As a divorce Mediator, I listen to couples whose complaints about each other run the gamut from infidelity to hoarding to gambling to laziness. It’s a good thing I’m trained to be neutral and non-judgmental, because a lot of this stuff can be pretty jaw-dropping. And while the men have plenty to say, it’s been my observation that the women are more inclined to bash the men than vice-versa.
Let me state for the record that I am a recovering male-basher. I did my fair share of it when I was in my 20s, as a young, married woman with a whole bunch of shattered “happily ever afters.” If only I had spent more time planning my marriage than I did planning my wedding — but that’s another story for another time. Instead, I had frequent lunches and dinners with my girlfriends, spending countless hours complaining about my husband. My friends and I traded the metaphoric gold, silver and bronze medals, depending upon whose gripes were the greatest that week. I frequently won the gold, because I worked full time, was the major bread-winner, did all the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and laundry, while he mostly watched ESPN. And I nagged him non-stop. Looking back at this now, it kind of makes me sick.
And for years, I wondered why. Why did I take on all of the responsibility, and why did I feel like it was mine to handle? As a woman, was I supposed to do more, and bitch about it to my girlfriends? Do men bash women anywhere near as frequently as we complain about them? Do guys automatically receive a “get out of jail free” card or do women enable them? Do we, as a society, have gender expectations?
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that nagging is ineffective. I’ve learned that bashing men isn’t fun for me. I’ve learned that there are alternatives to being passive-aggressive. I’ve learned that the solution to male bashing involves communicating and managing our expectations. If you want your husband to do something, try asking him. And try asking him nicely. When he does it, thank him. So what if he says, “I emptied the dishwasher for you.” Just say thank you and move on, instead of wasting time fuming about why emptying the dishwasher was “for you.” If his intention was to do something nice or helpful, acknowledge it. If he didn’t empty the dishwasher as quickly as you wanted him to do it, and if he didn’t put the measuring cups in the right place, so what? Did he think, “Ha! I’m going to put them in the towel drawer just to mess with her?” I doubt it.
Instead of teaching him where the measuring cups belong, try teaching yourself to take a look at his intentions. In the process, I think you might discover that there are a lot of things way more fun than male-bashing. Agree?