Ryan Bye finds that by understanding the shared organizing principles behind even seemingly mundane tasks, he can strengthen and grow his relationship.
She really lets me do her laundry, with ‘she’ referring to my significant other, partner, or girlfriend. Another way I could put it is she trusts me to do her laundry. I recently found myself amazed by this fact, amazed that it had just sort of happened, and it could be credited to the fact that we have been dating for over a year, I just moved into a new apartment with laundry included, or she truly trusts me to wash and dry her clothes correctly.
Either way I am pretty excited, nervous, amazed, and humbled by this experience. I know some people may say, “It is just laundry”, but to me and more importantly to her it is more than that. One of the habits I quickly learned about my partner was that she was particular about how she did her laundry. There was a system. A system with rules, regulations, and exceptions that she believed yielded the best results for her clothing.
Once we started doing laundry around one another I had the opportunity to observe this system, and my clothes began being subject to the system. There is nothing really absurd about this laundry system. I pull the jeans inside out, zippers get zipped up, certain items are never put in the dryer, and there are mesh bags for some articles of clothing (usually if they go in the bag they do not go in the dryer, but this rule does not work backwards). These are apparently pretty typical laundry rules—just ones I never followed before.
This process is important to her not because she possess some gendered stereotype obsession with clothing, but because she believes in retaining a high quality in her possessions. This belief is one of the many things that attract me to her. She believes that we should do everything in our power to keep things in our lives in good quality so they can last.
Now, I have not always been allowed to do her laundry, in fact there have been many laundry days in which I can recall her watchful eye as we loaded and unloaded the machines. What was important for me to note here was that it took time for this to happen. She did not automatically trust me to do her laundry, but after proving to her that I could in fact be trusted with putting the lace top in the mesh bag I was allowed to do the laundry.
For me, the ability to show my partner that I am worthy of her trust through every load of laundry is just another way that we continue to strengthen our relationship. Trust has to be earned, proved, and maintained. This is not to say that if I forget to clasp a bra one time that our trust will be damaged or out the window, but if that became a habit it would not only be damaging to the clothes it was washed with, but potentially our relationship.
So, the first time I realized I was doing her laundry was one of the most humbling experiences because she trusted me enough to put her laundry in with my dirty clothes from a weekend visit.
It became our laundry; it became another symbol of our trust.
Photo: malias / flickr