If only Shamu could do the dishes…

by Natalie P.

January 19, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | No Comments

I listen to the radio in the shower each morning.  It’s a good way to start the day.  The local alternative radio station plays great music; I find out how hellish my drive to work is going to be; I know what jacket to wear (will the snot freeze in my nose the moment I step out the door today?); they keep me entertained with “The Good, the bad, and the ugly” – three stories from the strange side of life; and they have their tech guy come in and talk about the latest and greatest gadgets and tech news.  In and amidst all of this, they generally find interesting news tidbits to talk about.  This morning one of those tidbits was about a story in the New York Times entitled “What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage“.

In essence, the author, Amy Sutherland, was writing a book on exotic animal trainers and ultimately decided to try the animal training techniques on her husband’s “annoying habits”. As we listened in the shower, the boyfriend and I, he could SEE the steam rising off of me, and it wasn’t the hot water from the tap…

Her whole philosophy all boiled down to “Reward good behavior, ignore bad behavior”. Well, yeah, that’s a big fat DUH. If the critter you are training is in fact a critter, or a CHILD.

I think the most important thing Amy learned from this exercise was not how to train her husband, but how to lighten the hell up – dropping her nagging over really unimportant stuff, and learning not to take her husband’s quirks personally. Honestly, I think some women go looking, WITH TWEEZERS, for things to rag on their husbands (and kids) about.  Do you have nothing better to do with your time?

Then again, there ARE the guys who have somehow landed in an enabling relationship where their self-obsessed behaviors are more than just idle and inconsequential quirks.  I find it disturbing that even today, so many women think of and treat men like children, (or animals) that have to be tricked, coerced and “trained” to behave like an acceptable adult.  Even more disturbing is the fact that so many men think it is their god-given right to continue to act like children well past their 18th birthday.

Honestly people!  What ever happened to guys just “Growing the fuck up?”  What kills me is that NEITHER sex thinks it is appropriate for the other to act like a recalcitrant, self-obsessed child, yet too many adult males seem to think that to deny them that “right” is to deny them their manhood. 

Where the hell does this “clinging to childhood” sense of entitlement come from?  Were they weaned too young?

I mean, hell – I don’t want to grow “old” mentally, and I don’t want my partner to either. But that doesn’t mean we can’t grow “up” and act like responsible adults. 

Though he jokes about being 6 years old, the one thing I appreciate about my partner is that he really is an emotional ADULT (ok, except when it comes to food – he’s a picky eater, but I let him know in no uncertain terms what I think about THAT, and I don’t cook around his quirks. He knows how to use the microwave oven if he doesn’t like what I cooked.). But by and large, I have no time, or patience for ANYONE, male or female, over the age of 18, who cannot act like an adult – and that means (at a minimum) living up to your commitments (like being on time, and sharing expenses), not throwing temper tantrums at the drop of a hat, truly accepting responsibility for your behavior, and understanding what being a PARTNER really means (Hint: It means he/she ISN’T going to be your parent or an emotional sherpa for your “issues”).

There is a difference between having a youthful outlook and exuberance and acting puerile and irresponsible. Too bad so many people don’t understand the difference (or choose not to).

Perhaps it’s just years of experience from my end – but honestly, there are so many IMPORTANT things to get bent about, that after a while, the trivial stuff is just so…well… TRIVIAL.

When something is important to me and not important to him, then I take it as my responsibility to deal with it if it bothers me.  I learned LONG LONG ago that it is more stressful and time consuming to NAG, than it is to just do the thing that is bothering you.   It takes me two seconds to move his clothes on the floor to a stack in his laundry hamper.  As long as I have a clear path to the bathroom at night, I’m good.   If I need help with the dishes, or want him to take his turn doing them, I simply ASK. I don’t nag. I *remember* all the good and important things he does around the place and I keep that in balance when I’m stressed and something small that he forgot starts to bother me (we are, after all, human).  And for his part, he helps when asked, and more importantly, without being asked – he takes on responsibility for things that just need doing.  He doesn’t take MY issues or stresses personally.  If I lose my keys, If I’m stressed about small things because I’m overwhelmed at work, he’s never upset or bothered, no matter how distressed I might get.   And I don’t take his distractions and occasional absent-mindedness personally either.

That’s because we are ADULTS. We interact as ADULTS. We recognize that the other person is a) Human, b) NOT out to intentionally drive the other person crazy c) Not responsible for us and our feelings and d) someone we want to build a life with, so that means consideration, respect and love. 

No headgames. No “training” the other like they are a child or some lesser species.

Really folks. It’s called Acting Like An Adult. You ought to try it some time.

Š

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