Long ago, when Mike and I were dating, the question of presiding came up as we sat in a hot tub in Provo. Even as a 21 year old, the concept didn’t sit well with me. It just didn’t jive with my own ideals of equality and true partnership. Mike understood where I was coming from, but proposed that perhaps presiding didn’t involve decision making, but that it instead had to do with ultimate responsibility. After we’re dead, he mused, it might just mean that the man, as the priesthood holder, would bear a greater responsibility if the family went off track.A reasonable proposition, perhaps. But it made me feel nauseous. It was the only moment in our whole courtship where I thought we might not make it. In the first couple years of our marriage, the ultimate responsibility argument seemed to drop out of the presiding discussion. Instead, Mike proposed that we refine the idea of preside to mean that Mike presided over certain religious ordinances. Though I hated the word, this made sense to me on some level and I reluctantly agreed.Now we are seven years into our marriage, and I have entirely eliminated the idea that Mike presides over me in any way. Though Mike wouldn’t put it like that (he would say that he just has no idea what ‘preside’ means and therefore we act as equal partners), we are in practice on the same exact page. We are co-presiders, and it works beautifully for us.
There is no ultimate decision maker in our marriage. Instead we compromise or take turns when big decisions arise. There is no religious presider. Instead we decide together how religion functions in our home, and we try to make it egalitarian. We take turns asking our home teachers to pray, and we both took part in our baby’s blessing.
I sometimes joke that our co-presiding system is justified in the Proclamation. Aside from the equal partner emphasis, there is that important caveat “Individual circumstances may vary.” And my individual situation is that I am personally revolted by the idea of my husband presiding over me.
I feel great about the way our co-presiding marriage works. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – so be it – but I still do take heart when I see other young married couples that have a similar dynamic. They may not articulate that they co-preside, but in practice I see them emphasizing the equal partner model, rather than the man-as-head-of-the-household model.
How do you interpret the word ‘preside?’ How has it played out in your family? Do you co-preside too? And do you sense that co-presiding is becoming more widespread?