One of these days, I am going to take to the streets vehemently protesting Whatsapp forwards. Mainly from lonely, bored people who (while making use of so many emojis, it should be considered illegal), seem to be pleased at themselves for finding another sexist, annoying marriage joke. There’s a general theme to this jokes. The man is portrayed as a helpless male, ensnared into the institution by a dominating wife. A wife, who will leave him alone to do as he pleases as long as he lets her shop. Cue a credit card joke. There’s so much to unpack here about the sexism, patriarchy and the roles of wives and husbands in marriages, that we will be here a long time if we decide to untangle this. And I have neither the patience, the time or the energy to do that. Anyway, if you’re as appalled that your family members belly-shake laugh at these absolutely crap marriage jokes, I imagine you will appreciate the concept of peer marriage.
What is a peer marriage?
I have always believed in equality in marriage but it was when I was reading Prachi Gangwani’s Dear Men that I stumbled upon the term, ‘peer marriage.’ According to study.com (they have broken down the concept with a lot of clarity), a peer marriage is essentially where both partners agree to divide all responsibilities and have a say in all decisions including , I imagine, a complete, blanket ban on forwarding stupid Whatsapp marriage jokes.
The concept of peer marriage and the term isn’t new. An author called Pepper Schwartz explored it in September 1994, interviewing over 100 couples about their marriages. The book has been slammed all around by reviewers and it might be safe to assume that this isn’t what you turn to for reference. In the pool of books, this one is best skipped, apparently.
But, this was back in 1994, so the concept of peer marriage has been around for a while.
How Is It Different From Regular Marriages?
As a married person, I do aspire to have a peer marriage. But I would think this was a conversation for before the wedding and not when you’ve already seen your spouse at their snotty, drool-y best over the course of many years. Peer marriage is when you sit down and calmly decide that every decision shall be a mutually one, and every responsibility will be a shared one, including childcare.
This means that, and allow me to use a few tropes here, the toilet seat is put down, the wet towel doesn’t lie pitifully abandoned on the floor, and no one has to lie about the prices of heels. The concept of peer marriages should be talked about a whole lot more now as we break our way out of traditional gender roles in our careers and in our relationships.
Traditionally, women were required to multi-task. We had to keep a home impeccably clean, lest someone come along and swipe their finger on the furniture. We also had to have the clothes washed, dried and ironed. While juggling taunts from strangers and members of the home while also chasing around energetic children while also teaching them manners and making them half decent human beings. On the other hand, men were require to provide for the house, come rain or shine. I mean, the pressure was immense. With peer marriages, no one person is responsible for one thing alone. From major decisions to minor ones, both the husband and the wife have a say. From finances to where that plant pot will be positioned in the living room, a peer marriage involves coming to a mutual decision.
In fact, I think a lot of us are already in a peer marriage, we just didn’t know it was called that. Sure there are times one cannot agree with the spouse about how much is a justifiable spend on that outdoor swing you just must have. As Psychology Today explains, a peer marriage also means that a single person cannot veto decisions- financial or otherwise. And that career decisions are not based solely on one person’s comfort and aspirations. One of the things that stood out to me about peer marriages is the fact that it requires that both the partners have a strong sense of self. If there isn’t an absolute equitable distribution of responsibilities, these are called near peer marriages.
I know for a fact that a lot of us are working towards a peer marriage. But in a world that finds ease and comfort in stereotypes, a peer marriage can be hard to navigate and perhaps even harder to establish. That being said, we are all trying and I guess that’s a start.
BRB, have to sit and sip on wine as husband whips up dinner.