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.


  • Jessica

    You’d be surprised at how many men want the women they’re with to scold them and tell them they’re bad, and make them pay and then forgive them (leading to, as you called it, 😉

    Being a reasonable, honest peer with MOST men quickly cues him to “one of the guys” mode, which means he loses sexual interest, thinks she’s “nice” and moves on. Surely you know men who dump women because they’re nice/balanced, and either date cold-hearted women or hotties they aren’t serious about?

    Yes, there are a few men who prefer normal women just like there are women who prefer “nice guys,” but the reason why “train your husband” has so much resonance is because, in my experience, men CRAVE “you’ve been a bad boy” tension.

    It also means they don’t have to monitor their own behavior, just do what they want to and try not to get caught, and if they get caught be properly apologetic. If they get sex, they believe they’re forgiven.

    The point is: men, police your brothers.

  • Well said! This article is still pissing me off. I just want to be treated like a man when I get home and I promise, if that happens, I’ll be more of a man. It’s just that simple.

    Tyler – Building Camelot’s last blog post..My 2009 NCAA March Madness Bracket

  • TechyDad

    Jessica, in dating there are men who prefer the “bad girls” just like there are women who prefer the “bad boys.” Me, I’ve always been one of the “nice guys” and didn’t like the “bad girls.” But this isn’t talking about dating. This is talking about marriage. Marriage should be a partnership of equals not an everlasting training session.

    I certainly don’t want any kind of tension in my marriage, especially not one that labels me a “bad boy.” If some guys get off on that kind of stuff in the bedroom, more power to them. Outside of play-acting bedroom antics, though, a man and woman should be equals.

    As for doing what they want and not getting caught, I certainly wasn’t endorsing that. If anything, Mrs. Moore’s article made it sound like she wasn’t answerable to anyone and everyone (kids and husband alike) reported to her. That’s not a partnership, that’s a household dictatorship.

    It has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the power in the marriage. Ultimate power shouldn’t exist in a marriage (neither with the husband nor the wife). Power should be shared equally between the husband and the wife. If either spouse is subservient to the other than something is seriously wrong in that relationship.

  • AMEN TechyDad! Very well said response to Jessica. Her comment really rubbed me (a woman) the wrong way. Seriously, things have changed since the boys were born, but I have never thought of you as another child that I need to reprimand…although I will joke about it sometimes 😉 You know that is a joke, especially when I tighten the strap on your leash!

    Hopefully others will see the sarcastic humor in the last sentence.

    TheAngelForever’s last blog post..What if it rained food from the sky?

  • Wow I haven’t ventured over to read the actual article yet but it has me pretty upset too. And I am not even married. When I was however I wanted a partner not another child, although sometimes it felt like I had an extra. 🙂 I of course would kid and let him know that if he didn’t do something I asked he would be “grounded” but it was all in fun and the sarcasm would be shared. That was just our relationship. I can’t even imagine someone manipulating their spouse into doing what they wanted. It would not be any partnership I would want to be in. When I get married again I want my husband to be my equal, my ally in the house. Someone who understands what I am feeling and wants to help.
    This lady gives women who want that a bad name!

    QCMOMMA’s last blog post..Another day in the life

  • I cannot believe the audacity of this woman! I understand that this article came out quite a few days ago, but I just recently heard about it. It was painful to read through. How can she expect her husband to respect her when she insists on treating him like a child. Instead of barking at him like she was a dog (and I imagine something small and yappy) “Baby Gate.” “Install.”, she should try saying “Hon, do you mind putting up the baby gate when you get home from work?” Or for once, thank her husband for putting in long hours in an economy where he’s lucky to have a job at all! Her ‘profession’, and I use this lightly, is to use write words for people to read. She can’t spare some for her family? I can only imagine how bad it stung for the husband to have to read her words on the internet.