Marriage is really tough. Marriage with kids is even tougher. Along with the many ordinary stressors of life, we carry baggage from the past as well as currently breaking baggage. For women in particular, I think there is an ongoing problem with feeling HEARD and being taken seriously.
There are a number of reasons for this. One is that women tend to talk a lot more than men. Men, therefore, have developed a brain that filters out a lot of what we jibber-jabber about, like our hair or the bitchy supervisor at work. I am not saying this is justifiable. I am saying it is real.
We have higher voices than men. Sometimes when I listen to tapes of myself in court hearings, I think I sound like a teenager, because my voice is high. I think to myself, “Who could ever take this person seriously?” Luckily, I do not fall prey to the curse of the rising intonation: “Your Honor? My client? He was never told by the worker that he missed a meeting? And therefore? He should be excused?” But I’m still shattering glass at times.
It’s a man’s world, as much as we wish it were not. Most of the people in the hierarchy of life are male. They are listening to us with that Man-in-Power point of view. I’d like to think we have moved away from a time when, as we gave a presentation to the Board of Directors, members of the audience were thinking, “Nice ass,” but I am not sure we have.
As we try to change those old ways of the work world, let us not forget that they do exist. Our husbands may have grown up in households where Mom did the housework and Dad mowed the lawn. Lord knows we’ve all seen enough TV shows and movies where that was the norm. I raised my sons to think Dad and Mom were fungible, AND I taught them to vacuum and do laundry and wash dishes but now, as grown men, they do not leap to duty. They wait to be asked. This is disappointing to me, but on the other hand, when they are asked, they seem to cheerfully pitch in.
We can sulk and ask how do men get the idea that they get a free ride re: household drudgery, ESPECIALLY since no wives are home with the June Cleaver pearls anymore – we are all out working just as many hours as the men! Why does a man need an invitation to change his own child’s stinky diaper?
We can declare that we are taking a certain chore out of our repertoire, but then we end up fuming while our partner, who willingly took it on, does it on HIS timetable, not ours. It’s brutal, because the anger and resentment build up and come out of us in ways that we would not normally express our feelings.
So here’s my idea: let’s all pretend we love those shlubby guys who inhabit our homes. Remember when you and he first met? We were all so forgiving of their many foibles, their forgetfulness about different requests or occasions, and their inept way of doing whatever chore they took on. Hahaha, the magic of lust was like pixie dust and all those annoying incidents just went POOF!
Yes, those days are gone. Both of you have been through some crappy stuff, whether at work or with your kids or your families of origin, and it takes its toll. But why do we treat the people we cherish the most with such anger and disdain? If anybody else treated your husband that way, you would be furious. And you would never talk to your pompous smug boss, who takes credit for all your ideas, the way, for example, that I talk to my husband when he pretends he heard me, and then says what I just said as though it was his original idea! With someone in the real world, I would swallow it, but with dear hubby, I burst into venomous flames! Why?
I think it is the years and years of feeling unheard, unnoticed and unappreciated. The more resentful we become from this long pattern of subtle devaluation, the nastier we get. That is certainly not helping anything to get better.
Back to pretending you love him. My husband has an expensive device designed to keep him from snoring. It’s not very comfortable, but it helps him to breathe and get a better night’s sleep. He’ll wear it for a while, and then he starts to “forget.” THIS MAKES ME FURIOUS. He’s selfish, he doesn’t care about me, he’s in denial, he doesn’t understand that I have to work the next day, and so on. He’s clearly doing it on purpose to bother me, RIGHT?
Usually that comes out as, “What exactly is that device for? Decoration? Why would you not wear it when it benefits both of us? Why are you so arrogant to think you can stop snoring through sheer will, because I assure you, it isn’t working,” with my best sneering, sarcastic, snippy tone of voice. That works, because he doesn’t want to hear that on a daily basis, but no one feels good about it.
This morning I really thought about this nasty pattern, and instead of my usual, I tried this: “Honey, do you think you could wear your device when I have to go to work the next day?” He said, “Sure.” Then a minute went by and he said, “Thanks for the way you asked.” WOW!! I felt good, he felt good, and that inspired this post! Now let’s see if he remembers to wear it tonight.
I am asking all of us simply to be as respectful towards our husbands as we are to our bosses and coworkers. Try to remember that once upon a time, you loved that man and you forgave everything.