My husband gets a passing grade, but there’s room to improve

How many of you looked up ASMR after I told you my husband hangs out in our guest room getting soothed? (After the honeymoon, husband & wife return to respective planets.) Probably not as many of you who wrote me emails saying “OUCH, your poor husband, you’re really giving him the gears. He doesn’t know better.” I got advice saying to accept that he’ll never change. I don’t accept that. One of his family members mailed me a book about getting along in relationships, and I thought, why don’t you just mail him a cookbook? Then we’ll REALLY get along! But props to the beautiful stranger who asked how I managed to not to scream at him. (The answer, by the way, is because I tried that in the past, and all it did was make him non-responsive and cause a break out on my face. Vanity wins.)

I guess there’s one big thing you should know: my husband proof reads all of my posts before they get published. He gets his chance in private to correct my grammar (those of you at our wedding may recall he vowed to try not to do that in public) and I get a chance to gauge his reaction by watching his face as a I describe my life with him. It’s not that it’s some type of censorship – I’m not sure I would change anything even if he wasn’t fully on board, nor does he want me to feel censored. He understands that the point of this is honesty, and nothing so far has been exaggerated. The only time he was (mildly) offended was over my slightly sexual portrayal of ASMR.

In actual fact, when he reads my blog, he usually laughs, specifically laughs at his own behaviour in disbelief. I usually find that the days immediately following a post, he becomes very independent and helpful, and I start thanking him for doing chores. (Thanking him?! Shoot me.)

On my kitchen table right now is a pretty dead bouquet of flowers. They’re there as a reminder of our first real married fight. We had a string of a few hard days, after I applied for a job back in Canada, after I discovered black mold in his shower, after I came home from a rehearsal at 9:30 at night to have to cook supper from start to finish because he was on the couch, hungry for 3 hours waiting for me. (But seriously – my stuffed bell peppers were pretty goddamn delicious, even at 10:30 pm. I’ll brag about that later.) The fight ended with me, looking very Bridget Jones, back sitting on my bath mats, pounding my fists on the floor like I’m a child throwing a tantrum.

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I threw around the words respect and partner a lot, and preached about maturity. (Tantrums are a sign of maturity, though, right?) Then I locked myself in my bathroom and texted with my friend for an hour to calm myself down. (Mature people always lock themselves in bathrooms, don’t they?) Then I slinked out of the bathroom after my hips were sore from sitting on the floor and refused to speak for the rest of the night. #potcallingthekettleblack.

The flowers were the start of a very sincere apology from my husband, and we have been making very real, measurable progress ever since. I’m still testing out some methods, but I feel confident that soon I can launch a boot camp for new husbands. I’ll wear a head mic and shake my arms in the air like Oprah in front of rows of betrothed young men and cheer “YES YOU CAN!” I’ll have a slew of inspiring guests, some of the very best husbands I know – the Hugh, the Richard, the Gerry. Maybe the odd webinar by Dr. Owen Hunt and Adam Braverman to give it star power to let me charge more.

Here’s our progress:

Every Tuesday night, my husband cooks supper for us. Tuesdays because I now have a commitment outside the apartment from 7:00-9:30 that night. Plan it, buy the required groceries, cook it, clean up after it. We’ve been trying this out for three weeks, and it’s… well, it’s probably the highlight of his new leaf, so I’ll put a positive spin on it. The first week was PERFECT. I came home to pasta, served with a side salad. I was impressed. My husband hates chopping so the salad was a pretty impressive sign of his commitment to the relationship. The second week was a flop. I wasn’t feeling great, so I texted my husband while he was still in his afternoon lecture and said I’d be home when he got out, and surprise! I was going to be super sweet and make supper for him. He came home without checking his phone, shocked to see me standing there, with a Taco Bell bag in his arm, as I’m getting homemade meatballs in the oven with cauliflower fried rice sautéing on the stove. I’m sweating from the heat of it all, and I see that bag of Taco Bell and it takes everything in me not to lunge at him and swat it out of his hands. He looks confused and disoriented, and then guilty. “Is my supper in there too?” I ask, not naive enough to truly believe that it was. Besides, given that he thought I’d be home 2.5 hours later, who would be gross enough to eat OLD Taco Bell? “I thought you said you could have soup or something,” was his only response. He meant one of the four cans of Campbell’s Tomato in the pantry. I ate my homemade dinner in front of him, pretty quiet, secretly hoping he’d choke a little on his hard taco shell. Week 3 fell somewhere in the middle. I bought the ingredients. I thawed the ground beef. But he seasoned the sauce and the pasta was delicious. Good save.

Every Saturday morning, my husband cleans his own bathroom. And not just by using a Lysol wipe to get rid of his whiskers from the sink. Like, really clean, including the bathtub, which he was surprised to learn is not self-cleaning. For Week 1, I stayed in the bathroom right behind him, first as a silent observer, but turns out I don’t do silent very well. “There, you missed a spot.” “Put some muscle into it.” “It’s called elbow grease for a reason.” I really should coach football or something. I perched on the counter, legs crossed at the ankles, swinging them back and forth, thoroughly enjoying myself as my husband could not get over how scrubbing the tub made his back feel tired. Tell me about it. It took me two hours to get rid of his mold. Week 2 came and went. Week 3 just passed. I mean, I hear you. I read your emails. You say to have faith. You say he’s lived on his own long before me. You say he won’t know until someone shows him. So, I showed him. And therefore I back off during weeks 2 and 3. I had no idea if he had cleaned them or not. I broke down last night and finally asked. All I can say is this paragraph should really begin with “One Saturday morning, my husband cleaned his own bathroom.” Yes, once. A failed mission.

Those are the two biggies, the weekly dinner and bathroom cleaning. But in general, there are chores that are now completely his: putting out the garbage, doing the dishes after supper, putting away the dishes, sweeping the kitchen at the end of the day. Plus our new rule in the kitchen, similar to “you break it, you buy it,” is “you use it, you clean it.” A pan he uses in the morning to cook his eggs can sit there until morning the next day, until he goes to cook again but then has to stop to clean it first. I won’t touch it. I will let it sit there. He used it, he can clean it. And if it delays his daily cooked breakfast, that’s okay. (Is that terribly mean of me? But like, really. Imagine if I left everything I used in the kitchen over the course of the day dirty for him to come to. It’s just gross.)

I used to have to “invite” him to empty the dishwasher. Yes, actually invite. I would stand in the kitchen, while he rewatched The Office and literally use the words, “I invite you to empty the dishwasher.”

“K, babe,” his eyes not leaving the screen. He stands up. He sits back down. I know in that instant he’s already forgotten.

“The dishwasher?”

“Right. Coming.” He stands up, takes two steps toward me, stops in his tracks and continues to watch tv like a statue.

“NOW.”

We trade places and he mutters “jeeze” and I stretch out on the couch. You can not only hear the tv from our kitchen, but you can also SEE the tv from the dishwasher, so it wasn’t like I was asking him to make a huge sacrifice. I hear no sound of dishes clinking, or of cupboards opening and closing, so I look over. He’s frozen again, bent over the top rack, mug in hand, eyes glued to the screen. It takes him about four times as long as it takes me to unload the dishes, but at least I didn’t have to.

Now I don’t have to invite him as often. And we’re hitting on some real stepping stones, like he’ll load the dishwasher until it’s full, and then go to school. We are almost at the part where he’ll put in the detergent and turn it on. Almost. He knows now never to leave his laundry in the washing machine, that’s been corrected. We are almost past the point where he treats the dryer as another dresser drawer. When he drys the pots after dinner, he is excellent at stacking them in the drying rack, so much so that it grows like a Jenga tower and removing one object to cook dinner the next day puts the whole shaky structure at risk. We are nearly there, though, nearly getting those pots, pans, lids INTO the cupboards. In the meantime, I challenge anyone to a game of actual Jenga, because i’ve gotten reallllllyyyyyy good.

We’re communicating better now, too. Instead of discovering that we’re out of peanut butter by finding the empty jar he placed back in the pantry, he’s beginning to tell me as he uses it up, so I don’t discover mid-recipe what’s run out.

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Baby steps, but at least they’re steps forward. I appreciate how much he wants to help, deep down. A for caring. C for execution. The comment next to the grade on his boot camp report card would read “room for improvement, a pleasure to have in class.”

 

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