Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why I'm "Too Good" To My Wife

"I'm only a man in a silly red sheet"

The last book I read was How to be a Husband by Tim Dowling.  It has instantly become one of my newest favorites on the topic of married life and children, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in a committed relationship, especially one involving offspring.  In the book, the author recounts how he has managed to survive twenty years of marriage (to the same person) while adding three kids along the way.  When my wife saw the title, she commented that she thought I could have written the book.  I pointed out that Dowling himself is quick to note that the title is How to be a Husband, not How to be a Good Husband, and his personal suggestion on how to be a good husband is, essentially, to be the exact opposite of him.

My wife will, with some regularity, make affirmations of that nature to me.  She'll call me endearing things like "Super-Dad" or "Perfect Husband".  She'll say things along the lines of, "You're so good to me/the kids",  or better yet, "You're too good to me."  Usually these comments are made after I've completed some mundane domestic task, like vacuuming or mowing the lawn.  Just the the other day she claimed I spoiled her because I did the laundry and the dishes and made dinner, all while managing to keep the kids alive.  S-P-O-I-L-E-D.  It's a drastic exaggeration, but the positive reinforcement is certainly appreciated despite its factual incorrectness.

My wife isn't the only female to have showered me with seemingly excessive praise.  My Mom, naturally, will say almost anything that she thinks will make me feel good about myself because I am her only son and she loves me dearly.  Her second (probably her first, actually) agenda is that she likely also hopes the compliments will manifest into more opportunities to see her grandchildren.  But even aside from my wife and my Mom, some of my wife's female associates have commended my actions as a husband and father.  One went so far as telling me that I was her "gold standard" of a husband, and anything I did she would not-so-subtlety suggest to her husband that he should also do.

I'll admit, it feels pretty good to be highly regarded in your "profession" and have your ego-stroked on occasion.  But here is the catch, and here is where I think my wife's friend's comment is a little misguided.  I'm "too good" to my wife because that's all I've got.  It's, as Dowling puts it, how I stay relevant in our relationship.  Yes, I'm doing the bulk of the domestic drudgery around the house - cooking, cleaning, carting the kids to various activities, and I'm assuming I probably did more than the average husband before I "retired", as pathetic as that is.  But there is also a whole host of other things that, by being "Super-Dad", I am not doing.  Like contributing to our retirement fund, helping save for college for the kids, or reducing our monthly cell phone bill with an employer discount.  I'm also certainly not providing for the family in the "hunter-gatherer" sense, as I don't hunt and the extent of my gathering is picking a handful of peas or lettuce from my pitiful attempt at a garden.  Hardly enough to sustain anyone in our family for more than a few hours.  I can't even pick up the tab if we ever go out on a date.*

Fortunately for me, I have a spouse who thinks that what I do is enough.  Sometimes even more than enough considering her name-calling and preposterous statements.  She is immensely appreciative of what I do, both for her and for our family, despite how meager it can seem at times.  She doesn't, as Dallas Green says, "ask for no diamond rings, no delicate string of pearls."  And I don't even write her songs.  In fact, I haven't purchased a piece of jewelry for my wife since her engagement ring.  I've still yet to get her a traditional wedding band, which has resulted in her getting asked almost daily at work when the big day is.  It was six and a half years ago.

I know what some of you ladies might be thinking, "I'd much rather have my husband/partner be more helpful around the house and more engaged with our children than buy me expensive things or take me out on lavish dates."  Great.  Have you told him that?  As a good friend who was going through some struggles with his own marriage confided with me, "It seems pretty unrealistic for us to expect anyone else to know how we are feeling if we don't communicate it.  But that is what we seem to do, especially with our spouses.  We just want them to get it without having to tell them."  If you haven't told him (or her) how can you expect them to know how you feel?

Even if you have told him, and numerous times at that, there is a chance you might be sending mixed messages based on your actions.  While us guys might not be that great at communication, we like to think we are pretty good at reading between the lines, which allows us to avoid actually communicating.  Sure, you might tell us one thing, like you don't want anything for your birthday or that your current vehicle works just fine.  But if we see you flipping through the pages of a Tiffany & Co. catalog or mention how great your girlfriend's new luxury SUV is, we're going to get the hint, even if you weren't trying to send one.  Of course we could have a conversation with you about it, and share how we might be feeling confused, but that isn't an easy thing to do.  While we live in a patriarchal society, it has a tendency to best support those who fit the desired mold - breadwinner, emotionless, authoritative.  We don't talk about feelings because the people we looked up to didn't talk about feelings.

During our wedding ceremony, one of the presiding ministers, who also happened to be my wife's uncle, said that "marriage isn't about keeping score".  When you're working through the stressful moments of your marriage, which are typically amplified when you add kids to the mix, it can become easy to feel unappreciated, and even easier to be unappreciative of your spouse.  I am not a "perfect husband" and my marriage to my wife is by no means perfect.  This is statement that I need reminding of almost daily.  When you keep score in a marriage, no one wins.  Note though that if you were to somehow devise an agreeable scoring method and actually keep score, your wife would always win^.

During the ceremony, this same minister (still my wife's uncle) talked about making bread during his message.  He discussed all of the different components that go into bread - flour, salt, baking soda, yeast, various spices, etc.  He even brought these ingredients along and had our groomsmen and bridesmaids add them to a bag, which he made the best man knead.  He talked about how all of the different ingredients were like ingredients to a marriage.  Each person has their unique ingredients that they share, but all of the ingredients are necessary to make the bread turn out or the marriage successful.  But the most important of those ingredients was the yeast, the "active ingredient". Without the yeast, the bread doesn't rise.  Being in a marriage, especially one that has kids, requires an active ingredient from both spouses.  You also need to enjoy and appreciate the bread, and realize that while someone might be able to buy the ingredients, someone still has to do the baking.  If you want to call me "Super-Dad" for baking the bread, go right ahead.  I'll even put on my Superman t-shirt, because it actually is pretty easy to be me.


Subtitle courtesy of John Ondrasik

*Yes, technically you could say that once you get married your financial resources are joined, so my wife's income would essentially be mine as well, but I think you get the point I'm trying to make.  Fortunately, or unfortunately I guess, we have three kids which means we never go out on dates.  On more than one occasion whilst out with my wife's friends or family I have justified purchasing a round of drinks because I was spending "her money".  

^I can say this with the utmost certainty because if you are married male and are reading this, there is pretty solid chance I know you personally.  If I know you personally, that means I also know your wife personally.  Sorry dude, she wins.  Always.  The guys I know are not married to losers.                                                    

No comments:

Post a Comment