Getting Him To Listen to You (Just Ask Him)

(This is an MSN article from “The Nest” That I found online. I don’t post too many articles on these types of things, but what chaps my hide is that these articles continue to push stereotypes about men and how we supposedly all live, in this case like slobs. What do you think? Do you see where I am getting at? Comments??)

My husband drives me crazy. He’s a complete slob; I’m a neat freak. I’ve brought my issue up to a few different people — my mom, my sister, and my frenemy — in a desperate search for sage advice or some masterful man-ipulation. Each of my mentors employs a different tactic, but who knows best? My mom always preaches, “Oh, just let it go.” My sister (who’s a women’s mag junkie) says to trick him into doing his fair share. And my frenemy swears by the sex strike. Frustrated and hopeless, I set out to put each theory to the test.

Tactic 1: Suck It Up
Expert 1: Mom — happily married for more than 40 years
The Plan: After 40 years, my mom must know how to make a relationship work. When I complain to her about my SH (sloppy husband), she says that if something really bothers me I should just take care of it myself. And, with a slap in the face to women’s lib, she always adds, “You know how men are.” Yeah, I do: sloppy.

This do-it-myself tactic seemed too ’50s for my taste, but I gave it a shot. Is the answer simply doing stuff that I don’t mind? Or do I need more than that from my husband? For three days, I spent every moment taking out trash, Windexing the coffee table, hanging up his suits…you get the point. Did I mention that I also have a full-time job?

“Is the answer simply doing stuff that I don’t mind? Or do I need more than that from my husband?”

The results: The house was spotless, but I felt glum. I’m his wife, not his slave. It occurred to me that what works for my mom isn’t going to work for me. Times have changed. She got married in the ’60s and has never worked. My marriage is more modern with the two of us trying to be equal partners. I move to plan B immediately.

Tactic 2: Trick Him
Expert 2: My sister — happily married for seven years
The Plan: My sister boasts about her ability to make a marriage work. I took her advice and decided to cease cleaning up. Note to self: Don’t tell my guinea pig/husband what I’m up to.

For an entire weekend I just let the mess happen. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. The key was resetting my expectations for how neat or sloppy our home should be. The lazy thing was going so well, I let it spill into Monday and even invited a friend over. I didn’t worry about the mess (especially because my buddy was in on the plan). When my husband got home from work, my friend was on her way out. The door was barely shut when he screamed, “I can’t believe you’d have someone over when the apartment looks like this!” I shrugged my shoulders and responded, “It looks fine to me.” And he frantically began putting away all his junk and asking me which cleanser works best on the coffee table. “Windex,” I replied with a sly smile.

The results: Victory was mine, but it was bittersweet. Sad but true, being passive aggressive in a marriage works. But despite having a fantastic flat, I felt pretty lousy. I’m not so sure I want to be the kind of woman who manipulates her husband.

“Sad but true, being passive aggressive in a marriage works.”

Tactic 3: Sex Strike 
Expert 3: My frenemy — who gets everything she wants
The Plan: I set off to deny my husband of sex, which quite frankly wasn’t too difficult considering that I’ve been so mad at him for being a pig. I knew if I taunted him by being sexy and then said no, he’d want it even more.

I just couldn’t do this — it’s too dishonest. My frenemy can use sex to get her way, but I decided to try something radical but all too obvious. I opted to talk to my SH. I told him I don’t want to nag but I feel like he isn’t doing his share of the housework (or respecting my neat-freak tendencies), and that I feel underappreciated. “I get it,” he said, “but I feel like you don’t realize the things I do for you.” And when he reminded me of the fact that he buys me stamps, fixes every single electronic around the house, and always replenishes the toiletries — even the girly ones — the lightbulb went off. A slob will never be neat, but that doesn’t mean a messy man isn’t trying. Oh, and as it turns out, Mom does know best. One day last week she said to me casually over coffee, “If you want your husband to do something, make sure to tell him early on because it’s much harder to get him to change later.”

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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