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February 5, 2016

Husband Or Child?

A while back I read an online complaint by a guy whose wife yelled at him for leaving his dirty socks and underwear on the floor.

He pointed out that the dog had recently thrown up on the carpet. His wife didn't get mad and yell at the dog, she just cleaned up the mess. He also noticed that their toddler habitually left toys scattered about. She didn't get mad and yell at the baby, either. She just picked up the toys.

Why, the writer wanted to know, did his wife treat the dog and the baby better than she treated him?

I think I know why this woman is upset. It can be summed up in one word: Expectations.

The wife expects the dog to act like a dog. She expects the baby to act like a baby. They meet her expectations, and she deals with it.

She knows that her husband is neither a household pet nor an infant. He is an adult, and she expects him to act like an adult. In her mind, that includes being responsible for cleaning up after himself. He is not meeting that expectation.

Most likely, when they married, she thought she was getting a life partner. Her expectation was that he would share life's burdens with her -- or, at the very least, not make her life harder than it already is. He is not meeting that expectation.

I wonder if he behaves this way at work. Does he toss trash on the floor instead of into the wastebasket, expecting others to pick it up for him? Does he drop tools on the ground, expecting others to put them away for him? Probably not. His wife might well ask, why does he treat his coworkers better than he treats her?

Again, the answer is probably expectations. Maybe when this man is at home he expects to revert to toddlerhood and have his wife pick up after him the way Mommy once did. Or maybe his mother also nagged and yelled about his sloppy habits. Maybe this is a familiar pattern for him, and therefore comfortable on some level, even though he complains about it.

In any case, creating a parent-child dynamic with one's spouse is not a good long-term strategy for a happy relationship. It is just as easy to drop the socks into a basket as it is to drop them on the floor. It's a small gesture, but it will make a big difference.
Image courtesy of "varandah" at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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