My husband couldn’t stand a nagging wife. He would always say he didn’t understand how any man could live like that.
I must admit I was right there with him.
Even as a woman, I found it exhausting watching the interaction of some couples. I didn’t understand why you would put so many demands on a person.
I wore my non-nagging wife-ness like a badge of honor.
So much so I rarely asked my husband for help with anything. Years later, our marriage counselor questioned me as to why I had asked so little of my husband.
The answer to this question is a two-parter.
My mother raised five children alone and made it look easy. She didn’t have help so it didn’t occur to me to look for help. I did what had to be done just as she had.
And I was never going to be ‘that wife.’
The one who made her husband come home early from a night out or made him get up during the night with a baby. I wouldn’t demand he be home from work at a certain time nor would I ruin his weekend with a ‘to do’ list.
Because I wasn’t uptight like those ‘other’ women.
This was easy to keep up during those early years.
Not so much as our family and commitments expanded.
I grew tired of doing it all. Not to mention, we didn’t have the typical traditional relationship. Yes, technically we relied on one income and I stayed home with our children.
But I maintained the yard, the house, coordinated home improvements, repairs, paid the bills for our personal expenses, business expenses, investment properties, and had worked to build the business. I was responsible for researching and putting in place our health insurance, other insurance policies, mortgages, and refinancing as well as car purchases.
My husband went back and forth to work for the first sixteen years of our marriage while I maintained everything else. He only requested the bills back when I hinted at my unhappiness in our relationship.
Despite the amount I was responsible for, my husband was quick to speak of our traditional roles. The crazy thing is I listened to what he said.
Rather than what was actually transpiring.
I was doing nearly everything.
When our children were little we made the decision to remain in a townhouse and purchase a small duplex at the Jersey Shore. My husband would visit on the weekends and remind me how spoiled I was. Of course, I was grateful.
But years down the road, I had an epiphany.
My husband had two months off in the summer. Rather than spending it with his family, he would hang out with the guys and go to card games and baseball games. Sure, I was at the beach. But going to the beach with two kids under three-years-old and trying to get them to sleep when they aren’t in their home was not quite the luxury he was making it out to be.
Regardless, I felt incredibly blessed.
So I the non-nagging wife soldiered on.
When I did make a request it wasn’t met well. And it generally led to an argument. Followed by the words, “I don’t ask anything of you and you shouldn’t ask anything of me.”
But he was asking something of me…everything of me.
He just didn’t have to ask, I simply did it.
It seems I had married the male version of the nagging wife.
The demands were made of me whether they were fair or not. And he rationalized it by income. An income which I ironically, had helped build.
One year he suddenly started showing up at the shore.
Our kids were older and easier and I had become accustomed to the independence I once resisted when I wished he were there. It seems many of our friends were now spending their summers away as well.
“Oh my gosh,” I said. “You’re only here because there’s no one left for you to hang out with at home anymore.”
He laughed and told me I was right.
I can’t blame my now ex-husband for a situation I helped create.
I was proud I could get it all done and I liked my independence.
As long as I took care of everything and stayed out of my husband’s way there were no problems. If I stayed in my lane without veering into his things were great. That’s why we lasted for as long as we did.
Or as he once told my friend, “As long as Colleen doesn’t give me any headaches we’re fine.”
But he was giving me a headache the older I got.
Because it turns out most of those women were not ‘nagging’ wives.
They had boundaries.
Something I severely lacked because of my personality and because I had seen one woman do the work of both spouses. I had married a selfish man who had no problem letting me do more than a partnership should allow.
I was one extreme and my husband was the other.
I never wanted to be ‘that wife.’
Or be uptight like ‘those’ other women.
The happy ones who got their fairy tale while mine fell apart.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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