This week the topic is treatment of …. no, not our children, but our spouses.
Unfortunately, this mostly applies to the women in our audience because far too often, we are encouraged to think of our husbands as “another of the children”.
Now my readers come from so many different walks of life, some of whom are in decades-long, committed relationships with two mature adults.
Some, though, are struggling with building a relationship in a world that wants to tear one or both of you down at all times and certainly pits both of you against each other.
Today I made a new friend, a sweet young mother of one who is just embarking on the exciting life of motherhood and marriage. Recently I’ve been so blessed by the wonderful young people I have been meeting and becoming friends with – and I learn from them all the time. As we spoke, though, she mentioned that she was not about to have another child anytime soon because “add in my husband and that means I have two babies to take care of.”
If that were unusual – even slightly unusual – we could look at the ground, shuffle our feet and change the topic.
The problem, though, is that we hear and see this constantly.
From TV sitcoms to movies to cartoons to popular jokes, we have become completely accustomed to grown men, often with children of their own, being treated as irresponsible, lazy children.
I have heard this on the street and even in churches. If I were inclined to watch more television, I’m sure I would see it even more.
Historically, at least in some areas, the opposite happened.
Men treated their wives as irresponsible, lazy children who needed to be looked over, and it was socially acceptable.
It still happens today, but it is becoming less socially acceptable. In fact, treating a grown woman as though she cannot buy groceries or care for her children without supervision is generally considered abusively controlling behaviour.
Can you imagine a grown man insisting on cutting his wife’s food?
How about taking a look at her outfit and marching her right back to the bedroom to find something that matches?
Think for a second about a man telling his friends that his wife is just hopeless with the children and can’t even change a diaper.
Treating men as children, though, has become completely the norm. And unlike when a man treats his wife like that, we do not consider it to be abusive or demeaning.
Although this is primarily directed at women and their treatment of their male partners, please feel free to reverse the roles if necessary. If the shoe fits, wear it, no matter the genders involved.
I shall let you in on a few little secrets. These are things that, for the most part, I learned from my Mennonite friends. Oh, perhaps they’re not exactly secret and many people know them, but you should see the lightbulbs flash when I tell this to people:
Men are not women. And vice versa, of course. But seriously, men are really not larger, more muscular women who lack ovaries. Men think differently than women and they react differently than women. They communicate differently and they relate to their friends differently. Men are not women.
Men have a deep seated need to be respected. Ever watch boys in a playground? In fact, most men need respect more than than they need love and nurturing.
But nurturing, hugging, loving are all good things. Of course they are, and everyone needs both love and respect. (I suspect that they really need to go together to have a healthy relationship.) But men don’t need to be nurtured and cared for anywhere near as much as they need to be respected. Women, though, we need to be loved, loved, loved. (And yes, we need to be respected, but we generally don’t crave it the way we do love and nurturing.)
People will tend to live up to your expectations of them. I say people, but in my experience that mostly applies to men.
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Men tend to live up to the expectations of the women in their lives. (Which is one reason your mother-in-law has such a profound effect on your marriage).
The more they care about you and are invested in your well-being, the more they will be inclined to live up to your expectations. That applies if the expectations are high, but it applies equally when the expectations are low.
One thing that I saw among my Mennonite friends is that they never seem to fall into that trap of treating their spouses like children or encouraging their grown children to do so.
Male or female, anyone old enough to marry is considered old enough to take care of their own responsibilities. That, of course, means dealing with the consequences of their own mistakes, too. Parents of married children, male or female, treat them like independent adults.
In fact, recently I spoke with my friend Leona and asked her about her 19 year old daughter, who had married in June. “Well, she’s a married woman now, so I really don’t see her except at church. But they’re doing well.”
Have you heard any young woman (and yes, older ones) complaining about her high stress level, because she needs to pick up after her husband (otherwise his clothes never get into the laundry), poke and push to make sure he gets out of bed and out the door (or he’d never get to work on time), keep track of his schedule (because he forgets everything).
Doesn’t it sound like she’s acting more like his mother than his wife? He’s not enjoying it and she certainly is not!
She’s running herself ragged, their relationship is only going to last as long as her tolerance lasts, and the poor guy will never actually realize what he’s doing wrong. He’ll be single, struggling to pay child support and wondering what exactly happened.
And honestly, while we might want to point our finger at him and tell him to grow up, isn’t he doing exactly what everyone is expecting of him? He is hearing it in the media, from his friends and at home – he’s useless, completely unworthy of respect and can’t do anything without her help.
While writing this, I noticed my husband cleaning up some dishes on the counter. With a sigh, I came over and started taking over. He stared right at me. “You say you want a hand so that you can have time to write. I’m not working at the moment and I’m capable of doing this. Why do you think you’re the only one who can do the housework?”
Because … because …. ouch.
Seriously, it’s time we all faced up to the fact that w’re married to grown ups.0