Friday, February 22, 2013

Still just tolerating husbands, it seems...

I've watched, year in and year out, as women love to get together and say negative things about their husbands when the men aren't around. It's a cultural game some (many) women seem to enjoy playing. Because we all know husbands are really, deep in their souls, complete idiots, right? At least, that's what the women seem to think. That's the way they talk about their men--the adorable dolts who really can't do anything right but we let them try anyway.  (That's why God gave them the priesthood, right? To keep them from being totally useless drains on society?) Brag about kids, belittle husbands--that's what we do. (At least, some women do. I hope I don't. I hope you don't. It's not nice. Imagine if the men got together and talked about women that way!--and maybe they still do, but we all formally recognize that as not okay, even though it used to be equally culturally normal.)

This article, "Confessions of a Not-Natural Wife" got passed around social media recently. The author, Elizabeth Hill, had some really, really good pointers and tips about marriage--many of which boil down to "Be kind to your spouse." I totally agree with her tips and comments. And don't we all have days where marriage is a little perplexing? Or even a lot?

Her best quote, "Your spouse is not you. He will not talk, eat, fold, wash, think, parent or do anything the way you do," is something vitally important for women to understand. And for men to understand, actually. It is an absolutely necessary starting point--a place you go where you can begin to stop thinking of your spouse as an idiot and start seeing them as a person instead of as a failed shadow of you.

But the article still smacks of "he's an idiot." Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it sounds to me like she's saying, "He's not you, so you have to tolerate what he does, even if it's obviously wrong, because peace and relationships are more important than how right you obviously are."

What I wish she had gone on to say was: "Maybe you, wife, should consider the idea that he might be RIGHT, not just 'not a disaster'. Maybe, just maybe, his way is actually better than yours. Or at least as good, if different."  Maybe, instead of gritting your teeth and stepping over the pile of socks that are in the "wrong place," you should consider that perhaps you put the hamper in the wrong place, and the socks are right where they should be. It might benefit everyone involved if you maybe gave him the benefit of the doubt, or even just a little curiosity, instead of merely tolerating him and his weirdness and lack of civility, er, I mean...difference from you. Maybe his way of making cookies actually works better than yours. Maybe his way of washing the clothes gets things just as clean and takes less work. Maybe the way he peels his grapefruit like an orange is really actually tasty, and less messy than your spoon. Maybe you should let it be his house, too, and try his way of running things for a change, instead of seeing it as your house that he is intruding in with his bad habits. You might like his way, if you give him a chance.

So, YES, you have to realize Spouse is Not You. That's vitally important. But perhaps it would be good to realize your spouse is not only "Not You" but, but also actually a person?

I think I can illustrate what I mean with an example from a different relationship. When a child is small, their parents are not people, but merely extensions of themselves. Psychologists say that for infants, they literally see Mom as "part of me who does things I need". As they grow, the literalness of that fades, but children still, for the most part, see their parents as an extension of me who does things for me that I can't do. At some point, usually when kids are older kids or teens and can start doing almost everything for themselves, their parents cease to be simply parts of me who do things I can't and start to be figures--the parents become "Not You". Their parents still aren't people, though, with ideas and thoughts and talents and weaknesses. Instead, the parents become roles--"Mom" or "Dad"--that can be very perplexing, and most certainly aren't me, or they'd stop doing such irritating things. And then, at some point (usually ten years later, when the child has their own kids), the child suddenly realizes that "Mom" and "Dad" are actually people. Real people. It's not enough for them to be "not me,"--they aren't really "real" until they also cease being a role or a figure and turn into a person, with all that entails. It's like they move from being a flat character to being a round character.

Perhaps we should let our spouses stop being a role defined primarily by it being "Not You" and turn into a person? It seems reasonable to not settle with "not you" and let them turn into Him or Her.

So, yeah, Ms. Hill is right--he's not you, and you are not him, and we do have to tolerate and adapt to each other. But I wish she had taken it one step further and suggested that perhaps we shouldn't just tolerate our spouses, but step out of our own surety that we're right and try it their way, give them a chance to be an equally effective adult human being, and maybe even cherish them in all their "weirdness"--because hopefully that's what they are doing for us.

Because you know you're weird, too.

Don't you?

1 comment:

Becca B said...

Like this a lot. Thank you.