Asked whether I could write down a few reflections on how it is to be married to a strong and independent woman I thoughtlessly agreed. But when I sat down to start the writing I realized I have noting to compare to – I never was married to a dependent woman – never wanted to be either, could probably have found one though if I’d really wanted to.
But being the son of a mother who divorced when I was very young, I learned from an early age that women can be strong and independent – actually I always thought that that is the way women are. So when I encounter women who expect me to decide for them and to treat them as girls, or queens, but not as equals, I feel uneasy – which probably explains why I never was married to one.
Unfortunately many men – universally – seem to be afraid of strong, independent and educated women – traditional patriarchal masculinity having it that the husband be the head of the family in every respect. But then these men never reflected on or questioned their masculinities. To me, sharing my life with a strong and independent woman is a challenge and experience I would not like to be without, an opportunity I would not like to have missed. That, of course, almost automatically makes me a supporter of gender equality.
After living in Singapore for a year and a half, I have to say that my impression of Singaporean women – a very superficial impression I have to admit – is not very flattering in this respect. Sorry. Most Singaporean women seem to dress like girls, behave like girls and apparently expect to be treated as girls. Actually the only local women that – to my mind – behave like grown-up women are the women I have met through AWARE.. But then I am conditioned to Scandinavian women, the most egalitarian women in the world (whose salaries nonetheless are less than those of their male colleagues).
The principal challenge of sharing your life with a strong and independent woman is of course that there are two wills, two sets of values and standards, two careers, two views on everything important. But one roof only to accommodate them – and little willingness to succumb. If you cannot agree, you can either fight, or learn from each other – or come up with a constructive or even creative compromise. Concerning the learning aspect, one of my gurus once said that when you fall in love with a woman, you actually fall in love with those of her qualities you would like to be in possession of yourself. Personally I am grateful and proud of having learnt a lot from the women I have shared my life with.
There are of course a legio of everyday challenges and potential conflicts – economy, children, homework, friends and relatives, interests and hobbies etc. My own humble strategy in dealing with these challenges has been to categorically refuse to classify any activity as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ but to empirically develop some division of labour both parties can accept and even enjoy. I for instance find washing the dishes a very therapeutical activity, to the extent that I think my wife suspects I am a pervert. But then she is clearly paranoid – playful humour is a very essential lubricant in a marriage between two independent personalities. As is the willingness not to avoid arguments.
So when I told my wife I was expected to write a text about being married to a strong and independent woman, she just laughed and told me to go and find one then.
[This text is going to be published by AWARE for the International Women's Day]