It won’t work… it just makes you a nightmare to live with
Picture this: You come home from a hard day in the office, kids are in bed and the house is as tidy as you left it except for one thing… wet towels all over the bedroom. If it were a one-off you wouldn’t say anything but only this morning you said to your husband that wet towels had to be hung up on the heated rails, because who wants a damp duvet? And he nodded in agreement.
Yet here they are, stinking and wet on the floor and bed, so you tell him again.
Actually you don’t simply tell him, you are tired and pissed off and exasperated at constantly repeating yourself, so you launch into the usual Wet Towel tirade. You may have repeated yourself a few times, maybe even raised your voice into that mosquito-like whine, and you may have even pointed at him. It’s nothing new, you’ve been talking about wet towels for seven years – in fact it was the subject of your first argument when you first moved in together. Surely he should know by now that towels HAVE TO BE HUNG UP!!!!?
So that’s the start of your evening and that’s why three hours later you’ve had an uncomfortable meal together, you have both gone to do your own thing in separate rooms and there won’t be any sex on the cards tonight. Or for a while.
But you were totally justified to say something weren’t you?
Well what if I told you that you should have just picked up the towels and kept your mouth shut?
For those of you that read my work regularly you will know that I am far from a perfect 1950’s Stepford Wife. I am a through and through feminist and I am certainly not the shy and retiring type – in fact if anything has to be said I will say it complete with Flamenco arm movements and sassy Hispanic attitude. But I gave up nagging a few years ago because, although I may be an opinionated madam, I’m also someone who has no intention of spending my life as a hysterical henpecking harpy.
Nagging your man doesn’t work. Honestly, it doesn’t. Who am I to tell a grown man what, how or why something should be done MY way?
I married a man I love. I respect him, admire him, fancy him and like to think that most of the time I get on pretty well with him. It’s not natural to spend your life with just one person, and neither is it easy to live with someone without pissing each other off, so marriage is hard work. Plus we have all been brought up differently – he hates the fact I leave food in tins in the fridge and always forget to change the bin liner. I hate the fact that he leaves his suitcase unpacked for weeks after a holiday and doesn’t hang up wet towels.
But are these fundamental aspects of our cohabiting life together so awful that they are worth eroding our relationship over? In the big scheme of things, does it bloody matter?
Today I was on a social media forum and there was a long thread about annoying husbands. The usual ubiquitous ‘omg my husband is so infuriating, I told him not to leave his shoes in the middle of the floor a thousand times and there they were last night. God he’s such an idiot, why does he never listen to me?’.
I said nothing, because I have better things to do of an evening than to troll strangers and join in banal discussions about shoes on the floor. But had I said something – I would have said this:
“Your standards of cleanliness and the time frame in which you believe things have to be done in are YOUR ideals. Inflicting your own standards of what is acceptable or not on to a third party is controlling and unfair – especially if he has no prior knowledge of what is irritating you and clearly hasn’t prioritised shoe allocation over other things that are occupying his thoughts. The shoe thing is your issue, not his, so either speak to him nicely about it like you would to a guest or a flatmate or pick them up.”
I can hear every single one of you now gasping in horror. What do you mean pick up after my husband?! He should KNOW not to leave shoes lying around where people could trip over them when they make the house look messy and doesn’t he care about how hard you work to make the place nice and it’s not fair he’s been having a lovely day at work when you’ve been stuck indoors in the rain with the bloody kids all day and all you want is for bedtime to be here and now his shoes are just SITTING THERE and it’s one more thing you have to do and you haven’t sat down all day and he’s a selfish prick and how DARE he?!!!!!
Wow, that escalated quickly. So actually the shoes aren’t the issue. He is the issue, and your dissatisfaction with your life is the issue. And his complete oblivion to your state of mind is the issue.
So tell him. Because these issues are going on around millions of households around the world right now with men thinking ‘shit, who knew forgetting to put my shoes in the right place was so important?’
Men are not mind readers. If you speak to him like a chastised four year old and moan on repeat about stupid inconsequential things he will simply think ‘what the fuck is she on about now? I’ll do whatever she’s complaining about for some bloody peace‘. Not because he is inconsiderate, but because what is important to us may not be important to him. Or anyone else for that matter.
When I go away my house does not collapse around my husband’s ears because he isn’t a complete spud so he will of course wash clothes and feed our children. But will he ever do what I want, in the order in which I want it done, when I want it done? As in NOW?
No, and why the fuck should he?
He can’t read my mind and my personal household rules are MY issues not his. He lives there too. I might talk about things before I leave, send him a text or leave a list. He may read it and be happy to acquiesce to my demands, or he may not. I have learned to accept that, because if he asks me to do something and I genuinely forget, don’t want to or don’t agree, he doesn’t turn it into a big deal either. We are grown ups, we have a choice as to how we choose to live.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve genuinely wondered why men and women think so differently, but I wouldn’t bollock my man because he keeps leaving his underwear by the side of the bed. I’ll either pick it up or explain that unless it is in the basket it doesn’t get washed… it’s a fact. It won’t be.
He will end up having to wash it or go commando to work and then he’ll remember for ever more put it in the basket. These aren’t mind games – they are just normal rules of life (all this applies to kids too by the way!).
Nagging is saying ‘I want this thing done right now, my way, because it’s important to ME… but I don’t like doing it all the time so I will resent you for not doing it my way when I want, even if right now you are doing something that is important to you’.
Berating your man incessantly is patronising, disrespectful and bloody rude. It is NOT acceptable for us women to refer to our men as not being ‘house trained’ like we would our toddler or dog who is EXPECTED to do as we say… How would you like to read a social media thread full of men sighing at how shit their wives are at ironing? That’s sexist, right?
If I want something done, I will do it myself. And if I need help from my man, I will ask. If he doesn’t want to help… feminism and equality works both ways you know… then who the hell am I to make him or judge his reasoning? I know that no man has ever made me do anything I don’t want to do.