I went down to visit him and asked him what he was going to do.
He’s 82 years old.
“This place is too big for me,” he said, gesturing around the three-bedroom condo that he shared with his wife of 36 years.
Then he added, “I’m thinking about going into assisted living.”
At first I thought that was a really depressing concept.
But then I realized that in an assisted living facility, he would have companionship, meals prepared for him three times a day, activities planned, and his bed made and his laundry done.
It sounded like a pretty good deal.
It sounded…like marriage.
That’s when it hit me.
For men, marriage is assisted living.
And therein lies the problem.
We men are fundamentally lazy when it comes to taking care of the basic activities of daily life.
I don’t know who invented the idea of making one’s bed, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t a man.
I don’t know who invented the idea of laundry, but once again, it is most likely not the male of the species.
We probably didn’t even invent marriage, either.
The problem is that men are raised by mothers, who put food on the table, clean clothing in the closet, and clean sheets on the bed.
So we get imprinted from a very early age that if there’s a woman around somewhere, all that stuff is somehow her job.
Being single, therefore, is a temporary status between two major periods of our lives in which we depend on women to do all the boring stuff we would never dream of doing, like making our bed or ironing a shirt.
During that brief interregnum, we surround ourselves with pizza boxes, beer cans, and the detritus of singlehood, all of which we hastily stow under a freshly-made bed in the unlikely event that a girl was actually going to visit our man-cave.
If we’re lucky, marriage ensues, and with it come the expectations that somehow there will be meals on the table, clothing in the closet, and clean sheets on the bed, just the way mom used to do it.
And then we turn around and get mad at our wives for treating us like children!
The point here is to question the underlying assumptions that we men carry, that boring work is women’s work.
So here are some suggestions that will make your marriage better, and might even get you a little more sex, which is why married men basically do anything.
#1 – Never volunteer to “help” with the dishes or any other home-based activity.
The very concept of you “helping” implies that it’s her job and you are magnanimously giving of your precious time, which you could be using to upgrade your fantasy team or secretly view online porn, to help her do her job.
Don’t help. Just do it.
Take the attitude that they have in the military – if it’s walking, salute it, and if it’s standing still, paint it.
In other words, don’t wait to be asked to load or unload the dishwasher, the washing machine or dryer, or do the dishes in the sink. It’s only her job if you make it her job, and she’s not going to thank you for that.
So don’t just help – do something.
#2 – Your weekend is no longer your weekend. It’s your weekend with your wife.
From a man’s perspective, work is a place where you go five days a week. When Friday afternoon rolls around, it’s the weekend, which means that you don’t have to do anything. You can just watch a lot of sports, order food in, and basically remain seated or sleeping from late Friday afternoon until early Monday morning.
That’s true when you’re single. Now that you’re married, 70% of the time you spend with your spouse will be during the weekend. So lose the mentality that this is downtime. It’s not. In your relationship, it’s show time.
Make plans. Don’t just ask her what she wants to do. Women love a man with a plan. It shows that you’re thinking about it.
Buy stuff for her, like flowers, even though it isn’t her birthday, your anniversary, or a day when you were trying to deeply apologize for some stupid thing you did or said the night before.
And above all, don’t just sit there. Nothing makes a woman more upset than a man sitting still when there’s laundry, dishes, an unmade bed, or anything else to take care of.
#3 – Remember that you are the “minister of fun” in your relationship.
You were playful and fun-loving before you got married – that’s a big part of the reason why she married you.
Now that you’re married, you can’t simply decide that you’re going to spend the rest of your downtime working on that fantasy football team I mentioned earlier. Women usually feel the responsibility to manage the home, the budget, or other matters that typically don’t interest men.
That’s fine, but remember that your job is to bring fun into the relationship. Surprise her. Buy tickets to stuff. Plan a hike. Don’t just throw your sticks over your shoulder and tell her you’ll be back after you’ve played 18. She’s counting on you to bring some fun into the relationship. I know – it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Above all, do not live by my dictum, “anything you do well in a marriage, you’ll have to do over and over.”
Be great at being a husband. It will bring out the best in your wife, and remember that you will never, ever be happier than she is. You might as well do everything in your power to bring her the happiness she so richly deserves.
Photo: Getty Images