Carolyn Hax: Conversation about gender roles can lead to answers on compatibility

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 5, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My partner and I are compatible on many levels but don’t quite see eye to eye on gender roles. He’s more traditional than I am and I wonder/worry how this would translate to raising children, sharing a life together, etc. How important is it to have similar views?

Washington

Depends on how strong each of your beliefs are. So, try posing a bunch of hypotheticals that occur with many couples:


Say you’re earning a lot more than he does when you have kids. Will he agree that yours is the job that takes precedence when one of you needs to be home for a sick kid? What if you get transferred — will he consider that a reason for you all to relocate, or for you to quit your job so he can keep his?

Is stay-at-home parenting a role only for moms?

What about toys for little kids — will you want to take a gender-neutral approach, and will he have a problem with that? What if your son wants to figure skate, and your daughter play hockey?

What if she wants to join the Army and he wants nursing school?

How do you and he feel about cooking, cleaning and car/yard work, and who takes responsibility for these?

I could go all day, and hope you do — or, better, find your answers through much context and conversation.

Life has its own ideas, as you probably well know. Dealing with the unexpected is difficult enough for people as it is, and being half of a couple adds the other dimension of two points of view, two sets of expectations, two sets of strengths and weaknesses that must be accounted for. And this is true even if you generally share a world view.

People who have different slants can make a happy life of it, but I see great difficulty if one of you prioritizes your slant thoughtlessly or authoritatively over the other’s. Short version, can each of you get over yourselves when the other needs you to?

Dear Carolyn:

I recently started a new job and also got engaged. I am not sure what to do about inviting (or not) my co-workers. I work in a small office, fewer than 10 people, and by the time of the wedding, I will have been here more than a year. I am not sure if my co-workers would feel bad about being left out, or if they would be annoyed about forking over money for a gift. My fiance and I are planning a big, casual reception. I am not sure if I feel comfortable mixing work and personal life, though.

Anonymous

Then plan not to invite any of them.

If you realize a couple of months before your wedding day that you feel close enough to your colleagues to feel odd about leaving them off the guest list, then invite them. You don’t have to decide anything now.

When you get there, though, just be sure to follow the rule of little-kid birthday parties: Either invite everyone in the class, well under half of them or none of them.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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