Men are problem solvers. We like to fix things, we like to make things efficient, and most of all, we like that proud feeling we get from showering our loved ones with our great skills.
In many situations, this is wonderful. When it comes to keeping the cars running, organizing the garage, or doing the taxes (if these are in the man’s domain of your home), this might actually be a blessing to your wife.
But the moment you step into your wife’s domain, you are stepping on shaky ground. Husbands need to be aware that most women’s view of her person is fundamentally different from that of a man. For a woman, her home, how she organizes it, and how she takes care of it, is an extension of herself. It is part of her person.
If we step in and help find a more efficient way to organize the dishwasher, we are actually telling her that she is inadequate. If we step and clean the counters better than she does, we are rejecting her as a person.
These particular examples may not apply to you, but most men, in one form or another, are guilty of doing these things.
One of the problems that every couple has when they head into marriage is that they both have pre-conceived notions of how a home should be run, generally, grounded in how their home was run when they were growing up. If your mom scrubbed every pot until it glistened, then you think this is just how every kitchen should be. If your wife grew up in a busy home, where the dishes were left until the weekend, then that may be her view of how a home should be run.
Even in today’s modern culture, there is a deep core in most women that wants the home to be run how they want it to be run. It is who they are, and men who want a good marriage need to recognize and understand this.
This isn’t to say, that a women needs to be doing all the work, if you care and support your wife, you will be jumping in and working whenever works need to be done. But the wise thing to do, is to do the work her way.
If she scrubs the pots until they shine, then when you do the dishes, scrub the pots until they shine. If she always rinses the sponge and puts it on the left side of the sink when she is done, then a wise husband will do this also.
So what do you do if your wife isn’t running the home to your expectations? In the old movie Meatballs, Bill Murray gives a great motivational speech in which he has his entire camp chanting “It Just Doesn’t Matter!, It Just Doesn’t Matter!”
When we step in and start doing our wife’s job for her because we don’t think she is doing it well enough, we are sending a clear message of rejection. Over time, this will turn into distance and coldness, and we will find ourselves frustrated, miserable, and wondering why the spark isn’t in the relationship like it was before. How many men would be willing to trade a poorly organized dishwasher to get that spark back in the relationship? Every one of us. It just doesn’t matter.
The bigger lessen here is to be constantly considerate of our wives. This isn’t easy because most of us don’t fully understand ourselves, our egos, our need to feel smart (read validated) all the time. We do not recognize that these are often selfish attributes. I mention in my book, Essence of Wisdom for Parents that both men and women in a marriage need to read books and educate ourselves on the opposite sex. For the vast majority of men, we really have no idea what motivates and drives our wife, nor do women know all the factors that motivate and drive their husband.
So what can you do if you find yourself in this trap? Whether you are the husband or the wife, you need to talk about it. This can be difficult to do, because for many, these issues are not recognized until the marriage has been running for years and there has already been some damage done.
Through your talking, you need to learn what each other’s historical view of a household is, you need to realize that just because you were raised one way, doesn’t mean that this is the only good way to run a home.
If you are a husband, you need to recognize that your wife needs to feel cared for and secure in your love for her. If you are a wife, you need to recognize that your husband needs to feel appreciated and validated as a man. It is OK to tell him “you know, how you load the silverware is much more efficient, but I don’t like it that way because it doesn’t harmonize with my thought patterns.” This will allow your husband to get the validation he needs, but will also let him know that he’ll be hurting you if he keeps pushing it.
Our mutual cluelessness always causes unintentional pain. Take the time to learn about each other, take the time to recognize that your spouse is not hurting you on purpose, take the time to tell them what and why you feel the way you do, and take the time to forgive each other and move on.