“No man is an island” said 17th-century author John Donne.
This is true in marriage. Yet we can and should keep our separate identities after tying the knot.
We should also accept that none of us is totally self-sufficient. We depend on car mechanics, airplane pilots, farmers, friends, accountants, therapists, and others. Certainly, in a good marriage we rely on our marriage partner. We respect each other’s individuality and also connect as romantic partners and as lifetime teammates.
When I was single and dating, I feared that marriage could cause me to lose my identity. My friend Amy set me straight. “I think of my marriage as a three-stranded braid,” she said. “One strand is me, a separate person. Another is Michael. The third strand is our relationship.” I took this to mean that marriage can be a union of individuals who are both independent and interdependent.
Until recently, the roles of men and women were fixed and interdependent. Usually the husband earned the money (or brought home the kill). His wife cooked and kept the home fires burning. Today, in many good marriages, spouses are interdependent in different ways. Either partner can be the “provider” or homemaker. Often both jobs are shared.
So when you and a dating partner are seriously thinking about marriage, it’s time to talk about how the two of you want to function as a team. Sound each other out about whatever is important to each of you. A few examples: How will you deal with money concerns? Who will be responsible for household responsibilities, such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and gardening? Child care? Diaper changing? Except for who currently gets to bear children, just about everything is negotiable.
The more you think through what you will rely on each other for in advance, the more realistic will be your expectations after marriage. You and your future spouse can customize your interdependence in ways that honor your needs and preferences as individuals.