If you’re a guy and you have a wife, you already know most of what I’m going to tell you
As Never Told to Esty Heller
Guys, guys. You’ve got a problem.
If you’re a guy and you have a wife, you already know most of what I’m going to tell you. I’m only sharing this with you to firstly validate your position and then to let you know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Speaking man to man, we all know just how hard you work. That kesubah you signed is not a joke. Your word is your word and you intend to honor it every day of your life. And still, let’s face it, guys: No matter how hard you work, your wife works a lot harder.
But it goes a lot further than that. You didn’t hear this from me, but… your wife works harder, and she wants it this way.
How would I know this? From the way she complains, you’d think she wants you to release her from her endless bondage of mothering responsibilities, right? But no. She doesn’t actually want that (although you should keep telling her to cut corners; she’ll appreciate the chance to prove to you that there are no corners left to be cut). All she actually wants is the privilege to complain.
That doesn’t mean you should give it to her. You work plenty hard and deserve equal complaining rights. Two halves really do make one… hole. In the head.
What is a guy to do?
You may not know quite what to do, but you certainly already know what not to do.
1. Do not contradict her. No matter how tough your day was, if she tells you her day was tougher, let her assume it was.
2. Do not offer solutions. No matter how obvious the solution may be (She: “The house is FLYING!” He: “Get cleaning help.” She: Glare.), never offer it. Resolving her issues is the last thing she wants. (The no-contradicting rule applies here as well. If she says the house is flying, don’t tell her it isn’t.)
Now you’re wondering how is any of this fair, right? If what she’s saying isn’t true, why should you let her believe it is? And if she has an issue you can resolve, why shouldn’t you suggest it?
Because she’s your wife, and therefore nothing else needs to make sense. You’ve learned this the hard way, countless times.
Take Pesach. How many times have you repeated to her the halachah regarding Pesach cleaning? What did you get for your effort at making her life easier? Exaggerated sighs, the implication that you are world’s greatest am ha’aretz, and possibly also tears.
Or when she whines about laundry, how it’s a never-ending cycle, how she feels like a never-ending cycle — how’s it even possible that the hampers are full if I folded laundry all day? How could it be that Heshy doesn’t have clean pants if the hamper is empty? — or how she simply can’t anymore.
If you tell her not to bother folding all that laundry, let everyone pick out their socks from the laundry basket, how does she react? She certainly doesn’t thank you for your brilliance, or even for your easy-to-please-ness that she so admired when you were newly married. She seems almost insulted at the suggestion, like you’ll never understand, and she’s right, because you won’t.
Same with meals. Like laundry, meals have to happen every day, and it’s true that it is the woman’s responsibility, but it’s also true (although she’ll never admit it) that she wouldn’t trade it for anything. This becomes evident every time you actually offer to prepare supper, or suggest that she order pizza or serve cereal and milk. But hey, you already know not to offer solutions. Even if she sometimes orders pizza without you suggesting it, you still have no right to suggest it.
When you find yourself at odds about how crazy her day was versus how crazy yours truly’s was, she’ll have her evidence ready and waiting. Missed buses in the morning, a string of tantrums, spilled milk, unsuccessful shopping excursions, pouty teens, and picky eaters. (“And laundry! And I’m up to nowhere with Pesach!”) And you’ll try to appear sympathetic, even while you’re secretly thinking, Hello, how is any of that considered work? Do you know what real stress even looks like? That’s when you’ll make the mistake of trying to prove to her how her day wasn’t all that terrible at all, and what’s the big deal, so Genendy’s hair wasn’t perfect one day, you don’t have to eat up yourself over it, just take it easy. To which she’ll pull out her trump card. “Let me see you do it.”
So you do. One day you come home and suggest (can’t you learn from your mistakes?) that she go on a vacation. “Go with a friend or your sister. I’ll stay behind with the kids,” you tell her.
You know what happens next? She looks at you like you fell from the moon (or from Florida) and sneers, “Riiiiiight. Suuuuuuure. I wish!”
But you mean it. You’re eager to make her happy. You try to convince her. You tell her she shouldn’t think about the money — it’s on you. You tell her you’ll manage just fine, and really, nothing will happen if Genendy’s hair isn’t brushed one day.
Does she go? No. What does that prove to you?
She works harder than you. And to be honest, she wants it this way.
So let her.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 833)
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