My husband, Joe, lost ten pounds in the last two weeks. How, you ask? Did he saw off his leg or contract malaria? Did he join Riverdance, a performance rumored to be so rigorous that dancers drop pound after pound on stage in water weight, and Irish jig his way to a sleeker frame?
No, he did none of these. He went back to the gym and he cut down on bread and pasta. And he instantly lost ten pounds. How annoying is that?
Anyway, this announcement is unrelated to my post this week, but it was something I thought I would share.
It did make me consider how different men and women are though, from how we lose weight to the way we parent; how we settle conflict and eat cookies and listen to music.
So I decided to nix the post I’d started about how autism and the holidays make me want to pull my eyelashes out one at a time, and write something for the guys. Nothing too serious or long, because if the average guy is anything like my husband, he can only read about two paragraphs at a time about relationships and marriage before his eyes glaze over.
The following are just a few pieces of advice based on hypothetical situations, sixteen years of marriage, and good old common sense.
1. First of all, if you have to go out for dinner after work, either with a client or a few buddies, and your wife has to get five kids through homework and dinner and find the Rubik’s Cube and make the 5-year old brush his teeth again because he snuck a popsicle after brushing the first time, do not walk in the door moments after she’s gotten them all to bed and start talking about how the hostess at the restaurant was really pretty. Just don’t.
We are not, quite frankly, going to give you the feedback you desire from this exchange.
We are not going to say things like, “Oh, that’s great, honey, it’s always nice to have an attractive person to stare at while you eat your tasty steak dinner!”
We are not going to say, “Where do you think she got her short skirt? Maybe I’ll run out tomorrow and try to find one just like it! I bet it’s from Kohls.”
Guys, especially do not do this if you walk in the door and find your wife slumped over the counter wearing a black velour bathrobe and eating Cheez-Its straight out of the box.
(Reminder: all the examples in this post are strictly hypothetical.)
2. Instead of telling your kids, “Don’t talk to you mother that way,” try saying, “Don’t talk to my wife that way.” It gets everyone’s attention, especially hers.
3. Always leave the last Oreo.
4. If someone in your family has an IEP, go to the IEP meetings. Your opinion matters.
5. If your wife asks you how she looks before you walk out the door to a party or dinner with friends, tell her honestly. You are her last line of defense before she goes out into the world.
6. But be kind about it.
7. When you’re sitting next to her in the car and the kids are bickering and whining and shouting and singing the theme song to Frozen at the top of their lungs in the backseat, quietly take her hand across the center console and rub her fingers.
8. Be the husband you hope your son will be or your daughter will marry. Be on time, and call if you’re running late. Be good to your in-laws, even if they’re crazy.
9. Text her during the day—not to ask about soccer practice or dinner or milk, but to share a joke or a story. It will make her feel like a part of your world.
10. Research shows that men are logical and women are emotional, and nothing substantiates this claim better than a big old nasty argument. We fight with our heart and you fight with your big, smarty brains, and the result is usually a spirited impasse. Maybe, next time, meet her halfway. Think less about time and dates and how much a new dishwasher should cost, and consider instead how great it will feel to have clean dishes.
11. If you have been married long enough that your wedding song was recorded on a cassette tape, do not tape over said wedding song with say, music from your favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan album. That happened to a friend of mine and she was super pissed about it.
12. If your wife asks you to go to counseling with her, go with her. It doesn’t matter what the issue is; communication or how to discipline the kids or who spends more money. The universal translation to “I’d like to see a counselor together,” is this: I believe in me. I believe in you. I believe in us.
13. Once a day, kiss her with intention.
14. Don’t be afraid to reveal yourself, to be vulnerable. One night, over a plate of greasy nachos in a dimly lit restaurant, maybe your eyes will fill and your voice will break. “Carrie, not a day goes by when I don’t worry about him.”
15. Every so often, hand your phone or camera over to a stranger or the waiter or the tour guide and say, “Will you take a picture of us, of just me and my wife?”
Guys, if you’re reading this right now, you might be thinking to yourself, why should I? Why should I do all of these things like take pictures together and send random texts and hold her hand when the kids are driving us nuts?
I don’t know you and I don’t know your wife and I certainly don’t know your marriage, but if it’s anything like mine, it is complicated and fun and disappointing and thrilling and ordinary and big. Like a tiny rowboat in the midst of a great sea, it is kept afloat with the smallest gestures; tender kisses and funny stories and honey, I am running late.
It’s anything but hypothetical.
I do know this: being a good husband makes you a good father. It makes you a good brother and friend and dentist and neighbor.
It makes you a good man.
I also know this: you are the single most important person in her life. It is you she calls when the baby has a temperature or her car runs out of gas. Some days, it is you she sees first in the morning and last at night. It is you, God willing, with whom she will grow old.
It is you.
So take a chance today. Start small, with a joke or a text or an Oreo, and watch her face light up. Walk in the door and before you check in with the kids or steal a bite of dinner off the stove or even take off your coat, walk over and kiss her. If you’re feeling really brave, put your wedding song on after the kids go to bed and dance with the woman you married.
Oh, and if any of you happen to see my husband Joe, could you do me a favor and share this post? You’ll know him in a heartbeat. He’s the guy sitting in a restaurant, avoiding the bread basket but eating a steak.
He’s the guy wearing a Stevie Ray Vaughan shirt and wrangling five kids and a puppy into a red minivan so he can get them all to the soccer field on time. He’s sitting in a hushed IEP meeting, and asking if his special son could have an extra session of speech every week.
He is the guy next to me on the long, tan couch in our counselor’s office, holding my hand and rubbing my fingers as we laugh and weep and hope together.