By E.J. Gordon
We were at a friend’s house for dinner with a few other couples, and as we finished, the male host stood up and went to clear the buffet. Another man got up to help him. His wife jokingly said, “Someone note the time and the date — my husband is actually being helpful in the kitchen!” We women laughed, because this gesture of “helping” had immediately followed the conversation about how these two men were in a full-out “bromance” and the conversation had escalated to an insinuation that perhaps their bromance included overly-friendly gestures of the oral kind. But after we laughed, my husband piped in with, “Well, why would he help, when you’re just going to criticize him for doing it anyway!” He then facetiously continued with the male defensive position.
“You know,” he continued, “I was just saying to my daughters this morning that women should know their role: to fill their husband’s bellies and empty their balls.”
But before he could say “balls”, I interrupted and substituted the word “wallet”. I then went on about how we had told the kids we were just kidding, and how men and women both want partners in a marriage. But it got us thinking about what women and men really do want in a marriage. In an unscientific survey, we found the following:
While it might be stereotypical to say women want to spend their husband’s money, I really don’t have any friends like that, nor do I want them. We women spend money on our kids, our homes, and some on ourselves, mostly to help us stay looking young and pretty for ourselves and our partners. Real women don’t want “money” from their husbands. Sure, they expect them to hold up their end of the bargain, whether that’s as a primary or supplementary source of income. And even if the man is a Stay-at-Home Dad, the income partner expects the primary caregiver partner to be a good steward of the family budget. So it’s not about money.
When talking to women about their husbands, most of them want the same things.
There is nothing more aggravating to a Stay-at-Home Mom than to hear: “Well, I worked all day — you did nothing. You should take care of the kids at night.” “Nothing” is composed of two loads of laundry for a family of five daily, grocery shopping (sometimes daily), cleaning up the house, running errands for our husbands and kids and the household, not to mention getting lunches together in the morning, and all of the kids fed breakfast and out the door. And then add the workout in, because keeping ourselves healthy and fit is an expectation among our husbands and social group, and we maybe have an hour or two a day to breathe. And then add in volunteering at the school or taking care of relatives, and we’re down to maybe an hour or two a week. And yet the working spouse allows himself a lunch hour every day, and maybe even a coffee break and water cooler talk. So while the income partner might have worked all day, so did the primary care giver.
I’ll admit that I have an easy day here and there. Maybe I’ll get a massage or a manicure. And if I had an easy day, I try and take more of the responsibility at night, because it’s only fair (and I have the energy).
But to hear, “You did nothing all day…” — well, those are ‘fighting’ words.
And for the Moms who work, help from their husbands is very important, because on top of their work responsibilities, they are still expected to manage the house!
I know not one woman who doesn’t wish their husband would help more — whether it’s with the kids or the house, there is ALWAYS something to do.
Whether we are having drama with other parents, our friends, our co-workers, our parents, your parents, our siblings, or the school administration, we want you on OUR side.
We do NOT want to hear that we’re overreacting or that we’re wrong. If we’re wrong, we don’t want to hear it from you.
We’ll figure it out. We got married so that we could be a team. Teammates have your back. Always. If I am banging my head against the wall because one of the parents of our kids’ friends pissed me off to no end and is making me crazy, the worst thing for you to do is take her side. The second worst thing you could do is minimize my anger. Just listen, and respond by saying, “What a bitch!” That would make me so happy.
There you have it: Help and Support.
Of course men want sex. That’s a given. Women want it too. But aside from that, what do men really need from their wives to be happy?
I asked around a bit, and the consensus is this:
1. To Be Left Alone
Nothing would make my husband happier than if I asked nothing of him.
He would love to come home, have dinner waiting for him, and then be left alone to go sit and watch movies or sports. He insists that men in the 1950’s had it better. They would come home, have a martini and dinner waiting for them, then they’d be left alone to read their paper. (My husband says, “Those were the days.”) In reality, I’m not sure if that just existed on TV, but if I had a husband like that, I would have had only one child, because that’s what I would have been able to manage with no physical help from him.
2. To Be Appreciated
A lot of the men in Suburbia earn a great living, and yet they are made to feel sometimes like it’s never enough. Camp bills, enrichment bills, Target bills, all add up and up, and when they show shock at the amount of money that is owed, their wives get defensive: “It’s for the kids!” or “Everyone else is going to camp!”
And a lot of the men really do help with the kids. They coach or manage teams; they run carpools and pick up the kids from religious school and play dates; they cuddle with their kids at night.
They don’t “do nothing”, and they’d like some credit. Their fathers might never have changed a diaper or helped edit a book report, and the fact is our husbands are doing WAY more.
So while it might be easy to say, “Men, emotionally support your women, and women, appreciate your men,” a paradox emerges for the other issues:
How can women get the help they want WHILE the men get left alone to do what they want?
And therein lies a huge problem.
So what can we do?
1. Try to compromise. If you have had an easier day, maybe don’t ask or expect so much, and tell your spouse so. Say, “I had a great workout and a nice lunch with a friend; why don’t you go chill for a while?” And then that means on the next night you can say, “I did not sit down for one second today. Do you think you could help with homework and bedtime so I can get the kitchen clean and my work done so I don’t have to stay up until midnight?”
2. Talk to each other. I have heard countless times complaints about husbands not helping, but when I ask, “Does he refuse when you ask?” they say, “I don’t ask. Why can’t he ‘see’ how hard I’m working?” The thing is, he might see, but he wants to be left alone, so he might not volunteer.
I see men get so complacent once they’ve been married for a while. Their wives are seething at their lack of help and the way some men don’t take care of themselves and how they don’t romance their wives at all. But inside their heads, the men are thinking, “Life is great! I have a job. I have a wife and kids. There is food in the house. All is well.”
They don’t know that we want or need more, and can we really say, “Well they SHOULD know?”
How should they know? Women absolutely have to articulate exactly what they need, or they will forever be disappointed.
An older friend of mine was complaining to me about how sexless her marriage was and how there was no romance between them anymore. They had no children, and so I said to her, “Why do you stay together?” Her answer was this: “Do you have any idea how lonely it would be to go to a movie by yourself and have no one to discuss it with afterwards?”
It made me think that for all our marriages suffer through these child-rearing years, eventually we are going to be very thankful that we made it through so we can turn to each other at the end of a movie and say, “That was so good!”
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.