Monday, March 23

Constructive Criticism

Last night my husband attended a Stake priesthood meeting. During this meeting there were the usual exhortations, and among them was the injunction for all the married men to ask their wives "What can I do to be a better husband." Which my husband dutifully did.


My first thought was a smarmy self-righteous, "I choose to not dwell on your faults." We had a good laugh for a few minutes by trying to make that statement even more ostentatious.

My next thought was that if there was anything important that he needed to be doing for me or the kids I would have told him already. Just as I was getting ready to say that my husband preempted me by saying "I would hope that you would tell me without me having to ask like this."

After that there was the thought that if there were things I wanted him to do that I wasn't telling him about then they weren't the sort of things that matter all that much. I think he'd look nicer if he wore his shirts differently; he knows my opinion, and I know that they're his shirts and he's the one who is actually wearing them.

Then we discussed the fact that I would be really bothered if I had gone to a stake Relief Society meeting and had been instructed to ask my husband how I could be a better wife. He agreed that that did seem rather inappropriate and we talked for a few minutes about why one is A-Okay but the other is not. He put forth the idea that despite the ideal there are large cultural forces at play that result in men doing much less relationship maintenance than women.

As the conversation progressed I realized that the whole time in the back of my mind I had been searching for things that I didn't like about my husband. And sure enough when you look for those sorts of things you can come up with quite a list. Perhaps my first answer hadn't been so smarmy and self-righteous after all. That simple question, dutifully asked by my thoughtful husband upon instruction from a well meaning stake president who was trying to help out the sisters put me into a fault finding mindset which I didn't like at all.

So I gave my husband my answer ("Please find a way to let me know when you buy gas so I can put it in our budget spreadsheet.") and went to bed.

If my stake president were to ask how to be a better stake president I would ask him find a way to encourage husbands to do more relationship maintenance work without putting the wives in the position of having to look for their husbands faults.

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