I married a man whose mother still put his clothes out for him each day until he left home in his early 20s. It came as rather a shock to him that I was not going to continue ‘mothering’ him. My mother-in-law is a living fucking nightmare and has completely ruined all her sons with her overbearing, smotherly love. She even ironed his underpants. I’m not joking. Who irons underwear?
If our relationship was to survive, I knew I had to change things and fast. But I had to pick my battles wisely. We didn’t have kids, both worked long, full-time hours and I wanted to ensure we shared the chores fairly so we both got down time to enjoy. Sadly, the mother-in-law had gifted me with a man-baby who had no idea how to cook, clean, shop, garden or do laundry. This was a situation that needed a training plan!
OK, I don’t mean an actual training plan, but I needed to come up with a way to ensure my encouragement was not seen as nagging and my suggestions were actually seen as his idea all along. Domestic bliss was within my grasp.
30+ years later we are still together and although he remains on my ‘Constant Improvement Programme’, hubster is almost the perfect man ( I need to get him more into painting and decorating as he insists we move house as soon as we need any home improvements). He’ll do just fine until Chris Hemsworth comes along (a man who I’m sure needs no training at all). So how did I do it? Let me share my tips with you:
Stop shouting – don’t blow up over the bad stuff. Kicking off every time you trip up over his trainers in the hall is not going to stop him leaving his trainers in the hall. If you shout and point out his failings every day you’re just going to make both of you feel bad. OK, I’ll admit it felt good the day I threw all his clothes out the bedroom window because he left dirty clothes lying around. But it was me that had to clean and press them all again once he had brought them back in – that taught me to pick my battles.
Play to his strengths. If he is not a morning person and is slow to get going, plan to get more things done in the afternoon. If he slows down when energy levels drop or gets a bit hangry, make sure he eats something. Manage your expectations in a situation by making sure you understand him and how he works.
Positive reinforcement in key. Just in case you own a dog and have visions of clicker training, don’t panic! It doesn’t go quite that far. Pay him a compliment and show appreciation. You probably think you already do this, but you won’t do it enough. We remember our manners with friends and even strangers, but we can forget to say thank you to those we live with. I’m not talking about giving him a blow-job because he emptied the dishwasher, but some kind words of appreciation will feed his ego.
He’s not a mind reader! He’s with you because he loves you, not because he posses magical powers that enable him to know what has caused your latest grump. Don’t be a bitch because you are feeling down in the dumps and then get snarky with him because he isn’t helping you. Have a calm conversation about why you are feeling miserable. Don’t get nasty and intimidate him because he hasn’t fixed that cupboard door … did you even let him know it was broken? Give him a fighting chance now and then.
Lure and bait. My husband is a sucker for a good slice of cake, so I use it as bait. For example, I needed him to come on a shopping trip with me recently that neither of us were going to enjoy. But he came along and helped me because he knew we were going to visit his favourite cake shop. This technique also works when we are on holiday and I want to amble around craft and antique shops.
Use distraction techniques. He might have some terrible habits that drive you nuts – picking his feet while watching TV for example. Instead of shouting at him, pass him the TV remote and get him to look for something you can both watch, or keep his hands busy with a bowl of popcorn.
Stop being a control freak. You wouldn’t be with him if you couldn’t trust him, so stop being so needy when you are apart. Stop sending endless texts, especially the ones where you are moaning about something or the ones where you are complaining because he ignored the other texts you sent him. You’d hate it if he was demanding to know your every move with a text every 5 minutes. Let him enjoy his time away from you – check in with him so you know he is OK, but leave it at that.
Don’t take it personally. Unless he is an utter git and your relationship is questionable, he doesn’t leave his sweaty gym kit in a pile on the floor out of spite. Keep a cool head – he did it because it was convenient, not because he hates you. Don’t take offence where none was intended. Instead look for solutions, such as moving the laundry basket.
Pick your moments. If you are going to find an opportunity to discuss an issue, avoid a time where you are both going to react badly. Save the chats for when you are both in a good mood and you are guranteed a better outcome.
And there you have it. You don’t have to win every battle to win the war and you can’t force someone to change. Go away and draw up your battle plan, work out the easy wins and then set to work on the longer projects. He wants to be happy as much as you do. And if all else fails, there’s always divorce or blow jobs.