A few weeks ago, I was helping a group of moms get a classroom party organized. As we passed out holiday appropriate paper plates and organic snacks, we chit chatted about our days, our kids and of course, we bitched about our husbands.
We bitched about how they are clueless sometimes. How their aim in the bathroom sucks. How no matter how many times we mention the clothes on the floor, their clothes wind up right next to the hamper, rather than actually IN it.
As we joked, I made a snarky comment about my husband and his habit of never putting his dishes into the dishwasher. In the twenty years I’ve been by his side, I can count on my left hand the number of times his dirty dishes have made it into the dishwasher. He’s not a complete slob, mind you: the dishes ALWAYS make it to the countertop ABOVE the dishwasher. He just doesn’t take the extra step to put them INTO the dishwasher.
When I revealed this tidbit about my husband, one of the moms said to me in mock horror, “Well, it’s because you haven’t trained him correctly!” She went on to say that she had been very clear about her expectations early in their marriage because she didn’t want to have a lazy husband and that she wanted to be sure she had a partner that would be helpful when they had kids.
Yes, she used the word “trained”.
As I thought about her comment, I wondered if I had done myself a disservice all those years ago, when my husband first committed his dishwasher offense. On the day that he first left his dishes on the counter, did I make a fundamental mistake in not immediately demanding he deal with them right then and there? Had I failed women across the country by just accepting that one of my roles in this relationship would forever be “Cleaner Upper Of The Counter Dishes”? Was my nonchalance and penchant for clean countertops a sign that I hadn’t the first clue in training a man to be a husband?
I left the conversation slightly embarrassed that I didn’t have a better handle on my husband and his actions. I was upset that I could have thwarted years of dishpan hands, broken dishes and the time suck of putting dishes away simply by training my husband to do it for me. I walked away feeling like I was doing it all wrong and I immediately made plans to Google “How To Train Your Husband” when I got home.
And then I realized something.
You train your body for a marathon. You train a kid to ride a bike. You train a dog to poop outside.
You don’t train a husband.
My husband knows how to run, can ride a bike and he isn’t a dog. My husband knows how to be an equal partner in this marriage without me having to tell him how. Without me having to train him to do so. He knows what needs to be done in our day-to-day life and just does it.
I married a man who is responsible to a fault. We have a roof over our head because he consistently remembers to pay the mortgage and save our pennies. I am able to sit at my computer and write my words because he works at a “real” job with real responsibilities. We have clean air in our house because, if not for him, the filter on the air conditioner would never get changed. He even knows how to kill bugs without acting like a grossed out teenager.
When I went home on the night of my conversation with those moms, I took a good look at my marriage and took stock at how we operate together day to day. Do we bicker with each other? Absolutely. Do we argue over finances, control of the DVR remote and whose turn it is to go to the bus stop on a freezing cold morning? Of course we do. But at the end of the day, the little struggles and verbal challenges are indications that we are communicating our feelings.
We aren’t looking to TRAIN each other into being the perfect partner. Quite the contrary, in fact. We are looking to communicate with each other. We want to share our feelings and reciprocate mutual respect for one another. Neither of us is interested in opening the back door and watching the other run outside to use the bathroom in hopes of getting a treat. And I’m not playing fetch either, dammit.
Over the years, we’ve worked very hard to make sure that we both feel heard and understood. We’ve fought our way through serious arguments with the mutual understanding that, even though our voices are raised, we will come out on the other side stronger, more united. Never have I ever felt that he was trying to train me to be the wife he wanted me to be. And while I’d love for those dishes to actually make it into the dishwasher, I recognize that for all that he does, a few dishes to clear means we are doing okay.
I’m sure, though, truth be told, Hubs would probably say he’d love to figure out how to train me to remove bugs without squealing.
This post originally appeared on LifetimeMoms.com in January 2015