I decided to pull this draft out because it was voted for — twice! — as one people would like to see finished. It was the only one of mine voted for (not too surprising, since my drafts make up about 1% of the total drafts), and I haven’t posted anything in a while, so I figured I should not only blog something again, but listen to the opinions of our commenters. So here you go. (Also, it was started a long time ago, but what was already there still applies.)
I’ve been reading this thread over on FMH. It had me thinking about presiding in my own marriage, and since I didn’t want to threadjack (and since the blog has been a little dead lately), I decided to post my thoughts here.
Presiding is not a term I like, at least in church contexts. Nor is patriarchy. They get my hackles up every time I hear them. There is simply no way that a marriage can be both a patriarchy (a hierarchical social system in which the men are in charge) and an equal partnership. The two definitions are mutually exclusive. I hope that they get used together simply because we are moving towards the rhetoric being only about equal partnership, but we just haven’t managed to entirely get rid of the presiding term (yet). I don’t know that this is the case, but I hope.
That being said, there is, in fact, presiding in my marriage. Others have said that their marriages function like the Quorum of the 12, and no decision is made unless both (all) parties have thought about, prayed about it, and come to the same conclusion. My marriage does not work like this. I’m pretty sure my marriage never could work like this. As much as I love my husband, we agree on very little. We have different tastes in music, art, books, work, sports, food, names, and just about anything else you can think of. It sometimes amazes me how little we have in common. This means that there is a lot of compromise in my marriage. This is a good thing, and something both my husband and I have gotten better at the longer we’ve been married.
On the other hand, we never do come to an agreement on some things, and that’s where presiding comes in. Sometimes a decision has to be made even if we don’t agree on what the decision should be. So the arrangement in our marriage is that each of us presides over different things. Not that we’ve ever explicitly stated it that way. We have, however, divided many responsibilities in our marriage (explicitly and implicitly), and we both understand that whoever’s responsible for a certain thing therefore presides in that matter.
For instance, we’ve determined that (at least for now) my husband is responsible for earning money for us to live off of, and I’m responsible for taking care of the children while he’s at work. This leads to each of us having more say in certain decisions. When my husband was looking for jobs after business school he offers from two different companies that we were considering. Both were pretty good offers, and we both prayed about which one he should take (and also, as part of that, where we should move our family). We got different answers. We both felt fine about both offers, he just felt better about one and I felt better about the other. He took the job that he felt better about (with my okay), because, well, he was the one who was actually going to be doing the job.
On the other hand, there are many things he think we should do with the children that we don’t. He politely offers suggestions; sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t. One day he told me he thought it was important that our toddler sit up at the table for lunch. I said, “That’s nice. I don’t.” I encourage our toddler to sit at the table for lunch, but he still doesn’t have to. My husband doesn’t really agree with that decision, but I’m responsible for our children during the day, so it’s my decision to make, and he respects that.
This system works well for us, and for quite a few others, as well, I imagine. I know it’s a system my parents used. My dad once told me that they’d agreed early on in their marriage that he got to choose his job (and consequently where they lived), and my mom got to choose everything else. It’s mostly worked well for them, except for the occasions when my mom actually wants my dad to have an opinion on something and he just says, “Whatever you want, dear.” But he’s learning when he should actually express his opinions (and when he should continue to just agree), too. It works.
On a slightly different note, the most important way presiding, in its truest church/priesthood sense, works in my marriage is to not be talked about. My husband and I have a great and egalitarian marriage, and we’re both happy with how things are going. But if the subject of him presiding in our marriage comes up it’s bound to end with both of us upset. You see, I’m adamant that we are equal partners, and there is no presiding going on by him (other than both of us presiding over our children, at least at this point in their lives). He, on the other hand, sees presiding as one of his Priesthood duties (despite the fact that he, like most, doesn’t really know what it entails), so saying that he doesn’t preside means that he’s failing in his Priesthood duties. Obviously, to be a good Mormon, and a good man, and a good husband and father, he has to preside. But if we just avoid talking about it we have no disagreements on how it actually works.
So there you have, some (somewhat disjointed) thoughts on how presiding works in my marriage. How does it work in yours? Or how would you like it to?