The Head and the Neck

Navigate through traditional values in modern relationships more effectivelyRelationships are definitely not always easy, but Hope for Women has some helpful tips for today’s women with an old-school take on marriage and cohabitation. Transitioning from a single, independent woman to marriage or cohabitation is quite the endeavor. You may fear a loss of power and control over your life, and it can be a struggle as women navigate through the expectations of marriage (an old institution) in modern-day reality.

The movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding depicts the balancing act of a traditional marriage. When the main character’s father refuses to give her more independence, she seeks the advice of her mother, complaining about her father’s stubborn “head of the house” mentality. The mother wisely responded, “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. She can turn the head any way she wants.” If you are a modern-day woman who struggles with the idea of the man as the head of the household, but still have some traditional values, these tips are for you.

Do a “head check” – Before you get married or cohabitate, determine your head of the household’s beliefs about marriage and/or living together and his expectations of you. Be honest and realistic about your own expectations, abilities and limitations. Make sure that you are both on board with each other’s visions of a union and that you trust him to lead your household.

One body – Understand that being a traditional wife doesn’t mean you are beneath your husband; rather, it is a position of power. Think of how limited a head is without a neck—the neck connects the head to the rest of the body--your family. Use this power wisely, as you are one body. Whatever happens to the head will affect the whole unit and vice versa. Avoid whiplash by using gentle guidance and encouragement when turning your head.

Flex your muscles – Play to your strengths as a couple. If traditional gender roles and responsibilities don’t work for you, let them go. Take on tasks according to you and your partner’s preferences, availability and skills. For example, if your husband is not handy, but has more patience with the kids, then you can be Mrs. Fix It, and he can be Mr. Mom. Discuss it with him, and decide together the best plan of action on household responsibilities.

Neck roles – Be flexible and open for negotiations. Daily issues or major events such as illness, loss of income or job promotions may make a shift in roles necessary or more practical. It is important to communicate your needs clearly and be open to the needs of your partner. A flexible neck makes the whole body move better.

Neck support – Keeping the head on straight and holding the body together is tough on a neck. You need support. Ask your partner for help, share responsibilities, utilize the kids and manage your time wisely. Consider hiring help for random projects or daily tasks. Get creative—you’d be surprised at the amount of free labor you can get by promising snacks.

At the end of the day, you have to do what works best for you as a family. You don’t have to do what your mother did—whatever body part you are, be well and be uplifted.