So, apparently this is a hot topic.
I know this because am a member of an expat wives group on Facebook. While sometimes I do find being a member of this page useful to my living overseas, I remain a member mostly because I find the free-flow discussion of #firstworldproblems (that I am too lower-class to worry about) incredibly amusing.
“What to do with my maid who wants to go out of the house after 10 pm? She works for me from 6am-9pm, but I just feel like that’s not enough.”
“How can I make my broom cupboard a nice place for my maid to live in?”
“Should I just rent the normal $5000 a month condo? Or should I rent the $10,000 a month penthouse? I think it’s worth an extra $5,000 to not hear upstairs neighbours, but my husband doesn’t agree.”
The real, harrowing, day-to-day struggles of the expat in Asia are my daily amusement.
You’ll have to excuse me, I’m entertainment deprived. I don’t watch reality TV.
So there was one such discussion the other day that just happened to be one of the most commented on posts of all time.
“Morning wise ladies, any idea how to teach a 41 year old man that these shirts should go to the ‘light’ basket rather than the ‘dark’ one? — feeling [angry] .
88 comments. Many women obviously resonate with this problem. This isn’t your average #firstworldproblem. This is serious. So how did these “wise ladies” suggest that this woman finally teach her husband how to finally learn to do the laundry for himself? A lot of women had ruthless strategies for dealing with their hopeless husbands.
“Yup. Wash it all together once with one of your dark colour fading kaftan. When the question arises as to why there are dark stains ? U can retort with I thought u dint understand light and dark darling ??”
“Easy, teach him how to use the machine!”
“Put one in the machine with a red sock, preferably with rubber bands bunching bits together, dry it, iron it and then hide all his other shirts and make him wear his tie-dyed pink blue pin-striped shirt to the office…..”
Many more thought the situation was hopeless.
“Haha not sure it can be done! Here we also are happy if they make it to any basket and have given up being fussy. Agree that the only thing to do seems to be teaching your sons so at least there is hope for the next generation..”
“The 32 year old in my house is like that too. Maybe there’s so viral disease going on!” Suggested one woman, helpfully.
“You mean you were able to teach him that they go in “a” basket (as opposed to on the floor in any random place around the house)??” One woman said in amazement, suggesting that this woman should just be grateful for her husband’s shocking habit.
“This post cracks me up. Men!”
“Lol. I am loving the comments. Atleast am not alone in having to train a fully grown man! Why oh why didn’t their mothers kick their [pants] during formative years? Hmmm… probably she was already plotting torture for future daughter in law!” Lol’d one woman, in playful speculation.
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The resounding chorus seems to be singing to the tune of, “Men! Can’t they get ANYTHING right?! Do we have to do EVERYTHING for them? It’s no use trying to get anything across to them!”
It seems to me like many wives think living with a man is going to be like bringing a little puppy home. They’re so loveable, and they bring such joy into their lives that they happily decide to live with them and do all the work for them – for a time. Puppies can be trained to do many things where and when you want them to. But these women soon find out that their men are not wholly akin puppies.
They may be adorable, joy-bringing, and give excellent hugs, but they most certainly can’t be trained. The “wise ladies” have figured that out and have come to the point where they simply shake their heads in disbelief at men’s stupidity since they can’t learn one simple little thing after 14 years of trying.
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So what can we do when our husbands won’t put their clothes in the basket, or put their dishes in the sink, or whatever it is they do? Obviously, it’s a problem that needs a solution that no woman seems to know the definitive answer to. Even the woman who suggested the dramatic tie-dye experiment commented later, “By the way, I tried this and it didn’t work, so I guess it’s hopeless.”
Want to know what I do when my husband leaves his socks on the floor, or leaves his dishes on the table, or hangs his dirty clothes on the bed rail?
Nothing. That’s right, I do nothing. You see, I’ve learnt something about my man. He’s not a puppy, and he’s not my child. And, no matter how much I may want to train him, no amount of “training” is going to help.
When we try to train our men, no matter how helpful we may feel we are being to his character development, very often we just become an annoyance. A continual dripping, a ringing in his ears that causes him to either back off or back down. And in being like this, we simply give him one more reason to not want to come home. The Proverbs writer warns us of what the woman who continually nags is like, and what response she causes in her husband.
“…a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain” (Proverbs 19:13).
“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike” (Proverbs 27:15).
“It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” (Proverbs 21:19)
Do you ever find yourself sounding like that “quarrelsome and fretful woman?” I know I have sounded like her, far too many times.
“Ugh, you ALWAYS leave your socks here, can’t you just pick them up? Can’t you see I’m busy enough?”
“Why can’t you just put these in the basket?”
“Do I have to do EVERYTHING around here? I guess I do! What would you do without me?”
Drip, drip, drip, drip. Causing my husband to retreat and withdraw. Making what should be a place where he can enjoy domestic tranquility at the end of a stressful day a place with no peace at all.
And the fact of the matter is, nagging rarely helps anything. We think it has to help at some point. “You chuck enough spaghetti on the wall and some of it has to stick,” as the saying goes. But no matter how much you throw that nagging, none of it seems to stick. Actually, it usually makes matters worse and puts a strain on the relationship.
After I gave birth to my baby boy, I was harder on my husband than I had ever been. I became that continual drip in his ear, asking him to “do his part.” Until one day my husband said something to me that made me reflect.
“You sure seem to be nagging me a lot lately. Well, I don’t know. Maybe this is fair. I guess I must have just had it too good before.”
And I realised something. While before I had been happily doing those small little things that made my husband feel loved, now I was taking those away from him, and for what? 10 seconds of inconvenience. Worth saving that for all the stress and tension I caused to come between us? I don’t think so.
So, I’ve learnt to not ask him to do those things which he can’t get his head around. I pick up his socks, rather than asking him 100 times a day to do so. Instead, I look for things he doesn’t mind doing, and ask him (with as much sweetness as I can muster) if he would so kindly do that for me on a regular basis (so there’s no nagging involved). We have a bit of a system (as much of a system as two disorganised people can muster) that works for both of us. In our house, he takes out the trash, dries and puts away the clean dishes, plays with the baby, changes nappies, and other odds and ends.
I ignore the socks for all the other wonderful ways he helps the family.
Not only do I save stress and tension from creeping into our marriage by not worrying about those little things that could become annoyances, but I also save my husband from having to retreat from the constant nagging and look elsewhere for kind words. Husbands need praise and kindness – and should be able to expect that these things come from their spouse’s mouth (Proverbs 31:12, 26). However, the temptation might be, if they receive only nagging and criticism at home, to look for that approval elsewhere – and believe the Bible when it says that there will be plenty of women willing to give it if we are not.
“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil” (Proverbs 5:3).
“the adulteress with her smooth words […] With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him” (Proverbs 7:10, 21).
Men crave kindness, praise, words that drip with sweetness, and wives that give them the ego boost God made them to crave. Give them a reason to want to come home. Give them no reason to look elsewhere.
I really appreciated something I heard Gretchen Ruben say on her Happier podcast. She encouraged listeners to ask the question, “What will happen if I just ignore it?” Because, usually, the answer is, “Nothing.”
What will happen if I ignore my husband’s dirty habit of socks on the floor and simply pick them up myself? Nothing. Ten seconds of inconvenience, at most.
What does it mean for me to sort out the whites from the darks? Less than a minute’s extra work – and my husband’s happiness.
I think I can manage that.
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