Sunday, November 13, 2011

Head-Exploding Marriage Stuff

I have recently been on the quest to be a better wife. When I was younger, and even now, my "dream life" was always to marry the person I love, and to be not only a good wife, but a great one: one that my husband would brag about to other men. I realized that simply getting married and wanting your husband to be proud of you doesn't make that happen. Like all things, any goal worth attaining requires work and thoughtfulness.

So I called my father-in-law. Who better, right? He not only has the husband perspective, but he's spent the past 31+ years getting to know my husband. Certainly he would have a few pointers. He recommended a book. I winced. The author was by a woman I typically have great disdain for: Dr. Laura.

Before my other liberal and feminist friends react, let me say one thing: I have always believed that there is great value in hearing the other side. When two sides debate or disagree in our culture we seem to believe that the person who is the least willing to back down is the strongest, and the smartest. I disagree. I think that when one side makes a compelling point and the other side can recognize that, they are acting intelligently. They have the mental flexibility to let their belief system evolve. They may not adapt 100% to the other side's dogma, but their own way of thinking may become more valuable.

There were a lot of things in the book I had already been thinking about a lot lately, so it felt especially profound to have another woman spell them out as well.

Being bossy and mean, entitled, insecure and always looking for a reason to be angry with men does not a strong marriage make.

I was once irritated that Isaac liked to have a clean home when he came home. How dare he! Doesn't he know that a woman's "place" is not in the kitchen with a wash rag? Isn't he evolved enough to clean his own damn house?! (Granted, I always cleaned, but for a few months before we got married I always felt a little miffed about doing it).

But it turns out, that cleaning the house makes him really happy. [I learned this years ago, and it seems to be the best example to use]. Which is reason enough to do it. He works 12+ hours a day, every day of the year (his "days off" on the calendar almost always end up being spent on the phone and writing emails to stay caught up). He has an extremely high-pressure job. He comes home mentally and physically exhausted. He spends half his time each month traveling. If I were in his shoes and I asked for the house to be cleaned, and I worked such a difficult job to put a roof over his head, and he worked part time, and I came home to a messy house and a husband who was irritated that I had any at-home expectations at all, I'd be deeply hurt and angry. (Sorry, that was a long sentence with too many commas. My writing mechanics have fallen to the wayside).

That attitude of entitlement...expecting actions and things to be provided without giving what you are capable of giving in return...that is draining on a man. And, unfortunately, it's common of women. I can think of at least a handful of women I know personally who think and behave this way in their homes.

And this, I think, is where some women get confused about the feminist goal, and make feminists look really bad. Ultimately, they don't want equality with men. They just want their way. They want their jobs (or no jobs, in some cases), and successful men with jobs, and for nothing to be expected of them besides what they want from themselves, and for all the things they want to be provided to them. Which isn't equality at all. They want "girl time" with their friends, but act offended if their guy wants "time with the guys" at the bar or golf course. That's straight-up princess behavior.

Imagine if you called a feminist a spoiled princess. All hell would break loose.

But, I think the issue of entitlement has to end. Each couple is different, but in a couple, each person's needs for a balanced and happy home may not be the same. My husband likes my cooking and to have a clean house and for me to be nice to him. Small price to pay for a happy marriage, roof over my head, and food on my table. Me? I just like the things I do to be noticed, some affection, and for dirty laundry to end up in the basket. I don't care if he cleans or cooks, although I recognize how nice it is when he does.

But this very domestic balance that works for me and my husband, and frees up a lot of time for us to have fun together because we have nothing to argue about, seems to make some people very irritated. I don't understand why they waste energy being unhappy about a marriage they don't belong to.

I, however, am happy to be striking a happy balance, and to be striking it well. I am almost surprised at how much more eager Isaac is to please me when a few simple things are done each day. As long as my marriage is happy, fun, supportive and well balanced; other people can think what they want. At the end of the day, they don't share my home or my vows.

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