I wonder how many women will be pissed off before they even start reading this article.
A lot, I’d wager. MOST.
How about I throw this picture in here too, just to get the GRRRR out all at once?
[I can hear you now. Go ahead, just yell. It’s okay. Get it out.]
“WHAT THE HELL, I DO NOT NEED TO BE **THAT** IN ORDER TO KEEP MY MAN. THOSE WOMEN WERE IDIOTS, LETTING MEN TREAT THEM LIKE THAT. I AM BETTER THAN THAT. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT. WE SUBMIT TO NO ONE, WE ARE WOMEN, WE WILL ROAR!”
I know how you feel. Really, I do.
It is easy for me to speculate and assume what the general reaction will be to a message like this, because I am also a woman. I have also thought all those yell-y type things, and at one point in my life being told “go be barefoot in the kitchen, make me a sandwich” would have gotten someone a violent, unremorseful stab in the face.
[THAT’S RIGHT. I submit to no one, I am in whatever position I choose, and “what is best for him” is irrelevant if it is not best for me.]
Sounds great, except.
After being in a lot of crappy relationships, after being mostly-unhappily married for ten years and then getting divorced, after listening to literally hundreds of women complain about their spouses and significant others, after watching the United States’ divorce and co-habitation rates go through the roof, I’ve come to a conclusion.
Maybe those 1950’s women understood something that we just aren’t getting today.
When I was a kid, I grew up in a home with pretty extreme, conservative, old-fashioned values. Mom kept quiet most of the time. Dad made the decisions. Mom stayed home and raised the kids, Dad went to work and brought home the bacon. Mom washed and cleaned and cooked and shopped, Dad fished and hunted and worked in the yard. Everyone did their part, everyone contributed, and everyone filled their stereotypical, societally-normal role.
I can’t speak for them personally, but as I grew up I was raised to believe that Mom did her part “because that’s my job,” and Dad did his part “because that’s what I choose to do.”
See the difference between those two things?
One position is served because of perceived expectation, the other is served by choice.
We women are, in this very moment, a collection of all the experiences and expectations of those women that have gone before us. We are our mother’s daughters. We are, at our very core, exactly what our mothers wanted us to be. We are who they wanted us to be, and if we had been left otherwise unadulterated with new ideas, we would be 1950’s wives, still.
Except then came the internet. And sharing ideas, and the sexual revolution, and feminism.
Within two generations, the women of the world realized their Greatness. Women realized “HEY, I CAN DO THAT TOO,” they started working, they started THINKING, they observed that the men they had served and trusted and submitted to for so long were kind of (mostly) assholes, and there was hell to pay.
You know the saying about “a woman scorned,” right?
Try 101,000,000* women, and all at once.
Women got pissed, they shrugged off their traditional, tacit, societal expectations, and they discovered they were smart. And powerful, and capable, and they were no longer willing to sit down and rub feet and bring food and look cute “because that was their place.”
The live-in maids across the country started fighting back, and it was epic.
Men didn’t like it. To be honest, I know of many men that STILL don’t like it.
For men, being in the presence of a strong woman challenges them to up their game. They have to be MORE, because no guy worth his nuts will stand idly by while a woman does his job for him, and better. Most men realize, when a strong woman enters their life, that “hey, maybe I’m not “the shit,” maybe I’m just “total shit.”” They feel emasculated. They feel insecure, they get angry, and then the lower-intelligence of the gender try to “put a woman in her place” by cat calling. Or degrading her, or making her appear to be smaller by calling her out on her size and shape.
Sometimes guys will cheat, and instead of dealing with their strong wife at home, they’ll go find a dumb, big-boob, blonde-brunette-redhead substitute that makes them feel all conquery and virile.
[No offense to blondes. Or brunettes, or redheads, or boobs. Just to the dumb cheaters.]
We women have spent the last 60 years carving a new path. We are no longer smaller or stay-at-home unless we choose to be. We have always had skill and ability and talent, and now we are given opportunities to use them. Our daughters will live better, fuller, stronger lives that we live ourselves, and we are rapidly approaching a time where gender is one of the last considerations to make when filling any position for employment, no matter the type.
So why do we fight so hard to be NOT like that woman in the picture?
Why is it that when I say “Keep your man, be a 1950’s wife,” is that a bad thing? Why can’t we be BOTH?
We are whatever we choose to be, and I think we need to be both.
I think for the sake of our marriages, our relationships, and the men we love, we need to do both.
Defiance, just like revenge, is a waste of focus and energy. Adamantly defying a mindset or process that can drastically change your relationship JUST BECAUSE it was expected of someone else from somewhere else a very long time ago is ….well, it’s dumb. And we are not dumb.
We are smart.
We can choose to make our relationships better by choosing to surrender some of our pride. We can choose to be powerful and forceful and strong, AND loving and gentle and patient. We can do all these things, not because anyone ever expects it of us, not because we must defy our smaller stature and societal position, but because we CHOOSE.
We are women. We can do anything.
So LET’S. Let’s do anything. Everything. All of it, whatever it takes to be with the man we love. Why NOT? If it’s what we want, why not?
A few weeks ago I posted something on Facebook that said, “Dress nice for your significant other, it will make a difference.” The backlash I got was SHOCKING.
“I will dress for him, if he deserves it.”
“I’ll put out the effort if he does.”
“If he touched me more I’d try harder.”
Uuuuuuugh noooooooooooooooooooooo. They’re missing the point.
We cannot choose how others treat us, only how we choose to be treated. We cannot make the one we’re with treat us in a specific way, and even if we can we absolutely cannot choose their intentions. All we can do is choose for ourselves to make the relationship better, one day at a time, one conversation at a time, one glance at a time.
To make serious change in our marriage, we start with US.
We are women, remember. We can do anything, even save ourselves.
Ten Tips For Keeping Your Man, 1950’s Style
1. Praise. Evaluate his performance as a lover, husband, friend, confidant, mate, provider, and find ONE THING he does well. Just one. Doesn’t have to be a big thing, doesn’t have to be a serious thing. Even if it’s “I like the way you always wear clean underwear to bed,” find one thing, then tell him about it. “Hey, I saw how you did ___, thank you for that. It’s great, it shows me that you care.”
In my relationship this involves a lot of “thank yous,” “I notice you did thats,” and “you are great for taking care of things.”
One way I need to work on this is by paying more attention to his efforts so I can praise behavior I want to see repeated. Sometimes I get sunk into my own life and I do not pay close attention.
2. Support and serve him and his efforts. Help him to do what he loves to do. If he hunts, pack him a lunch before he goes out. If he leaves to play basketball with the guys, be sure he has cold water to drink. Put his laundry away, drill a hook into the wall for the keys he’s always losing. Empty the trash in his car, just because. Fix his favorite cookies for no other reason than “he likes them.” When you show support through action you tell him that what he does is 1) noticed, and 2) important to you, because it’s important to him. Behind every great man is an incredible woman that supports his effort.
In my relationship this involves helping with the yardwork, cooking meals, running his errands, cleaning the house, making the bed, doing laundry, baking, shopping, and sometimes rubbing his feet after a long day. (It sounds like a lot, and it probably is, but I really do enjoy those things. Service and support is the area where I shine. If I could not work and just play all day, I’d be cleaning house and digging in the dirt. It fills me up.)
One way I need to work on this is by removing resentment when I get worn out from doing all the things. Sometimes I run myself into the dirt, then I get irritated that he’s not helping, even though I did it to myself and never set any sort of expectation that he’d contribute. I need to balance out my own efforts so I’m not run down, and if I need help I need to ask for it. Being mad that he’s not helping when I don’t ask for help is dumb.
3. Give him your confidence and trust. If he says he’s going to be late, trust that it’s for a good reason. If he says “I need this from you,” try complying without one million questions first. The paradox of trust and responsibility is that the more he is expected to carry, the better he will perform. A man without trust and responsibility is like a work horse with an empty wagon. The horse will run too far too fast, it will kick and buck and tire itself out, but when the wagon is full the horse stays calm. The burden of responsibility is one of the best gifts you can give to any man, young or old, and you cannot give responsibility without trust.
In my relationship, trust and confidence means I do not check his internet history, I do not ask “who was it” every time he gets a late night text, and if he is running late I know it’s because he’s doing something for himself or the better of our family. If someone said “He’s cheating,” I would LOLZ, “because yeah no.”
One way I need to work on this is by trusting MORE when things get rough, and to not project the infidelity of past relationships onto my current one. The guys before that cheated are not the man that I have now, and it is not fair to treat them all the same. I’d be pissed if I got accused of something because a different person did it before, I need to not do that to him now.
4. Listen. Without nagging, without bringing up reminders of all the other times he tried and failed, without interjecting your opinion. Men very, very rarely talk about the feels, so when they start, let them do it. Don’t interrupt, don’t interject. Just SHUSH and listen. Listen to the words that are actually coming out of their mouths, not the words you put there. Most importantly, do not read into things. Take their words for what they are, no more, no less. THIS WILL BE HARD, because as women we function differently. Words mean something different to us than they do to men. Keep trying, and keep listening. Ask questions when you don’t understand, without interrupting and without assuming they meant the worst.
In my relationship now, I do this well by listening to him unload his day when he gets home from work. He likes to talk (words are his love language), and I show respect and appreciation and companionship to him when I listen to his stories. I ask questions and involve myself, I do not let the kids interrupt, and I wait to talk until he’s done. Sometimes it’s hard, but it does make our relationship better.
One way I need to work on this is to not read into the things he says. I’m pretty good at not doing that, but when I’m tired, wrung out, or it’s p-week I tend to see things that aren’t there. I need to tell him “I need time” when I’m not in the mood to listen, instead of listening disrespectfully.
5. Talk. CONSTRUCTIVELY. Without nagging, without accusation, without pointing fingers or bringing up the fiftyeightthousand things he screwed up last year. Talk to him about how you feel, and about how he makes you feel. Tell him what you’re afraid of and why. Use words like “I think,” and “I feel,” and “I would like.” Avoid words like “you should, you have to, you never, you always.” Refuse to use verbal hand grenades, no matter what. If you get angry, say “I’M ANGRY,” don’t try to curve your words into a jabby knife for when his defenses are down. The goal of any conversation, argument or otherwise, is to find resolution. Remember that you are working toward peace, not “being right.”
In my relationship this means I have some non-negotiables for myself. I do not use absolutes (never, always, have to), I do not say “fuck you” or “fuck off,” and I will not walk away angry from a conversation. I also do not say things to get a rise out of him (if it feels like ripping, tearing, stabby words I don’t say them), and I stay as calm and level as I can when I’m angry.
One way I need to work on this is to tame down the tone when I get irritated. I have a tendency to be snarky and sassy when I’m pissed, I KNOW it drives him nuts, and sometimes I do it anyways. I will try to do better next time.
6. Let him have authority. Grant the man in your life the Power of Choice. Allow him to make decisions without your input, when appropriate. Accept his decisions without doubt or second-guessing. Provide him with a kingdom to rule and subjects to care for. All men, no matter how big or small, need something to conquer and something to protect. Be that for him. The knight in shining armor you want so badly to rescue you will not as easily or happily do his job if you’re bitching about the way he’s holding his sword. LET HIM. Give in. Let go. Not with all things and not all the time, but with everything you can. Not because you have to, but because it’s what you choose to do. If it feels wrong don’t do it, then try again later to do it with something else.
In my relationship this means he drives the car when we go places, he decides on occasion what movie we’ll watch or what family trip we’ll take next, and he makes decisions about our next big purchase. Very rarely does he make a decision without me, but when he does I do not question or second guess.
One way I need to work on this is to involve him more in “we” decisions. Often I just decide and then talk about it after, and that’s not very respectful of his authority. I’d be upset if he did that to me, so I do not do that to him.
7. Be sexual. Men are hugely sexual, and most of their sexual stimulation is done visually. It sucks, I know, but it’s feral, basic, and scientific. If you want your man to pay attention to you, be something worth paying attention to. LOOK THE PART. It is absolutely selfish, self-centered, arrogant, and ignorant to think we can ignore the way we look, lounge around in sweat pants, gain 30 pounds through sheer laziness, stop caring about how we smell and taste (not to be crude, but how we taste is important too), and expect him to romance and woo us the same way he did when we first met. I have seen so, so many women complain that they aren’t paid attention to, but WE do not pay attention to ourselves, either. Why should he? We are as valuable and worthy of attention as we decide. If we choose to make the change to better ourselves and be eye candy, he will respond. He can’t NOT. It’s in his nature and in his DNA. How many times have we gotten dressed up to impress a guy in our lifetime? For school, in college, at work. Do the same for your spouse.
In our relationship this equates to only one rule: “Just us.” There are literally zero other rules. …and at the risk of sounding gross and pervy, I’ll leave it at that. :)
One way I need to work harder at this is to be more careful about my exercise routine and outward appearance. I hate showering, and I could do it more often to look more presentable and smell nicer. I want to feel sexy, I want him to think I’m sexy, so I need to spend more time BEING sexy.
8. Be willing to change. Understand that your relationship is AT BEST only 50% about you. The other half of your relationship is about him, and what he needs. One of the worst things feminism has done is elevate women at the expense of men. MEN ARE PEOPLE TOO. Men have rights and feelings and thoughts and needs, too. It is our job as strong, independent, intelligent women to care for those in our charge, and that means “taking care of our man.” Sometimes that means WE change. Sometimes that means we give in. It’s not all about us. It’s not all about YOU. It is also about him. Be sure your actions, thoughts, words, and heart reflect that.
I’m actually really good at this one. I am fairly dynamic and extremely reasonable most of the time. Sometimes it takes a while for me to come around when changes need to be made, but I get there eventually.
One way I am HORRIBLE at this is when his idea for change is contrary to mine, and I have to swallow my pride and “take one for the team.” I HATE IT. I am stubborn and selfish in a lot of ways, and even when his idea is a good one I resist doing it because it wasn’t MY idea. (selfish. toldja.) I try, though, and I will continue to try.
9. Figure out his Love Language, then use it. The five defined love languages are time, touch, words, service, and gifts. Which one are you? Which one is he? Figure it out and then translate your love for one another. To learn more about the Five Love Languages, go here.
Of all the things I’ve learned about myself and my Other to help our relationship, this was one of the most impactful. DO IT. It will change your relationship HARD.
10. Take time for yourself. It seems somewhat backwards, but it’s true. When we are riding on an airplane (a relationship) with someone we care about (our spouse) and we hit turbulence (a rough patch), we fasten our own oxygen mask before we fix theirs. Not because we are selfish, not because we feel we are better or more deserving than they are, but because if we do not take care of ourselves first we are unable to help those around us. We are no good to our spouse or kids if we are wrung out, worn thin, torn up, empty, and scraping the bottom of our emotional-mental buckets. WE MUST REFILL. WE HAVE TO. How we refill will depend on each person, but find a way to recharge and do it. Find something that’s just yours, and do it.
In my relationship this means I attend book club meetings, I go to the gym a few times a week, dye my hair regularly, buy myself an occasional cup of coffee, occasionally cook foods I like and he doesn’t, and choose documentaries for our Netflix queue (that he hates so much it makes him want to jab his eyes out).
One way I need to improve on this is to be more consistent about “doing for me.” Sometimes I forget, and then I get stabby, and then no one is happy.
So, do you think you can do it? Can you set aside the pride and defiance far enough to make your relationship better?
I think you can do it. Like I said, we are women.
We can do anything.
* Half of the United States population, according to the 1970 United States Census.
Blessings to all of you, and high five for those of you that made it to the end of this very long blog post.
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