How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
March 26, 2017 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Journalist Jancee Dunn examines the inequality in her own family and does something about it. She documented it for everyone. Dunn, mostly known for her work in Rolling Stone, has a new book How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids. This is a "self-help" book, but better because it is funny and well-researched.

Dunn, the mother of a 6-year-old, realized that she and her husband Tom had fallen into a pattern of arguing and resentment, mostly related to household and child management. Tom is a "good father" and a "nice guy" but over the years, they fell into habits where Dunn was managing everything and doing the majority of childcare. Dunn was exhausted and interactions between her and her husband were trying. They were fighting in front of their child frequently. Yet, by all standard measures, they had a "good life" - work they loved, decent salaries, an exciting life in Brooklyn, friends, family. And if this is how they existed in a "good life," Dunn feared that it could be worse.

Dunn decided to do something about the inequality, resentment, and anger in her home and went on a multi-year quest to do extensive research and work with experts - most therapists, but also a home organizer and a hostage negotiator, as well as online parenting bloggers and celebrities. Dunn weaves the research within her own family's stories. Her family does not feel exceptional, but instead instantly relatable.
Each chapter has very clear takeaways. Excellent research and expert advice are given on the following topics: dividing chores in ways that make sense and make people happier; how to fight/argue like adults; how to be kind to each other; how to raise children while also prioritizing the romantic relationship; organizing time, especially weekends; decluttering/household organizing; training one's kids to take part in household chores; sex after kids; and money management.

Dunn also explains, with research, how couples and families slide into these patterns. Most expectant couples spend hours researching strollers, but do not talk about very pragmatic and real issues related to child-rearing or how this new human will impact their relationship. Couple don't discuss who will take the day off of work when the baby is sick, or what type of relationship they want their child to have with their relatives or if they think that a child should have a summer job as a teenager. Choices that are made in the name of "getting by" become patterns and habits. Dunn also examines what she called "maternal gatekeeping" - that some mothers open up the gate to encourage the father's participation, but then shut it. For example, determining what "the right way" to do things is and fathers are nervous about doing it wrong. Or mothers leaving fathers out of planning and management in order to maintain control. This perpetuates inequality.

Dunn also has a chapter on the structural reasons for some of the inequality - men being socialized to not be equal partners or parents, lack of family leave, etc.

The major takeaways, summarized at the end of the book and in this Cosmo article by the author:
  • He can't read your mind so stop complaining and ask clearly for what you want.
  • Divvy up household chores and childcare responsibilities very clearly.
  • Say 'thank you,' and say it often. Messages of gratitude, while seemingly small, are the most consistent predictor of marital quality.
  • Explicitly remember things that you love about each other.
  • Know that no matter what you and your spouse tell yourselves, your child is affected by your arguing.
  • Fight electronically if possible to avoid children hearing arguing.
  • Paraphrase each other when you're arguing. This is immediately disarming because people want to be heard.
  • Don't shut your partner out by engaging in maternal gatekeeping.
  • "Don't pee on the gift," meaning don't tell your spouse you're OK with something he or she wants to do (a weekend getaway, an hours-long bike ride, an afternoon nap) and then fume about it after the fact or use it against them later.
  • If you want "me time" you must leave the house.
  • Divide weekends into Friday night/Saturday morning/Saturday afternoon/Saturday night/Sunday morning/Sunday afternoon/Sunday night and do just one or maybe two things in each block rather than try to do multiple things at once.
  • Have a policy of "everyone wins" - try to do family activities where everyone gets something out of it. Dad and kid go to playground with Dad's friend and his kid, mom rests. Everyone wins. Not everyone needs to do everything in the name of "family time" - not everyone needs to go to the grocery store.
  • Just have sex. They engage in a sex therapy experiment that seems to work.
Jezebel review - probably the best summary of the book |WaPo interview| Chicago Tribune review| Author's own Cosmo summary| GoodReads
posted by k8t (41 comments total) 115 users marked this as a favorite
This bit from the Jezebel review sums up my initial reaction:

How Not to Hate Your Husband is a book for messy reality, but I can’t shake my frustration that its twin, written for men, isn’t out there somewhere: How to Keep Your Wife From Hating You After Kids. I’m disappointed that on top of doing far more housework and childcare than men, it also falls on women to patiently and strategically negotiate the terms of our liberation. I realize that this is how it has always worked; people work for change on their own behalf. Moreover, the huge and lucrative self-help publishing market has historically spoken to women more than men, and this is a book that comes from that tradition.

The difference today is that men are now more frequently socialized to pay lip-service to household equality. Our culture rewards them for sharing housework and childcare. Yet still we have to ask nicely even when we’ve already asked twice, we have to be strategic in the way we frame our requests so as not to spook them, we have to modulate our tones so as not to seem angry even when we are angry. This is absolutely how reality works in most heterosexual domestic arrangements, and it’s getting fucking old.

On the other hand, I currently have an extremely egalitarian relationship with my husband (I'd say he does more than half the household chores actually) but we will be introducing a baby to it come September and I'd be interested in seeing what things to discuss / watch out for she suggests.
posted by peacheater at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2017 [80 favorites]

FWIW, the bulleted list in this post seems to work in our marriage, at least from my end (as the husband). It would be weird to "fight" electronically, though.
posted by My Dad at 3:09 PM on March 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ditto on the fighting electronically thing. What argument is ever improved by moving it to email or God forbid, texting?

That said, I'm off to buy the book.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:29 PM on March 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

The only couple I know who fights electronically is, well, everyone is surprised they are still together.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

There has not been a communication medium yet invented that's more conducive to emotional misinterpretation than texting.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2017 [37 favorites]

A pair of almost 50-year old writers with more than adequate income figure out how to stay married and raise a child.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2017 [24 favorites]

the point is, the children won't hear you fight if you do it on your phone

won't somebody think of the children?
posted by thelonius at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Obviously you should fight on your phone during the movies in public; that way you can take solace in passive aggressively inflicting some of your pain on strangers.
posted by bswinburn at 4:09 PM on March 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Timely post! Me and my partner have a baby together and despite doing our best me going back to work has caused some tension. It is hard for us to divide up chores fairly, I'm working all day and she's looking after the baby all day and who does what at the end of the day can be an issue. We did talk about me staying at home and her going back to work, but at the end of the day I can't breastfeed!

Anyway, I bought the book.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 4:34 PM on March 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

For both of our kids, during the period that they were exclusively breastfeeding, my husband changed every single diaper that needed changing while he was present. Even if it happened in the middle of the night when I got up to feed her. Even if we were out and there wasn't a changing table in the men's room. Every diaper. The reasoning was, I was solely responsible for the input function, so he was solely responsible for the output function.

Apart from just being great from that perspective, it had some good trickle down effects. Since he was doing all the diapering, he was doing most of the clothes changing too -- including th clothes picking out. For our first kid, he got very familiar with her physically, very comfortable with how bendy and floppy new babies are. He told me when we needed to move up a size in diapers, he had to deal with it when they had a diaper blowout so severe they had poop in their hair. In short, it gave him the opportunity to develop the parenting confidence that only comes with hands-on experience.

Between that and the fact that I went back to my performing gig when each kid was three months old, leaving him on sole parenting duty a minimum of one evening per week, he was -- is -- a really hands on, involved, loving parent. We still fight institutional internalized misogyny and deep default cultural assumptions, both individually and as a couple, and the fact that I'm a stay-at-home parent while he works a standard 5x9 work week at the office complicates those factors. But overall, I believe that this complete ownership of the output function starting from birth gave us a huge push towards egalitarianism. Highly recommended.
posted by KathrynT at 4:59 PM on March 26, 2017 [93 favorites]

Fight over text? How about modeling conflict resolution so your kid doesn't grow up thinking happy couples never disagree?
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:23 PM on March 26, 2017 [66 favorites]

Ditto on the fighting electronically thing. What argument is ever improved by moving it to email or God forbid, texting?

My mom (so way before email and texting) and sister wrote/write letters to their respective husbands when angry during the early days of their relationships. In their cases, I think the letter writing gave them time to organize their thoughts and the husbands time to process rather than reacting immediately and defensively. I think everyone also operates under the assumption that all parties are reasonable people making a good faith effort, which can help with written communication. So I could see how emailing could work well for some couples.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:42 PM on March 26, 2017 [14 favorites]

I hate having to leave the house for me time. I want to be able to lay down, not wear pants, scratch myself, make tea and coffee as needed. I hate that I have to make my family leave for me to get that time - being ensconced in my room with my desk isn't enough (if I call a friend that is a sign of wanting to be interrupted obvs). So I have to tell them or ask them to leave, they never take the initiative themselves unless it is to go do something they want to do. Even if I say "short paper turn around and I need a few hours to work" I have to negotiate and argue my case.

I am so tired of having to manage people who profess to love me yet forget my needs exist.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:55 PM on March 26, 2017 [73 favorites]

My kid was breastfed mostly. But I handed a bottle of formula to my spouse when I left the house (and I wasn't going to get the house to myself any time when she was small, so I had to leave) and I didn't pump. And I was perfectly happy, and so was the kid. She's defending her dissertation in a couple of weeks so I guess I did screw her up to the extent that she thought it's a good idea to get an advanced degree in spite of my horrid example, but otherwise she seems okay.

My advice to first time mothers is to pretend it's your fifth kid, like my cousin who pretty much grew up in a playpen being ignored, shouting at everyone and eating dirt. She went to Wellesley or something and married a physicist, and now she quilts. She also walked and talked on time.

My battle cry is "Lower your standards!"
posted by Peach at 6:42 PM on March 26, 2017 [41 favorites]

My husband and I both work, but the greatest thing ever is that we both got equivalent parental leave. He was able to split his so we were both home for 4 weeks, then he went back to work and I stayed home for four more weeks, then I went back to work and he stayed home for four weeks. Then we both went back to work and at that exact moment the baby had an epic sleep regression. And this is why we only have one child.

Anyway, that started the whole child-rearing endeavour out with both of us having equal skills. He flew solo with a newborn for a month, so there was no question that he knew exactly how to operate a baby by the end of that. I have no skills he doesn't have (except lactation), and fortunately he's never even tried to insinuate differently (because that would be ridiculous and we both know it)

We didn't have a baby until we'd already been married for 12 years, so the chore battles had already been fought (and won, by me, through a combination of jiujitsu and just being an asshole about it until I got through to him).

Also I'm kind of a shit mom. My standards are pretty low. Fed, healthy, loved, safe, we're good.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:45 PM on March 26, 2017 [19 favorites]

Good news everybody - you get to use these skills your whole life! Really, did you think it ends when the kids are big enough to fend for themselves? Oh you sweet summer child, no. When they're starting to be adults, you get to argue about how much financial help you're going to give each of them, and how to keep it from causing resentment when one kid is more financially needy than the other. And then when they have children of their own, you get to work out how to do the grandparenting thing - like, Oma still runs her own business but Opa is fully retired, so don't be thinking that Oma is automatically gonna be the one that babysits puking grandbabies so the kids can go to work so you don't have to help them with the bills at the end of the month. It doesn't just end when you push them out of the nest, oh goodness no - you're stuck with them forever.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:52 PM on March 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

I was feeling sad at being single and childless but this thread has cheered me up considerably
posted by thelonius at 6:55 PM on March 26, 2017 [98 favorites]

My battle cry is "Lower your standards!"

the flipside of emotional labour is giving no fucks
posted by Sebmojo at 7:17 PM on March 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

maternal gatekeeping - aha, that's the term I've been looking for. That is so real.
posted by Toddles at 8:19 PM on March 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

If therapists are a major source of research for this, I would then like to point out that, as a therapist, I find most family therapists horribly regressive on these issues. Family/marriage therapists are, for the most part, trying to encourage harmony in the system, which does not always equate to fair or just treatment for any one part of the system; therapists living, as the rest of us do, in a patriarchal society means that the unfairness and injustice often ends up on the shoulders of the female partner in a hetero marriage. There's a double double standard, I find, in that therapy as it is today often prizes compromise and empathy in ways that privilege the male partner in a hetero relationship, since the female partner, by the time the couple has entered therapy, has often compromised and empathized her way into knots, but the therapy takes her already-compromised position as her starting point from which she needs to compromise more. Any movement from the not-at-all compromised guy gets lauded as "progress." Any pointing out of this inequity gets labeled "resistance."
posted by lazuli at 8:21 PM on March 26, 2017 [158 favorites]

...or don't enable assholes in the first place, and trade up when they refuse to grow up or think about what it's like to be you?

I'll never understand this shit. I try every day to be a better spouse and dad and hopefully most of the time I learn another thing or two, but when I look around at other dudes I'm just depressed.

Women don't need this book. Men need this book, and women need better standards.
posted by trackofalljades at 8:29 PM on March 26, 2017 [28 favorites]

The extremely passive aggressive part of me wants to pack a copy of this on my kid's weekend with dad bag with a "good luck!" inscription for his new girlfriend.

I used to have to produce executive summaries of these parenting/marriage improvement books for my ex so he didn't have to actually do the work of reading them. I'll be interested in a library copy of this, but there's nothing particularly novel or revolutionary in her approach, and it works if you have a reasonably egalitarian-style partner.

I'd like to see something bigger and bolder tried. What happens if we push furthest or try even more unusual approaches? Why are we propping up broken systems instead of building new ones?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:14 PM on March 26, 2017 [12 favorites]

@lazuli, it is actually very well researched. The time with therapists is more keeping the plot kicking along.
I am a researcher and usually very skeptical about popular accounts of research. This passed the test. I even suggested some colleagues consider assigning it to undergrads.
posted by k8t at 10:14 PM on March 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

To add, I actually listened to the audio book and was really pleased with it.
posted by k8t at 10:16 PM on March 26, 2017

For us, the division of parental responsibilities was not too difficult. My wife worked out of the home and I worked in it (I was a writer even then, although mostly doing corporate consulting), and I was also at the time a night owl, so it went like this:

5am - 8:30am: Mom handled all the things.
8:30am - 5pm: Dad handled all the things.
5pm - 11pm: Mom handled all the things.
11pm - 5am: Dad handled all the things.

(I mean, basically. When both of us were awake and together, and it was mostly "whoever is closest does the thing," but you get the gist.)

(Also note that our daughter was not awake ALL THE TIME, so, and especially after she started sleeping through the night, the parents got a sufficient amount of rest.)

I didn't find being the stay-at-home parent impacted my own ability to do my work, although I also acknowledge I was in a highly specific situation in which I could do a lot of my work in the times where my daughter was napping or sleeping overnight. Overall, however, it was fairly genial.

One thing we made sure we did, which was actually very useful for us, was to make sure each of the adults got our of the house on a regular basis. For us that meant that when friends would call us up to go out, one of us would represent team Scalzi and the other one would stay at home with the child. The next time, the other adult would go out. Our friends were amazed such a thing could happen, but we reminded then we were fully functioning individuals before we were a couple.

I think it also helps that I don't give a shit about most "role" issues. I mean, Krissy did (and does) more of the housework generally, but that's because (generally) she has a more stringent level of "clean" than I do, and what works for me is incomplete to her. That said, I still did vacuuming and laundry and etc, because honestly why the hell wouldn't you. I'm not the Model Modern Man, to be clear. I have my fuck up moments. But this was one category I suspect I did okay in. Check with Krissy for verification.
posted by jscalzi at 6:13 AM on March 27, 2017 [13 favorites]

This is one of the benefits of being a single parent - you do everything, get credit/blame for everything, no negotiations with a partner, no resentment. It takes so much emotional work out of the process - you just do what needs to be done.
posted by valeries at 7:39 AM on March 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

What peacheater/Jezebel said.

Also, He can't read your mind so stop complaining and ask clearly for what you want a potential land-mine. It conflicts with a cultural Prime Directive: No Woman May EVER Tell A Man What To Do. Note that "asking for something" usually qualifies as "telling" to this mindset. Even men who seem egalitarian will often respond with reflexive pushback and sabotage. This can happen no matter how small, diplomatically-expressed, or reasonable the request is.

As others pointed out, these are good relationship-maintenance practices, regardless of whether there are children involved. If one of the parties isn't making good-faith investment in something like them, then it might be best to avoid having children with that person.
posted by Weftage at 7:59 AM on March 27, 2017 [11 favorites]

I have a male friend who is a writer who was married to another writer, a female. She wrote a book that got published, and he was very proud of her. The title of the book was something like "What to Do When You've Married A Dud: A Guide To Improving The Man Of Your Dreams".

They're divorced now.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:51 AM on March 27, 2017 [18 favorites]

went on a multi-year quest to do extensive research and work with experts

Not a parent or a spouse, but isn't this the obvious key? When there are a group of disinterested people to help mediate, listen, and do some of the mental/emotional labor, I can see how it would make things less difficult.

I'm more skeptical of the specific bulleted list to refer to, because those are things that worked for Dunn. But Dunn's family is only a sample of one.
posted by FJT at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2017

But that bulleted list came from consulting with experts. We can ignore their opinions, but we do so at our own individual peril.

Also, I'm extremely proud of the men I know who are married and who are currently undertaking the kind of commitment that marriage entails. My marriage is my greatest source of happiness, and I consider it my biggest accomplishment in life. There are many, many good things that can happen to you when you become married.

In the 60's Beach Boy Brian Wilson wrote everything that ever needed to be said about how truly awesome marriage is when he recorded a song about a young man daydreaming about the institution: "Wouldn't It Be Nice." While you are probably familiar with the song, I'd still urge you to give it a listen. It does some things musically that are pretty adventurous, like using accordions and a detuned 12 string guitar to create the melody, as well as throwing in some playful tempo changes that are unusual for a three minute pop gem. I think of this song as a template for how people think of marriage, after all. "Been there, done that" seems to be a pretty common theme among people who disdain the institution. For my part, the most important thing my marriage has taught me is how much I don't know. The "niceness" of marriage comes from having my Beach Boys-esque ideals shattered and replaced with some valuable lessons. Those lessons have sometimes been painful, but each and every one has made me a more complete person who is capable of giving and receiving love, although often imperfectly (because I am imperfect, just like everyone else).

An 80 year old woman at my church who is an expert on Buddhism put it way better than I ever could. When talking about the day-to-day application of Bhuddist principles, such as non-attachment to outcomes and trying to live on harmony with all living beings, often referred to as the "Dharma," she said, "Marriage is an excellent opportunity to practice the Dharma."
posted by Mr. Fig at 10:18 AM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

The extremely passive aggressive part of me wants to pack a copy of this on my kid's weekend with dad bag with a "good luck!" inscription for his new girlfriend.

Send it to your ex instead and don't be passive aggressive. A note saying "I read this and I think it would have helped us (too late now though)" plus the book could improve your kid's future by improving your ex's future relationships.

I try to be a good husband but I had no real clue about half the shit I pulled until reading complaints about it here.
posted by srboisvert at 10:28 AM on March 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have spent a lot of time thinking about and struggling with balance. I must have been particularly impressionable when Arlie Hochschild's The Second Shift came out, because it informed my life philosophy long after I'd forgotten about the book.

soren_lorenson "My husband and I both work, but the greatest thing ever is that we both got equivalent parental leave. ... Anyway, that started the whole child-rearing endeavour out with both of us having equal skills. He flew solo with a newborn for a month, so there was no question that he knew exactly how to operate a baby by the end of that. "

That's the key - both parents need a chance to parent without the other hovering to build confidence, and that time also builds a connection with and responsibility to the baby. That reduces both "maternal gatekeeping" and "learned helplessness". I am confident that the month (unpaid) that Mr. Coffeespoons had with each baby went a long way towards reducing friction. That's why paternity leave is key - both companies providing it and producing a culture that encourages using the time.

I also heartily endorse soren_lorenson's minimization strategy "My standards are pretty low. Fed, healthy, loved, safe, we're good." I focus on what's important and opt out of the things that I find crazymaking (no, in fact, I will not organize a bouquet of gift cards for teacher appreciation day, or hand make a Halloween costume, or do anything the least bit crafty). The after school babysitter can can drive kids to sports practice. But I will attend all school events, chauffeur music lessons, discuss books and you tube, and harass kids to clean up after themselves.

The bullet point list may or may not work for everyone, but I have consciously tried "thank you" (or more often "great work"). It sounds cheesy, but for us it was effective in encouraging desired behavior and strengthening positive feelings about each other. It became habit and we often jokingly demand praise if it's not spontaneous - because having someone recognize and appreciate your effort feels good. Even for something small like "I made the doctor's appointment", or "I loaded the dishwasher." Of course, Mr. Coffeespoons is not a jerk. See Second Shift discussion above.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

YOU GUYS just helped me put my finger on a thing that drives me nuts.

My husband who is lovely feminist and great husband/father/best friend does this ANNOYING THING where almost everything I ask him to do merits a sigh. Some of it is me admittedly being lazy ("can you get me a bowl of cereal?" *big sigh*) but some of it isn't ("can you put your clothes away?" *big sigh*) and it definitely makes me want to ask him for help less. And I just realized that I frequently get frustrated and he'll say, you should just ask me for help, and I've been like, ugh, why don't I do that, I must be a dummy or have a martyr complex. I just had the thought, why does it feel like it costs me spoons to ask him for things and I just realized THAT'S WHY. I feel like he's done it less and there are some times when I feel like we are on in the working together department like when we're both frustrated that our place is a mess and we're cleaning up together. But you just helped me have a eureka moment so thanks!
posted by kat518 at 2:18 PM on March 27, 2017 [31 favorites]

The "thank you" one rang a huge bell for me. The ex would not say thank you to me for anything I did, from opening the door up to providing the income on which we lived. According to her, everything I did was merely what was expected of me in the relationship, nothing more, and hence didn't merit thanks. She even elaborated that all I was doing was, at best, bringing the level up to zero (from the negative territory I dug myself into whenever I didn't meet expectations).

The effect of that viewpoint was to devalue everything I contributed to the relationship.
posted by oheso at 2:39 PM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

How much lower should my standards be though? That swimsuit has been on the floor for a month. Husband sweeps around it, tells the child to pick it up, it doesn't happen, and...the fucking thing is still there.

Or the kitty litter.

Or the sleep deprivation.

There is EL-no-fucks (which divides you) and there is bonsai-yourself-to-no-standards (which crushes you) and then there is dude-fucking-lift-your-game (which...means more thinking and more work from him?).

Don't get me wrong, I have it great compared to most. I don't have to be worried about filth and starvation/malnutrition if I am not there. I will come home to seven loads of laundry because 'responsible for everything' is so time-limited for him but for me, that includes the future and the past.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2017 [17 favorites]

and then there is dude-fucking-lift-your-game (which...means more thinking and more work from him?)

But I just did piano practice with one of the kids for fifteen minutes. You clearly heard me sigh about it before and after. Also, I sorta cleaned the kitchen last Saturday. Now I get to play The Division for three hours. If I leave the living room then the laundry / bathroom / toilet / groceries / kids' room / toy room / fish tank cleaning / cat worming fairy might not come.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:29 PM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Srboivset, you did read my next sentence:
I used to have to produce executive summaries of these parenting/marriage improvement books for my ex so he didn't have to actually do the work of reading them?

Post divorce, I may as well send the book straight into the trash can for all the good of passing it on to him. The refusal to learn about emotional labor, feminism or parenting skills is not for lack of access to the information or available time and ability. They are competent in other areas of life. It's choice because they can.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:15 AM on March 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

This acutely invokes a feeling I've had in the months I've spent adjusting to the sudden life change of being in a position of possible step-parenting as a lifelong childless and mostly solitary gay guy with no path or focused aspiration towards child-rearing, which is to think thank god I'm not heterosexual, because trying to do this at nearly forty-nine AND manage the insane gender weirdness that straight people apparently have to navigate in every part of their relationships would probably melt my brain. On the other hand, it's been an education in how the rest of the world works, though my takeaway is often to want to ask both men and women is "Why on earth would you want to be in a relationship with that?" to which my low-Kinsey-numbered comrades just shrug.
posted by sonascope at 10:12 AM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Post divorce, I may as well send the book straight into the trash can for all the good of passing it on to him. The refusal to learn about emotional labor, feminism or parenting skills is not for lack of access to the information or available time and ability. They are competent in other areas of life. It's choice because they can.

Whoops. Sorry.

Though I will say I wasn't ready to hear a lot of stuff until I was and it took an awful lot for it to sink in and I am still not great at it.
posted by srboisvert at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Why on earth would you want to be in a relationship with that?"

Sunk costs? While often referred to as the "sunk costs fallacy" there truly are sunk costs and consequences to leaving them behind. We only have one life to live. We are driven as a species to partner up and have children. We are driven as a society to partner up and spend money, care for each other (for free as much as possible) and raise the next generation. When couples divorce, women in general end up in poverty at a statistically much higher rate than men. Men end up more depressed after divorce. There's reasons to stick together. I had been with my husband for 15 years before we decided to have a kid. Of course a kid changed us and our relationship. There were a few moments where we both had to make choices about how we wanted to be as individuals, as a couple and as parents. Some, when faced with those choices, do not rise to the occasion.
posted by amanda at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Another excerpt about sex was recently published in the guardian.

I like her frank approach, though one thing did make me "hmmm" a little:
Perel finds that the biggest turn-on, across the board, is when people see their partners holding court at a party, or doing something they’re passionate about – any time they are presenting their most radiant selves to the world. “You can admire them,” she told me. “You look at them and they are forever somewhat mysterious, elusive, unknown. When they are in their element, they don’t need you, and hence you don’t have to take care of them, emotionally or psychologically.” In that space cleared of needing, she says, rises the wanting of desire. (emph mine)
This part, whilst logical and perhaps even intuitive, to me ties into some broader cliches about masculinity in particular. As a guy - and not even one who's very invested stereotypical masculinity - something I struggle with on a regular basis are feelings of inadequacy for appearing weak or vulnerable and not measuring up in my partner's eyes.

Perhaps this, like so many things, is particular to my person and relationship - and certainly I've seen in my own social circle some truly nauseating 'displays' of hopelessness from husbands (e.g. "I don't know how to make a school lunch"). But I really struggle expressing emotional vulnerability to my partner, and the idea that doing so would make me less attractive to her is a depressing one (I know that line could be interpreted many ways. What a complicated melange relationships can be!).
posted by smoke at 9:17 PM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

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