Each Friday my syndicated column appears in several newspapers. Here’s this week’s!
I’ve been giving advice to men about relationships lately, and I thought I’d continue the trend today, since I like telling men what to do.
Let’s start with a misconception men often have. Many men think that if they have mastered the sentence, “Whatever you want is fine with me, Honey,” they have hit the relationship bullseye.
Unfortunately, if that’s you, you’re likely in for a rude awakening. Imagine this: your wife asks you whether little Johnny should take soccer this year. You smile and utter those magic words, and then incomprehensibly she storms off! Something got lost in translation.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret which many women may not admit to, and would rather I not share. But for the sake of healthy families, I’m going to do it anyway. Generally, women don’t want to always have their way. What they do want is for men to actually care. If men say, “whatever is fine”, they’re saying that the things women care about don’t matter enough to even render an opinion about.
We women, though, care so much about family decisions because our brains are perpetually stuck on the guilt setting. At any given time, we are feeling guilty about something. There’s ironing I haven’t done in six months. I let the children play too many video games yesterday. I didn’t serve any vegetables today.
So men, let me give you some advice. When your wife asks, “Do you think we should put Johnny in soccer this year?”, realize that she’s asking from a position of guilt. You see, if Johnny signs up for soccer, someone is going to have to drive him. Someone is going to have to cart around those infernal canvas chairs with the pop holder cups.
Someone will have to pack the cooler and then deal with all the dripping popsicle mess. This is decision must not be taken lightly. And if you agree that Johnny should play soccer, are you going to be the one to wipe up the popsicle stains? And if she doesn’t want to, is she going to feel guilty the rest of her life because she’s deprived Johnny of the Soccer Experience?
Women carry this guilt around constantly. And guilt can be magnified when women feel as if all parenting decisions are in our hands, because then we’re the ones who will bear the blame if Johnny turns into an axe murderer. That’s why we overcompensate. We take on more and more of the parenting duties, because we desperately want our children to thrive. And in the process we may crowd you out.
We don’t really want all that responsibility, though. It’s too big a load to bear. We’d much rather share it. Of course, we’re not looking for an authoritarian dad. We want a dad who recognizes our expertise, who relies on our opinion, but who also has one of his own. And if, after discussing it, we decide to go with her idea, that’s okay. As long as we’ve decided together, we women won’t bear all the blame if things turn sour.
Don’t let us get away with being the main parent. Believe it or not, deep inside most women don’t actually want that entire responsibility. But we’re unlikely to give up control unless you show you’re serious. So stick with it. When you rock the boat, it’s going to take us a while to adjust. Please keep trying, because we would rather be in a boat heading in the same direction together, than to be the only one navigating while everyone else sleeps below deck. Let’s build a family together. That’s what we really want.
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