Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Respect Factor

Dear Aunt B,

A couple of years ago I wrote to you when my husband asked me not to wear my ring and watch in front of his ex-wife at a wedding we attended. You summed up the situation so well and gave me some great advice. I shared your response with him, and he agreed with everything you said. You have the ability to read between the lines, and I highly value your input so here goes…
My husband is a physician who retired from the military last year and we opened a private solo-practice. I am the receptionist, assistant, office cleaner, personal secretary, etc…I do it all. Next door to our office is a café and we are friendly with the owners. This morning I picked up a cappuccino for my husband. It was not good at all. He was going keep it because of our friendship with the café owners. I took it upon myself to return it, as I knew they would want to make it right. When I returned to the office my husband was on the phone. I set the cup on his desk and it tipped over spilling coffee on his keyboard and papers. He calmly finished his call while I dried off the keyboard with a paper towel. When he finished the call he took the keyboard out of my hands and was going to throw it away. He was angry and said to cancel all of his appointments for the day and to get out of his life. I urged him not to throw the keyboard away unless it was ruined. I would deal with his remarks when he cooled off. While I was standing by the sink he threw the full cup of coffee in it making another mess for me to clean up. Being the peacemaker and people pleaser that I am, I apologized for spilling the coffee and told him that I felt he over-reacted and wondered if there was something else going on in his life. He paused and said the he feels that I have been cool to him lately.
I admit that there is some truth to that because I am afraid to open my mouth around him lately because he criticizes much of what I say. The other day we had a dinner party. While I stayed home and cleaned and prepared for the dinner he spent the day at the office and went into town. The house looked great, and the first thing he said when he walked in was “there is dog hair on the floor.” This morning he found my glove in the driveway and that irritated him. I admit that I am not perfect and I do make mistakes, but I feel that he over-reacts when I mess up.
He recently insisted that I take over his iphone when he bought the newest version for himself. I should have declined because last year he gave me an iphone and I immediately gave it back because while I was checking my email he took it out of my hands and threw it on the floor. So here we go again…now I use it to check my email, look at the weather, and check FaceBook. He feels that I look at FaceBook too much and asked me not to look at it in front of him. In the meantime, he is on his iphone daily checking his email and looking things up. When we go out to eat he looks at it. One night after we went to bed he turned on the lights to check his phone. Once in a while he will ask me to see what his son and daughter-in-law have posted on FaceBook, or he will ask me to post a picture of our dog on it.
On Christmas morning I was returning a text message to my son to say I would call him later. That irritated him so much that he left the house and went to his office for a couple of hours without eating the special breakfast that I had planned. He refused to open his Christmas presents too. We had accepted a Christmas dinner invitation with friends and he told me to cancel. I urged him to go and he reluctantly agreed. I was an emotional wreck, but pulled it together. He was silent in the car on the way to and from our friend’s house. While we were there my husband was the life of the party and you would not have known that he was upset with his wife.
So you can see I am dealing with a challenging and controlling man. I don’t know what to do. It seems his philosophy is do as I say, not as I do. Any thoughts?

Your friend

Dear Old Friend,

It's certainly nice to hear from you again. And I especially enjoy such complimentary words from you, I duly appreciate them. I'm sorry to hear you're having problems though.

Yes, it sounds like all would be well if the good Doctor could just be reasonable, huh? I mean he's been behaving like a tyrant and actually quite unappreciative. The situation is one of those things where you don't miss the water till the well runs dry. And I foresee big problems on the horizon.

I identify with your behaviors, i.e. doing all you can do to further "The Practice", being the peacemaker, basically putting your feelings aside in order to make things work. But for real, when it's all said and done, when you're sitting in retirement or whatever, who the hell'd want to have been a Martyr all their life? Now, do not take this commentary to heart and try to laugh with me on this.

In my marriage, I did everything I could possibly do to make my partner shine. He's a drummer, like myself and shine he did especially when he played concerts, etc. His hair was cut/styled, his clothing was clean and pressed, hell, even his toe nails were pedicured perfectly because of me. All the while, I bitched and moaned to myself because he did not appreciate it.

In Psychology, they have a term, you may be familiar with called "Passive-Aggressive" behavior. But in Psychology it means a completely different thing than what I use it for. A colloquial "Babzism", I use passive-aggressive to describe my very own behavior.

The best scenario I can think of, off the top of my head is I allowed my husband to do or get away with something, over and over again such as tickling me. Now, I simply hate to be tickled, LOATH it with a capital "L." Of course, when you are being tickled you tend to laugh, right? One particular day, he tickled me to the point of tears. He then seemed angry at me because I had the nerve to cry about it like a "whiny baby."

At that point in our marriage, probably 5 to 6 years into it, he'd tickled me countless times and I hated every frigin minute of it. Well, I never told him to stop entirely, I really never said anything in the form of stating that I didn't like it either. On this day though, I'd had enough and when he started mocking my tears, I jumped up, in his face and growled, through my teeth, (something I'm famous for) that if he ever tickled me again, "I'll cut your balls off and shove them down your
fucking throat." And he knew I meant every word!!

For real though, who's fault is it that I endured being tickled all those years when I so genuinely despised it? That's just a rough illustration and the point is that I'd put up with something again and again until I exploded. When it's all said and done, it's hardly fair to anyone if you allow a behavior to continue unchecked and an incident causes you to detonate.

I tend to be long winded but the point is fairly simple; It's time for you to begin to call your husband on his less than gracious behavior. Now I know that you are not confrontational and you'd rather bite your tongue than start an argument. The problem brewing here is that these things tend to build up until we can't see what started it, what kept it going or how we arrived at the Lawyers office asking them to draw up Divorce papers.

The other thing to consider is the very true fact that "We all deserve to be happy. Not at others expense nor theirs at yours." It's detrimental that you begin to assert what you will or will not tolerate. I am rather fond of my own quote, "While it's very important for people to know what we stand for, it's imperative for them to know what we will not stand for." G-Friend, you must begin to work on ridding yourself of the martyr mentality, gracefully.

Again, I realize you are not argumentative. Knowing this, we'll approach this strategically. My advice would be to assert your feelings into the mix at every juncture. You might let him know how you feel in a note left tactically, let's say, maybe in the bathroom. When the coffee incident happened, you might wait a bit for things to calm and write...

"When you go off on me because of a certain and simple mishap, accident or otherwise, I feel it is unfair, uncaring and hurtful."

This is just an example in the vein I'd hope you'd use. It all comes down to tactfully, stating your needs, wants, dislikes, feelings and emotion. Your approach should be respectful as well as direct. If you continue to allow this behavior, I guaran damn tee ya, he'll keep it up. He's also not a mind reader either so you need to make him aware of how this all makes you feel.

The most important aspect of all this is to begin to put things into perspective for him. He really needs to try on your high heels for a change. It's the good old and proverbial, "Put the shoe on the other foot," approach. And I would begin, as I said by writing these little notes shortly after each and every incident.

The Respect Factor

You said something quite profound, in the latter part of your question that made me really think. In your letter to me, you were speaking about the two of you had accepted a Christmas dinner invite. You did not converse on the way there but he was the life of the party. Now, I wish I knew how he behaved towards you afterward. You know, did he loosen up, was he in a better mood, yada yada yada?

Anywho, the thing I want you to notice is how your husband is able to turn it on and turn it off. I'm speaking of The Respect Factor. He turns it off in his dealings with you. He turns it on , I'm assuming (and betting on), with his friends, patients, colleagues. Now, ask yourself, why is this?

Your husband does not respect you as he should. This is plain and simple. Did he ever? I do not know. Did he lose his respect for you? I can't answer that either. One thing is crystal clear though and allow me to make my point here;

He knows how to turn it on and off. He knows that if he does not show respect in his profession, he'll lose patients. He knows that if he does not show respect to his colleagues, he will lose their respect. He knows that if he does not show respect to his friends, he will not keep those friends for very long. On & Off, like a light switch.

Let me say that I do believe that a good woman is good to her husband. And without sounding redundant, a good man takes note of a good woman. He does not take her for granted, he does not treat her less than or with a lack of due respect and that's basically what's going on here.

Our Darling Doctor simply needs a refresher course in the importance of treating his wife as his equal/partner, not his minion. And it's paramount that he might realize the importance of a loyal and loving wife, never taking it for granted, never forgetting her feelings are as valuable as any others.

I'm praying for your marriage as I do value the sanctity of your union. You may not have the same understanding of Spiritual matters as I do? I'm hoping that you do. Having said this, I am a firm believer, first in the power of prayer and I suggest that you pray for your marriage and for your husbands ears to be opened and his heart, warmed with comprehension.

Secondly, well, hubby may not have received the "Memo." Husbandry has come a long way but at the same time, many inherited beliefs as well as behaviors have been passed down, mother to son, father to son which inherently dictate what our men believe.

I am not one of those women, "I am woman, hear me roar,"and in fact may be guilty of some old thinking, age old. At the same time, what I've learned in my years on this earth is part observance, part learned behavior and part biblical fact.

What I'm actually getting at is that God made woman not in subservience but to enhance our husband. The differences, both physical as well as mental are assigned in accordance with what is best suited in a partnership. One example of this is that women are given the gift/art of intuition where as most men do not have this. What may be obvious to us is buried for many men. Thus, they need us to whisper in their ear what we may see that they do not.

I could go on and on as to the importance of this union, this partnership but suffice it to say it is your divine destiny to be married to this man (God given). My suggestion is to continue to work on it, do whatever it takes to make it work but do not allow it to go on as it has.

I think it's a wonderful thing that you care enough to have written, that you love your husband enough to pull out all the stops and hopefully you'll use all the tools you can find to make it work...smoothly.

My prescription for hubby...

Rx: Check yourself q.i.d. for Spousal Respect Factor Awareness

Keeping It Real,

Aunt B

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