ASSESSING AND AMELIORATING RISKS IN INTIMATE PARTNER RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILIES
3 min read
Why men shouldn’t resolve to help around the house in the new year
It’s that time of year for us to go through the motions of the perennial New Year’s resolutions. This year will be different, I tell my group. I disclose that this year I truly will get more organized. And get more exercise than just jumping to conclusions. The group confirms I should do both and begins to share well-intentioned resolutions. Though when the third man proposes he will help more around the house, I get back in the conversation.
No, no, no.
Someone quickly and smugly says he’s of the good guys who always helped around the house.
No, no, no. You’re still seeing it as her job – as something you don’t have to do if you don’t have time or if you don’t really want to. Like when you helped your friend move – as long as it was convenient, and the beer hadn’t run out.
“Okay,” someone agrees. “I will do whatever she asks me to do.” This from the same man who said last week his marriage could be fixed if she would just communicate better with him.
The co-facilitator reminds him it’s his work to figure out what he should be doing – not her job to tell him what to do.
“But, she doesn’t want me to do things because I don’t do them her way,” two men say, talking over one another.
And why not, I wonder aloud. Why not give her the courtesy of doing it the way she prefers? Two weeks ago we tried to think of ways to show respect. Wouldn’t this be a good way to show respect?
They have a cacophony of reasons. Her way isn’t efficient/takes too long/doesn’t make sense.
Maybe efficient/brief/logical isn’t what she was going for. Maybe it was convenience or a particular look or some other reason.
I’m a storyteller. I tell a story. Years ago one of my kids was a bit of a klutz. We didn’t trust her with power tools or the lawn mower. Everyone else cut the grass because we didn’t trust her. We were protecting her. One day when she was 15, she asked and I relented, then watched from the porch while she walked the lawn mover all over the square patch of grass. Seriously, all over.
I closed my eyes, exhaled slowly, and gave up picturing neat parallel traces of the wheels. Happy and satisfied, my daughter returned to the porch and, sincerely puzzled, asked why I had laughed while watching her.
“Why ever did you go all over the yard like that?” I asked, equally puzzled.
“I just cut it where it was highest,” she explained.
Ah. Probably beauty in her style that I hadn’t seen. Probably less efficient by pennies. But well worth the price to see her so happy and pleased. A lesson that mine is not the only right way to do things. Sure, it’s my house. My name is on the deed, and I pay the mortgage. Yet it’s her home as well as mine. And I hope I convey respect by appreciating her contribution to our home.
Back to adults sharing household chores. What makes your way better than hers? What keeps you from being interested in how she likes to have it done. Doesn’t, “If I can’t do it my way, I’m not going to do it,” sound a lot like, “My way or the highway”? How did you become the arbiter of the “best” way to do things? And what does that mean you think of her and her ideas? Could doing it as she wants be one way to show I love and respect and value her?
Perhaps a new resolution: I will not help around the house. I will do my part to demonstrate I am part of a team where we are equally invested in this house/home/relationship. I will do my best to demonstrate I value and respect her, her perspective, and her ideas.