Yesterday a friend of mine was looking for support regarding an argument he recently had with his wife. The story he shared was similar to experiences I’ve had with my wife.
“I worked in the backyard and cleaned out the garage for four hours on Saturday and she seemed pissed about it.” he said,
“What was she doing?” I replied
“She was with the kids.” (They have an infant and a toddler)
That’s the problem. Sometimes as husbands we do things that seem helpful, but are not nearly as helpful as we think. He made the same mistake that I used to make (and sometimes still do) which is to “help” in the way that I want to help.
He fired back. “Todd, we already know each other’s love language – she feels love through acts of service. What could be more of an act of service than getting ready for a backyard party this weekend?”
I said, “How about, honey I see how hard you have been working and I’m gonna give you a break and take the kids all afternoon.”
Feeling proud of my amazing advice, I mentioned this story to my wife later that evening.
She said, “Your advice was good, but could have been better.”
“How?” I asked.
“We don’t want a break. We want equal partnership. Instead of “help” we want to hear that you’re engaging the kids for the afternoon. Not as a favor, but because it’s part of what you do.”
This may seem subtle, but in my marriage – “giving my wife a break” will create resentment because it insinuates that the moment I get home with the kids, child rearing responsibilities revert back to her. I am the hero coming in to take the kids for four hours – aren’t I great? I’ll take the kids for these 4 hours, but she’ll be on for the other 20 hours of the day. I advised my friend that as husbands we need to just do things and not always look for the praise or the pat on the back. I can’t speak for everybody’s marriage, but in mine, my wife gives more emotion, blood, sweat, and tears than I do. It’s just that simple, and although it will never be equal, I can do more to balance it out.
My friend was receptive to this advice with just one caveat:
He said via text, Thanks buddy for thinking of us and for sharing this wisdom. The “knowing that I will never be equal” seems a little extreme to me which probably means I need to lean in this direction. Actually, I know I need to lean in this direction and probably at times run in that direction.
My reply, As soon as you are pregnant for 9 months, give birth, and then nurse for years, you might have a shot at saying that things are equal, but even so, it’s still a long shot.
Don’t do things to give your wife a break – instead, just be the dad.