Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Stuff, Her Stuff

There’s an old statement about marriage, where the guy was bestowing all his worldly possessions on his bride. We don’t use that term much in our day, but in the time it was coined, men owned all the property. The idea was that by marrying, he was sharing what was his with his wife.

In a way, that statement makes sense. Marriage is a covenant; and as such, what belongs to one, belongs to the other. So, when a couple gets married, his car becomes their car. Her sofa becomes their sofa. Marriage isn’t about being your own person; it’s about being one flesh. Integrating your worldly goods is only one of many symbols of that.

Even so, it seems to me that there are many couples, who may have many years of being married, yet still keep certain possessions separate, as if they were still single. Granted, there are a few things which are personal possessions; like clothes. I don’t think God or society has ever intended for a couple to share their clothes. Most guys don’t look good in dresses, anyway, especially if they forget to shave their legs.

There are also things like cars, which although are joint property, one uses more than the other. For many couples, there’s “his car” and “her car.” Not so much in a sense of ownership, but by a sense of who uses which.

The problem comes in when one or the other gets possessive over something that really is better considered community property. Take a stapler for instance. Now, most families don’t need two staplers; one will suffice. If they have an office or a computer desk, it’s normally kept there. But, what if it’s missing? What if one partner uses the stapler in the kitchen and forgets to put it back. Wouldn’t it be a bit ridiculous for the other one to start yelling at them for “taking my stapler”?

Unfortunately, this sort of thing actually happens. I’m a really organized person and I like things to be put back where they came from. But, it would be ridiculous of me to get mad at my wife for taking the stapler and not putting it back on my desk, where she got it from (I say “my desk” because we each have a desk).

Having a petty attitude like this can cause a great amount of stress and bickering that really isn’t necessary. Even being an over-organized person, I recognize the right of other family members to use the things that I have in my part of the office. To be otherwise is to say “that thing is more important than my relationship with you.” Ouch! That’s definitely way too much.

We had a situation arise a number of years ago with my computer. I call it my computer, because when I bought it, my wife didn’t want anything to do with it. That is, she didn’t want anything to do with it until she discovered the Web. That first day she was on the Internet, she literally surfed all night long. When I got up at 6:00 the next morning, she was still there, surfing away. She’d suddenly found something useful for the computer and she wanted to be on it day and night.

The problem came in that I needed to use the computer for my work as well. There were a few times in which I didn’t get things done which I needed to, because she was on it. We suddenly had a problem. It would have been very easy to become possessive about “my computer” and start complaining at her about using it too much. I could have even tried to keep her off of it all together. But, that wouldn’t have been right. Compounding the problem was the fact that she wasn’t just using it to e-mail her friends or play games, she was doing research which was useful to our ministry.

Since my wife was a newcomer to the world of computers, when things didn’t happen as fast as she wanted, she’d just click buttons to see what would happen. For anyone who is computer literate, that can be disastrous. I awoke many a morning to find things moved around, deleted from or added to the desktop. Fortunately, the only time she deleted a bunch of files by accident, they were her old e-mails.

It was clear that we had a problem. We needed two computers. So, that’s what we did; we bought another one. That way, I had my computer and she had hers. No problem.

Watch out for that possessive attitude. It’s okay when you’re dealing with people outside the family, but with your wife? No, there’s no place for it. If you need two, so that there isn’t a problem, like we did with the computers, then get two. On the other hand, if you don’t need two, don’t waste the money, learn how to share; and do it with a good attitude. 

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