Everyone has seen it. The list of instructions for the 1950s housewife to make her husband happy, and keep him happy. The kind of stuff we're supposed to be offended by. The kind of stuff that the modern woman should detest (though if you read the list it describes a loving and conscientious wife who cares about her husband and is empathetic towards his struggles and pressures he faces in daily life).
But what about men? What are the expectations placed on men largely the same as they always were, but yet much less stigmatised than those placed on women?
Men are still expected to participate in the labour market and win bread for the family. Men are still the ones who answer the call in law enforcement, military and emergency services. Men are still expected to come home, and despite it all, help out around the house and be present with the children.
You might be taken aback by this statement, but so be it. There was far more gender equality in the 1950's home than there is in the 21t century home.
You see, the list of instructions that I mentioned above includes items such as:
Do not greet your husband with problems or complaints. Don’t complain when he is late for dinner. Count this as minor when compared to what he had to go through today.
Raising children and keeping up with the demands of a household on a daily basis is no small task. Any wife has every right to have problems and share complaints. But men too have immense pressures in their daily lives. Maintaining and growing a career, the difficulties, challenges, deadlines, dealing with people, and office politics that come along with that are no small thing either.
The list items from the 1950s simply encourage a wife to understand this and have some empathy. But a husband must meet her halfway. And that is what this article will address. What kind of husband would a 1950s wife be happy to make happy?
I need to know this more than anyone, so here is what I have been thinking about.
Don't be lazy
This one is for me. If you need it too, all the better.
Mankind, in this fallen world, tend to take the path of least resistance. That is, to do what is easy instead of what is right. Instead of helping out around the house after work or on the weekend, it's easier to relax on the couch. Instead of taking the wife out for dinner, it's easier to order-in and watch a movie. Instead of maintaining the lawn, it's easier to ignore it.
Maybe not for you, but it's true for me.
I am not a particularly conscientious individual. My wife, on the other hand, is. She is the most organised person I know. If something needs to be done, she has mentally mapped out the steps and started doing it within seconds. Me? I wait for tomorrow. If I'm half-serious, that means it won't get done for a month.
This is a problem because as a man, you shouldn't allow your wife's ducks to be in a row while your responsibilities are days, weeks, or months behind. Marriage, parenthood, and household management is, whether the modern enlightened person wants to accept it or not, are divided between husband and wife, mother and father, man and woman, into roles.
It's not about competition to be the most effective or to keep score of contentions, it's about running a home and raising a family as a well-oiled machine - as a team with responsibilities divvied up according to competence. (Yes, I am more capable of taking a chainsaw to the overgrown tree in the backyard and carrying away the large branches than my wife, and she is better and more thorough at cleaning than I am. Get over it.)
The point here is that if I am pulling my weight and carrying out my responsibilities to the best of my ability, then my wife will more than likely be more empathetic and caring than she would be if I was a couch potato that lets itself go fuzzy and soft on the outside and ends up good for nothing.
Help out around the house, help with the kids, mow the lawn, pay the bills on time. Don't be lazy
I'm working on it.
2. Be romantic
Another one that I am writing for myself.
The problem is, I am happy to just be around my wife. Watching a movie, reading, whatever, just as long as she is there. I also like genuine, meaningful compliments. She, on the other hand, likes back rubs, romantic dinners, acts of service, and spontaneity. All the stuff that takes effort!
This is not good news for lazy people like me, but if she wants effort, give her effort. It's not easy to make a woman feel loved. Simple, but definitely not easy. A good place to start is by finding out what her love language is (and yours too). If you don't know what the 5 love languages are, google it, read about them, and take the test, ideally with your wife.
Basically, there are 5 different ways that people give and receive love, and everyone has their preferred love language. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. You can have more than one love language, but one will always be dominant. Mine is words of affirmation followed by quality time (even though my idea of quality time is different than hers).
Learn your love language, be spontaneous, do what she wants, not what you want. Again, I'm working on it.
3. Be patient
Love is patient and kind, the bible tells us. So, if you love your wife, you ought to be patient and kind. It's a simple rule of dealing with other people in any context, you must be patient with their shortcomings, just as you expect them to be patient with yours.
The truth is, unless you can grow wings and a halo, and flutter around the room dripping in perfection, other people deserve as much patience as you do. No one is perfect. Not you, not even your wife (mine is pretty darn good though.)
Be patient with her when she's having a rough day, when she is losing her temper, when she is stressed, when she is sick, when she is lonely, when she is sad, and even when she is being outright unreasonable.
This brings us to the next point.
4. Hold your tongue
"...Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth." James 3:5.
"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." Proverbs 15:1.
One sentence, one phrase, even one word ill-spoken can set your world alight. The worst thing to do when a problem or contention arises between yourself and your wife is to respond in anger or frustration. A general rule when there is an issue is that it is the two of you versus the problem, not the two of you versus each other.
Often, this requires a great deal of humility. If the problem is something that you have done, or continue to do, or some ego-damaging character flaw that your wife has brought up, it is still the two of you versus the problem. In this case, it's your problem.
This is where humility is needed. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can be a shitty human being and stop defending, rationalising and justifying your shitty behaviour.
If on the other hand, it is something that she has done or continues to do, or some character flaw that you have brought up, you must show the same patience and grace that you expect her to show you. Again, it is the two of you versus the problem, not the two of you versus each other.
Be patient and kind. She deserves it.
You can deny traditional gender roles all you like. But you can't deny the certain instincts and desires that men have, and have always had. One of those instincts is to provide - to produce - to be needed and relied upon.
Yesterday my sister looked after my son while my wife and I were at work. When I came home she was watching a cheesy Canadian cowboy drama series. The basic plot of the episode she was watching was that there is a young couple who desperately want to buy a ranch. But
they are having trouble coming up with the money.
All of a sudden, the young lady of the partnership is offered an opportunity to train a horse belonging to a prince, and is offered a substantial amount of money to do so; enough to put a down-payment on the ranch of their dreams. This disappoints the young man of the relationship because, while he is glad that they have the money, he has missed his opportunity to provide for their dream.
Not understanding why it matters to him where the money comes from, she then becomes angry at his disappointment. She failed to recognise his masculine desire to provide.
But providing goes further than simply making coin. Providing also has within it's scope how you manage your money and resources. If you spend everything you make (even if all the bills are paid), but you don't have an emergency fund, adequate insurance, or at least some small investments, you are not providing all that you are capable of.
A good husband doesn't just provide for current needs, he anticipates, plans and prepares for the needs of the future.
This is by no means an exhaustive or thorough list, but it is what I have realised and begun to work on. Being a husband is a constantly changing endeavour. Just as it is with anything in life, marriage comes in seasons. A husband must always prepare for the coming season and keep up as it progresses.
I believe that marriage is one of the most important and foundational institutions in society. The strength of the marriage is the strength of the family and the strength of the family is the strength of the society. So go and be a good husband.
Until next time.