You may know of the phrase, “Nobody’s happy if mom's not happy.” I wrote The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands because women were calling and complaining about their men not doing enough. I’m rattled because so many call to whine about their spouses. I’d like to talk about this vicious circle.
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“I think he checked out of the marriage five years ago,” one woman said. When I asked what her husband did to indicate that, she said he had stopped taking out the trash. In her words, she had to nag her husband “50,000 times for him to do it.”
I believe the vicious circle typically starts with us women. Women tend to be more emotionally sensitive in a marriage or relationship. We overthink and interpret things that don't need any interpretation. Women have the notion that things should be done a certain way and if they're not, it means something bad. Just like not taking out the trash.
Alter Your Expectations
I often mention the call that inspired me to write my book, but there are always new listeners or listeners who can’t listen to my full show. A woman called about how her husband acted on her birthday. He came home and prepared himself nicely to take her out to dinner. He gave her flowers and a nice present. The woman said they had a wonderful time. After coming home, her husband flopped on the couch to relax. He had a long day at work, and was tired. He turned on the TV to watch a sports game. She went ballistic, crying hysterically, “If only he loved me.”
“What?” I said. He treated her like a queen with a present, fancy dinner, flowers, champagne. While she's checking on the kids, he relaxes for a little bit.
“What did you want instead?” I asked. If she had said sex, the conversation would have gone another way. I would have said, “Go take your clothes off and present yourself in front of the TV. I think that will be dealt with even if he's tired.” But she didn’t say sex.
“We didn't sit and talk,” the woman replied. After everything, she expected him to have a lengthy conversation. About what? I couldn't believe it.
The more that women demand and expect of their husbands, the more they become nagging mothers. “These things should be done by him in a certain way that’s up to my standards by a certain time.” Men then withdraw, lose interest, and want peace at all costs. Women sense that shift in behavior and the nagging, demanding and crying escalates. This makes a husband pull back more because he doesn't know what the hell to do now. It keeps going in a circle.
Consider a More Thoughtful Response
Another listener called in about her husband who didn't take his shoes off at the front door, which was her preference. She was getting more and more frustrated, and they were having fights about the shoes.
“As a woman in a loving relationship, when you see a problem in your head, you get very emotional and then try to find a fix where everybody ends up feeling good. Go out and buy a pair of warm toasty slippers tonight or tomorrow,” I offered.
Once she got the slippers, I told her to meet him by the front door and say, “You know, I've been nagging you about taking your shoes off and I never thought of how uncomfortable it is to walk on the hard floor without shoes. That was very thoughtless of me. Here, put these on, you'll be comfy when you take your shoes off.”
What would have been accomplished? He would have taken his shoes off, he would have put his feet in the toasty slippers and he would have looked at her with love. That would have melted him, and he would likely remember to do so from now on. She made it an issue of him not being thoughtful enough, but that may not have been the reason for not taking his shoes off.
Do you want to solve the problem, or do you want to win the fight? If you find yourself thinking about nagging or demanding too much of your spouse, remind yourself, “My husband or wife has just been so sweet. I'm going to go get the bread like they like or buy those slippers as a gift.”
Most marital arguments are about power. Nobody should have power over the other except with love and affection. That is so powerful.