What Year Are We Living In, Again?
Sometimes I think I unintentionally take advantage of how far women have come in this country. Throughout my life, women have been able to vote, get an education, hold full-time jobs, own property—basic things that for a long time, women were not allowed to do.
Growing up, my generation was constantly reminded that we could do anything men could do—sure, we might not have to do as many pull-ups for the presidential physical fitness test, but ya know, technicality. Women can be whatever we want to be! And that includes being awesome at sports, science, martial arts, carpentry, being bosses, being badasses, etc. Men and women are equal. Which, I also took to mean that husbands and wives are equal too.
Except, apparently not. The other day, my friend sent me this article. And my jaw hit the floor.
I encourage you to read the article yourself, since my brief synopsis will certainly not do it justice. But the blogger shares 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband and includes line items like honor his wishes, don’t nag, don’t complain, dress to please him, protect his name, don’t disagree, etc. and they are all backed up by Bible quotes.
I’ll be honest; at first I thought this article was hilarious. Hahahaha! Crazy religious people with their sexist, old-timey ways! Hahahahaha! I shared it with Brad, my mother-in-law, sister-in-laws and with my friends on Facebook. It just seemed like such a riot! Is this woman serious? Is she seriously telling married women that “protecting his name” and “not arguing” are ways to respect their husbands? How is this not an article in the Onion? But when I started seriously discussing it with a friend, I realized…this isn’t funny. This is scary. This is dangerous.
Why? This article tells women not to be who they really are. Not to be honest with their husbands (like bringing up valid problems or fears) and to simply bury discomfort and displeasure. To hide behind a smile and nod. To not make waves. Just be quiet, act pretty and let the grown-ups talk. These are all great tips for a woman who is married to Walter White or some other dangerous, sociopathic megalomaniac, but not for a woman who is married to a PARTNER. An equal. Not a father figure with a fucked up God complex back in 1901. This blogger tells wives to put their needs on the backburner and blindly follow the lead of their husband. Not to raise red flags or voice concerns. NOT to be an equal. No, to be a lifeless, soulless, vapid yes-woman in a tight skirt with a smile and plate of fresh-baked cookies. Essentially, her advice is to be a Stepford wife with a cross. Or a robot. Or both. Or, wait, were Stepford wives actually robots? Whatever.
Brad knows he certainly did not marry this type of woman. He also wasn’t raised by one. That’s why he just about died laughing when I read him those 25 things and then asked me to email it on to the strong women in his family; who also thought it was hilarious.
So, I have decided to create my own “Ways to Respect Your Partner” list. Full disclosure: I have only been married for 88 days (Woohoo! We beat Kim Kardashian!), so I’m sure I have a lot left to learn…but Brad and I have been together for five full years, and I think I’ve learned quite a bit about having a mature, loving, romantic, functional and FUN adult relationship.
I also took out all of the “Husband” and “Wife” lingo, since you don’t have to be married or be in a heterosexual relationship to respect your partner. This is about creating a relationship that is happy and successful and EQUAL. And gender has absolutely nothing to do with it.
So here’s what I’ve got:
Ways to Respect Your Partner
- Choose Joy - This was the author’s #1 tip too, actually. Of course she took it as something totally different, but whatever. I see choosing joy as learning how to appreciate life; the small things, the big things. Choosing joy is about making yourself happy, and it’s done internally. When you are joyful and gracious, you can better bring joy to the ones you love and care about—your family and loved ones.
- Take Care of Your Own Needs First - If you’re not happy, and you’re just running around taking care of everyone else…you’re going to end up stressed out, resentful, depressed and maybe like one of those women on the Oxygen show Snapped. Fill your needs. Do things you enjoy. Get a babysitter. Take a break. Take a bath. Take a poetry class. Go for a run. Your family will thank you for a happier, more present, more playful parent or partner.
- Then Take Care of Your FAMILY’S Needs - Once you’re happy and in a good mental space, then you can take care of your kids and your partner. Then you can make meals, clean up, do laundry, pay attention and connect with them. But first, you gotta do you.
- Disagree Respectfully - Fights are a natural part of being in a relationship with someone. When you both care so much about each other, and about so many other things, tempers get hot. Learn how to discuss problems and disagreements respectfully and rationally. Put yourself in a calm mental place before having big, heated discussions. Don’t swear. Don’t name call. Don’t break plates. Talk things out rationally and respectfully.
- Make A Few Compromises, When Necessary - Sometimes your partner wants to see the new Batman movie and you want to see the new Meryl Streep romcom marketed for a totally different age demographic than you. So be it! Suck it up and go see it. Don’t give them a hard time. Just be a good sport and know you’re making them happy.
- But Make Sure They Make Compromises, Too - That being said, make sure you are not the ONLY one compromising. That’s a recipe for resentment.
- Take Turns Sharing - Sometimes your partner might need an ear and sometimes you might need an ear. Make sure you both share. Take turns shutting up and listening.
- Be Thoughtful - And in general, don’t be a jackass. Simply put, show and tell your partner how much you appreciate all they do; and then do sweet stuff for them too. Did they help clean up after dinner? Complete an annoying errand you were dreading? Thank them! You don’t have to make a big fake fuss over it. Just let them know you noticed. Also, if you have 5 free minutes to empty the dishwasher or clean up the cat poop on the carpet, do it!
- Help Create a Home of Warmth and Love, Together - It is not one person’s sole job to create a warm, safe, happy home. It takes the whole family to help create this environment. You might be the one who vacuums or does most of the chores (which, if you feel like this is uneven, ASK FOR HELP!), but both partners create the feeling of safety, warmth, love and creativity in a home.
- Be Yourself - Don’t worry about being perfect or being some Stepford Wife (or Husband). You’re not perfect. You’re not a robot. Just be yourself. Just love yourself. Just love your partner as themselves. Done.