Your Roles in Life

Our sense of our place in the world is based to a great extent on the various roles we play–we are spouses, children, perhaps parents, and workers of one kind or another. From the standpoint of marriage, our perspective on our own roles and our mate’s can either add to the meaningfulness and harmony between us or create tension.

Your marriage will feel deeper to the degree that your expectations of each other–what you feel your wife’s or husband’s place in your family ought to be–are similar. We’re not talking here about seemingly superficial issues like who washes the dishes; we’re talking about deeper feelings about what you expect of yourself and your spouse.

For example, both Ian and Hilary believed that a husband should be a protector and provider and the wife more of a nurturer. Chloe and Evan believed in an egalitarian marriage in which the spouses supported each other emotionally and financially.

Because in both of these marriages husband and wife had a similar philosophy about their roles, their marriages worked. Of course, were Ian married to Chloe and Hilary to Evan, there’d be more cause for friction.

Having similar views about parenting–for example, the values you consider important to pass on to your children–also adds to a marriage’s meaning. So do questions about the kind of interaction you should now have with your parents and siblings. (Do you consider them part of your family, or outsiders you keep your distance from?) Even your views of what it means to work–and the meaning you attach to your own work–can deepen your sense of connection with your spouse. In other words, to the extent that you feel similarly about these issues, your marriage will be strengthened.

None of this means that you should (or, for that matter, could) see eye to eye on every philosophical or spiritual aspect of life. For example, couples who are in the same line of work may draw different meanings from it. Johnny is passionate about being a scientist. His work as a geologist forms a significant part of his identity and colors how he sees the world. He feels personally inspired by the scientific approach with its emphasis on objectivity and analysis, and he takes great pride in being a geologist.

If you ask him what he is, he will say he is a geologist first. His wife, Molly, is also a geologist, but she doesn’t identify quite so deeply with her profession. She sees herself as a woman first, rather than as a scientist. But this poses no difficulty in their marriage. They connect deeply in so many other areas of their lives together that this difference is never a sticking point.