Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Husbands. . . what to do?

I have recently had a wearisome conversation with a dear friend of mine. She was, in all appearances, stressed, pained, unsupported and seemingly alone. She spent a little over an hour (although not enough time) telling me all about her concerns and frustrations. I would like to share them with you now.

I share these things not to fail her trust, but to help anyone else who is in a similar situation talk about it and find a way to improve it.

We spoke of, as all women do, the need to lose those extra pounds that we have accumulated since our matrimonial blissful moment, the kids driving mother completely mad, financial struggles, and the lack of husbands help and support. The main problem that stoked my internal fire (ya’ll know it’s a forest fire sometimes) was the things she expressed about her relationship or lack thereof with her husband.

“He never helps when he gets home from work.”

“He never shows me affection unless it’s sex”

“He doesn’t want to do anything except sit at the computer.” Might I add the TV.

“He won’t help with the kids. I get them dressed; I get them cleaned; I get them into bed”

“He defends his mom and siblings before he defends me”

“He won’t take me out anymore. I told him I needed a date night and he replied ‘You mean like once a month?’ I told him ‘No, like once a week; at the very least twice a month.”

These were only a few of the things that I was flabbergasted over. To all of these statements I responded with some form of, “Did you tell him that?” And with the answer being “yes” I followed with “and he said?” But this question came with an answer that I was not entirely ready for. “He just walks away or tells me that I shouldn’t feel like that or just makes some sort of noise in response and then walks away.” Usually I have plenty to say, but at that moment I had nothing.

My feminine instincts tell me to hate the man; however, I don’t feel that he is doing these things on purpose. I feel more than anything that he just doesn’t know how to react to a wife and kids. He doesn’t know that he is supposed to do certain things and not others. So, I have spent days pondering the things that a man is supposed to do. Keep in mind that these things are not restricted to just men. We have the same obligations they do.

They are (in order):

1. Love
2. Listen
3. Understand
4. Help
5. Work
6. Play

LOVE is a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude towards a person. A husband is to “love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.”(D&C 42:22) Women are also under the same direction. President Howard W. Hunter said,”The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.” No exceptions.

I feel that love has many expressions and I hope that we all remember how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.

LISTEN is to hear something with thoughtful attention. I know that we all have our difficult days when it comes to listening, but it is the most important aspect of communication. Listening is more than just hearing. It is the opening to a solution. Unless the problem is truly heard, it cannot be broken apart effectively.

UNDERSTAND is to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something. This was the best definition to follow listen because without listening there is no hope for the reaction to be a sympathetic one. When it comes to understanding another persons side of a situation I do believe that we, as a people, have difficulty doing this. I was told once that when teaching I had to listen to my students and not just be thinking about what I was going to say next. Because when they were finished talking and I had been busy thinking about my thoughts then I would have no idea of where they were in the lesson or where to take it. I would not know the needs of those I was teaching. It is the same with our spouses. We must be sympathetic and tolerant toward their expressions towards us. We do not always need to fix their problem, but we do need to understand it.

HELP is to give assistance or support and to make more pleasant or bearable. We are, in our families, supposed to give aid to our spouses in all aspects of life. President Hunter said that the men were supposed to “share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home.” As a wife, I expect this help. Help with the dishes, diaper changes, feedings, playground runs, grocery shopping, babysitting for “Me” time, cleaning, cooking, and anything else that I need help with. I also expect to be able to help with the car maintenance, finances, fixing things in the house, working and any other manly thing you do.
Men and women do have things that they excel at, but this doesn’t limit the other from doing those same things. We are here to help each other become better people.

WORK is to sustain physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result. In our culture this usually means bringing home the green. However, just because a woman may spend her time as a homemaker does not make it less work than the husband spending his time at the office. We all work throughout our days. Sometimes the work at the office is harder than the work at home and vice versa. The woman is not under house arrest. The decision of whether they both need or want to work outside of the home rests solely on their shoulders.

PLAY is many things. Whether it is outdoor recreation, card games, board games, athletics, reading, watching movies, dancing, or a night on the town makes no difference. We all need playtime in our day. Although we think we are adults we are actually children in really big bodies when it comes to playing. It is needed to release stress and uplift the soul. Play results in happiness, laughter, affection, and love. Play is the little bits of joy that we fill the cracks in with.

Now we have all heard some form of marriage fix-its like this and we all know that these things work in large or small ways. So, when our husbands don’t know or have forgotten the essentials in life how do we teach them? When we are doing these things ourselves or doing our best to do them, how do we effectively and sensitively tell our husbands they need to do better?


Mer said...

Random disorganized thoughts:

I've learned, through sad experience, that a lot of this boils down to communication. I mean NOTHING against this friend I don't know, but she may not be communicating with her husband in a way he'll understand -- she may think she's expressing everything very clearly, he may just be hearing whining. Alternatively, she may be hearing him say "You shouldn't feel that way" when he's really saying "I don't know what to do with what you're telling me and I can't read your mind so don't be mad at me for not knowing what I'm doing."

They need to hie them to a counselor asap.

I hate Doctor Laura, but I did glean one very important thing from her "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" -- Women on the whole expess physical affection and feel close through cuddling or kissing or snuggling or whatever your want to call it. Men feel the exact same closeness through sex. It's not just a "I'm an animal and I want some" urge -- those warm fuzzies and the close feelings we get when we snuggle on the couch watching some stupid show -- GUYS get those feelings from sex. It is an EMOTIONAL NEED for them. And if we want men to meet our emotional needs, we need to be willing to understand theirs. So the "he never shows me affection unless it's for sex" is another example of miscommunication -- he's showing affection the only way he knows how(and is wired to do!).

I don't think he's doing these things on purpose -- but I don't think that she's aware of what she's doing not-on-purpose either. It sounds like they're just reacting to each other instead of making purposeful, informed decisions about each other's behavior. I'm serious about counseling. And (again, as much as Doctor Laura ANNOYS me) you might want to have her check out the Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands (and the follow up book, the Proper Care and Feeding of Marriages). It's a good starting off place for people who are stuck in these "We're speaking the same language but not understanding and I'm so frustrated and hurt that i don't know where to go next but I don't want to feel this way anymore situations. It just sounds like she needs support and information.

Phannie said...

You know that book is probably just the ticket. I also thought of counseling, but money is always a factor these days.

While I was talking to my friend I kept thinking about the the book the 5 Love Languages. (however many there are) That book is pretty good too. I read it with My Hubby and it has helped a whole lot. Between Husband and Wife is also a good one as well. Both of these helped us to better understand each other. I totally forgot about them. I will let her know. thanks

Sadie said...

Another great book is Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs... we read this one together and it really helped us to open up the lines of communication. I agree... communication is key and it never comes easy...it will always be work... but worth while work! Relationships need to be more purposful than our fairytale dreams ever imagined. Counseling is expensive, but there are alternatives. Check into Christian Conseling centers ... usually run by a Non-Denominational Church, they are run by Pastors and other trained couselors that are paid a salary by their Church, so pay is not always required for their services. Also Bible Study or other Support Groups through other Christian Church's might be a good starting point, I know that our Church in Park City offered a "Marriage" Bible Study that studied the above mentioned book. If childcare is an issue many Church's provide nursery during Bilble Study hours (Usually a weekday morning).


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