Our recent quiz produced more than just responses about the way men and women share their household chores--a lot of people wrote about the way they share their lives as well.
For some readers, the questions triggered thoughts about their philosophies of marriage. The approaches differed widely.
There was the togetherness approach. "He makes the cakes, she decorates them." There was the separate-but-equal approach. "She doesn't use my table saw and I don't use her lathe."
There was the tolerance approach. "He has learned to do more and I have learned to live with less." There was the intolerance approach. "If a woman can't learn to act like a wife, a man does not need her."
There was the sweets to the sweet approach. "My husband makes chocolate cookies from scratch. . . . I am lucky to be married to this man." There was the negative is positive approach. "I try to do the jobs he hates . . . and he tries to do what I can't stand."
Some of the respondents seemed surprised by their own answers. "I'm 48, he's 62; I had no idea we were in such good shape," was one reply. Another countered, "For 25 years I had no idea that she was supposed to pack a suitcase."
One reader even wrote a marital course, complete with recommended training film--"On Golden Pond"--and a 12-point guide entitled, "Keys to a Marathon Marriage."
A few years ago, many of these approaches would have been easy to dismiss. But watching so many of my testaments to togetherness heading toward divorce has tempered my vision. I am watching likely marriages sour and unlikely ones survive. The seven-year itch is showing up after seven months. There is less and less time between the "I Do" and "Why You?"
Even those with intact marriages were aware that more couples end up head-to-head than "Hart to Hart." One mother of five admitted regret that she had not trained her sons as well as her daughters in household skills. "Because of divorce (they) will be raising children by themselves," she speculated.
The quiz responses were a reminder of the fragility of modern marriages. One woman wrote, "I took the test three times, as it related to my two previous husbands and my current boyfriend."
"The curious thing," she added, "is that the answers were all about the same, which made me stop and think about a few things regarding this whole subject. . . . We (my boyfriend and I) have something between us that is a whole lot more basic--a general respect and like of one another. My two husbands made me feel less a human being because they had very little respect for me and maybe for themselves as well."
In other words, who does the dusting and who does the driving is less important than how people treat each other.