Advice from the Trenches: Bonehead husbands

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Welcome to Advice From the Trenches, a monthly feature on NRI NOW.

This month, the column includes insight from writer Cathren Housley’s friend Dr. J for a humorous change of pace. 

Do you have a question for the column? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to cathrenhousley@aol.com.

Mention that you’re an NRI NOW reader so we can be sure to publish the answer here!

Dear C and Dr. J;

I have a theory and I wonder if you can support it. I am convinced that every man in the world secretly goes to Bonehead School before they start dating. There, they learn how to:
• pretend they don’t know how to use the washing machine
• leave food crusted on the back of plates so no one will ask them to wash the dishes again
• always come home from the grocery store with the wrong thing
• pretend not to understand you say so that you are forced to repeat everything four times
• forget to do anything until nagged a minimum of 80 times etc, etc, etc…

Don’t try to play dumb, Dr. J. You’re a guy; you have to know where the school is.
Will you come clean and validate tortured wives and girlfriends everywhere?
– Medea U.

Dr. J says:

Rats! You found us out. But from my experience, just about everyone will get away with whatever they can. Women can be even worse. Maybe you can tell me where the Bonehead School for women is, so I can figure out how to avoid the graduates.

But the time to talk about what you expect and what you really don’t want is at the beginning of a relationship. Most of us try to make whatever impression that we think will get us to that first date. We don’t consider the long run. If you try to pretend that you’re super self-sufficient because you think that will get you a brownie point, watch out – the guy will expect you to carry the groceries in every time. Let him know you expect an equal relationship and that the responsibility load has to work for both of you.   

Men are like horses – they function best given clear direction and expectations. We can’t read minds, we don’t pay attention to hints, and if you don’t ask, we will assume you don’t need anything. We get confused easily about what women want, and frustrated when we don’t get it right the first time. We are task-oriented and like to feel manly, and use tools and gadgets. We play games to get out of “women’s work.” If you ask us to do it, we’ll evade you until you give up and do it yourself.  

If you want a man to do chores eagerly, find a cool tool or toy that we can use to do it. 

So, what school do you women go to, to become nagging wives? 

C says:

Women go to the school of The Holy Suffering Patron of Saints if we make the mistake of partnering up with guys like you, Dr. J. I actually enjoyed your explanations, but at the same time, you pretty much admitted that Madea’s accusation is true. The evasion of unwanted tasks is a game that a lot of guys play because they never really grew up. Hopefully, they also know some games that they get paid good money to play. 

The truth is, there is no “husband school.” All of us, whether we are men or women, learn more from our own parents than anyone else, and they generally present us with the same working model of marriage that their own parents taught them. When we as individuals choose our mates, we also choose according to the model passed down from generation to generation. It isn’t conscious as much as a reflex set on automatic pilot.

You seem to have chosen a partner who likes to play. This isn’t a deal breaker, because it’s tough to find one who doesn’t, but if you don’t plan to leave him, you’d better learn to play the game too. J gave you a good clue – men are more like horses, or dogs, than people. If you want to get any reasonable behavior out of them, you have to train them. They respond well to treats, pats on the head and long rides in the car with the windows down. If you don’t provide them with the admiration and sexual services they feel they deserve, they may seek the attention elsewhere. It’s just in their nature. 

We all have genetic prompts that can be traced to primitive conditions that sometimes don’t exist anymore. For example: the world population has reached 8 billion so infidelity can no longer be justified as a man’s god given task in order to insure the survival of humankind. 

Your husband’s behavior seems, at this point, to be more irritating than damaging. But if it ever becomes abusive, don’t let him explain it away. That’s a game no one should play.  

As originally published in Motif Magazine

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