My husband and I have enjoyed three years of wedded bliss. He’s a super-organized, left-brained engineer. I am a right-brained, less organized creative-type. We’re crazy about each other and get along very well. But there’s one minor, recurrent issue that I want to address, and I’d appreciate your input on how to discuss it with my husband.
It seems like sometimes my husband micromanages me. I say “seems like” because what feels like micromanaging to me is what he would call “being helpful” or pointing out the “right way” to do something. An example: Last night, while putting away the rice cooker, he tells me how I should wrap the cord around the handle of the rice cooker in order to make it easier to unwrap the cord next time we want to use it. To his engineer brain, this is him “being helpful!” because if there is a more efficient way to do something, of course that’s the right way to do it.
I’m fine with him offering suggestions some of the time, but when he does this on a daily basis, it grates on my nerves. And honestly, it feels pretty patronizing. I might be more flighty and disorganized than him, but I’m also a competent adult who can figure out how to put the rice cooker away, thank you very much.
Another example: While I’m making dinner, he suggests that I’ll save time if I chop up an onion his way instead of my way. (I do 90% of the cooking. If one of us is an expert in onion-chopping, it’s me!) Also: After lots of thorough research, I purchase travel insurance for our next vacation; after I make the purchase, he reads the policy and the emails me with questions/issues—all of which I already addressed when I called the insurance company. This leaves me with the impression that he doesn’t trust that I did my homework, so to speak, before I purchased the insurance.
I’ve tried addressing this in the moment by saying “I’ve got this covered, okay?” and “I think I know how to chop an onion, dear,” but my words aren’t sticking. I want to sit him down and have a conversation, something along of the lines of: “Sometimes you do This Thing, and when you do, it feels like you think I’m not competent or capable. I feel like you don’t trust me to handle things on my own without your participation.” I’m worried that his response will be what it usually is. He’ll pull out the “helpful!” card or claim that his way is the right way. Got any ideas/thoughts/scripts for me?
Thanks a million!
Not his employee
Dear Not His Employee,
Let’s begin today with a musical interlude:
HE COMES OUT DAY AND NIGHT
TO TELL YOU HE’S ALWAYS RIGHT
HE’LL TELL YOU THE THINGS THAT YOU ALREADY KNOW-OW-OW
WATCHING AND WAITING
OOH HE’S SITTING WITH YOU BUT HIS EYES ARE ON LIFEHACKER
WHOA HERE HE COMES
WATCH OUT GIRL HE’LL FIX YOU UP
WHOA HERE HE COMES
HE’S A MANSPLAINER
I think you’ve got this 99% handled. You handle it great in the moment. Your planned discussion is great.
If you say “Husband, sometimes you do This Thing, where you double-check my work, or interrupt a task I am doing to tell me to do it the right way, and it really annoys me. It makes me feel like you think I am not competent or capable. I feel like you don’t trust me to handle things on my own without your participation. For example, earlier, with the rice cooker, or chopping an onion, I really didn’t want or need your input,” that’s some nice clear communication.
If he says, “I just want you to do it the right way” your answer is “But you are not the boss of onion-chopping or of me, so I’d like you to stop doing that.”
If he says, “I am just trying to be helpful,” your answer can be, “I am sure that is your intent, but in practice it is annoying the crap out of me, so please stop.”
- “But you are not my onion mentor.”
- “Please stop trying to optimize my cooking.”
- “Please stop micromanaging me while I make dinner.”
- “I handled it, but feel free to read through the insurance documentation. After being on the phone with them all day, I don’t feel like talking through it all again, though.”
- “What I’m hearing is that you’d really like to take over insurance-buying tasks from now on.”
- “You can ‘help’ by not trying to optimize how I do things.”
- “When I want you to advise me on something, I prefer to ask. If I don’t ask, could you try starting from the assumption that I don’t want to know and see where that puts us?”
- “Ok, but I don’t care what you think about (pointless intrusive topic).”
- “This isn’t an onion-issue, this is a how you are treating me issue.”
Hopefully he will hear you and understand. If he starts catching himself after having the conversation, or backing off immediately when you remind him, things will get better. If he doubles down, it’s probably marriage counseling time. On my visits home, my dad, unchecked after 40+ years of doing this, will take my toast out of the toaster and replace it “correctly,” stand over me while I’m doing the crossword and make jokes (they aren’t jokes) about how I am “ruining” the newspaper, flip my laptop closed if I get up from the table to go to the bathroom for 2 minutes (it saves energy, yaknow), and sometimes yell to the point of spit flying if I reheat vegetables in the microwave for a different # of seconds than he would have chosen. I am positively salivating at the idea that you and your husband might be able to nip this behavior in the bud.
Above all, when this happens, please do not get drawn into a discussion of the objective “correct” way to chop onions or wrap rice cooker cords. It’s so beside the point, and a waste of your emotional energy. It’s hard enough to negotiate a division of household chores in a marriage, you do not need one of the people constantly “optimizing” every aspect of what you do. So when you discuss this, bring it back to the issue, the issue being his need to control everything when it comes to you and how irritating it is when he does that. Whether he’s a controlling ass by nature, or he’s having some kind of anxiety reaction to the idea of things being done “wrong” that manifests in him acting like a controlling ass, he’s really out of line here and he needs to be told a flat “You’re doing that thing again” when he does it. Those anxious feelings are his to manage, not yours to compensate for by conforming to his way of doing everything. Dudes like this often like to think they are being so “logical,” so sometimes you have to fight a bit to put it back on them, like, if the rice cooker cord gets wrapped your way instead of his, there are no real consequences, but if he keeps acting like he is the boss of you, there are real consequences for micromanaging one’s spouse and for setting oneself up as the one who is right about everything. Namely, it’s a pretty reliable way to slowly kill both someone’s sense of self and their love for you.
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