I have so many great memories of my husband when our children were little. We held fairly traditional roles, but as I discuss below, we can switch it up as needed, either because of necessity or for fun.
I worked two evenings a week when the children were little. Both my husband and I were burning the candle at both ends. We were tired. One night I came home and the three of them were having a grand old time at the dining room table (actually, it was probably a card table at that time). There, sitting on the bar top was Abe Lincoln. A nicely sculpted play-doh Abe Lincoln! My first thought, “How can I compete with that?!” Other nights, I would come home and find the kids running circles around our open floor plan, with my husband at the music switch. Another time, they were at the table with the play-doh dentist kit. Daddy was the dentist and operating the drill and tapping on the teeth, including the gold tooth that the play-doh man had, every once in awhile tapping a tooth and letting out a huge scream like the dentist had hurt the patient, and our (not “my” but “our”) kids hysterical, hardly able to stand up they were laughing so hard. I’m not sure if the dishes were done. They may have been, or not, but how can a mom/wife think anything but, “what a beautiful experience they are having!”
In Part 1 – Will Men Ever Get It Right, I was challenging this idea that “real men” or “good men” divide half, 50% or more, of all the women’s responsibilities in life. The article I was referencing didn’t seem to cover if “real women” or “good women” were to divide half of everything the man does, I suppose, because it is “understood” that men don’t really do much of anything anyway, so why should women do any of the little that men are doing?
Have a look back at Part 1 to confirm that I actually did acknowledge that some men out there need to step up, because what has happened is that women want to challenge me by accusing me of being pro-men and anti-women, which is not at all the case.
Here though, what I would like to do is offer solutions to the disgruntled feelings between men and women, husband and wife. Why some people want to focus on complaining about the “problem,” if we have even identified the real problem, instead of focusing on solutions is beyond me.
Can we please talk solutions? As a couples and family therapist, I am always interested in how problems get solved.
Who wins in a culture of disdain for one group or another, where one group degrades the another? Who wins when husbands and wives compete and battle?
Take pride in your husband and in your marriage! When we see the best in people, they tend to be their best. Commit to a healthy attitude about your life, that includes committing to your best marriage and being your best in the marriage. Most often, your spouse will join you with their best. LOVE being married more than you love having it your way. Marriage has a lot of benefits. Don’t reduce marriage to “a piece of paper.” It’s so much more than that!
Remember that you chose each other. Besides in some cults, we don’t have arranged marriages in America. You are with the person you chose and who chose you. If you chose for the wrong reasons or out of some very hard circumstances, I’m so sorry. I know that sometimes we can make the wrong decisions for what feels like the right reason. This one will be hard to work out. The two of you may be able to transform yourselves and your marriage, or it may end in a divorce. Seek support from a qualified professional.
Always commit to honest self-evaluation and surround yourself with at least one person who can help you with accountability on this. Have a look at this post. In reality, you cannot directly change anyone but yourself. When one person commits to this, the other person may be inspired to commit also. We make each other better!
Investigate the other side of the coin. If sex does nothing for you and you have read that you have no obligation or requirement to engage in something that you don’t want to engage in, research the other side. Try Googling something like, “Should I have sex with my husband even if it does nothing for me?” “My husband seems to want sex all the time and I don’t want it at all. What should we do?” “Is sex necessary in marriage?” We are being fed a lot of absolutes, mostly on social media but they are coming from lots of directions. “Just because everyone is doing it or thinking it doesn’t make it right.” Just because your friend does “family bed” doesn’t mean it’s right for your family. Even if a highly respected authority on a subject recommends something, it doesn’t mean they are right or what they are saying is right for you. Learn to be a discerning adult. I once gave my toilet trained toddler a consequence (yes, you can also call it “punishment” and not have to feel condemned for it) and my “mommy group friends” were like, “Oh no! You NEVER punish a child for wetting their pants!” Well, they obviously didn’t know my heart, or my relationship with my child, or my child’s heart. Click here if you want the full story on this one.
Practice gratitude! Look for positives. Chronic negativity is hard for a marriage to cope with. Nobody likes a complainer, not you when your kids are complaining, not your employer or coworkers, not your friends…only other complainers like complainers and if you don’t complain enough or you complain better than the other complainers, THEY won’t even like you.
Stop watching them. PERIOD! If your husband is watching them too, just stop, both of you. They have no value. Any laughs you are enjoying during the show are just chipping away at your values and reformulating your norm about how you treat each other.
Respecting men does not mean that women are not respected. It’s not an either/or. The more respect we show them the better of a man they become. Some women think that showing respect to men results in men having more power and abusing that power. Respect is actually translated by men as love. Conversely, men showing love to women is actually translated by women as respect. The sexes are different, the needs are different, yet at the same time, they are the same. Let it be.
Are you too busy keeping score to do something fun? Are you unwilling to do something fun because HE didn’t do the dishes enough this week? Seriously, you need fun to thrive!
Admit that you are good at things and so is he and they aren’t necessarily the same things. Admit that you are capable of things that he is not and he is capable of things that you are not. Admit that you don’t want to mow the lawn and that you can’t handle the chainsaw and that you are better at making Sunday dinner and decorating the house.
This may sound like a ridiculous example, but picture the two of you planning your wedding, honeymoon and future life together. Imagine him saying to you, “Now listen, I really want you to carry me over the threshold after we get married.” Where do you draw the line on “equality?”
Of course he can pinch hit if the family needs him to. HE can put on an apron…just like I can crank up the lawn mower if i need to. On a typical day though, he is going to do the things that are best suited for him and I am going to do the things that are best suited for me.
Masculinity Is Not A Dirty Word
Celebrate his gifts of masculinity. Masculinity is not a dirty word. Whether the men in your life have dimples, a big beard, are clean shaven or whatever, your man is a man. Touch him, squeeze him, feel him, look at him, he is man. Great men possess qualities of sensitivity, tenderness, compassion, care, and other qualities that are stereotypically “woman” qualities, but overall, who they are is “man.” We can’t expect them to pull out the qualities we want them to have when it suits us. In my work, I experience women barking at men to “man up!” and in the next breath they are complaining that aren’t doing enough around the house and need to “step up.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with men being men and women being women. The sexes are something to be celebrated, not leveled! Appreciate the beauty in your differences and commit to working together to meet the needs of the family, the children, the house and each other!