Don’ts for husbands

I’ve thought of this a lot over the years. While I won’t say that this can’t apply to husbands who have husbands, or to many other partnership situations and perspectives, I’m only speaking in particular to my own experience: as a husband who has a wife. Thus, for me, the other person is ‘her.’ I figured most of this out by talking to women, who shared with me both positive and negative examples. I tend to believe they know what they’re talking about. I tend to doubt they would mislead me. Thus:

  • Don’t ever suppress or insult her efforts to be creative. That is counterproductive and stupid.
  • Don’t criticize her cooking or cleaning, lest she shove the obvious rejoinder up your behind: “You know, honey, you are absolutely right. You are so right. So right, in fact, that in the future, I’m going to let you do it, and show me how I should have been doing it.”
  • Don’t be too big a jerk over rearranging furniture. Yes, it’s already in the logical places, and yeah, moving it around seems counterproductive. She probably likes change, and her life is naturally more attuned to it than a man’s. Got to go along with some of this.
  • Don’t get a complex if she out-achieves you in work. Instead, make plans for both your early retirement in greater comfort. Only a weak man wants a weak woman, or is threatened by her success. A strong man wants a strong woman he can brag about, a real partner with many abilities. It does not make you any less. If you are strong enough to be proud of what she achieves, it makes you more.
  • Don’t make unfounded paranoid accusations. For one thing, it’s not a loving act. For another, she may well decide that if she is going to hang for the crime, she might as well deserve it, which would mean that paranoia just created unfaithfulness that would never otherwise have come.
  • Don’t let your family abuse her. Ever. Be man enough to make clear to them that they can either treat her with kindness and respect, or they can be excluded from your life, yes, even your uncle that the whole family knows is a dick and tolerates anyway. No man worth a damn is comfortable seeing people be mean to his woman. Same for your friends–if they don’t show her courtesy and respect, then you hang around with the wrong people.
  • Don’t bring in the physical dimension. Don’t yell, threaten or gods forbid, lay a hand on her in anger. As long as she can absolutely trust you never to do this, your relationship has at least one great quality even if it has other problems. The day she no longer has reason to extend that trust, you broke something that’ll be hard to come back from.
  • Don’t call her names. Here’s a rule I find useful: if you’re about to call her something that, if it were true, there’s no reason you’d want to be with her, that name is potentially fatal to a relationship, and you had best never call her that.
  • Don’t just let her suffer without stepping up. This can mean a lot of things, but what underlies it is this: most of the time, she doesn’t really need someone else. It’s that 5% of the time, when she falters and needs to feel support and strength and all those good manly things, where she learns what you’re made of, and if you step up, reminds her why you’re good to have around. Shine when it is your time.
  • Don’t be a loose cannon with money. Too many men airily think it should be they who look after the finances, and then don’t use common sense. If you suck at money management, let her do it unless she sucks worse (in which case you two have some real serious potential problems).
  • Don’t be emotionally or physically bullied yourself. Happens especially with women coming out of abusive relationships. Does it suck to get punished because, basically, some other guy was a scumbag? It very much does suck, but the law won’t let you shoot him, so this is all you can do. Stand your ground on basic self-respect, and be patient, because the recovery process takes time even if she works hard at it and wants it badly. Abuse hammers her self-respect. By showing her that you respect yourself–and her–you give her a better vision.
  • When she’s with her gal friends, don’t screw up their fun. Simple. Don’t screw up the women’s fun. To women, children are the people that do not understand that other people are sometimes the priority. They already have access to children. They don’t want an overgrown adult one who can’t be left alone for three hours without having some need or want. If you wander into the gathering, say hello to them, be polite for a minute or two, then let them do their thing with good grace. What you need to understand is that when you do this with good grace, after you leave, the other women tell her what a nice man you are, and she gets to bask in that. Just be an adult, live your life without messing up their fun for the evening, and do that knowing you made her happy.
  • Don’t be a crappy listener. Stop thinking of how to win the debate, stop thinking of your next comeback. You can’t expect her to care how you feel if you don’t stop and listen to her tell you how she feels.
  • Don’t react to anything until you have a good idea how much effort or expense she invested in it, whether it’s her hair or her manuscript or her new epiphany. Because the more she put into it, the more crushing it is to hear something negative. A good percentage of my own married life has involved the struggle to shut up and think before I open my trap.
  • Don’t die on too many hills. It is true that it’s good to choose your hills to die on. Here’s the problem with choosing those hills: you do die on them. Most of us would rather not die any more often than we can avoid.
  • Don’t expect to buy your way out of big errors with a credit card. It may seem to work on the outside, but if you really screwed up, money and material stuff is just a patch, not a fix. A fix is when you resolve not to make that mistake again, face the music, and do what can be done to make it right. I ask myself “Am I sorry enough not to do it again, or just sorry she’s mad about it?” Plus, if your finances are even remotely joined, you’re also spending her money by way of apology.
  • Don’t play on her insecurities to manipulate her. Maybe she has none, but most of us do, and with good reason, because we have both real and imagined/exaggerated flaws. Every time you jab at an insecurity, it’s like a kick in the balls. I’m going to take a gamble here and assume that you have at least once been hit right in the sack, and that you did not enjoy it. (I’ve taken slapshots, sinkers and bad hops there myself. I could have done without those.)
  • Don’t expect her to echo all your religious and political views. Who wants a partner too dumb or fearful to challenge his thinking? Who is so shallow and insecure that he’s afraid of that? Who is really so sure he has everything figured out and that any other view is just stupid? A true idiot, that’s who.
  • Don’t try to get her to just think and be like a man about things. She isn’t one, and no matter how we arrange the world, she still probably will see the world differently than you. (Don’t believe me? Okay. Are you afraid to go walking at night by yourself? Probably not. She may not be afraid, but she has to think about stuff you don’t, unless she is naturally fearless or is not sane.) If you want a partner who acts like a man, well, it might be you have some questions to consider. Go far enough to accept that her logic, which on the surface may seem illogical to you, may be quite logical when the world is viewed through her eyes. Stop. Try to see it through her eyes.
  • Don’t destroy stuff in the process of ‘fixing’ it. Yeah, we mostly like to show off our handiness, but know when you’re out of your depth. A good friend and a wise husband once said: “From here, I will plumb no more forever.”
  • Don’t do too many things with bad grace. If you hate it, truly hate it, you’ve got a choice. Either decide you just can’t do it–and accept what that means–or do it anyway, as an act of love, with good grace because (I presume) it’ll make her happy. She doesn’t like much of anything you do with bad grace.
  • Don’t go silent without some explanation of the reason, but by the same token, don’t be stampeded or pressured into a discussion you haven’t really considered. It’s fine to say, “Look, I really haven’t worked out what I think about this. Can we talk about it when I have?” Of course, if you do that, and you just never take the initiative to restart the conversation, she will have good reason to think you’re just dodging discussions in the future. You can ask for a recess if you need it, but that puts it on you to decide when you’re ready to be back in session.
  • Don’t follow any rule off a cliff. True in writing, true in wedding.
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