Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I Learned from Dr Laura

The basic premise of her advice is the Golden Rule. How long have I been hearing that rule? I remember that my 1st grade teacher had a bulletin board in her classroom decorated to express this exact rule.

“Treat others how you would like to be treated.”

Other things that Dr Laura makes a point about in this book:
1. Don’t act like a martyr, as if you are doing all the work and you are too busy to stop and acknowledge your husband’s day, his tiredness or his needs.
2. Don’t treat your husband like an irresponsible child who needs constant in-your-face reminders and complaints about what he does, how he does it, or what he does not do.
3. Remember that men have feelings but they express them in different ways. In fact, he may not give much detail at all or even be able/willing to explain his reasons sufficiently enough for our standards, but their feelings need to be acknowledged and respected.
4. Men and women communicate differently. Women like to describe everything in great detail while men like to get to the point. Men like action, so if there is a problem, they want to fix it while women just want to vent. Women shouldn’t expect their husbands to take the place of their mothers or girl friends. That is why friendships are so important and why we hang on to them for life – because we need people to talk with.
5. Physical affection is the best way to show a man how much you appreciate him, desire him, need him & love him. Do it often, even if it is just a hug or a kiss. Or a wink or a pat on the butt.
6. Respect his opinion. Both partners have opinions and don’t always agree, but women tend to think that men should just go along with whatever she thinks is best, and come hell or high water, she is going to manipulate him into doing what she wants. But, he is a human being who most likely has been educated and is working to earn money for the family. His opinion deserves just as much respect as yours does.
7. Guys like to be alone or have some alone time. Encourage it and he will come back to you refreshed and ready for more.

Well, some of these things I have learned along the way by making the same mistakes myself.

#1 Appreciation
I only recently learned. Perhaps just prior to reading the book, I had realized that I should pay more attention to him, especially when he comes home at night. If I am still awake and, say, using the computer, I quickly finish what I am doing and turn it off so that I can greet him when he walks into the living room. This small gesture makes a huge difference in his mood. I also try to do the basic chores before he comes home so that the house is looking decent – the dishes are washed, floor is picked up, laundry is folded, etc. It is hard on some nights, but I do it for myself too. Before I go off to bed, I say goodnight and give him a hug and kiss. I know he probably doesn’t want to talk much, so I save the talking for the weekends when we have more time. I let him do his thing without nagging, even if that means he is watching annoying Japanese TV shows, eating something stinky, surfing the internet and ignoring me. I don’t think of it as ignoring me anymore. I can easily sit down next to him on the couch (while he watches TV and eats stinky food) and read my book. That physical closeness is enough to make him feel good.
In the mornings, Yusuke has a hard time waking up because of his late working nights. I hate feeling like the mother of a teenage boy, yelling at him to wake up. I hate feeling that resentment towards him while I rush around caring for my daughter and getting ready for work. But, I have to keep two things in mind. 1. I don’t have to work. I could stay home and have leisurely mornings with my daughter. I could stay home and cook a nice breakfast for everyone. I could even stay home and sleep in with Ailin, but I choose not to. And, my husband doesn’t force me to leave a job that I love in order to do this. I shouldn’t complain about my choice. Many of his friends’ wives are not working, but he doesn’t compare and complain about it. Now that Ailin is getting older, she helps me wake him up by yelling “Uuuu-sukeeee! Papa!” several times and even goes into his room and tries to wake him. How can he resist that little girl getting right in his face and saying “Papa!”? And 2. That it would be awfully embarrassing for him to show up late to work so on that note, I better make sure he wakes up in time.
Finally, I realized how easy it is show my love for him. He told me how, but for a long time, I didn’t want to do it because I was too busy and stressed out. But, once I started doing it, I realized how easy it is and how much he appreciated it. For example, when arriving home from work, he simply wanted me to say “Okaerinasai” or “Otsukeresama.” When he had a cold, he wanted me to take care of him somehow. I realized that he always did that for me, so I tried to think of what he would really want, and it was simple. Make sure there is some sport drink in the fridge, prepare a hot water bottle for him and let him sleep. When I do this for him, he seems to get over his colds much quicker.
This book helped to reinforce #1 for me and to keep in mind how grateful I should be to Yusuke and how easy it is acknowledge him or show that I care.

#2 Not helping
I am guilty of this. Oh so guilty. Not only that, I complain to anyone who will listen about how little my husband does around the house. In reading this book, I realized that most women have the same complaint, so it means Yusuke is not the ONLY guy who doesn’t help much.
What I learned from her book was that going around telling all my friends and family my complaints about him does not help much. For one, they usually listen and then say things like “Right! That sucks. Why do you stay with someone like that? I feel so sorry for you. At least my husband will do such and such.” Okay, okay – what they are doing is just making it worse.
I learned a long time ago to just appreciate when he does something, but to not complain HOW he does it. That part was easy for me. I also figured out there were certain chores he was willing to do and certain he was not willing to do. For example, he will clean the toilet and vacuum the floors, but he will not dust or pick up stuff and put it away. Up until Ailin was born, he did help out a lot, but while I was home for a year, he basically stopped helping out. That has become somewhat of a habit, and I have been struggling since returning to work a year ago. I have even considering hiring a cleaning lady to come in once a week and help out. I am still looking for solutions, but what had to change first was my attitude involving him.
I had to stop and think what were the simplest, easiest things he could do during the week to help me keep up with housework so that I wouldn’t feel resentful. That is why I made the list that I blogged about recently. I finally gave him the list last night. Not the best timing, I might add, but he had been forewarned so it was not a surprise. If he does these things to the best of his ability, I will be totally fine about all the rest of the chores.

#3 Opinions
Like most guys, Yusuke doesn’t talk much. He would rather watch TV, surf the internet, play with our daughter, watch movies, etc. When we do talk, I do most of the talking. Sometimes, a glimmer of his feelings starts to surface when he talks about work or his family. I make sure to listen without judgement, but I often wonder if I should give advice, find a solution or just let him vent. This is still a mystery.
However, there are times when I want to do something and I tell him about it. His reaction is like “I don’t want to do that. It’s too hard.” Or “That’s not a good idea.” And my attitude was “I don’t care what you think. It’s my decision.” I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to respect his feelings about these things and try to understand his reasoning, even if he can’t express it well. And, I am not going to second-guess him by trying to predict his actions or reactions. I was often guilty of this too. What I learned from this book is that most guys are not vindictive…they are not thinking about ways to get revenge on someone or how best to piss off their wives. I am 99% sure that Yusuke does not want me to be pissed off.

#4 Communication
I learned this a long time ago, and I am okay with it. But, I have to keep in mind that when I DO tell Yusuke about a problem in my life, he will work like a dog trying to find ways to solve it. Case in point, when I was having problems with a certain (ex)friend a couple years ago, he asked me for updates almost every day. He put forth so many ideas about how these problems occurred and how I should resolve the issue. Truth be told, I knew that what was done was done, and I wanted to completely forget about the whole thing, but it was driving him crazy. For six months, he broached the topic at least 2x a week. I knew, even at that time, that he was showing his love for me and I respected that. Now, I don’t tell him my problems unless I am looking for a solution, or I tell him about the problem after I have a solution in the works. It is important to help him feel needed though, so I do tell him some problems and ask him to help come up with solutions. I am more aware of that now.

#5 S-x
I can’t get into much detail on this one, but I will say that everything she says in her book is true. And, so simple. Why is it that some women get “turned off” by sex? Why is it that some seem repelled by their own husbands? Showing a little physical affection does not have to lead to sex, but so what if it is does? Good for both people involved, right?
Well, as I have mentioned before, women have a lot of power over men if they can use their bodies and facial expressions to show their “sexiness.” Use it – not for manipulation but for an expression of love. If women think that a husband who helps her around the house is expressing his love for her, then she better live up to her end of the bargain and show love for him in the way he best understands it. It is not a difficult thing to do.

#6 Respect
I learned a lot from reading this book. I realized that though I expect my opinion to be respected, I wasn’t really showing respect for him. He works hard, has bad days, gets extremely stressed out, rides a jam-packed train to and from work and then gets home where he is made to feel like he has NO CONTROL over anything that happens in his own house. How assinine of me to expect him to be satisfied with that? He is college-educated, 30-some year old father who owns a car, a condo and a dog. He works hard to make sure we can keep all that material stuff we have bought, and he deserves respect from me. If he can’t get respect at home, where is he going to get it from?

#7 Guy time.
Guys can be quite demanding about having time to themselves, so I have learned to also be demanding about it. But, I still somehow felt like I got the shaft. Every evening, I put Ailin to bed by 9pm and I have at least 2 or 3 hours to myself – some of that time is spent doing chores, but admittedly, much of that time is spent doing my own hobbies. Then, one weekend a month, I spend mornings doing Craft ‘n’ Chat with my friends while Yusuke stays with Ailin. Other times, I have volunteer meetings to attend to. There are times of the year when my job is not so busy and I can take vacation days to meet up with friends for tea or lunch. What the hell am I complaining about? Poor Yusuke gets to see his friends at the occasional wedding. He has no hobbies. His one stress-reliever is a weekly massage if he can fit it in on our busy weekends. His other passion is to take me on a date, even if it is just to see a movie and have dinner together. Needless to say, I do encourage him to do more things for himself, but where can he possibly fit such activities into his life?

Basic Lessons not Mentioned Above:
1. The more you give, the more he will give.
2. Don’t sit around and complain to girl friends about how horrible your husband is. Try to think of ways in which you can be a better wife.
3. Be a woman for your husband. Be his wife and lover. Then, be the mother of your children. Your children will benefit from living in a loving household.
4. Think of how respectful and kind you are to your friends. Treat your husband even better than that!
5. Think of how loving and giving you are to your children. Your husband deserves that love as well.
6. Women tend to never be satisfied…they always want more. Don’t be one of those women.


L. said...

One problem I have with Dr. L. -- the gist of her advice seems to rests on the cultural norm, that men MUST work to support families, and that women CHOOSE to work.

Here's what Dr. L. has to say about working women:

"Child-care facilities are a necessity when mothers and fathers (when they exist at all) are unwilling or incapable of caring for their offspring. Unfortunately, they have become a mainstay of the feminista mentality that nothing should stand in the way of a woman’s ambition - nothing, including her family.

Any full-time working wife and mother knows that the family takes the short end of the stick. Marriages and the welfare of children suffer when a stressed-out mother doesn’t have time to be a woman, a wife, and a hands-on Mommy."

This full-time working wife and mother disagrees with that. I was far more stressed-out during the years I was at home full-time.

I work for exactly the same reasons as my husband does.

And yet, despite the fact that Dr. L. and I will NEVER see eye-to-eye on whether a woman should value her career the way a man should, I have to say, I agree 100% with, "Treat others how you would like to be treated."

Mande's J-Life said...

Yes, I am well aware of what Dr L says about working women and feminism, but the issue I am exploring right now relates more to the relationship between a husband and wife.
What is interesting about this book, is that she wrote it using mostly quotes, comments, excerpts from letters and conversations on her radio program. Most of these quotes are from men themselves. Some are from women. Obviously she picks and chooses to suit her subject, but any author will do that.

Shannon said...

You know, I've come to realize that some of the same problems I have with Russ were the same ones I had with you, Mande! When we lived together I think there were times we were grumpy with each other because it was a "safe" relationship. I always knew no matter how grumpy we were you would never stop being my friend. I catch myself all the time being mean to Russ because I had a rough day and I am taking it out on him because I feel the need to take it out on someone! I definately appreciate and respect him, but I need to do a better job showing that. I do strongly agree with putting your marriage first. I believe that showing your children that you are in a loving and happy relationship is the most important thing. A happy family needs a happy mom and dad. The sex thing, is a LOT harder though.

Jill said...

Hmmm. Dr. Laura still makes me mad after all these years. I can really get behind the "treat others as you want to be treated" part, but the rest of it pisses me off. She tells you not to be a martyr, then lays out a nice plan for... you guessed it!...being a martyr. If I followed her advice, I'd be pissed off all the time!

Now, what I will say is that treating Bill the way that I want to be treated seems to work well. I think I'll just focus on that piece of advice from her, and forget the rest.

Mande's J-Life said...

I re-read this entry looking for evidence of "martyrdom" and simply cannot find any. I think people read things the way they want to...meaning that people get what they want out of any given reading material. If you have previously-formed opinions about a certain person, then it is unlikely you would read with an open mind. Human nature.