Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Let Your Husband Help You

Recently, blogger and stay-at-home-mom-of-two Kristen was stunned when her post called “Let Your Husband Love You” went viral. Written as a reminder to herself to “suck up your pride, your anger, your frustration, and your crazy” at the end of a hectic day of homemaking and child-wrangling instead of taking it all out on her well-meaning husband, the piece struck a chord with an enormous number of female readers. As a husband to another blogger and stay-at-home-mom-of-two, I think it can serve as a reminder to men as well – of what our wives need but may not be communicating.

Kristen muses that it isn’t fair to resent and reject her husband’s compliments and affection after “[h]e’s been away at work all day... deal[ing] with whatever crap he has to deal with in order to provide for the family that he loves… Even if the last thing you want is to be touched or to hear how amazing you look when you feel insecure and disgusting… He does think you’re pretty,” she reassures. True, and it can be frustrating and confusing for a husband to feel that his sincere compliments are being irritably dismissed, even if he understands why.

“[G]uys are weird,” Kristen wrote. “Once they fall in love with you, there’s nothing you can wear, no amount of weight you can gain, and no lack of makeup that will make them see you any differently.” As unlikely as this may seem to many women, she is right about this too. When my wife feels grungy and unglamorous – which is often, because raising kids is grungy and unglamorous on a daily basis – she cannot fathom how I can still see her as the sexy love of my life. But I do. I can’t speak for all husbands, but I suspect most would agree that if anything, motherhood adds a dimension to a husband’s love and desire for his wife that we couldn’t have known or appreciated before.

Most of the hundreds of comments Kristen received were supportive, but some commenters mistakenly assumed she was suggesting that women repress their feelings, stay at home, be submissive to their husbands, etc. Kristen felt compelled to follow up with a clarification 50% longer than the original post, in which she proudly announced that her view of marriage isantiquated… because I believe husbands and wives play different, separate roles in marriage and family” and those roles are based on “mutual respect and love.” That sound you hear is radical feminist heads exploding all over the country.

Unlike most husbands, I work from home, in close proximity to my wife Anna and our two daughters (ages 3 and 1). So I am keenly aware of how much she does and endures to keep this family going. My sporadic help eases only a fraction of the workload she handles. I’m not suggesting that husbands who work outside the home are oblivious to this or take their wives for granted, only that I witness it firsthand – all day (and night), every day.

Husbands of stay-at-home moms, remember – when you come home from work, whether she takes out her frustration on you or takes Kristen’s advice and bravely sucks it up, either way you’re not seeing the whole picture. Either way, remind yourself of what your wife deals with at home every day (and on into the night, after your work shift is over). Remind yourself that the compliments and affection are not enough.

If your wife is letting you love her, repay her by letting her do something as well. Let her talk to you about her day, problems and all – without offering to fix them. That latter part is almost genetically impossible for men, but that’s where we have to suck it up and hold our tongue. Listen, and then ask what you can do to help take the pressure off. This will mean more to her than any compliment (but don’t slack off on the compliments either – hey, nobody said successful relationships come easily).

Kristen’s post is directed more at women in “antiquated” relationships like her own (and mine), but the advice goes for less conventional couples as well: by all means, let your partner love you, and then let your partner help you.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 2/13/14)