Most marriages are formed when two people love each other and share the same aspirations in life. Once couples are married their views begin to change. They realize that marriage is hard and after having kids it’s even harder. Hope Edelman, in her essay “The Myth of Co-Parenting: How It Was Supposed to be. How It Was,” feels frustrated with her husband because of his lack of participation in their marriage. On the other hand, Eric Bartels in his essay “My Problem with Her Anger,” is frustrated with his wife because she is angry with him all the time.
Though these essays address marriage from both a male and female perspective, they both discuss idealistic views of marriage, lack of communication, blame, and how to fix their problem. Before getting married, both Edelman and Bartels have an idealized view of marriage. Edelman imagines it being split perfectly down the middle. She would contribute half the income and half the housework. She is determined not to be like her parents. Her mother did the house work, cooked, and cleaned, while her father was only the man who ate a meal with them at night.
Even though Edelman’s role models portrayed the opposite, she believes co-parenting is attainable in her marriage (186). Like Edelman, Bartels, too, has an idealized vision of marriage. He imagines being able to communicate with his wife and talking about the way things should be done. He thinks he will receive credit for all that he does around the house (193). Neither Edelman’s nor Bartels’s marriages end up they way they have imagined. Edelman’s husband promises her in their wedding vows to be her “partner at home and in life,” but they “stopped feeling like a team” (190).
He breaks his promises to her. He works 90 hours a week which leaves him no time to help around the house. As a result, she is trying to contribute to the income, cook, clean the house, and run their child around. She becomes the dominant parent, and she is angry (188). Edelman’s marriage has become exactly what she did not want; she has become her parents. Bartels is also dissatisfied. He says they should have known what they were getting themselves into, but he “thinks we missed the some of the small print” (197). He feels that he cannot do anything right.
His cooking does not satisfy her; he does not wash clothes the right way; he cannot even load the dishwasher correctly. Bartels does not receive credit for the work that he does; instead, his wife lashes out for no reason (194). Both marriages are guilty of having a lack of communication in the relationship. Edelman’s husband, John, starts his company soon after they are married. This requires a lot of his time. Edelman feels like she is never asked if he can be gone so much. She is left feeling betrayed and frustrated.
The few minutes at the end of the day are spent cramming in a fourteen-hour conversation into only twenty minutes before falling asleep (188). Their lack of communication has caused tension between them. In the beginning they try to talk out their problems logically. They both agree to do better. John says he will try to be home more and Hope says she will “lighten up” (189). This tactic works for a while, until Edelman gets fed-up after John breaks the promise he just made. In retaliation, Hope takes his credit card and buys their daughter the most expensive swing set she can find.
She thought this would make her feel better but in the end she was still alone, watching their daughter play on her new swing set (189). Bartels and his wife also suffer from a lack communication in their relationship. They cannot talk about anything without it turning into a screaming fight. Everything Bartels does seems wrong to his wife. He cleans the kitchen while she gets the kids ready for bed. His wife runs to him screaming about how she needs more help than he is providing. She lashes out at him like she found him sitting on the couch drinking a beer (193).
With so much anger it becomes “less and less necessary to question its origins” (196). What is the point in trying to talk about the problem when they just end up screaming and yelling at each other? Due to their lack of communication, both Edelman and Bartels are left feeling frustrated and angry with their spouses. Edelman accepts part of the blame for this problem, while Bartels does not. While her husband is at work, Edelman is left to pick up the slack around the house. She has to keep the refrigerator stocked, file the income taxes, and do the laundry (185).
She feels abandoned by the fact that her husband is not there to help her make important decisions such as where to send their child to daycare. He does not want to help her choose, but then again he feels that he has the right to complain about how much daycare costs him (187). She blames her husband’s absence for not taking part in this decision; although, she does not completely blame her husband for their problem. She realizes that her husband “feels like a punching bag”; therefore, she knows they both have to compromise to make their marriage work. Bartels, on the other hand, appears less willing to accept any blame.
He thinks it is solely his wife’s fault. He simply says his wife needs to “buck up” and stop blaming him for everything he does (195). Unlike Edelman, Bartels is not willing to compromise with his wife. He says men are more relaxed; they do not “worry about things before they happen,” whereas his wife is being “monstrous” (195). He tries organizing the armoire, at which she suggested, only to result in a screaming fight. Apparently the clutter he was going to put in the basement was not what she had in mind (193). It is hard for Bartels to accept any blame when his wife blows up for what appears to be no reason at all (196).
To fix these marital problems, Edelman and Bartels take different approaches. They both make a few compromises and things start to fall into place. Edelman’s husband, John, finally cuts his hours down so she can add a few more work hours to her schedule. With the additional money she is making, they are able to go out together on Friday nights and get some much needed alone time. For all of this to happen, Edelman has to give up the dream of complete “co-parenting” (190). She has to learn to live with the imbalances, and, as a result, is relieved of her frustration (190).
From another perspective, Bartels has a different idea of how to fix the problem. Since it is his wife’s fault that their relationship is flawed, he feels that she should “buck up” (195). Bartels feels that he is doing all he can while his wife should ask for help from him and learn to control her anger (194). When things are worked out calmly and collectively it is more efficient (197). He can only take deep breaths and hope for the best in the end (198). Hope Edelman and Eric Bartels have both realized that marriage is not the fantasy of which they have always dreamed.
Fighting has become a part of their daily lives. Edelman says her husband is never at home and is always at work. He is not there to help with the cooking, cleaning, or the raising of their child. Bartels says he does all he can for his wife, but she does not recognize all of his hard work. From these essays, we can infer that marriage takes a lot of compromise and patience. When time is made for each other and communication skills are intact, the relationship can heal, as evidenced by Edelman’s ability to communicate and compromise with her husband.