Here in this post I will share a real life story that I found on Reddit (Am I the A**hole, where people present their dilemmas for other people to comment on): the messy husband. Actually, the issue is not that he is messy per se, rather that his standards of cleaning leave a lot to be desired.
The story is linked here, with photos demonstrating how his home looked after he had supposedly cleaned it.
Now here’s the thing: many people reading this might not see what the big deal is. (Apparently hubby himself does not see what the big deal is!) Reading this story as a woman it truly irks me. His wife has explained to him time and time and time again that he is not doing cleaning properly. She has shown him how to do it. She has discussed it with him in therapy. Yet nothing changes. He just does a half-hearted job, then thinks that it is OK. Seriously?! How many times does someone need to be told?
This is why this story annoys me: the feeling of not being listened to. The fact that you have said something again and again, and it is essentially just ignored. This shows that her husband does not take seriously something that she finds so annoying, showing that he does not respect her.
Part of the package, or the deal in marriage or relating closely to someone else is this: knowing that there is something that you personally may not inherently care about in the slightest. But making an effort to care about that thing simply because your partner cares about it, and you want to show that you respect their feelings. Say for instance, my husband has had an important conference at work. Do I personally, honestly care about a conference about best practices in healthcare procurement or any other obscure topic in and of itself? Not in the slightest. But I will make an effort to ask about it, how it went, because I know he put a lot of effort into it, and he stayed up late to prepare. That is what it means to be considerate of your partner’s feelings, and show that you care about their life.
Additionally, in the case of “messy husband”, this is not merely a peripheral issue in her life that she can avoid or ignore. The fact of the mess literally surrounds her all the time.
People in the comments have suggested that this is a serious case of “weaponised incompetence”, that is, that he would deliberately and consistently do such a bad job in the hope that she would eventually give up asking him to clean and just take over the task herself. And guess what? This is what many women do in similar situations, as I have read of many similar situations. They will just take over the cleaning then henceforward exchange horror stories with their friends about how dreadful all their husbands are at cleaning. “But apart from that he is a great guy and I am lucky to have him!” But why should she or any other woman *have* to do this, though?
And then look at the responses from other people: some people are advising her to not have babies with him, as it would only get worse, and babies need to be brought up in a clean environment. Some people are even suggesting that she should leave him altogether. She herself has said that she is no longer attracted to him sexually and they are not currently having sex. All because of this seemingly small thing!
You see, this is a problem with marrying “a nice guy”. She does not suggest that there is anything else that he is doing that is annoying her. For all we know he is pulling his weight in every other area of life, except this one. And yet this one area is apparently enough for her to consider ending their marriage altogether (or at least for people to suggest that). So then the issue is this: if Mr (or Mrs) is not striving to be outstanding in every way they can, then it literally only takes one issue to get out of hand to make life hell for their spouse. (Or, to phrase it backwards, it only takes one issue for life to become hell, so to counteract that both spouses have to be working to be excellent in everything.) If it was not cleaning, then it might be long-term unemployment, or it might be not sticking up for her with his family, or it might be using her car and making it messy or —-. There have been stories on Reddit about these and so many other things, where it is just a single, seemingly insignificant issue that is threatening to cause an angry breakup between a married couple. So then, it seems that the only way to avoid something like this is to look for someone who is striving to be great in cleaning, and in using your car, and in pulling their weight in employment, and in being respectful to your family and in insisting that his own family also respect you also. In short, everything. And then thinking more on the issue, I was thinking “Who can realistically sit down and anticipate every single issue that might arise in marriage?!” So to be able to predict peace you’d be looking for someone who is making every effort to be good, or good enough, at everything. This is why I personally insist on a spouse who is giving a thousand percent. Because otherwise, that one single area in which he is not giving his all, is enough to blow up into an issue that could cause big aggravation, as seen in this post. I also think it would be far more peaceful to simply remain single, than to keep making myself angry in having to discuss something like this over and over again, and having to live in the mess.
He might well be thinking: “Well what’s the big deal? I’m a great husband in every other way – I think she’s overreacting!” And yet, I remember reading a few months back an account from a husband whose wife had actually
left divorced him because he left his dirty glass by the sink once too often. So it does happen, that women get frustrated to the point where they would leave an otherwise happy marriage for something that hubby thought was “small”. And there once again, the issue was that he repeatedly failed to respect something that she had communicated was very important to her.
My own resentment: please be aware that it is not my husband that is being discussed here! And yet measuring my own resentment in this issue gives me an idea what I would be like if it were to happen to me. I would be livid if I explained to my husband that something annoyed me – and he just kept carelessly doing it, for months on end. Honestly, I would not even have bothered to post it on Reddit – I would just have upped and walked out. Ciao! I would not necessarily have divorced him, but I would definitely have gotten my own place so that I could live in peace away from his mess and then he could happily have his pigsty to himself. I have previously admitted on this blog that I myself am ahem – somewhat messy – and guess what, I am still as messy as ever! But I do know how to clean!
If my husband helped me with a simple process to remain tidy I would be more than happy to follow it, because I genuinely want to be tidy. But to just wilfully ignore what your spouse has repeated to you so many times – sorry, but that is flagrant disrespect.
For me it takes me lots of effort to communicate frustration with things like this anyway. I want to express things with the right tone, and try not to express annoyance. The likelihood is that by the time I get around to being able to express it, and make it come off in a lighthearted, “no big deal” way, I would already be seething with annoyance, and all the more so because I think what I am sharing should be so obvious.
And then to think that you are already so angry, but you are trying not to make a big deal of it, because you are trying not to upset the tone in your relationship – and he would just ignore you?!
From my own experience of interacting with various men (for instance in church), I can’t help thinking that men might think that women just talk, and they as men just have to nod along and then completely ignore what the women have said. Because that is the way they have treated me! So I have put in all my exaggerated effort, to be able to express something, and say it in just the right way, aiming for the right tone, to not outrightly express my anger – and then they have essentially just ignored what I have said. I suspect that these men I have interacted with think that women just talk for the sake of talking, and they don’t have to take it seriously. Until – I just walk away, which is my usual way of dealing with such things. And then they start scrambling around, desperately trying to get me back in their church. Unfortunately, by that point I am usually past caring. Question: Why don’t you take these things seriously from the outset? I am not just saying these things for fun you know!
Another issue that this hints at that annoys me is this: when people think that you are a “really nice person”. I lose count of the number of people who have told me personally that I am a “really nice person”
– or some variation of this phrase: servant-hearted, a heart of sweetness. However, I have learned to translate this as following: people often say this or express this to me just before they try to take advantage of me. I am just going to disabuse anyone who thinks this about me: as a person I am not particularly nice. I say it as it is. If it is too impolite to say it out loud then please believe me that I think it to myself. However, what I am, which is definitely unusual, even in supposedly “Christian” circles, is that I am strikingly sincere – as guess what, all Christians should be, but few actually are! When people tell me I “am nice”, what they are often truly saying is that they think that by being honest, and straightforward, and sincere, and considerate, that means that I am available to be taken advantage of. I don’t know whether you think that the reason I make such an effort to be “so nice” is so that you or someone else could just stand there and take advantage of me.
And I can’t help thinking that this is often the case within marriages. There is no suggestion that the couple discussed in the Reddit post have any faith leanings. However this is not exclusive to faith.
I can’t help thinking that the reason that some people seek out “nice” spouses is because they think a “nice” spouse would sit there and take their nonsense. They might think that they would be able to maybe not really give full effort, but their caring spouse would overlook it, and let them take advantage for a protracted period of time. This is not just about being human, and you know, sometimes not being bothered to do a really thorough job of whatever, chillaxing, watching TV, when really you should be cleaning etc. That is just human to not be bothered every now and again. But to consistently, systematically, refuse to pull your weight, day in, day out. That goes beyond “being human”. That is simply unacceptable (although it is also, sadly, all too human!)
See this is why I am so fussy! For me, if the marriage is just going to end up with me walking out, it would be better for me not to get married in the first place. If “OP” in the post above had avoided marrying someone that was like that, then she could have instead married someone who would pull his weight in cleanliness and tidiness. But then if it had not been cleanliness, perhaps it would have been a job that would have been an issue, if not that then perhaps the inlaws, if not that then perhaps financial issues…My point is that the only way to predictably avoid a small issue in any one of these ways would be to insist on marrying someone who is striving to be excellent in everything. Otherwise even just a seemingly small mistake in just one of these areas makes it all too easy to conclude that you’d be better off single.
So another way of putting it is this: part of the reason I am so fussy is about knowing myself and/or being honest with myself, and preserving my own future peace of mind.
Additionally, this shows how “character”, is the single biggest consideration in marriage and ultimately outweighs everything else. (Oh, “love”, you say?!!) In this case a character failing of the husband’s is expressed through a failure to respect his wife’s strongly expressed and utterly reasonable wishes. Assuming that she did marry him at least in part because of physical or sexual attraction, like I imagine most spouses do, then that is now completely negated by his behaviour and she can currently not bring herself to touch him. This is why I endlessly remind myself that no matter how “hot” a potential husband might be, his character needs to be “all that”, and I need to carefully check him out to verify that it is indeed “all that”, otherwise something infuriating like this would likely happen during our own marriage too and I also would not be able to bring myself to touch him, thereby negating the fact that he was so “hot” to start with.
Ooh, I’ve also just remembered something else: Respect. In my experience, men specifically are always saying that they need to feel respected, and respect is the single most important thing that they need from their marriage. Well guess what, respect works both ways! I don’t know whether some men think that the way to encourage me to respect them is by showing me as little respect as possible? Or maybe they consider it a zero sum game, that the fact of having to give me any respect at all detracts from how respected they feel? I would say that if you want your wife to respect you, then don’t just coldly ignore her wishes. Because guess what? If she is a good woman, then she wants to respect you too! She wants to be with a man that she can respect and brag of to her friends. “We sometimes disagree but he is so solid, honestly I feel like the luckiest woman alive!” However when you trample all over her reasonable wishes, then you make that less and less possible.