Your Spouse is Not A Child
Tyler, from Building Camelot tweeted about an article titled Parenting techniques to try on your Spouse by Fernanda Moore. In it, the author, upset that her husband hasn’t filled the ice trays, decides to try five parenting techniques that she has used on her children on her husband. Overall, I found the article quite insulting in that it depicted husbands as being unable to do anything unless the wife "manages" them. Marriage should be a partnership, not one member controlling the other member’s actions. (Think about how insulted people would get if the article was a husband using parenting techniques to control his wife’s behavior.) With a bit of modification, though, these rules might actually work.
Strategy No. 1: Reward good behavior
When my wife and I were first married, our lives revolved around each other. I was the most important person in her life and she was the most important person in mine. When NHL was born, it was a transition for me to accept that I was no longer #1. I wasn’t even #2 (my wife was). I was #3. As time went on, I felt myself slipping down the ladder of importance even more. At times, it seems that I only get my wife’s full attention is when I mess something up or don’t do it at all. If I do something well, I sometimes feel like I might as well be invisible.
I would love for my "good behavior" to be rewarded, however, Mrs. Moore used it to control her husbands actions. When she got to sleep in one morning, she rewarded her husband’s good behavior (by praising him) in an attempt to get him to "perform properly" more times. (i.e. Get him to allow her to sleep in more often.) When he didn’t "perform right" (he inquired about alternating weekends) she got angry that her attempts to control his actions didn’t work.
A proper use of this strategy would involve praising good behavior without expecting your spouse to "perform right." If a spouse (or anyone for that matter) is praised when they get it right, it helps to offset the times when they don’t and helps the relationship overall.
Strategy No. 2: Keep it brief
In this strategy, she insults her husband’s intellect by assuming that he can only perform an action if she sets up the entire thing (puts everything in place, puts the tools out, etc) and gives him short, simple commands ("Baby gates? Today? Install?"). For a child, yes, they might understand the shorter commands better, but husbands are not children. We do have adult-level intellects and will resent being treated like babies. A better modification of this might be to keep your "honey do" list brief. Don’t ask us to fix every last little thing, especially when we’re not in a position to do it right away, and then complain when we don’t do it all. Strategy #1 applies here as well. If you ask us to do 10 things and we do 9 of them, praise us for the 9 we did, don’t ignore those and berate us for the 1 we didn’t do.
Strategy No. 3: The time-out
Here’s where Mrs. Moore got ridiculous. During an argument, she tried to apply the Time Out principal to her husband and yelled at him "go to your room." She quickly realized that there was no way for her to force her husband into his room for a timeout. She just doesn’t have that kind of authority over him. (Neither would he have that authority over her.) In the end, she "modified" the rule so that she confined herself to their room for awhile. Perhaps this is the better application of a "time out." If you sense that an argument is getting too heated, take a time out. It is better to cool off for awhile than to say something that you’ll regret later. (And, if an argument is heated enough, you *will* say something you regret.)
Strategy No. 4: Give quality time to get quality time
In this strategy, she wants to take a bath and he wants to play a game with her. She tries distraction and various other techniques to get out of it, but finally decides to give him 15 minutes in an attempt to placate him enough so that he won’t object to time by herself. Now I won’t deny my wife her "me" time. I need "me" time every now and then also. However, as a husband, I could also use some time with my wife where we aren’t acting as parents but as just husband and wife. And no, the time doesn’t need to be spent doing activities that are X-rated in nature… not that those are bad, mind you.
As I said before, I sometimes feel like I’m at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to my wife. I’m sure she feels the same way with me from time to time. It would be nice to have a little quality time with each other. And it would be nice if that quality time was, unlike Mrs. Moore’s, not an attempt to do the bare minimum required to placate me.
Strategy No. 5: Creative discipline
In this one, Mrs. Moore sits down with her "disobedient" husband (guity of the crime of being late) to "figure out together how he should atone and, ultimately, change the behavior." In some ways, this is good: They sit down and have a talk about the situation instead of her yelling at him for being late every day. If the discussion is phrased properly, this can actually be a good thing. However, Mrs. Moore’s intention was to use this discussion time not to work out their differences, but to bring his behavior back in line with what she demands. In other words, he’s nothing more than a disobiedient child to her that she needs to lecture about doing what she tells him to do. The discussion should be a discussion of equals, not a "parent spouse" talking to the "child spouse."
In the end, only twisting the rules around makes them a good idea. As employed by Mrs. Moore, the rules are insulting and demeaning. Instead of treating your husband (or wife) like a child whose behavior needs to be carefully controlled, why not treat them like an equal partner in the marriage? Sit down and talk calmly with them. Spend some quality, non-parent time with them. Let them know when things that they do make you happy. But never, ever, think of them as a disobedient child.