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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Praise Works

I think I'm going loony. Maybe it's the flu, but I don't think so.

I read The Anchoress' tribute on her husband, which was elicited (reposted) by this article in which a woman seems to be explaining proudly that she uses bribery, threats, punishment, sex and withholding of sex to get her husband to do some share of the housework. She goes on and on about oppression and parity and that her husband has to be treated like a child to get him to do what he ought to be doing, which he doesn't do enough of. What can one make of this?
So how have I accomplished this? By holding my husband’s feet to the fire every single day of our lives, of course.
Not one day of vacation in seventeen years? No "Honey, you've been working hard, why don't you just hang out this weekend?"

It all sounds most unpleasant, doesn't it? My feeling is that praise and appreciation works much better, and that if you are bribing or punishing your husband that can't be any fun, and if I didn't respect the Chief, I don't think I'd be exactly enjoying sex and that sex surely should be more than a way to control your husband. The whole way the writer goes on makes it sound like the relationship is just work, work, work and more grim work. I'm wanting to say that the article must be a misrepresentation of their marriage, but of course I don't know that.

You know, it sometimes works the other way around. A man will be a neat freak and drive his wife nuts. One person's natural way isn't always the only way, and one of the things marriage does do for people is to rub some of their own idiosyncrasies off and make them better people.

I think Dr. Helen has a good point regarding what this women may be teaching her children. All I can say is that this grim specter of a life of duty which involves herding a man around day after endless day is the sort of thing that would make me never want to marry!! Speaking as a woman. Seriously, if a girl or a woman accepted this proposition, why should she ever marry? It all sounds too damned exhausting!

Rachel Lucas writes about bitch-martyrdom, and that's worth a read also.

The Chief and I are both rather imperfect people, but at least we have FUN together. At least we are mostly each other's rest and refuge from the world's difficulties. I get a warm surge of pleasure just from seeing him sit down in the morning to read the news on the internet with his coffee, and I sometimes bake him something just because I know he'll pick up a piece and lug it over with that body language of implicit satisfaction.

I had the weirdest sensation when reading the original article. I immediately thought of the Rapture. You know, the Christian rapture that some Christian sects believe in, in which one day everybody good gets sucked up to heaven and the rest are all left to deal with the Time of Tribulation. It has never appealed to me, and one reason is that I doubt I'd be raptured, but if I were, it would be hell. Who is supposed to be taking care of those left behind? The dogs, the kids, the lonely people living alone - this seems more like a last torture than some sort of reprieve. It seems like a total disaster to me.

I mean, to some extent, one takes care of people and one takes pleasure in it just because the people are there, and they are yours to take care of, and it makes you feel good to do so. That is obviously even more so when they are your spouse whom you chose and are taking care of. I just keep staring at what this woman wrote thinking "This can't really be true. This is how she thinks she ought to feel, but not all of how she really feels." Isn't there anything in her that would make her happy to see her husband hanging with the coffee over breakfast on the weekends? Everyone has those ritual moments of relaxation that a person looks forward to, and doesn't it give her a bit of a kick to see her husband having that and to think "I can give him this?" And he does work outside the home, and she does work at home, so of course she can make her own moments of relaxation.

I feel like my skull exploded from sheer astonishment. Either what this woman wrote is a lie, or I have completely misunderstood what a lot of people find in their relationships. It seems to me that people sort of naturally learn to pull together, and that there's a pleasure in that. I know both the Chief and I do that and feel good about it, and I know my parents did. The small considerations add up to a pattern of love and warmth that's literally woven into daily life, and it is a rich, deep, romantic type of thing.

I get The Anchoress' post without any trouble. Yes, indeed. But the original article appears almost impossibly divorced from basic animal instincts and normal human interactions. But if the article isn't a lie, than this woman has created a sort of prison for herself, regardless of what her husband thinks of everything, and she's made everything a duty, and nothing a gift, which just seems impossibly barren and stark.

Sry to hear about the illnesses, hope you both feel better soon.

Sounds like this lady is just whining about the fact that she had to persuade her husband to see things her way in matters wherein they were both being inflexible. Sorry ma'am, but there's always gonna be a zone where 2 people's expectations don't mesh, and if it was such a pain persuading her guy to fall in line with her vision of him, then perhaps isntead of public catharsis, a little self-reflection is actually in order?
This actually strikes me as a covert sado masochistic relationship.When I worked in San Francisco I met several people who had overt SM relationships (With contracts!) that had a lot of similarities to what this woman describes.I think they were more workable because everything was on the table...and consensual.Hubby gets something out of this too or he would be gone....
While I think the woman who took pride in nagging her man for years is odious, I also recognize that there are some people (men and women) who, because of their past experiences, think this is actually the way for men and women to interact. Sometimes there's an S&M motif like Tom Stone noted, but most of the time it's just that this is the way they grew up with.

My husband was raised in a family where anything he did on his own initiative was shot down and his mother nagged him mercilessly to overcome the resulting torpor. Consequently he didn't know any other way to interact when we got married besides being nagged. At first I nagged him mercilessly, but after a while it made me sick to nag him so much and I switched to a respect model. It's taken many years for me to finally get through to him that he can be respected, and to persuade him to not treat the kids the way he was treated. In the interim I'm not proud that I've had to put nagging into the mix in order to get some basic things done in our relationship. But it's trending in the right direction and we have the rest of our lives to work toward getting it right.
Wacky Hermit - what you describe is probably the best possible relationship for the kids of this marriage if their real experience is as described.

We all come to relationships with our own baggage, that's true.

In any case, it strikes me that your own approach is going to make the later years of your marriage a lot more fun. Sometimes the hard things are worth the effort!!
I'm afraid that this woman's behavior isn't all that rare. In public and at social gatherings, I often observe women treat their husbands with barely-concealed contempt and sometimes with outright fury. For example, in the grocery store I heard a woman who snap at her husband, who had just picked up something or other "Put that back!! We don't need that!!" in the tone an incompetent parent would use with a retarded child. I saw exactly similar behavior with a different couple in a bookstore.

This kind of behavior seems to occur mainly among those in about the 35-60 age range.

I hope this is just a regional thing, but I'm afraid it's not.

Sorry to say but my mother treated my father that manipulative way. He loved her anyway.

But he grew up with an abusive father who used to beat his wife and then ran out on the family. In comparison, my mom's treatment of him was like a walk in the part on a sunny day.
I've got an attention deficit disorder book that says men with scattered attention often fall in with such women, who impose structure and motivation with superficial benefits. It recommends replacing the harridan with amphetamine and life skills training.

"But if the article isn't a lie, than this woman has created a sort of prison for herself, regardless of what her husband thinks of everything ..."

Roissy would blame the man for having such depraved disrespect for women that he would let one be ruined by neglectful acceptance of such behavior—as well to buy a da Vinci and hang it outdoors.
With any luck, maybe he'll outlive her.

I think that young women have been sold a bill of goods and I say that as a woman raised by a single mom. I was once pretty much a card carrying feminist too. But I see too much unkindness, too many demanding women that don't give back anything in return. And frankly, I don't think the bitchy woman brings anything to that relationship.

I had a successful 37 year relationship because we always respected each other. During parts of it, Jeffrey did the housework, cooking, and stayed home while I worked. I do more of those things now, in the new relationship, even though I am working. I do it because it gives me pleasure to feel like I am making a home. I sometimes think of one of those All in the Family episodes, where Edith is chewed out by the daughter for waiting on Archie. She explains that she does it to show how much she loves him. And I think of that now, as I make the morning tea or fix dinner. It is just one courtesy, one way of showing my appreciation to the man in my life. I'm not into being a scorekeeper.
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