, you need to be able to dress your kids, you just do.

          • Alanna Cartier

            If it helps, my partner is getting better. This morning, without being asked, he did the cat stuff and took the garbages out so that things would be ready for when people come over tonight. small victories.

          • Yes, and now emotional labor law says you have to thank and praise him for finally doing his chores right, when no one ever thanks you for cleaning up after yourself after making dinner, etc. etc. Ergh.

        • JLily

          HA the “system” part!! I dry stuff on a clothesline in the summer because a) its hot as balls out, so stuff dries fast, and b) its hot as balls out so there’s no need to heat the house up more by running the dryer. This weekend I asked him to do it because I needed a break from chores and I was supervising from a lawn chair with my rose in hand. The TIRADE of whining after literally hanging up ONE sheet on the line was SO incredible I could only laugh at him and make fun of him for being a huge man-baby.

        • Alanna Cartier

          Also, can I just say why are very smart men so stupid about somethings? Like not figuring out laundry systems, and apparently being unable to figure out how opaque shampoo bottles are nearly empty and buy more. Ugh. Can do chemical engineering, computer programing and an english degree. Cannot figure out that less mass=nearly empty.

          • Eenie

            Or, to always have an extra! And then when you replace the extra, you buy more instead of waiting until you’re all out of body wash and have to go on a business trip.

          • Yes, I’m a big fan of replacing the extra one!

          • R

            I have a professional degree, and I cannot handle buying new shampoo. I fill it with water when it gets low. My husband HATES this (I don’t know why – we use different products, so it doesn’t impact him). So this I understand. I also can’t handle actually taking the empty bottles out of shower. They tend to pile up.

          • Amy March

            Hi, I’m Amy March, and my shower had 5 nearly empty body washes and a mangy looking soap in it. 90% of the time. I just add a little water to it!

          • I think a lot of it also has to do with “noticing” and motivation, or lack thereof for this noticing. There’s bound to be a documented cognitive bias of some sort related to this…

    • Elena

      The big question is why, when women are more “hands on” with raising kids, their sons turn out this way. Do we fail to teach our sons how to effectively contribute?

      • Amy March

        I think the answer is obvious in the question. By being more hands on, women are teaching their sons that adult men don’t have to be hands on. I think men fail to teach their sons how to effectively contribute when they don’t do it.

        • idkmybffjill

          “I think men fail to teach their sons how to effectively contribute when they don’t do it.” I love that the responsibility is on the men in this sentence. Feels very great to reframe it that way.

        • Jess

          Yup. This exactly.

      • Sarah E

        I think Amy March’s point is spot-on. I’ll add that just because a woman is taking point on child-rearing doesn’t mean she’s setting the same expectations for both daughters and sons. Two examples in my life: my mom has three brothers and my grandma is/was a very traditional homemaker. My mom was expected to pitch in on all the major spring cleaning chores, including those in her brothers’ bedrooms (turning mattresses, washing windows) while the boys were left to have fun. My husband, whose mother was either at home or working part time when he was a kid, was never required to clean a bathroom when he was growing up, so seriously had to learn what that entails as an adult.

        • Elena

          This is exactly what I was getting at. Surprised no one else picked up on it.

        • Eh

          Growing up my mom was the breadwinner and my dad’s job was flexible so he was home with us. Me and my brother and sister were all taught how to cook and clean and we were expected to cook and clean. My brother hated cleaning so he didn’t do it. My brother and sister lived together for a while and they would fight because my brother never did any cleaning (classic situation – my sister would clean the kitchen and my brother would bring a weeks worth of dishes from his room). My brother married a women with more traditional values who does all the cleaning.

          My husband grew up in a family where his mom did all of the cleaning and childcare. My husband only has a brother. They were never taught to clean. My MIL would ask my husband to vacuum and if it wasn’t to her satisfaction she would just redo it and not explain the issue. My husband does know how to clean – he has high standards for how the restaurant he manages is cleaned. Even with knowing how to clean I have had to teach him how to clean a house because he doesn’t see dirt (at home – work, is a totally different story). I clean when I notice something is dirty/needs to be cleaned but my husband needs a cleaning schedule. My husband actually does most of the cleaning in our house.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Like wedding planning for instance? I feel like I’ve said this multiple times here but my fiancé has definitely become aware of the fact that if he doesn’t do venue research, it’ll still be ok because eventually I’ll do it. And like, yeah I will, because I want to get married and I want to move on from this part of life, but that doesn’t mean I freaking love venue research either. And I feel like a failed feminist because of this too, which is really f*cked up because why is it my fault he won’t get it together and be a team player here?

      • Grace

        My fiancé tries to pull the, “I’m doing way more than any of my friends did for their weddings.” 1. That’s why I’m not marrying any of your friends. 2. Here’s my empty cups of effs.

    • Amy March

      I mean, not really? I think it is a fascinating solution to a problem created by a patriarchal society more than actual matriarchy, in which you’d expect women to be able to inherit property.

      • BABY STEPS TO THE MATRIARCHY.

        IDK, let me dream.

  • anonymouse

    “My male partner is incredible, and yours probably is too… ”
    dude, seriously??

    • LJ

      Other than her assuming heteronormativity, I’m not sure what you’re pointing out..

      • anonymouse

        casual heteronormativity is shitty for a site that likes to be so queer-positive, especially in an article that is about two women in a relationship, sexual or not

        • LJ

          Totally. I’m not in tune to that as much as I should be. It took me too long to notice what was up with the writing..

      • K.

        I do usually rely on APW to avoid the heteronormativity. It’s what makes it a space I actually enjoy being in.

    • Ah! I think it was “your [partner] probably is too”, but that’s more a grammer mistake than anything. No assumptions! We’ll fix and then pull this thread. Thank you!

  • K.

    I think it’s awfully oversimplifying to assume that all woman-women relationships are automatically more equal, though. I should know, I’m in one, and I do a large majority of the emotional labor and take point on the household chores (we’re working on it). I know that there’s less socialization pressure behind that than in male-female relationships, but it absolutely still happens. I love being in a relationship with a woman, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I often see this unspoken assumption that it automatically solves some of these problems, but it’s not true. We are out here already having these relationships, and it’s not like they always go smoothly. (the counselor we saw before we got married mentioned, in fact, that in almost every couple she’s ever seen, one of them holds “The List”–in straight couples it’s almost always the women, but it happens in other relationships too)

    • laddibugg

      Yeah, I could not be with another list holder.

      • Jess

        I am friends with a list holder, and we have mutually agreed to never be roommates. It would be the worst.

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you for this! I’m in a relationship with another woman and it feels like there’s this assumption that our work is automatically more equal and it still takes work and it’s still disproportionate emotional labor for one person to figure out how that division of labor works or should work. I end up having to make a List of things that need to happen for the house to smoothly function in my view….otherwise my partner might do 50% of the things she thinks need to happen, but that only correlates to 20% of the work that I find has to get done.

    • Ebloom

      Yes, thank you for touching on this. I see that the intentions behind this article were good, but as a queer woman I typically feel uncomfortable by the idea that straight women often pose as, “It would be so much easier if we could just marry each other!” The privilege in that, and the assumption that romantic relationships between women is magically simpler because the gender privilege is magically evened out echoes ignorance. I also respect that these culturally relevant marriages work in the culture profiled, but I’m not about to say that Western straight women should marry each other to avoid household interactions with the men that they have sexual relationships with.

      • K.

        Yeah. Our best couple friends are straight, but have a more even division of emotional labor and chores than we do.

        Every now and then I actually start feeling like I’m losing at the gender socialization stuff–I have the traditionally female role for emotional work and housework, but also am the one with more of a career path and a higher salary. Lacking the traditional gender roles isn’t always easier. We are working on it, but still.

        • Elizabeth

          I want to say I feel you on that. Sometimes I start to get fussy because it feels like I have to do the stuff that’s traditionally male and the stuff that’s traditionally male and I just want it to default to someone else. We also are working on it, but it’s definitely a thing that needs to be worked on, not something that just happens.

  • Since this article starts with the claim that “othering” different cultures is a bad thing, I’d just like to point out that the two women profiled by Marie Claire have both first and last names: they are Mugosi Maningo and Anastasia Juma. They should have been introduced that way in this essay as well, and then referred to as Maningo and Juma throughout the rest of the post. (The Marie Claire article does use Mugosi and Juma, but I think that’s because they quote a journalist whose last name is also Maningo. I’d disagree with MC’s choice in this area as well — standard journalism protocol if we were talking about John Smith and Bob Smith would’ve been to use first initials with the last name.)

  • Elena

    There is also a documentary out there about “Walking Marriages” in a province in China. The women live together in matriarchal family groups and the women inherit everything . “Husbands” walk over at night and spend the night and are gone by morning. Men and women can have one or multiple “walking marriages”. Brothers never leave home and they help raise their sister’s children.

    However, the western woman who did the documentary noticed that the women are tired. They do nearly everything including exhausting work in the fields. The men have life much easier in this system and they even admitted it.

  • Anon for this

    My husband actually DOES do most of the stuff around the house – laundry, vacuuming, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. And he’s really good about remembering his family’s birthday presents and such. But before you virtually punch me in the face, HE ALSO REQUIRES CONSTANT PRAISE AND VALIDATION, and don’t you DARE question his methods.

    We have a 9 month old and I work 8-5 Monday-Friday. I’m responsible for getting her ready in the morning and taking her to daycare, nursing her on my lunch break, and entertaining/feeding/bathing/getting her ready for bed in the evening. She’s usually asleep by 9:30 p.m., which gives me just enough time to prepare bottles/lunches for the following day and pick up and put away toys before falling into bed, utterly exhausted. (I’m also the one who gets up with her multiple times during the night.)

    My husband has his own law practice that he’s very half-assed about – he doesn’t really want to be a lawyer, but it pays the bills. (*Barely* pays the bills – we have no savings and live paycheck to paycheck. He won’t create a website, advertise, network, etc. – he’s hoping a nonprofit ED job that pays six figures is going to fall out of the sky and hit him on the head, despite not having ever done any work outside of being an attorney.) We’re in year nine of a home renovation project that he works on intermittently.

    I’m pretty sure he thinks my career is something of a joke, despite the fact I bring in a decent salary and my job provides health care benefits for our entire family. On the weekends he rolls out of bed at 10 a.m. and talks about how tired he is when I’ve been up since 6 a.m. He dismisses or takes for granted all that I do because I Just Get On With It instead of talking about how difficult/exhausting/stressful it was putting in three hours working from home.

    I have to give my MIL credit for raising a son who knows how to Get Stuff Done, but honestly, I’d prefer a laid-back personality who has an actual job, a sense of humor, is open to questions and constructive criticism, and doesn’t have a propensity for taking on more than he can handle (see: home renovation).

    I guess all this is to say, there’s a definite a flip side to a spouse who’s willing to take on chores and emotional labor. That ambitious, Type-A personality isn’t all roses, not by a long shot.

    • anon

      This sounds…. like a lot. You sound very burned out and resentful and you can ignore me because I’m a stranger on the internet but there is a lot of hurt in this comment that maybe needs to be addressed with your spouse….

      • Anon for this

        No, thank you for your concern – totally fair. I didn’t really mean to unload like that. You’re absolutely right – I am burned out and resentful.

        We’re adjusting to parenthood after a third-trimester loss a couple of years ago, so in addition to all the regular new parent stress, I think we’re especially on edge because we know how precious and vulnerable this new life is and we feel powerless to prevent anything bad from happening to her.

        My husband also recently revealed to me that he was sexually abused as a young child, a secret he’s been harboring for 32 years. I’m literally the first person he’s told – not even his parents know. I don’t know any of the details – the nature of the abuse, the perpetrator, etc. He did recently start weekly counseling sessions that seem to be going well so far.

        We’ve known each other since high school, and he was always the golden boy – popular, good looking, athletic, straight-A student. He said he felt like as long as he was high achieving, his past held no power over him. Now that façade is beginning to crumble, he feels scared and exposed and like the last three decades have been a lie.

        We’ve been together for eight years, married for six, and up until last year I really did think we had that fairytale romance. He was – and in many ways, still is – a wonderful husband – loving, sensitive, generous, thoughtful, and supportive. He absolutely adores our daughter and would do anything for her.

        He had a high-stress, high-income job as a partner in a law firm, but he hated the work and I actually encouraged him to take a sabbatical while he contemplated a career change.

        I think we just have a lot of things going on at once – grief over the loss of our first baby, new parenthood, house issues, money issues, career issues, dealing with past trauma… We never really learned how to fight and now we’re a little bit stuck.

        I will say, however, that most men I know want acknowledgement (if not gushing praise) for any and all accomplishments, whereas the women I know just accept that work and chores and emotional labor are part of life and just get on with it. What’s up with that? I don’t get it.

        • emmers

          I’m so sorry about the loss of your first pregnancy. That really sucks. I hope your confidence in your daughter’s health grows with time. I’m also sorry about your husband’s abuse. You guys have a lot on your plate right now.

        • emmers

          Also, I personally find counseling helpful. If it’s something you can swing, maybe consider adding some for yourself, or you two together.

        • Anon for this!

          Hey anon,
          Just wanted to chime in and say that new parenthood can be ROUGH. Our relationship was total garbage for the first year of my kid’s life, despite us both being totally in love with the baby. We gradually came out of it, then had another kid, which plunged us back into the tough times for awhile. But yeah, it’s pretty brutal.
          All the love.

        • NolaJael

          This is a lot to deal with. Courage and peace to you both.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think someone who barely has a job can, by any remote stretch of the imagination, be called ambitious or Type-A. I do have SEVERAL other words for him that I will refrain from sharing, and let it be known that this internet stranger is impressed with the hustle and get-it-doneness and hard one of one person in your marriage, and it is not hi,

    • Jess

      There are a lot of sides to equality, and a lot of figuring out what it means within each relationship. While the individual tasks are easy to get worked up about (they are so easy to count!), it really comes down to feeling that your time and efforts are valued, respected, and reciprocated.

      I’m sorry all of this is going on in your life right now.

  • Jess

    Disregarding the emotional labor thread below, this is a really interesting solution to a really intense situation.

    I cannot fully understand what these women’s lives have been like before forming their marriage. I am fascinated by the ways women find to create the life they want to be leading, and love that this can be accepted and perhaps a little celebrated.

  • Fiona

    Discrepancies in our idea of household responsibilities are literally the biggest source of stress in our marriage. I manage the money because it’s my country and language and I know how to figure out how to do the things, but we have very different ideas of what is needed around the house. That being said, I’ve learned to lower my standards because I really don’t feel like doing it all myself, and we’ve come to a better routine. I do the shopping, he does the laundry. We alternate (not on a schedule) with who does the cooking. I pay the bills. He takes care of the car. If we each actually do those things, then it tends to be fine, and we don’t discuss things much.