Wednesday, September 12, 2007

when a sock is more than a sock

Thom and I pride ourselves on being a unique couple. Our courtship didn't feature any annoying game-playing or manipulation, our wedding focused on the marriage we would be entering into, not the party we were throwing, and our current relationship isn't marred by struggles over how much football he watches or how much money I spend.

Many times we've delighted together over the knowledge that we don't suffer the typical "muggle" marital problems and we work hard to keep it that way; if there is a battle we typically fight it isn't a war of the sexes, but us against the world.

So it came as a blow to me this morning when I realized that we aren't completely immune to petty marital spats. It started with what I thought was an innocent enough question: "Would you like to put away your laundry?"

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm sure I could hear the judgment and condescension in that question, but I tamped that knowledge down. The question was asked in an even tone, but it was like the even landscape hiding a landmine beneath.

Thom's response was unexpected: "I don't know if you've noticed, but recently you've been doing that thing where you ask a question that isn't really a question."

I was stunned. How dare he call me on my little manipulation? How dare he point out that I'm engaging in "typical" wifely behavior? How dare he be right?!

Of course it wasn't really a question. I didn't care if he wanted to put his clothes away, just like I don't care if he "wants" to empty the garbage or "wants" to put away the dishes. I just want him to do it.

Posing these chores as a question makes the request feel softer, somehow less like nagging--which I hate. Of course, it's not softer, and Thom can see right through it--as he brought to my attention this morning.

I talked to Crystal about it after Thom left for work. She agreed that she's been guilty of the same thing and even pointed out another trick us wives use to get our men to do something: the "we" game. You know, as in, "We should really call the insurance company" or "We need to do something about the ant problem." We don't me we. We mean you. And usually, we mean now.

When I envisioned our marriage, this was exactly the kind of behavior I didn't want to engage in, the kind I thought I was above. Of course I didn't think Thom would be the kind of husband who never put the laundry away unless asked, who routinely leaves a pile of coffee grounds on the floor next to the garbage, or who never thinks to throw away stale vegetables and leftovers from the fridge. In short, I am a woman and he is a man, and there are some destinies you just cannot escape.

So what's the solution? There are certain things men are programed to not care about. I don't want to treat my husband like a child, but I'd really like him to act like an adult. A female adult. You could argue that if it means so much to me, why don't I just put away the laundry? clean up the dishes? take the garbage out?

I have two responses to that. One, I usually do. Two, I'm a wife, not a maid.

I could try to ignore all of these little messes, move through life assuming someone else will take care of it. And after enough time, someone probably will. But I would probably have had a mental breakdown by that point, and that would do none of us any good.

In the end, I think men (including my very unique, amazingly special husband) like the comfort of having someone take care of them, having someone tell them what to do. I try to lessen the blows with little verbal tricks, but I should just respect my husband enough to ask him to do something straight out. We'd both be on even ground--with no landmines hiding in wait--and isn't that the marriage I've always wanted?


Ms. Marie said...

Summer...let me tell ya somethin', I'm not even married to Cisco and you can either play the questions that's not a question or ask straight out and you still might not get the results that you wish for. I think the biggest pet peeve of mine that we have had so many fights about is the laundry...when he does it, it will sit in the basket for about a week and then when I get tired of looking at it I put it away...when I do laundry it all gets put away the same day. Then I started doing the thing where I would only put my laundry away and not his, but it made no damn difference to still just sat there and he dug through it when he would need something from there, but I eventually would put that away too. I think it is a lost battle. If you find some magic pill or a solution without having to call upon Harry Potter let me know! :)


CiscoKid said...

Never mind.....

the author said...

Hey Summer, I say this with total sincerity: I admire the honesty that you put into your blog, the letters to River, this thing about Thom. Personally I think the world would be a better place if people were more open about themselves and there were fewer secrets. Seriously. I always worry about my blog: do I reveal too much...or too little? I think it's bold of you to write the things you do and I hope you keep it up. People walk around hiding their real selves alot, putting on a happy face for the world, which in my opinion creates cold chasms between us.

As far as the actual issue with Thom goes, it seems like you've already figured out what to do. Men and women do care about different things, though I can think of lots of exceptions in which the guy acts more female and vice versa.

Anyway, I appreciate you writing that, because it is very honest, human, and readable!

Summer Ryan Doyle said...

Ms. M--It's funny how so many different relationships can have similar issues...

Cisco--Don't feel like we're beating you up. We love you guys!

J-man--Thank you for your kind praise. I'm so glad you appreciate the honesty--it's very important to me that this blog be a true reflection of my life. It's not the whole picture, since there is much I consider private and sacred that I don't write about, but sometimes I wish I had the courage to tell even more.

I think you do a beautiful job of telling what's on your mind in your blog.