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Rules, roles in marriage take shape over time
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Forsyth County News

Are there rules in your marriage? I almost added “relationship” in addition to marriage, but decided against it since the rules change when the relationship becomes a marriage.

One marriage rule, which we never discussed, but just happened, is that Paul usually — almost always — drives the car.

I remarked to my mother that I can count the times when I’ve driven and Paul was the passenger. All of them occurred when his back was out (three times), he was seriously sick (two times) and had Lasik eye surgery (twice). That’s it!

Isn’t that funny? Not that he tells me I can’t drive, it just doesn’t happen. I like to drive, and am a good driver, albeit a much slower one. But when we are together in a car, he drives. He also takes care of all car issues and maintenance.

I know not all couples are like this. One of my good friends handles all of the car maintenance, including getting new tires, car tags, emissions, etc. Not in our home.

Not once have I gotten car tags and I don’t know where the office is. I’ve never bought tires for any of our cars, nor do I know a thing about engines.

Paul used to try to explain car things to me, but he finally realized my eyes glaze over and it was a waste of time.

Another rule is that he takes the garbage and recycling cans down to the curb, except when our boys were old enough or available to do so.

Now this is something I have done before on occasion. And those occasions are easily noted since they were when: He was out of town; or couldn’t because of those above mentioned times with driving.

He’s in charge of grilling for the most part, and is always in charge of the smoker and of our knock-off Big Green Egg. I’m more than capable of grilling and don’t think I would have any trouble with the smoker either. But somehow those tasks are understood to belong to him.

I do pretty much all of the housework. I’m sure that’s not a popular thing to say with some women, but in our home it’s just the truth.

That doesn’t mean he won’t help me — and I taught him early on about certain no-no’s, leaving the toilet seat up, etc. But for the most part, if I need help, I have to ask.

I rarely make “honey do” lists, but if I do make one, I promise he knows it’s serious. Meaning I’m about to have some sort of a breakdown. If I make a list, he immediately does the tasks.

Recently our daughters (now ages 19 and 22) were laughing about how their dad used to tell them to clean their rooms when they were young. They would privately say how unfair that was since he didn’t clean his own room, mommy did.

That cracked me up, because of course, it was true.

It’s much better for me to be in charge of pretty much all grocery shopping, though I will ask him to stop at the store for a few items from time to time.

My lists for him have gotten increasingly specific over the years. That cuts down on the likely chance I will get a phone call from him when he is at the grocery store asking, “What is aguave and where do I find it?”

“It’s a sweetener and is in the sugar aisle,” I tell him.

He calls back. “They don’t have capers.”

“Yes they do, they are on the pickle aisle.”

He calls again, the irritation clearly in his voice, “What is panko?”

I direct him to the flour/bread crumb aisle. Of course, being a man, he would never ask for directions from a store clerk. A simple trip to the store for five items could take him an hour.

He paints the house, but I pick the colors. I know many women are terrific painters, but I didn’t get that talent. I’m as slow as I am bad.

Paul is good and fast at it, so he is the designated painter. He is not allowed, however, to pick colors for whatever is being painted.

I once saw a cute cartoon that showed a paint counter at a home improvement store. The clerk told the male customer he had to have a note from his wife saying she had given permission to pick out a paint color.

I laughed and realized we must not be the only couple who has a paint-color-challenged husband in the mix.

I’m sure there are other rules I’m forgetting, but those are the most blatant ones.

Do you and your spouse have rules you’ve defined over the years? I would love to hear from you.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at