8 Things Never

"8 Things You Should Never Say to Your Husband"

This is one of those pointless humanizing pieces that news agencies run more for entertainment than for serious reasons. Still, since we often talk about the relations between men and women -- or man and wife -- let's look at it.

They get off to a very bad start here: "One of the best parts about marriage is being so comfortable with your hubby that you can say just about anything to him. But if you don’t watch your mouth, sometimes the ugly truth comes out..."

So, these concepts are supposed to be truths that you shouldn't say to your husband. Ugly truths. About him.

1. "You're just like your father."

I don't know -- this one doesn't seem bad to me. I'd take it as a compliment, in large part because I know I'm not very much like my father (though we look alike); he's a better man than I am in many respects. Though he has his flaws, as all men do, overall I think of him as a shining example of what a good man is like: a volunteer firefighter, a loyal husband and father, a former staff sergeant and drill instructor in the US Army.

2. "When are you going to find a new job?"

Job-related questions are very touchy for any man in modern American society, because they get at the core role that society expects him to fulfill. Unhappily, questions about his job are going to be received by most American men as questions about his whole worth as a human being.

That's improper -- it is also philosophically out of order, as his essential nature is not related to his employment but to his ability to exercise virtue in a vigorous and rational way. Employment can be a way of doing that, or it can simply be a private struggle to provide yourself and your family with the means to exercise virtue in other spheres: as a thinker, or a writer, or a mountain-climber, a horseman, or -- for those with the calling -- a man of God.

Fixing that problem will make it much easier to talk about the employment issues. Once he is in order in his soul, the question of how he makes his living will be of far less importance. As it should be! What a waste of our lives, to focus as much as we do on what Elise likes to call the 'circular' business of just earning enough to get by.

3. "My mother warned me you'd do this!"

I would find this one intriguing. I would like to know what my wife's mother warned her about -- she was a very interesting lady, and I liked her a lot.

4. "Just leave it -- I'll do it myself!"

Since we're talking about the 'ugly truth,' the concept is going to be 'You're incapable of doing a good job here.' This need not be unpleasant to hear: I am always glad to discover that my wife would rather reorganize the pantry without my assistance. However, this certainly could be said in a hateful way, and anything that sounds like "Go away you incompetent idiot" will probably be received as the insult that it was intended to be.

5. "You always..." or "You never..."

Yes, this is wisely avoided in all circumstances, and for all audiences.

6. "Do you really think those pants are flattering?"

The likely answer: "How should I know?" Most men wear pants that conform to the kind of pants they were taught to wear at work or in the military. The question of whether they are "flattering" never enters either consideration: the question is whether they are the proper kind of pants for that environment. If I don't look good in them, it's very likely because I don't look all that good. We can't be blaming the pants for that.

7. "Ugh, are we hanging out with him again?"

I see the point, although in general married couples find it nearly impossible to remain actively engaged with single friends.

8. "Please watch the kids. But don't take them here, or do this, or forget that..."

There is a rule that will serve as a useful guideline for women dealing with men: "You can tell me what to do, or how to do it. Pick one."

There are exceptions, of course, but in general it's best to learn to let go and give your husband some autonomy in how he executes the tasks set for him. Or, if there is something you really need him to do in a particular way (say, you want the house painted, but it's important that it be painted green and not just any color he likes) you should probably find a way to convince him to do the task short of telling him to do it. "If you paint the house, then I'll..." is the kind of strategy that avoids telling him to do it, which means that (if he agrees to do it) you can give him very specific guidance on how you want it done without irritating him.

That, at least, is my advice; you may find that your own experience is otherwise. Feel free to say so in the comments!

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