This morning, I exited the house heavy-laden with an enormous pile of dry-cleaning, a cup of coffee, my huge purse, and my keys. I witnessed an interesting phenomenon – one son let the door slam in front of my face as he left the house in front of me, the other, seeing my plight when I finally made it to the car, offered up, “Oh, can I help you? Here, give me those,” and he removed the mountain of clothing from my arms.
On the way to PEP we had an interesting discussion about what “help” is – and how men are different from women.
“Coincidently,” the night before, one of these boys and I discussed a time when I didn’t know that I actually needed to ask for help from my husband. This boy has a huge project he’s working on, and I’m helping him with it. I wondered if I had done too much, and so I asked him. He’s 16, so I wanted to be respectful, not mothering or nagging… He told me it was all “cool” because I asked him if he needed the help in the first place. He said, “If you had just jumped in and started helping me, I would have thought you thought I couldn’t handle things. That you didn’t believe in me.”
I pondered this and said, “So, in your head, when I’m struggling with doing something, and you don’t help me, you are being respectful?” He said, “Of course – you might need help, and I might think you need help, but I’m not going to disrespect you by just jumping in.”
I was confused, however, this morning.
“So how is it that asking for help doesn’t earn someone disrespect, too?” I inquired.
“When Dad took those men down to the cabin to install that huge boat lift, he asked for help. Men respect other men who know what their limits are, and when they need help. There’s nothing wrong with asking,” he replied.
I said, “Women are different, to a certain degree,” I said. “I love it when I come home from the grocery store and you guys just drop what you are doing to help me unload and put away the groceries. And when I have my arms full of things, and you open a door for me or offer to help, it makes me feel very loved. I would have loved it if you had seen me struggling this morning and opened the door for me.”
“Not all girls are like that,” chimes in the 16 year old. “Oh?” I prompt.
“I opened a door for a girl who had her hands full and a guitar, and she glared at me, then she said, ‘Don’t you think I can get it?!'” he said. “It totally ticked me off.”
“Her mother hasn’t taught her anything about chivalry and allowing men to be men. Women are to be honored by men, treated special, gently, with respect as to our physical weakness. Men are supposed to be protectors – there’s nothing about this that is ‘less than’ but rather the feminist movement has confused girls and their mothers about how to be esteemed. They think that revealing skin and having sexual power is what it is all about,” I replied. “It’s also just plain polite to open a door for someone who is struggling, regardless of gender. Perhaps asking them, ‘Can I get that for you?’ would work for all?” We talked further.
Ephesians 5:28 tells us that “Even so, husbands should love their wives as (being in a sense) their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” 5:29-32 goes on, “For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 Because we are members (parts) of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is very great, but I speak concerning (the relation of) Christ and the church.”
So, men are probably SO VERY NATURALLY good at taking care of themselves, that they needed to be told that their wives are actually PART OF THEM – so they would take care of their families well. And more importantly than that, represent Christ’s strong but loving relationship with the church and how he cares for her. Interesting.
When I had my first child, I remember getting furious and feeling extremely unloved by my husband because I had trouble adjusting to motherhood and had no one to help me. Mountains of dirty dishes, laundry, dust bunnies…you might know the drill. I didn’t know then that I needed to ask him for help. One Saturday, he made himself a sandwich and didn’t make lunch for me. The kettle of hurt feelings boiled over and I emotionally vomited all over him – he was more than surprised. He was utterly shocked.
“Why didn’t you just ask for help?” he replied, eyes wide in surprise.
“I shouldn’t have to!!” I choked out, tears streaming.
“What do you want me to do?” he gently asked.
I could have killed him.
Sarcasm, fueled by anger, stabbed my reply. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe laundry, dishes, vacuum, feed the dog, anything that puts order into our chaos??! Just act like you live here!!! There’s no, ‘how can I help you? bone in your body!'” I fumed. I wept. I felt unloved.
I was also wrong.
And about a decade later, I realized he was showing me respect. I was clearly overwhelmed by cluelessness at caring for a new baby while struggling with part-time work and balancing post-partum depression. He was putting up with digging through laundry baskets in search of socks and underwear, sometimes making him late for work, setting aside dirty dishes to wash a bowl he could fill with cereal for his breakfast, all in an effort to let me know he thought I could handle things. He didn’t help because he didn’t want to be disrespectful.
In his head, he was communicating, “I know you can do this. I’m not going to step in and demean you.”
What I heard was, “This man you married is clueless and doesn’t even love you enough to wash the dishes.”
What a lie!
Bottom line: Ask for what you need and don’t take offense if your husband doesn’t just “jump in” to do things. He can’t read your mind. And chances are, he is a creature of respect, and doesn’t want you to think he doesn’t think you can handle it.
Second tip: Don’t jump in and finish things or rescue your husband by doing things he said he would do. Don’t give help unless he asks for it. Hear this: That is perceived as disrespectful, even though you mean well. When he doesn’t do what he said he would, say instead, “I know you have a plan for taking care of this – do you mind letting me know when it will be finished, so I can stop worrying about it?” And then leave him alone. If it doesn’t happen still, offer up, “I know you said you were going to take care of XYZ. Is there anything you need from me to help facilitate getting that done? What should I do if you don’t keep your word?” **NOTE: Per Jeff’s comments below, this is what my husband told me to say to HIM – what may work better (Jeff counsels gobs of men) is a simple, “What should I do if it doesn’t happen?” that isn’t pointing a finger, nor making an accusation about trust. Thought I’d clarify since we’re getting so many hits and shares today. 3:35pm EST ***
There’s a lot to think about. Dare you to comment or share today to keep the dialogue going – Double Dog Dare you to ASK for what you want from your husband. Even if he doesn’t know how, he will most likely try, if you are specific enough. 🙂
Thankful for the journey, especially that we’re on it together.
Love to you,