In college, when I fell in love with my husband, he was the “it” guy. He was the center of our social circle, the funny one, the confident one, the laid-back one. Good-looking, athletic, intelligent, he was friends with everybody. He always helped out whenever a friend was moving apartments and needed some muscle. We were poor; we ate a LOT of ramen noodles. But even in our near-penniless state, my husband didn’t worry much back then; he trusted that if he worked hard and got his master’s degree that he would find a great job and things would work themselves out. He just wasn’t a big worrier. He was an easy-going, impossible-to-ruffle guy.
Things are different now.
Lately I catch him staring into the distance, brow furled, eyes narrowed into slits. He’s not looking at anything. He’s thinking. Worrying. And he gets frustrated too easily, snaps at the kids before snapping is necessary. He’s all spaced out, doesn’t know where shit is around the house, can’t see things that are right in front of him. He falls asleep in the middle of family time – just freaking goes to sleep sitting up, like a giraffe. He’s antisocial and grumpy, bordering on intolerant.
Mind you, he’s not always like this… but I catch fewer and fewer glimpses of that laid-back guy I fell in love with. In short… he’s not the man I married.
But why? Why is my husband so different from when we first got married?
I think I might know.
This past weekend, my family went camping. It was our very first camping trip; we only went for one night, just to see how it would be. We had a great time. In the evening, as we sat huddled in our lantern-lit tent playing “Go Fish” for the first time, three-year-old Mari, with a huge grin on her face, asked Lucas if he had a “sixteen.” We all died laughing. Lucas was laughing so hard he was snorting. I looked over at my husband and there were tears of joy in his eyes.
When we got home, he told me he’d really needed that chance to get away and not think about any of the things that stress him out.
It made me wonder: What if it were on me to support our whole family? What if I worked ten, twelve, fifteen hour days? What if the burden of knowing that if I screwed up – got fired, got laid off, whatever, it could be disastrous for us – it all fell on me? What if the welfare of our family was almost entirely contingent upon my success or failure as bread-winner?
I think my husband feels these pressures in a major way, even though I’ve told him that I’d be just as happy in a smaller house with fewer things.
And what else does he worry about when I see his eyes glaze over? Well… what would I worry about if I were him?
That one big problem at work; how can I fix it? What happens if I can’t fix it? Do we have enough savings? Should we save more? Can I afford to take my family on vacation? Is my wife happy? Did I yell at my son too harshly? Am I a good enough father to my daughter? What if I lost my job? Would we be able to sell the house? Would I be able to find another job quickly enough that our savings wouldn’t run out? Does my wife still find me attractive? Will I be able to send my kids to college? Will my son get bullied because of his ADHD? Is our old car going to finally break down and force us to buy a new one, and then we’ll have two car payments? Will I ever get around to painting the ceiling where there are smoke-stains from the infamous popcorn-fire? Or any of that other crap that’s on my “honey-do” list? How long do I have till my wife jumps all over me about that stupid honey-do list? When will my next promotion be? Will I be able to handle the extra work-load? What will I do when the moment comes that some little asshole tries to make a move on my daughter? Is our house nice enough? Have I “made it”? Am I successful enough? Am I manly enough? GODDAMMIT I NEED TO MOW THE LAWN. AGAIN. And change the oil in the car.
Those are things I would worry about. But would anyone notice or care?
Sometimes I wonder if the feminist movement has become so powerful that men and all their worries are being swept under the rug.
Men have feelings too, you know.
We are all aware of the struggles of the SAHM, the working mom, moms in general, women in general, because we talk about it all the freaking time. And we should. These are important issues. Yay for feminism.
But what about men? Why do we not acknowledge their struggles? Why do we only whine about the dirty socks on the floor, the dirty glass left on the end table, the tools left lying out in the garage, the snoring, the pathetic man-colds? We snigger over how painfully inept and unobservant our husbands are in comparison with us. Putting diapers on backwards, always misplacing their wallets. They seem helpless… like babies. I’ve even said it myself: “My husband is my third child.”
Do we really only have critical and demeaning things to say about our husbands?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been very patient, accepting, forgiving, as a wife. I think I harbor a lot of self-righteous I-pushed-a-baby-out-of-my-hoo-haa-and-also-look-at-my-c-section-scar-and-saggy-breast-feeding-boobsfeelings. That my sacrifices trump anything my husband could ever offer. It’s like I’m waiting for him to push a lemon out of his penis before I’ll accept him as my equal. And that’s not really fair or realistic, is it?
I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to try not to get annoyed so easily. I’m going to try to remember that there are just as many things going on in my husband’s head as there are in mine, that he has just as many concerns, fears, and frustrations as I do. Most importantly, that I am every bit as imperfect as he is, and am really in no place to judge him.
Perhaps if my husband feels that unconditional support and acceptance it will be easier for him to let go of his burdens… and give him the freedom to regain a bit of his former, laid-back self.
But whether he does or not, he’ll always be my “it-guy.”
What do you think? Are men bashed too much? Wives, do you appreciate your husband and make sure he knows it? Husbands, do you feel appreciated and understood?