Feminists will not like this post, but I don’t care. I lived for years as a proud woman who handled anything work threw at me and accepted (albeit begrudgingly) my role as brain and decision maker for the family. It was a burden. I didn’t want it and I didn’t like it. But I was strong-willed and I knew what I was good at and was told what I was bad at so there it was. I was in an upside down marriage. I wore the pants.
It didn’t start out that way.
When I was first married I was like a horse that had never been saddled. I was wild and definitely not domesticated. I said what I thought, did what I thought, and was horrible at most domestic tasks. But I was willing. And over time made improvements. It’s just that my ex wasn’t a great leader and he often lead through neglect (which he called example) and discouragement. I never had cleaned house, I never had cooked and I’d never lived with a man other than my own dad. I had a lot to learn. He on the other hand had been his father’s maid for about 4 years and lived in a house where people said something nice or nothing at all. He was fully and completely domesticated and didn’t know why it was so hard for me. I was feisty, he was refined. So we traded on our strengths and for some people this would work. It’s just that for me, just because I was strong and smart didn’t mean that I wanted to wear the pants. I truly wanted to be the woman. Only he was better at it.
I spent an evening last weekend with my ex who drove me out to see our daughter in her last ever marching band competition. I spent about 4 hours with him and it was painful for me. He smirked at me for being talkative or over emotional at least 4-5 times. He scolded me for talking during the show because he was video taping. He made fun of the way a phrase spilled out of my mouth wrong. By the time we said goodbye, I remembered how I always felt judged around him. Maybe I was being overly sensitive on the inside, I didn’t show that it bothered me on the outside, but it was great to watch him drive away. Time spent with him reminds me of the feeling of inadequacy I had in my marriage. It wasn’t that he was demanding, but he was very particular. And I never quite measured up. And he really liked making fun of me.
My ex was not visual, verbal or demonstrative. So on top of the teasing and put downs and feeling inadequate, there was nothing I could really do to feel special.
Tonight Harry is coming over the house for pizza and a movie. He’s bringing over his laundry. Which completely excites me. Lord knows this is a sure sign I’m in love with this man. Cause I hate laundry and I’m excited to do his. And I think I know why.
My house will not be perfectly clean but he won’t care. He’s going to enjoy the cuddling and the conversation. He’s going to tell me he thinks I’m beautiful and when I walk past him he’s gonna either growl or grab me for a big hug and pull me onto his lap. He won’t be able to stop kissing me if I kiss him back. And he won’t care how I fold his shirts.
When I do domestic things around Harry he gives me compliments. For real! Instead of someone taking out the dishes from the dishwasher and re-organizing them. Or scowling at me when he sees a pile on the floor. Or competing with me on who chops onions better. Harry watches me in the kitchen and says, “Wow, you’re a real cook, this tastes amazing.” Real compliments, not fake ones. Like maybe I don’t suck at everything.
Maybe because he just likes me that much, or maybe because he really doesn’t care about every single thing being in its place or perfect. Maybe he cares more about quality time spent together than worrying about how good I am at something.
And when I do something or say something spontaneous, he smiles and relishes it. He doesn’t make me feel like I’ve done something wrong or that I have some awful character flaw built into my being.
I never realized how well I respond to compliments. Maybe because I’ve never gotten them quite like this before.
Because all I want to do is please this guy. And be better, and sweeter, and more loving and dare I say, more domestic? For goodness sake, laundry? He must be something very special if I’m volunteering for that. My kids have been doing their own since junior high. But with Harry I feel like I will please him and so I want to do it. With Harry I’m literally looking for ways to make him happy.
I can feel all the women cringing at the thought of the comparison between a horse and a rider. But I’m the first one to admit, I really and truly needed direction when I was younger. I needed someone to show me the ropes in a way that would make me want domestic life. And I never got it. I got a symbolic whipping into shape instead. And it hurt. And it didn’t motivate me.
All Harry is doing is encouraging all the things he see in me he likes. And he’s doing it with love and compliments and hugs. Is it really that simple?
And it’s not that Harry doesn’t tease me. I think he teases me more than anyone ever has. But his teasing isn’t a put down. His teasing is playful and fun. He is always trying to embarrass me with saying something inappropriate or by making me feel sexy. If I had to pick between the two? Feeling stupid or sexy? I’ll take Harry’s line of teasing any day. He never makes fun of my intellect. He sometimes makes fun of how naïve I am and I always say, “I’m fine with being naïve.” And I am.
And yet, Harry also appreciates my masculine side which he says is stronger in me than almost any other woman he’s ever known. Frankly, it’s the only side of me that felt respected almost my whole life. Professionally, I’ve always succeeded, so the assertive, direct, strong side of me has compensated. Thankfully, Harry isn’t threatened by my strength.
I had the burden for all the decisions, for thinking things through, and for being responsible. That was my old life and it was a heavy weight. I know I am capable but it would be so nice to be able to lean on a partner every now and then and look to a husband for leadership. I crave it. I’ve never had it. And with that be able to allow my more gentle side to come out, my giving, and serving side. I know it already has grown with the absence of my ex in the home. I do it all now. Single mom status. I know now I’m better at the domestic stuff than I was ever given credit for.
It excites me to think I will get that for the rest of my life. That the weight of that old dynamic has been forever lifted.
It’s not just the stuff I do, but Harry is very visual (I know he loves how I look when I walk past him). He is very verbal (he tells me all the time what he thinks of me). And Harry is very demonstrative (she shows me all the time how much he loves me.)
And all I know is I’m responding to it all. And the more I get, the more I want. I can’t wait to see the woman I’m going to be in a few years from all this positive, loving encouragement I’m getting. Perhaps I will even consider myself…domesticated?