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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525 thoughts on “#674: Anything you can do, a dude can patiently and logically tell you how you should have done it better.”
In our family, it’s the women who behave the way this dude is behaving. I’ll be interested to hear what others’ experiences are in this regard. Not that it’s necessarily a guy thing or a women thing of course……………
In my family, the women do the lions share of the housework and can get pretty territorial when A Man comes in and does it Wrong, even though they’d love it if the guys did more housework (for the most part, anyway). BUT the guys can get straight up splainy about every other damn thing, even things they have no reason to feel particularly territorial or knowledgeable about.
My mother displays some similar characteristics, despite lacking the requisite assets for being a mansplainer. In a somewhat natural way, she formed the script (over the years of my infancy and childhood) that I can’t do anything for myself and must be coached! I handle this by raising an arch eyebrow and asking “do you want to do it?” We have the kind of relationship where she can usually laugh off the implied “if not, STFU,” but sometimes instead will say “no, I just want to SHOW YOU!!!” in which case I hand over the immersion blender and divert my attention to other tasks as though her response had been “yes, I want to do it.” (On that particular occasion, after she’d finished, she said “I guess I lied. I did want to do it.”)
Maybe twenty years ago, I was a college student, home for Christmas break. The holiday was over, and my mother was preparing to put the decorations away (her idea of decorating is to take everything to such an extreme that it looks like Santa and his elves threw up inside her house). She wanted me to put away the Christmas-themed stuffed animals and pillows. There was a particular bag she wanted me to put the animals/pillows in, then she wanted me to put the bag inside a large plastic box. I started the task while she had her back turned to me, doing a task of her own. A couple of minutes later, she turned around–and began to screech (yes, literally) that I was “doing it wrong just to spite her.” She worked herself into such hysterics that she was red-faced and near tears. She ordered me to go to my room (remember, college student) so that she could do the job “correctly” on her own, without my interference. Fine by me, I laughed all the way to my room.
YES! I was told by my spouse that I was shoveling snow off of the driveway ‘the stupid way.’ I immediately handed him the shovel and went inside.
Yup! Oh, I’m chopping the onion wrong? Okay, chopping it is now your job.
I have to do this with mine sometimes, because he likes to critique my driving, but he hates to drive himself. So I’m always the one driving if we’re out together. I’m going too fast/slow/whatever? Okay, you can drive home!
I have a family member who likes to correct my way of doing things like loading the dishwasher or whatever dumb thing, and this is exactly how I handle it too. “I think you’d better handle this then since it’s so important to you.” Or, “Great, do it your way then. I’ll be in the living room.”
I’ll take advice over something I obviously don’t know how to do, but they’d better back off if I choose not to follow it. Otherwise that’s also their job.
I’ve only ever experienced this ‘optimising’ ‘coaching’ from guys – namely my Dad and an ex-boyfriend.
I had a really good experience with another ex-boyfriend which I’ll also go into a bit.
Showing startling similarity with the Captain’s Dad, my Dad will tell me I am doing it wrong if I dip a teabag repeatedly instead of using a teaspoon to squeeze the extra tea-ness out of the bag. In amongst the creepy observing and the spoken criticism he will also lurk silently in the background remove items such as teaspoons when I am still using them so that there is a crazy-making moment of “What the hell, I thought I had the peanut butter / knife / etc. out, OH WAIT A MINUTE I DID.” He would tell me I am doing it wrong if I stack the dishwasher in a certain way – he used to go restack it. And going through his adult children’s bins to obsessively sort recycling despite the fact they all recycle anyway. Etc.
Ex-boyfriend # 1 wasn’t an optimiser/mainsplainer of physical things but rather of life choices and attitudes. He was a rationalist computational linguist for whom Paul Graham / Peter Singer was the bomb. His flat/kitchen/etc was in chaos, he didn’t believe in grocery shopping, etc. But he was a big fan of ‘rationalising’ out of anything illogically uncomfortable – usually wanting me to rationalise away my sad feels or discomfort about awful things he was doing. E.g. giving me unwanted ‘coaching’ (mainsplainy pressure) about how I should ‘get over’ my ‘hang-up’ around illegal drugs, the day after we saw a girl go into a drug-induced psychotic break which triggered her first experience of bipolar. Because it was sub-optimal that my subjective, culturally-formed discomfort around drugs meant that his (presumably objective?!) drug fun-times might be compromised. tl;dr his ‘optimiser’ streak was more philosophical than culinary, and always super self-serving about how it meant that he should be able to keep acting like a jerk by doing exactly what he wanted without regard for anyone else’s feelings, comfort and safety.
Ex-boyfriend # 2 was a scientist and university tutor, heavily into cooking and correct-process-based activities such as outdoor rock-climbing, where a person’s safety and ability to complete a task often DOES depend on good technique. HOWEVER he was super conscious of the fact that his scientific training, love of teaching and natural inclination towards process-based activities meant that he might be a total freaking lecturing pain in the ass in unwanted situations – although he never was in my experience, because he was so aware of it that he actively made sure he didn’t treat people badly in that way. For instance, I’m a really ordinary cook and he’s a really amazing one, and cooking with him was really fun because he would notice what I was doing and observe it, but it didn’t feel like judgment – and in fact he explained that he really likes to see how other people do things their way and see how their thought processes worked differently (NOT WORSE, JUST DIFFERENTLY) to his in handling a particular cooking challenge. And he was complimentary of my cooking because he didn’t compare it to his (far better) cooking, he was into the fact that I loved him and I made him food sometimes and it was different to his food because I am me and I am not him and I do things my way. And if I wanted coaching in a particular area – I DID actually ask him to show me the rocking-slicing motion for cooking onions – I asked for it and he was happy to share that skill with me and was just as likely to ask that I show him a different skill of mine – the (assumption of) competence did not flow one way. If he wanted to show off by doing a cooking skill with particular flourish and finesse, it was far more likely to be with well-won pride in something he worked hard at, or because I was egging him on about my hot boyfriend doing his hot competent thing in the kitchen, ohyeah, not because he was trying to show me up or playing out a superiority complex.
tl;dr I think this stuff is often gendered; I think other issues such as controlling-ness and manipulation can compound it. I extra-don’t-like the “you are female and I am male and you are creative/right-brain/emotional and I am scientific/left-brain/objective and I will tell you what to do and if you choose not to do it or if you can’t do it or if it’s not a priority for you in the way it is for me, it is because you are illogical and wrong in not accepting my superior HALP!” wrinkle which can appear.
I also think genuine respectfulness, good-will, self-reflection and actually waiting to be asked for input or help go a long way to making sure that people (esp. men) don’t make others feel like shite by telling them or pointedly showing them They’re Doing It Wrong.
Not related to the OP, but I remember your ex-boyfriend #1 from when you wrote in, and I’m so glad he’s firmly in the ex- category. Go you!
I was just thinking “I’ve read this story before, haven’t I?” Ugh, dudebros.
I need to take a lesson from your Ex #2. Sounds like he had a really amazing approach.
Oh wow, ex #1 sounds like the Logical Broken Glass Dude from a previous letter. Not sure if I can link it, but I’ll try below:
LOL he is 😉 I was that (very confused, very upset!) LW. Much happier and clearer now!
YAY! (I remember the letter. It’s so nice to know you’re doing well!)
Oh, that’s such good news!
Oh man, I’ve seen you comment before but didn’t realise it was you with the broken glass guy! So glad you’re out of there!
I’ve always wondered if you got out and away safe, so glad to hear you did!
Add me to the chorus of people who are SO GLAD that you are out of there!
Also extremely happy to hear that that guy is an ex, the only letter featuring a worse/more concerning situation that I can think of was the one where the bf wouldn’t let the LW use the bathroom.
Worst. Superhero. Ever.
I wish I was artistic, I would draw this comic.
And homeruncommitment, I am so, so, so, so relieved you are away from that dude. That dude was one of the top-10 worst dudes to ever grace an advice column. Seriously. (Also, I’m pretty sure I dated his older brother for like two years before extricating myself from that hot mess, so fist-bump of solidarity from me to you.)
Yeah, it’s the source of 90% of the arguments I’ve had with my mom in the last ten years, so it’s always odd for me to hear people talk about it as a specifically gendered issue.
I think it’s a “perceived expertise” issue. Many moms (parents in general) tend to think of their kids as less competent and capable than they are, even once grown. Many men tend to think of women as less competent and capable than they are, even when they’ve demonstrated otherwise. And many women tend to think of men as less competent and capable in the very specific realm of housework (see: every commercial ever).
Of course, there are plenty of people who play into that intentionally – if they do a bad job, you’ll just stop asking. I mean, y’all are totally right, but there can be a lot of different dynamics here. I’ve known men who do this surrounding housework so they’ll stop being expected to do it.
For example: Boyfriend, when I tell you to take the soaking wet towel from flooding and put it in the bathroom, why on earth did you just toss it in the shower rather than hang it up? Why? (This totally did not come up just yesterday. Ughhh.)
For my mom, it was a combination of different priorities and interpreting me sticking to those priorities of expressions of love (or not, if I didn’t). My mom had A Thing about giftwrap. It was like a craft hobby all on its own for her. She would spend weeks searching for the perfect giftwrap and matching ribbon (usually at least 2 colors of ribbon) and would add extra touches to the finished product like little accessories or a spritz of metallic or glitter paint. Seriously, department store fancy display packages had nothing on my mom.
So, for her, having obvious care put into how a gift was wrapped was something you do for people you care about. She didn’t expect other people to go as over the top as she did, but she would get her feelings hurt if the wrapping job looked bad or if it didn’t include ribbon with a bow of some kind. This was not a problem when I lived at home, because we had all the supplies I could ever need right there, and the packages didn’t have to travel. It also wasn’t a problem the year I lived in the dorm at college, because I had to come home early enough that there was plenty of time to wrap things at her house, with her supplies & equipment. The problem came when I moved out on my own and was working the kind of jobs where I couldn’t get much time off work, and I was arriving late on Christmas Eve and leaving Christmas night or early in the morning on the 26th. Bows don’t travel well. I would wrap the gifts at home, and bring the bows or bow-making stuff with me, intending to do them at her house. But since I was getting in late in the evening on the 24th, she wanted to open presents pretty much as soon as I walked in the door (because she couldn’t wait any longer to give me my gifts.)
After a couple of holidays that involved weird passive aggressive pouting about the goddamned bows, I finally said, “You have 3 choices, and I don’t care which one you pick. You can have presents as soon as I get there with bows that might be mangled from the drive, presents as soon as I get there with no bows, or presents with nice bows the next morning. Pick whichever one makes you happiest, and quit pouting about it not being perfect. You are stealing all the joy I get from giving you presents at all.”
It still blows me away that bows on presents were something we had to have this kind of talk about.
Wait, so what’d she pick? Did she get the point?
“For my mom, it was a combination of different priorities and interpreting me sticking to those priorities of expressions of love (or not, if I didn’t).”
Thank you, Courtney, for articulating succinctly something that my mother has done for years. With her it’s not about wrapping but about the giving of presents and cards in general. I grew up thinking that choosing the correct present for someone without any prompting was the ultimate sign of love, particularly when accompanied by a card with overly grandiose statements of undying love.
When I was in college and dating an abuser, this hangup helped normalize his claims of “But if I tell you what I want, it won’t mean anything when you do it.” I later figured out this was code for “I have no idea what I want, but I expect you to magically fill this gaping hole inside me,” but at the time, it sounded perfectly reasonable in the context of how I grew up.
Still struggling with it, but it took a pretty hard knock when I started dating the partner who later became my spouse. He grew up in a family that’s frankly rubbish at giving gifts. After some tension over gifts our first couple of years together, he’s gotten better at it and I have gotten more relaxed. These days I keep a Google doc of things that I want and sometimes he looks at it when getting me gifts and sometimes not. My sister and I have talked about how skewed this made our view of gift-giving growing up and how we’re working on getting better about it. Shopping for mom is still a trial, though.
I think women are more likely to do it to their children specifically, while men are more likely to generalize the behavior to other people.
My mother used to whine and complain about how I “never did anything to help around the house”. But when I tried, she would get all upset about how I was Doin It Rong, and then she’d do it over because she just couldn’t stand for it not to be done her way. So my options were to do what I wanted and get yelled at, or do to what she wanted and get yelled at. Guess which I chose? I don’t think she ever figured out that those two things were connected.
Oh my god yes this!! I’ve had the same thing. And it’s infuriating!!!! “You never help!”
Me: comes over to help
Her: dithers around while not giving me chores.
Me: does something else
Her: “YOU’RE NOT HELPING!”
Me: starts random chore
Her: “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. Do this other more important chore specifically like this”
Rinse and repeat
Me: eventually goes home.
Her: “thanks a lot. You never help. Nothing got done today because of you. You’re an ungrateful child. After everything blah blah blah….”
My experience is that both women and men will do it to family members and close friends and such. (And work subordinates, but there you get into the fuzzy territory where sometimes that’s a necessary thing for work processes or a helpful thing for training, and sometimes it’s just unhelpful or even counterproductive micromanaging.) But men are FAR more likely to do it to women who are acquaintances or total strangers, on the background cultural assumption that they surely know better and definitely ought to say so.
Yeah, this. Basically, people condesplain to people they have perceived power over/think they are smarter than. Mansplaining is a thing because men have perceived power over/think they are smarter than women.
I dunno, I mean yeah, I’m sure just as many women have that sort of innate need to fine-tune their rituals as many men do. But I’d also bet that those women are way less likely to externalize it than the men, i.e. to treat their personally satisfactory behavior optimizations as The Objectively Correct Way To Stack Food In The Fridge (or whatever).
Overall I think men are socialized to see their personal annoyances as Big Universal Problems, whereas women are trained to see them as Just My Quirk, Haha, No Big Deal.
My husband and I are both engineers, and we do it to each other. We’ve been married for a few years now though, so we usually back off and just let the other person do things the “less efficient” way, as that ends up being more efficient in terms of matrimonial harmony.
I definitely think that in the realm of the household, this sort of thing is not gender-biased. It depends on the way you think about things, what you saw growing up, etc.
This was definitely something that I saw and thought “That’s not a gender-bias thing, that’s an ENGINEER thing.” (Which, to be fair, does come with its own significant gender disparity, so, well.) I grew up in a household and a neighborhood full of engineers, and this was definitely a daily occurrence. Now I somehow accidentally became an engineer as well and am kind of terrified of becoming this myself. It was how I was raised, and it’s also hard to turn off the part of your brain that sees everything as a problem to be fixed when you get home from work. Efficiency! Not such a virtue when you’re trying to apply it to people.
My brain can sometimes be like this, and it helps me to zoom back from the task and look at it as “How can I optimize this relationship” instead of “How to optimize onion-chopping (or w/e)”. Sounds like you’re kinda doing the same thing, just though I’d share my thought process.
God that is such a good way to look at it. Thank you!
Anecdote time: so, the summer after my junior year in college, I did an internship at a civil engineering consulting firm. At one point we (that is, myself and the junior engineer with whom I worked, she was a few years out of school, not a PE yet) attended an all-day seminar on soil investigation or something. However the overhead projector stopped working during the first or second presentation (yes, this was the dark ages when we still used overhead projectors), so they said something like “we’ll take a ten minute break to get this sorted out.” The other engineer leans over and whispers, “watch this, everyone is going to get up to help because they all think they can figure it out.” Sure enough, within moments like 2/3 of the audience was crowded around at front, “helping.” Engineers!
I also learned at that internship that it is impossible to tell an engineer a goddamn story in peace.
Me: Oh man, my friends and I saw a great show this Saturday in the city! They were —
Engineer: How did you get in?
Me: Oh, we drove. So in —
Engineer: Why didn’t you take the train?
Me: Oh well there were four of us, so it’s actually cheaper to just pay for parking. So anyway —
Engineer: But then you don’t have to worry about driving home.
Me: Well I guess that’s true, but we were fine, my friend doesn’t drink. So as I was saying —
Engineer: And it’s probably less expensive once you take gas into account.
OH MY GOD JUST LET ME TELL MY STORY WITHOUT SECOND GUESSING EVERY DECISION THAT I ALREADY MADE ALREADY. Engineers!
I was at a presentation yesterday where the presenter didn’t know how to zoom in or change font sizes on their powerpoint, so each slide was an essay of tiny print that was totally unreadable. Someone in the audience asked if she could make the print bigger (or make it show up bigger) and she said she could not. It took every resource I have not to be like “howabout you talk while I unfuck this thing for you, it will take me 2 minutes.”
I work as an admin for an architecture & engineering firm. One day, we were having a taco bar lunch in the office. The first 4 people at the front of the buffet line were engineers. They decided that my buffet layout wasn’t “optimal,” so they held up the line while they moved the trays around.
I was PISSED.
My husband and I do it to each other too! But neither of us are engineers. Since we’ve been married, we’ve also backed off and let the other person handle it their own way. In the end, the backing-off process has improved lots of things because now we ask the other person for help when we notice them doing it a different way or a better way. Husband asks me how to cook vegetables. I ask husband how to cook pork chops. Win!
When we reached the phase in our relationship where we were about to give advice and then suddenly stopped and backed up and watched instead, I felt like we leveled up right there. So throwing in my two cents that this type of thing can change in a relationship with some work.
Well if you or your husband ever get tired of your careers, you should look into engineering! (Just kidding, and also, look I’m optimizing your life! Engineers!) 😉
I totally get like this if I think I know a better way to do a thing, and I really need to get it under wraps because I think sometimes my boyfriend wants to smother me with a pillow. Not often, just….. sometimes.
Yeah, I am generally the person that does this in my relationships (cis het woman). I’m an organized person, and a controlling person, and I generally just focus on what Jennifer said to curb it: namely, are there any consequences to this for me? If no, let it go. If yes, then I will volunteer to take on the task from now on or, if I don’t want to take on the task, then see “let it go.” It’s hard sometimes, but it can be done.
I don’t think I like how the husband’s behavior has been identified as a Man Thing. I’m a wife and I totally see my own personality in the Mansplainer. However, I will set that aside and try to take the advice.
I see women do this to men around housework stuff, and the blanket advice is:
Do you want them to do their share of housework, or do you want them to leave it all to you to be done “perfectly,” “exactly your way?” Choose one.
In my Vader-days I would have said “I want to train them to do it to my standard”. It was such a light bulb moment when I realized how controlling and creepy that is.
I’m a woman who’s trying to get better about doing this to my husband. Sometimes it’s a matter of my telling myself, “If you want it done YOUR WAY, do it yourself,” and sometimes it’s me asking myself, “If you let him do it his way and not yours, what happens? Is it bad? Only interfere if it would be actually really BAD.” Like, if the answer to “What happens?” is “He’ll be less efficient at the job,” I should leave him alone to do it his way. If the answer is, “Something or someone will sustain damage,” that *might* be a time to say something.
It’s a work in progress. I’m grateful to him for his patience.
Anyway, that might be a think for the LW to ask her husband: “If I keep on doing it my way, what happens? How bad would that be, really?”
I’m a roommate, not a wife, but I do 99% of all the taking the recycling and trash out of the house and to the curb for pickup. One roommate seems legitimately clueless that this is a thing that needs doing (?? how? did your parents not make you do things for yourself ever???) and the other is just forgetful and often agrees and/or offers to do it but then gets distracted and doesn’t. Both of these things used to be MAJOR SOURCES OF DISTRESS FOR ME. I have chosen to do the taking out when I feel it needs doing (even though, like both of them, I would rather not) rather than become someone who stays on their backs all the time. Particularly as regards the second roommate, who will often notice I’ve done it and guiltily say he would have if I’d asked/later. Well, I didn’t want to wait until later, and I can’t imagine anyone really wants to be reminded fifty-plus times to do housework their obsessive roommate wishes were already done. I’ve even reached the point where I am not resentful of this, and legitimately mean it when I say “I thought it needed doing so I did it, it’s not a big deal.” What it came down to was whether I wanted the trash out or whether I wanted to be angry about the trash not being out. I have to think it’s better for my mental health, and certainly better for house harmony.
It isn’t related to the LW’s original question, but it does feel related to your quest to be a more considerate spouse.
Replying to cruelmistress, having reached the end of threading:
You are wise and have good advice. I like the idea of delegating household chores based on who has a lower threshold of tolerance for which not-yet-done chores. In fact, you have just inspired me to propose something to my husband; there’s a pair of related chores we’ve been doing exactly backwards, by that rubric. He’s always telling me the recyclables are past due, and I’m always telling him when the trash is overflowing. Maybe we should switch those assignments…
Of course, the failure mode for that is if only one person is noticing that ANYTHING needs doing, and that person has to choose between doing ALL the things or having to expend almost as much effort in making sure that the other person does/people do their share. But in a healthy cohabitation situation that’s something that can hopefully be addressed.
“Of course, the failure mode for that is if only one person is noticing that ANYTHING needs doing, and that person has to choose between doing ALL the things or having to expend almost as much effort in making sure that the other person does/people do their share.”
You mean, my former marriage?
Yup. When I catch myself doing this to my wife (not even a man!) about housework stuff, I ask myself whether or not it is REALLY important that this thing be done my way. I think that ONE TIME the answer was yes, and my solution was to say, “Honey, I’m ridiculously picky about this thing. To make it easier on both of us, how about we make that my job?”
I have done this to my DH and it worked out perfectly. In my case, how I fold laundry. He now knows he can fold HIS clothes and just leave mine for me to fold at my leisure and weird way.
I follow a simple rule: If I’m not doing myself, don’t complain. I mean, someone cooks for you, you should be grateful and enjoy it. Not only that, but think about how lucky you are that someone ir cooking for you. That aplies to almost everything, chores, planing vacations, searching information… Anything that implies some effort. So, you don’t like how its done? Then do it yourself. That way it will be done your way. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your share. If there’s vacation planing it’s much nicer doing it together. But if someone takes the effort of doing something for you, why complain?
So maybe, if he do that things for a while, he’ll realice that he should just value what you do.
This reminds me of when I did the inverse: my husband and I take turns cooking, and I used to cook on the one night a week we went to a potluck. I generally made us five minutes late and my husband could. not. stand that. After the 20th argument/exchange of angry looks about it, I said, “There is nothing in this situation that makes me want to continue to cook on potluck night. It’s all yours.” He was surprisingly happy about this, and now we don’t have those fights.
It’s laundry for me, too; he folds shirts in such a way that I can’t see the graphic on the front when they’re in the drawer, and it bugs me. So as much as I like that he’s willing to fold my laundry, we both know that I’m happier if he just lets my shirts alone.
You are awesome for catching this thing and learning to master it, and I just wanted to tell you so. I am no longer with the one person in my life I have loved the most, because she could not stop trying to control everything (especially me), to the point of literally leaving me at a gas station in the middle of the night in a city I didn’t know, and driving away without me, because she was so furious that I had… insisted on stopping and asking directions when we’d been driving around lost for 45 minutes at midnight. This was important enough to her to warrant abandoning her partner without my luggage, my medicine (without which I would be nonfunctional within 9 hours) or my phone, in an unknown location, and driving away.
I want to reiterate, for the LW, the Captain’s comment that it is an *excellent* way to kill both someone’s sense of self and their love for the ‘splainer (of whatever gender). I have a self that is fortunately tough as hell and didn’t die, but for her to succeed in killing my love for her was a task I never thought was possible, until she managed it.
I don’t think that was her intention, but it’s the result she ended up with.
Can I ask how you got yourself out of that situation? I’m now extremely worried about past-you.
I mean, clearly you are posting things to the internet, and not still phoneless and lost at a gas station, but… wow, I’m sorry this happened to you, it sounds like an awful experience.
If you are uncomfortable with answering, and then I guess I will just try to imagine that a herd of unicorns showed up and offered you a lift home via Narnia.
Holy crap. Honestly, it sounds to me like the biggest problem with your ex is not them ‘splaining at you, but them believing that putting you in a potentially dangerous situation was an acceptable way to end an argument (regardless of the subject). That is several levels above ‘splaining on the Bees-O-Meter, in my book. *Jedi hugs*.
my one exception to the rule above is things relating to childcare and actual undesirable outcome. Specifically, a dirty diaper should be changed in less time than it takes for the baby to develop actual sores (which is a very short time since she has delicate skin even for a baby – less than 15 minutes). It’s also tricky since she doesn’t always cry, so one needs to regularly inspect the state of the diaper. I think it’s reasonable to expect your co-parent to do things your way when the other way results in unnecessary pain for a dependant child.
There’s a difference between genuine health and safety, and personal preference irrelevant to the other person. Presumably both parents agreed that child needs to be changed promptly. If they don’t, there is a different problem. But it makes no whit of difference if Parent A likes to put the mat on the table, and B on the floor, if A does these poppers up first, but B does those up first. What’s important is identifying clearly what is a genuinely important issue, and what is a preference, and not collating the two. Where women are on maternity leave and men aren’t, it can be easy for mothers to fall into an ‘expert’ role in relation to children. Sometimes this is because the father is taking advantage of the women’s expertise and doing the learned helplessness thing, “Oh, you are so much better at changing nappies than I am, you do it”. But I’ve also seen the converse, where the father very much wants to take a full share of the hands-on childcare and gets rebuffed because he’s Doing It Wrong, i.e. like the mother did when she was slightly less practiced, or just slightly differently, and with no actual disadvantage to the child. This is one of many reasons that paid paternity (or second parent) leave immediately after the birth is great, because it allows both parents to learn together and to know that they can trust the other.
Yep, this is the way I finally decided to approach things. When my husband is doing things “wrong” in a way that puts one or both of us in the way of serious harm, I speak up.
So, yes, I did show him that the right way to fish anything out of the garbage disposal is not plunging his hands into the maw of the beast, but if he wants to take 10 minutes instead of two dicing a vegetable, I leave him to it.
This is a good way of thinking about it I think. You can be particular, but try not to subject other people to it. An ex and I had two tubes of the same toothpaste bc they were particular about how the tube got squeezed and I didn’t feel like conforming to that. Sometimes the solution can be, “I’m particular, just leave my mugs and I’ll wash them.” (as long as you do eventually wash them ofc)
If your issue isn’t that you’re particular about the toothpaste tube but that it bugs you to watch your partner do something a certain way that you feel is wrong or inefficient, then that might signify a wider problem.
However, see the corollary to that, which is one partner doing such a sloppy-ass job of cleaning that other partner ends up taking it all over, which is what first partner was after all along.
The corollary to that needs a different conversation – “We need to talk about how we divide up cleaning tasks and agree, together, on what clean means.”
Indeed. I was in a situation for a long time with a dude who would (probably deliberately) do a bad job in order to not have to do it anymore – and I mean “ruining my clothes by incorrect washing” wrong. Like, now it has to be thrown away ruined because it no longer fits or is stained all over or something.
Accidentally hit post! Argh!
Anyway, I was going to say, the problem wasn’t really the technique. It was dudes unwillingness to actually contribute in a useful way, and also the possible deliberate sabotage thing, which was a whole other conversation.
This is so important. My partner likes cleaning dirty things– taking them from dirty to “clean.” Her clean is not my clean, so my job is doing the second pass and the organizing. It works for us, but it definitely took a while– and some trial and error– to figure out.
Ah yes, the Andy Capp technique. (4-panel comic. Panel 1: Andy volunteers to do the dishes after dinner. Panel 2: Andy deliberately drops a cup on the floor to shatter. Panel 3: Flo runs shrieking into the kitchen saying “If there’s any more cleaning up to be done around here I’LL do it!” Panel 4: Andy smirks at the viewer “You don’t have to lift a finger if you can prove you’re all thumbs.”)
My father did that with laundry, repeatedly, with bonus “But I was only trying to HELP you! Why won’t you let me HELP you?” afterwards. And because of course he didn’t want to ruin his OWN stuff, and he wouldn’t have dared to damage my mother’s, that meant it was MY stuff that got ruined. Yes, there were some badly fucked-up dynamics in our house.
Especially regarding cleaning, there is also the acceptable-level-of-dirtiness problem. Unless that is adressed straight on, the partner who has a lower acceptable level of dirtiness will do almost all of the cleaning, because the other partner genuinely does not feel cleaning is necessary yet.
And yes, I’ve been on both sides of that. With the same partner, to boot.
I was that sort of Darth Vader girlfriend. I went to the Light Side and now I’m much happier knowing Things Get Done, even if they’re not Done the Way I Would Do Them.
Let me just say: it’s a beautiful thing when my Housework Perfectionist mother and my Armchair Art Director husband get together and start nitpicking each other’s tchotchke arrangements. Like, pop some popcorn and put on your helmet beautiful.
To this day, I can’t stand to do cooking or cleaning or anything remotely chore-like if I have any kind of audience, due to the way my mom used to (and still does) pick pick pick at me for not doing it “the right way”.
Yeah, that was my mother’s go-to for critics: “Oh! You’re volunteering to do this cooking/cleaning/other task? Cool! Here ya go!” Very effective. 🙂
Also: individual repeatedly does things badly so someone else will step in and fix it.
Not only men but so often gendered. A man will stuff up the washing but manage to change the car tire. And the reverse…
Yep. My boyfriend tried that with folding clothes:
Him: Zillah, I don’t understand! I don’t know how to fold your clothes! They’re so confusing!
Me: Oh? How so? You have pants and shirts and sweaters, too.
Him: But but leggings! What do I even do with these? And some of your shirts are so thin and lightweight! They won’t fold right! And how am I supposed to fold tank tops? Or skirts?
Me: Fold the leggings like pants. Fold the tank tops and thin shirts like shirts. Fold the skirts like shorts.
Him: But this is all so confusing.
Me: You’re a smart guy. You’ll figure it out.
(He did indeed figure it out, but later admitted that he had been trying the “If I do this badly I won’t have to do it anymore.”)
MY EX-HUSBAND DID THIS AND IT WAS SO UPSETTING.
Well, he did this in addition to “I can’t do chores because can’t you see that my life is so hard???” But I was working 12-hour days at a job I hated and found dehumanizing while Darth Ex didn’t work at all (and spent all my money). I don’t think it’s unreasonable, if one person is doing All The Job That Brings In Money, for the other person to do almost 100% of the household chores. I haaaaate doing laundry even now, so I don’t do it if I can avoid it. My ex specifically would not do laundry because my weird lady cloths are so confusing and how can he possibly learn how to clean my baffling, unbelievably confusing laundry? And I was like ??? You do it like regular laundry, except you hang my delicate undies up to dry? Because girl clothes are laundered the same way as human clothes?
Then of course my second abuser mansplained everything and offered incredibly unhelpful life advice. I was like, boyfriend, I realize you have been to college and I have not, but I’m not actually interested in you micromanaging my decisions? And several years later, I’m happy at my undergrad. Also, I was not interested in his opinion of how I should handle my coworkers, who always hit on me and sometimes tacitly threatened to rape me. Especially since his opinion of how I should handle it was basically “How dare you talk to other men, you evil untrustworthy slut!”
YIKES. That’s terrible, and I’m so glad he’s an ex. Jedi hugs! (I can safely say that my boyfriend doesn’t do any of that – just chore nonsense, though these days he does usually respond to raised eyebrows and a “Are you being serious right now?”)
To be fair, I cannot change a tire because I do not have the muscle mass or weight to crack the nuts to get the darn thing off. I feel like something of a human failure for not being able to do this thing. Still, AAA.
I can change a tire, and have, but I have AAA for Reasons and one of those reasons is so I don’t have to change a tire. They’re better and faster at it, and I’m paying for the service whether I use it or not, so I may as well use it.
Side-tracked on your tire comment. I’m not strong enough either, so here’s my helpful hint. Before jacking your tire up take the tire iron, put it on the nut with the bar either horizontal or tilting a little bit downward. Put your foot onto the bar and let the strength of your leg and gravity help crack the nut. Once all the nuts are cracked and maybe loosened a bit more, then jack up the car. I guarantee it will be so much easier for you.
I know a lot of people here don’t like Fly Lady, but I did find her advice that, “Housework done ‘incorrectly’ still blesses your family. And honestly, if LW is cool with how long it takes to chop onions, and LW’s cooking is tasty enough for 90% of the cooking, I don’t think it’s hurting anything.
Maybe in husband’s family, “advice” and attention is how they show they care (or turning their back and letting people do things as they wish is a sign of “Fine, you’re hopeless and I’ve given up,”/ “You are the maid and beneath notice/ speech,”), in which case, the script might be, “I love that you’re showing you care. How about showing it in ways that make me feel loved instead of annoyed, like [x]? That would be way more efficient.”
Whoops, I meant, “I did find her advice of ‘housework done “incorrectly” still blesses your family.” Sorry— might be time for morning coffee…
I. FOUND. HER. ADVICE. FREEING. Grr! Should have had that coffee BEFORE I posted the correction. Mod(s), kindly delete the above bird plop on your advice column!
That’s perceptive; I’ve had similar discussions with my father. Sometimes commenting on onions is just a conversational gambit, or an excuse to share the kitchen instead of abandoning food prep to others. For us, the conversations are most often about grilling.
Yes and no. There can be boundary issues and health/safety issues.
When I was 29 years old my mother came to visit. I cleaned the place thoroughly before her arrival (no small task while my right arm was in a cast) and yet when she and I were in different rooms she would start “helping” with housework. Within two days the sponge that scrubbed my dishes got used on the floor, the broom that was specifically for the kitchen got used at the cat box, and then a specialty cleanser for my best frying pans got used up on the bathtub. All of these mistakes were costing me money that I could scarcely afford on a graduate student budget. She of course offered to help replace none of it.
After each incident I asked her to please consult with me in advance–at least find out what’s used for what. Tried different ways of broaching the subject, such as “When I’m under your roof I’ll respect your way of cleaning things; while you’re here please respect mine,” and “The orthopedist says I can’t legally drive until this cast comes off so replacing cleaning gear is a real hardship.”
After the third request a very strange incident followed: I was in the shower and suddenly I heard her shrieking. Turning off the water, I call out, “What’s wrong?” No reply, just more shrieking…loud enough for any neighbors to hear. Many years before she had shrieked the same way after she had dropped a kitchen knife on her foot, which severed a major artery and needed treatment at an emergency room. So I wrap myself in a towel and bathrobe wondering whether to call an ambulance and walk into the living room to find her, unharmed, standing with my vacuum cleaner in hand. She had taken out the dust collection compartment and dumped its entire contents onto the center of my carpet.
While I stand there, puddle gathering at my feet, she starts to shout that my vacuum cleaner doesn’t work. She expects an immediate tutorial on its operation.
Gritting my teeth to keep a civil tone I reply, “I am taking a shower. You have been asked to refrain from cleaning my apartment while I am unavailable. I am returning to that shower now.”
The health issue there was I had a serious dust allergy that required prescription medicine, and she knew it. The campus counselor I was seeing to cope with the injury–that cast on the right arm was post-surgical, with pins in the wrist, and it was an effort to continue pursuing a writing MFA–the counselor sat up in her chair when I related the shower/vacuum incident and replied in a worried expression, “That’s not normal behavior.”
I wish it were possible to call that a blessing upon the family, There are contexts where it can be quite the opposite. That ended up being the last time she visited. She lost her welcome due to other mistakes that endangered my safety in more serious ways.
Wow, any of those incidents would have driven me mad (but I’m also familiar with the feel of “my parent is doing shit right now, I don’t know how to make them stop”).
May I ask who Fly Lady is or is that opening a can of worms?
It’s a system, like Unf*ck Your Habitat or HabitRPG, for housekeeping for those who were not “born organized”— i.e. those who would otherwise be housekeeping health hazards like me. Some people find her infantilizing, too southern, making too many assumptions as to the root cause of the mess, too marketing-oriented, or too many overt Christian overtones. She also likes people to wear shoes. I find her helpful, some people don’t.
Anyhow, Google works.
My dad is doing this to me about household stuff. I may ask him the question, because being lectured every time I do dishes about how I’m not doing it “right” is quickly turning me off doing anything housework-like.
It is certainly a behavior both genders can engage in; my wife and I are both prone to it. But it is unquestionably a thing men are more likely to do to women, particularly when they don’t have any reason to know diddly shit more about the task at hand than the person doing it. I have no question that LW’s husband’s profession plays into it as well; my training has a lot to do with process and I’m inclined to think about those things.
The trick, of course, is letting myself think about them without making things my business. When it comes to things that are my wife’s domain – either because they’re her things or tasks she tends to take responsibility for in the house – I try to be very careful to converse, not tell. “Ever think about trying to XYZ?” is a lot more palatable than making a statement that XYZ is just better. And if it’s something I never do – why does it have to be done better?
Since my wife and I know we do this to each other we also feel free to just say “you want to do this?” and usually the answer is “no.” Being up-front about telling each other to back off goes a long way. The place this has an issue with mansplaining is that my ilk sometimes have a real problem with not listening when being told to back off. It’s not our job – no matter how much society or our upbringing may have tried to convince us of it – to Fix Everything.
THOUGH, I would caution people reading this comment to carefully investigate their own dynamic before even offering conversational advice. I suspect many women (such as myself) are incredibly sensitive to being undermined constantly doing basic tasks. I would suggest asking the following questions of oneself before even suggesting that your partner/close friend change the way they are doing something:
1. What is the benefit of my suggestion?
2. Why do I think this is important to share with the other person?
3. Is there a health hazard involved?
4. Does this person seem tired, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable?
Be as honest as you can about #2. The best answers, in my experience, are “this person seems very frustrated with this task, and I think this might help ease the frustration!” or “this is a cool trick and I think it is neat-o!” The worst answers have to do with you thinking you are smarter than the other person.
I include #3 because I have been in situations where I was possibly contaminating food and/or going to slice my hand with a sharp implement, but be conservative in your estimate of what constitutes a health hazard.
#4 is fucking KEY. Do not offer unsolicited advice to someone who is already feeling shit unless there is imminent danger of dismemberment.
I would agree with this. There have absolutely been times when I had to say things to a loved one like “you have to put water in the pot to make spaghetti” or “when the computer smells like burning, something is deeply wrong” (where if I didn’t speak up, there was going to be no spaghetti for dinner, or a dead computer sitting on my desk).
There’s also been times when someone was clearly struggling with something and I wanted to make their lives easier (I’m helpful! This is, uh, kind of a personality flaw of mine, sometimes). What phrasing would Awkardeers recommend here? I’ve seen all kinds of phrases go disastrously wrong in this scenario.
For the last question, what about asking “Can I help you with this?” or “Do you need any help?” and then, if they say no, walking away unless imminent danger is suspected. I’m one of those people who is very sensitive to unasked for tips about chores/daily tasks and will be stubborn about NOT using them just to prove a point. It’s childish, I know! I’m working on it. At least if you ask the person who is struggling then you give them the chance to decline your offer. Often when I’m struggling with something and someone asks me if I need any help before straight up offering it then I will say, “Yes. I just really can’t figure this out.” but if they swoop by and go, “By the way here’s a fun tip on how to do everything better!!” I will see red, even if they have the absolute best of intentions.
I participate in a sport where regularly offering advice to other participants is a very tricky subject, and which deals a lot with male-to-female advice giving (solely because there’s a 5:1 male-female ratio in this sport & the way it’s set up involves you doing something while other people sit and watch) and my Friends From Said Sport and I have had so many conversations about how it’s completely fine to ASK if advice is welcome, but how we are not interested in receiving it unsolicited. I try to take the advice giving rules from that sport and apply them to my home life. Always ask first, because you never know if someone is warming up, or if they want to puzzle it out alone.
“Often when I’m struggling with something and someone asks me if I need any help before straight up offering it then I will say, “Yes. I just really can’t figure this out.” but if they swoop by and go, “By the way here’s a fun tip on how to do everything better!!” I will see red, even if they have the absolute best of intentions.”
I completely agree, and I just wanted to add another scenario: There are times when someone is struggling with something and wants to continue struggling in order to learn it for themselves. Even if they are “objectively” terribly failing at a task, sometimes they still might not want your help!
“May I help?” can, if used judiciously and not that often, provide an opening for suggestions if you think someone is struggling. It helps if your demeanour suggests that you’re quite open to being told “no” and will move on if so; staying a bit distant can be useful with this. For some of your other scenarios, if it’s something they seem to have overlooked but you have noticed, quickly drawing their attention to it (with an implication that of course they just overlooked it and are otherwise competent) can get good results. Limit the attention-drawing to things that are critical, stop short of telling them what to do if possible, and then step away to let them do the rest rather than turning it into instructions. The more “in passing” and less ceremonial you can manage to be, the less threatening to their autonomy it is likely to seem.
Just tell them there’s no water in the pan. They can do the rest. It can be really annoying if forgetting one little (or even not-so-little) thing turns into being treated like you’re incompetent or that you need to have basic conclusions drawn or what-is-important emphasized to you.
Further to my previous comment: one thing I often do, if I’m providing what I think is helpful advice, is not stick around or check up to see if my advice was taken. I had an idea, I made the suggestion, but ultimately it’s not my task or issue and it’s neither my decision to make nor my place to judge whether or not they take it. So I act accordingly.
I find it a whole lot more irritating to have an unwanted “supervisor” than an unasked for suggestion. The former has expectation and judgement going along with it, that this person is going to decide if you’re doing something right or will be offended if you don’t do what they have decided is best. A casual suggestion, expressed in a way that leaves it up to me whether I take or leave it, is easier to take. It’s also easier to see for myself if it really is better, because I’m being allowed to think about it and make that decision myself so I can engage with it that way.
If it’s really better, I should be able to decide that myself too, but I won’t be able to if I’m being pushed.
The first two reminded me of a recent run-in with a friend who was cooking us breakfast: he had put the pan on the (lit, gas) stove without putting so much as a spoon of oil or a slice of butter in the bottom. I asked him, honestly, “Isn’t it good practice to put something *in* the pan while it’s over a flame?” because a) he’s good at picking stuff up on his own, but “how not to burn pans” is not a fun thing to learn by trial and error, b) I was somewhere between 80%-90% sure that property damage would ensue in this case, and c) it wasn’t his pan, and Pan Owner would have been very miffed had he ruined her pan!
To address your question, I’m thinking now that the the question-to-which-I-knew-the-answer-to was not the best phrasing, but I made sure I didn’t sound at all accusing – and it worked in this case, because he could honestly say, “You know, I don’t know, but that sounds like a good idea.” (And I knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t take offence to a suggestion like that 🙂 )
Oooh, Paulina, that point about not waiting around to see if your advice is taken is GOLD.
@solevioletrose, you mentioned the phrasing so I have to concur – I am not a fan of the “it is known, khaleesi” style of giving advice. Especially if it’s not actually known, i.e. wropng (it’s not generally risky to heat up an empty pan unless you touch it, and is actually necessary for certain things like searing). If I had been your friend in that situation I very much would have wanted you to leave my kitchen. 🙂 But in your interaction, it sounds like you were being generally thoughtful, rather than reflexively optimizing, and open to rethinking the entire situation which I think it a good way to be since none of us will ever hit the advice giving mark 100% of the time.
Personally I struggle with Jane’s #3 (health hazard/real damage). My ex had been a chef and as you can imagine, was particularly hyper about kitchen safety. Unfortunately for him, the fact that is was about SAFETY! made him feel like he was licensed to be a lot more obnoxious than was actually okay. Story time: one of his particular bugaboos was using a sharp knife on a plate or other non-flat surface – I guess it increases the chance you’ll cut yourself because physics. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if he had just told people about this, but he would harp on it to friends and roommates incessantly. If you called him on it he would say he didn’t want to see someone get hurt! This culminated in a situation I didn’t witness where he yelled at one of my roommates and she was understandably really uncomfortable and probably scared.
I think with particular topics we feel strongly about, or know a lot about, we can unconsciously set our “health and safety” bar for advice giving a little too low – he needed to knock it off on the knife thing unless someone was about to stab him.
“I am not a fan of the “it is known, khaleesi” style of giving advice.”
I just started watching Game of Thrones and I so love this. 🙂
@Muddie Mae — I include the health hazard thing partially because of my personal idiosyncrasies. I have a very high tolerance level for certain types of discomfort/dirt/risk that I don’t feel is reasonable to subject other people to. I also usually don’t have a good intuition for what might register as dangerous or dirty to other people, so I personally tend to be more forgiving of unsolicited advice that concerns those topics. (Though, I think I also tend to not be close friends with people who are really really super-duper worried about germs and/or tidiness.)
All the members of my household (self, spouse, and teenage daughter) have this trait.
One time I sort of took the dishwasher apart — I suspected the filter was clogged! and I turned out to be right! — but then I couldn’t make the pieces go back together. And it was hilarious to watch each of us take a turn trying to put it together while the other two stood just out of sight, dancing with impatience for it to be our turn to give it a try. (Spoiler: the kid was the only one who succeeded.)
I’ve learned to tune my answer to the visible frustration of the person who’s struggling. “Need help?” is good for a person who’s obviously annoyed (and you have to be ready for the answer to be, “Yes! You do it!”); for a person who’s still in a pretty good mood, I’ll sometimes offer, “Want to know a trick?” or “Want to know the One True McDaniel Way of doing that?” but it’s important to be able to take no for an answer!
@ Jane, sorry, my comment may not have been worded clearly: I wasn’t trying to say I struggle with your inclusion of #3 – I think it’s an important thing to consider. I just personally struggle with finding the correct level of health and safety. So, with the unheated pan, I might have not said anything because a pan is replaceable.
The more or less standard phrasing in my house — when you genuinely think something is gonna cause a major issue in a minute, not just for But You Could Do It Better — is something like “Uh, it looks like the gas is on under that empty pot. Is that a plan?”
Then one can respond “Oops, got the wrong burner, thanks!” or “YES IT IS MY GENIUS PLAN to make spaghetti without any water, uh, one sec and I’ll fix that, thanks” or “Yep, that’s on purpose!”
But, of course, the fact that we’re all on the same page about this, and use it sparingly and with genuine respect for the fact that a) it might be deliberate and b) we’re all competent adults who occasionally get tired and have a brain fart, is what makes it work. In another household it might be deeply annoying instead.
Replying/agreeing with Beth B – one of most-used phrases in my household is “Is the oven on for a reason?”. I’m considering embroidering it on a sampler. It’s nice because it assumes that of course the oven is on for a reason! And if it isn’t its a gentle reminder to turn it off. 3/4 adults in the house have ADHD so rejection-sensitivity and forgetfulness are just things that happen and always will.
“Is [Thing Happening] for a reason?” Is often the way I put it as well.
Phrase it like you’re trying to be helpful, not right. If someone is doing a task that I’ve done a whole bunch of times and figured out a system for, I might say, “Hey, here’s the thing I do to make this go really fast,” or, “Here’s the trick I figured out to make this less of a pain” (or, better, phrase those as questions: “Do you want me to show you the trick I figured out for this?”), and then walk away and let them decide whether to take the advice, understanding that they might come up with a completely different, just as efficient system. Really, I think it’s less about phrasing and more about your attitude as the advice-giver, as well as the other person’s willingness to take your contribution in the vein it was intended.
If you can resist the urge to call it “One Weird Trick” then I am impressed by your willpower.
Ran out of nesting
“Is thing [on|open|etc] for a reason?”
drives me up a tree. I loathe it. It has never sounded helpful (to me). I’m sure that’s bc the people who’ve said it to me were criticizing not helping. But even so, warning.
It can sound nasty.
What do you think would be a better way to phrase it?
That’s hard. Maybe, before jumping in with any input, have a talk with the SO to find out what’s acceptable to them.
For some people that wording might be fine. For others, “when you have a minute, I’d like to tell you about a trick I found for [whatever]”.
Because that wording acknowledges that this whole thing is because youthink your knowlwdge might help, but you know that they’re competent and busy right now.
In my case, Don’t. Just Don’t. I basically don’t want your well meant advice when I’m in the middle of something. There is a reason the oven is on, the pan is heating, the window is open or whatever.
(Unless there’s actual danger involved that’s greater than than the danger of interrupting me and I might cut myself or something and also much more likely.
Mind you, in that case the correct action in something like shouting “Fire!”)
So if you haven’t already determined among yourselves what would be a welcome interruption, don’t interrupt for anything other than danger
IMO, I would prefer “Do you know the oven is on?” to “Is the oven on for a reason?” But the key in both questions is intonation, because both of them can be quite nasty questions if they aren’t asked as neutrally as possible.
I teach third graders (8-9 years old), and the biggest, most important rule I have in my classroom is the THINK rule: before you say something, ask yourself:
– is it True?
– is it Helpful?
– is it Important?
– is it Necessary?
– is it Kind?
I’ve met plenty of adults who could benefit from using this rule a little more in their everyday lives. Maybe there is an ideal way to put away the rice cooker, but bringing it up isn’t important or necessary, and when it’s part of a pattern of nitpicking the way someone functions, it isn’t kind, either.
Careful, though. If you’re introduced to this rule too young when you’re a little TOO introspective, you may never speak again. I have ended up losing several thousand dollars to three different roommates, because, “Hey, remember how we agreed that you would pay a share of the rent on the first of the month? It’s the first of the month and I would like you to pay your share of the rent,” was not Kind, Necessary (because I COULD pay the rent, I just would have to subsist on cornflakes that month), Helpful, or Important (to the roommates, or they would have paid without asking). As long as I’m frothing at the mouth? Y-O-U— first think of Yahweh, then Others, then Yourself can be problematic for women raised as such. We will pretty much run and get a soda for our row-mates before we put the oxygen mask on ourselves, and thus make a much bigger nuisance for everyone on the plane, metaphorically speaking.
Rant off, and this may not be a problem for ANYONE else but me.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I did blog about WHYYYYYYY don’t people SHAAAARE the RENNNNNNT and can anyone HELLLLLP? Because for being “nice”, I was kind of a bitch. Sorry about that, those who surrounded Past Me.
@The Awe Ritual: That sounds like more of a problem with self-esteem than with the rule itself, though. I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s ever had a problem with it, but it surprises me that you would interpret it as saying you need to completely ignore your own needs and never reinforce any boundaries. I make it clear to my students that my goal is for everyone to have a positive experience and learn a lot. This means that you need to be aware of how your words and actions are affecting others (which is where the THINK rule comes in), but also advocate for yourself and ask for help when you need it. It’s not an Other People Are Always More Important thing, it’s a Other People Exist And May Not Always Want The Same Things You Do thing.
Run out of nest, but THANK YOU for making that clear to your students, Jessalae.
And since complete dissolution of Self and putting others first is a mission statement in at least two major religions, I’m frankly surprised we don’t see it more often. Big theme in Christian mommy bloggers, though.
The version I heard (the version I wish I had heard when I was in third grade) was that anything you say should meet at least two of the following three criteria: true, kind, necessary.
(Regarding The Awe Ritual’s issue with her roommates, I would classify reminding someone to pay their debts as true and necessary, even if unkind.)
Don’t forget HUNGRY as a possible factor in #4.
My mother and I are much more prone to lost tempers when hungry, and the last ten minutes before dinner is a really bad time to discuss how best to use the microwave.
Also, and mostly unrelated, if the group/family is larger than two, be very careful about putting your two cents in and ganging up on someone. Especially the someone who is cooking dinner for everyone’s benefit.
Hangry (rhymes with angry). I get that, too.
Back when I was learning to drive, they taught us HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely Tired – as a way to remember some of the lesser known things that impair driving. They are also bad times to have conversations about how you need to stack the dishes in the drainer east to west, not north to south.
Eh, I’m not sure starting your suggestion with “Ever think about…” is a panacea here. My husband does this, and it’s actually suuuuuuper grating to me, because I know what he means is some combination of “why aren’t you doing it my way when my way is better?/please stop doing Thing your way and please start doing it my way.” It’s good that it works for you and your dynamic, but I think I like carbiner’s suggestion about starting by asking if the person wants help first better as a universally-applicable recommendation.
I agree. It sounds like “You are Doing The Thing All Wrong and must be Shown The Light by me,” when I’ve had someone say it to me. My toes curl with aggravation and the urge to snarl.
Concurred. It makes me want to respond with “Why no, I have spent over a decade as a functional adult who worries about how she does things but I have NEVER EVER thought of doing something in that way you suggested and my decision to do it in a known way rather than a new way right now has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that I am tired and stressed and really not interested in devoting brainpower to learning new techniques right now because I just cannot summon up the energy to process something new ON TOP OF cooking/cleaning/trying to get everything done quickly enough that I will actually get a chance to get to carve out twenty minutes before sleeping and getting up for work in the morning, just twenty minutes when I do not have to take care of ALL THE THINGS before I go and deal with the pets and the listening and the laundry-folding and emails and the…
…I might have some things to unpack, here.
I’m very sorry.
I’ll go peel my shoulders down from around my ears, now.
That said, I am strongly reminded of the rule of thumb that the answer to any serious question beginning with “Does anybody else…” is yes. Does anybody else think this way, love this book, cry about the apparently happy movie, secretly love pickles on pizza? Yes. Somewhere, someone does.
It is true that an individual might not have ever thought of Thing X, because an individual is a smaller group than anybody else. But I suspect phrasing the question as “Have I ever shown you” rather than “Have you ever thought of” might come across more gently? Because the thing called into question there is your own actions, not the thinking processes of the person you are speaking to.
Yes. Exactly. I’d much prefer no interruption.
I think that it has been identified here this way not because it is a Man Thing, but that men get away with this kind of behavior much more often than women and it is more socially accepted with them since the general assumption is “men = logical, women = irrational nervous wrecks who can only benefit from a Mans Guiadance”.
See also: man = “helping” / woman = “nagging”
It’s the kind of thing I would immediately label mansplaining if a male stranger or co-worker did it. When it’s someone I know very well, it’s “X’s optimizing personality.”
I have seen people use ‘condesplaining’ as a gender-neutral term for this. 😉
Mel, that word made me hiss through my teeth, it’s so spot on!
Condesplaining is a word I need in my vocab, I know so many people who do it!
Thank you! the sexist term mansplaining has always vexed me. I’m also pleased that the first comment pointed out that hubby’s conduct in this post is also shared by many a house-proud woman.
I don’t disagree with the thrust of the reply but when I got to the point where LW claimed to be an expert on onion chopping because she does so much of it, my reaction was “only if you’re actively trying out and comparing different ways of doing it”. If she always chops them the same way then maybe it really is an inefficient way. Like, are they sitting down to dinner at 10pm because it takes her creative right brain so long to actually assemble the dinner? I’ve been cooking for myself for years but I _know_ I’m not an expert in chopping.
photondancer: Don’t matter if she’s a master chef or a sub-adequate cook. She’s the one doing the cooking, and his problem apparently isn’t “honey, we need to eat before midnight, please chop the onions faster than a sloth”, so it’s safe to assume that she’s expert enough.
Also, I’ve rarely seen someone be so sub-adequate at cooking that they take three hours to cook a one-hour meal, and also they’re in charge of dinner for the household.
The OP didn’t say they were an expert onion chopper. They said that since they do 90% of the cooking in that relationship, IF either party is an expert onion chopper, it is they NOT the mansplaining mansplainer who is mansplaining onion chopping at them.
Mel, I love “condesplaining” as a term as much as I hate the practice.
Photondancer (since we’ve run out of nest), if that were really the problem, they’d buy pre-chopped onions, which are slightly more expensive but eliminate the waste of having half an onion left over (I’m told they’re a salmonella risk for storage and the proverb is “a cut onion left over will bring tears into the house.”
@photondancer (nesting limit reached, so I can’t reply directly)
I think we should trust the LW to have optimised *her* onion chopping skills or, if she feels them lacking, to experiment in her own time. There isn’t a universally ‘best’ method that works for everybody for so many things, and as long as nobody gets hurt, it’s OK.
Human beings make complex calculations all of the time. ‘Efficiency’ is a mixture of speed, wastage, how comfortable you are doing something, what the danger of discomfort or injury is, how it fits into your workflow…
I will not save time chopping onions, to keep picking on this example, if I change to a method that increases the risk of cutting myself. And I don’t care that I might get onions chopped faster 19 times when the twentieth time I have to stop, get a plaster, throw away the onion I bled over, and find someone who can wash the utensils and chop a new onion. Saving a few seconds the rest of the time just isn’t worth that.
Oooh I too like the term “condesplaining”. It’s a bit like being “helpy” but with added patronising.
@The Awe Ritual, cut onions are perfectly safe to keep (stored in the fridge) and use another day. Here’s snopes on onions and salmonella: http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/cutonions.asp
photondancer, ‘Splaining isn’t actually only about the individual person who ‘splains. Just like sexist comments aren’t about just the individual commenter. It is about the context of the splaining.
The mansplaining part is because men who engage in such practices live in a society that treats their ‘splaining tendencies towards women as correct or at least acceptable.
Are individual women bossy know it alls? Yes. Do they live in a society that rewards them a lot of the time for such bossing, such that they don’t see they are getting close to the line? Not so much.
An individual obnoxious splainer of any gender is one person. But it’s the context- and privilege- that makes what happens when men do it v women that makes the issues different.
It’s not sexist to take that dynamic into account.
Also, I can imagine many, many women spend much of the day at work handling micro-aggressive bossing that they don’t need in a way most men don’t. Having it happen to you in your own home from someone who is supposed to be on Team You is a lot when that’s been your day.
Ohhhhhh, yes! I live with someone who claims to be a feminist but gets all shirty when the issues come anywhere close to personal, and condesplain will be very helpful.
I know a woman condesplainer who is a teacher, and while society at large is not supporting her, the experience of being all day, every workday the one who is Right, and has the power to enforce it, is a compounding factor. (She is mostly particular about household stuff, including making a scene at me every time for not washing my small collection of white underwear separately – and “I don’t have enough white clothes” and “I don’t show my panties to the kind of asshole who only accepts neon white” are not acceptable defenses, in her book.)
How would you label it if a woman does it? Because in my (a man’s) experience, what you call “mansplaining” is a thing that is done to me by women.
I find it depends on the subject matter. I have met a lot of women who do this, often to a really extreme degree when it comes to how their partner approaches childcare, and it seems to be totally socially accepted. Normally the response is just sympathy that ‘yes, I know, aren’t dads so helpless at taking care of their child ‘right’, but it’s kind of cute to see him blunder around incompetently as long as it’s not anything really important like whether the baby needs to have his socks on or not.’
Childcare & housework are the two areas I’ve seen where it is (somewhat) socially acceptable for women to condesplain (I like that for when it is a women doing it to a man or another woman so much!) and it’s always a bad idea. If someone asks for help or this is an actual safety issue, that’s the time to have a discussion, but no condesplaining please!
I still love the mansplaining term because it captures the combination of condesplaining and the fact that the man is explaining from a position of privilege and expects to be listened to and assumes he’s right just because he is used to people deferring to him because he’s a dude. And there is often the unspoken assumption that the dude is the logical one and the woman is the emotional one, so he knows better by default because of that. There is a difference for sure, women rarely will try and condesplain about something they aren’t well versed in (or expected by society to know everything about ie parenting), I’ve seen men mansplain about stuff they know nothing about, nothing at all! It’s unreal 🙂
To the LW, I think you are handling this great, my husband still occasionally will pull this BS with me, but he often catches himself as he knows it’s not cool and that I’ll ask for advice if I want it. And I have to bite my tongue at times too, but I do. If either of us does forget and say something, the other is usually quick to say something like “Do you want to do this instead?” sort of our short hand for any of the great responses you’ve already come up with. I’d say the two of us can have an especially hard time of this as we both approach things very differently, both of us are very logical and analytical, but anything spacial or directional and even planning out a project we come at so, so differently. It’s extremely difficult for us to for example move a piece of furniture together or give each other directions (either in the car or directions to an item in a cupboard) or plan dinner together, Our brains just don’t process that stuff the same way or in the same order. So maybe see if there is some of that too. My husband and I will explain our thought processes to each other and it’s amazing how different they are and we joke (now, it didn’t used to really be a joke) that “Well that’s nice, but my way is right, obviously!”
I sometimes have to physically, like, dig my fingernails into the palm of my hand to not “correct” my husband when he does something not the way I would do it. Who cares if he puts laundry soap in the washer after he’s put in the clothes! The clothes are still combined with soap and water to become clean!
I think in a sitch where the female partner does 90% of the cooking and yet her husband still gives her unwanted advice about cooking technique, it’s fair enough to call out the gendered aspect of this behaviour. Also social/travel planning which often falls to women.
My opinion is that it could be a man or a woman doing the Mansplaining. This post reminded me of 1. My love for Hall & Oates, and 2. my ex-husband, because he was a great Mansplainer. I hope LW’s husband is open to changing this, because it could save them a lot of heartache.
It could be a man or a woman doing the micromanaging, but Mansplaining is a man doing this to a woman, regardless of their relative levels of knowledge or experience, simply because he MUST know more because he is a man.
I do this sometimes to my wife (though I try not to ! I’m much better than I used to be), and it’s not mansplaining, because we are both women. It’s just being a jerk. (
I think the difference is that women might be control freaks, but you’re a lot less likely to find a woman who always thinks she knows better about things that she never actually does. That, to me, is essential to for it to be mansplaining–that he has no objective claim to expertise, but assumes that his advice should be followed because he’s a man.
Not that women never do it, but IME that aspect of it is gendered.
For the onion chopping and food prep/kitchen appliance use in general, another explanation is “I’m doing this the way I’m used to doing it because that’s how I feel safe.” Learning a new way to cut vegetables can lead to mistakes, and a trip to the emergency room is going to take a lot longer than the few seconds a different method would save. (For example, I learned to cut vegetables with a full-fingerprint grip. To this day, every time I try to cat-paw cut the vegetables slip out of my fingers and go flying. I take longer to get the job done, I’ll never be a professional cook, but I get it done safely.)
A million times this. I was dating someone briefly, and had him over for dinner one night. He was watching me chop onions, and insisted on coming over to show me how to do it the “right” way. Supposedly for my safety. Even after I acknowledged that yes, I know, my knife technique is not the best. It’s the safest and most efficient way for me, though.
I get together with a friend occasionally to cook and stuff, and I’m a lot more experienced in the kitchen than she is, so I’ll occasionally show her alternate ways to do things. But if she goes back to “her way”, I don’t say anything. She’s the one with the knife (or whatever) after all.
Also, you know what seems like a safety issue in a lot of these stories? Distracting someone who is using a sharp tool near their fingers.
FWIW, I was a professional cook and baker in addition to other restaurant work for two decades and I cannot do the cat paw thing either. I feel much more secure with the fingertip grip, because my fingers have pads and nerves that my knuckles simply don’t. As in, I notice right away when I am about to slice into my thumb. Not so much when I shave off some knuckle!
Nor can I dice properly. It’s knife rocking on cutting board all the way, because that was how I learned and that is what gives me the best control.
There’s technique and then there’s what works for a given individual. If your preferred methods are safe and your food tastes good, who cares if you cat paw or crab claw your onions!
When someone tells me how better to do something while I am doing it, I immediately stop and ask them to do it. It’s remarkable how quickly people start to mind their own business once they know they will have to do more than criticize.
This technique is my favorite.
Bonus: it works equally well on bossy children…
I think my mom used this technique on my dad, before there was a me. As a result, my dad did all the cooking, and my sibs and I grew up liking the food he liked, thinking her comfort food was weird, and generally doubting her ability to cook lots of tasty foods. The technique is useful, but I grew up too close to a failure mode to want to actually use it.
everything else being equal, I’d gladly give up my (future) children’s opinion of me as a good cook if I could get rid of hours and hours and hours of work.
I had to learn to do this with my dad. He always wanted to assign me tasks, but then he wanted to tell me exactly how he wanted it done. I remember once him telling me to wash dishes with a cloth instead of a sponge, and also exactly which parts of a dress shirt to iron in which order. I told him I was happy to produce clean dishes and ironed shirts for him, but if he wanted it done a particular way, he’d have to do it himself. He got the clue. Unfortunately my ex husband never did. He was much more like the poster above, who noted that sometimes a partner will do a shitty job so that they can complain about being nagged/corrected and bail on the whole job.
I dated a man once whose mother had some very idiosyncratic folding techniques. I was folding laundry one day and he came in and said “you’re folding my underwear wrong, my mom does it like this” and grabbed a pair I’d folded and refolded it. Weirdly. I said “So here’s the deal. If you want your underwear folded like your mum did, you’re going to do it yourself. If you want me to fold them, I’m going to do it my way. I’m fine either way, but you need to tell me so I know to leave your underwear alone.”
He was actually pretty responsive to being told that, and in fact mostly folded his own underwear after that, because it legitimately did bother him not to have them look like how his mum did it.
Me, I wad mine up and throw them in a bin in my closet marked “Panties”, so I’m probably not the most sympathetic.
My eyebrows are in a weird position at “you’re folding my underwear wrong, my mom does it like this”. Um? Why not just “I do it like this”? Did his mom always fold his laundry or something?
I can see how a change from the norm would be weird and maybe even anxiety-making if a person needs routines or likes certain things just so.
I still fold towels the way my dad did – in half, then in thirds – and when I can be assed to do it, I do underwear the same way he always did.
But I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘my mom does it like this,’ lol. More like ‘I really like it done this way instead.’
I believe that she did, yes. His family was also very prescriptive about The Way Things Are To Be Done, with consequences that involved Living With the Result Of Your Failure To Do It In The Prescribed Manner, and also Constant Shaming, with non-optional Frequent References To That Time Son Didn’t Do It The Right Way And It Was All Bad.
Had that issue in the past with a dude, though on the subject of cooking. Snark definitely ensued when I found out he’d asked his mom to make gnocchi (one of my specialties) and apparently said, “Laughing Giraffe’s always come out more fluffy.”
How I Ended Up Doing All My Own Laundry At Age 12:
My mom and I did all the laundry for the household, washing and folding. My dad did not participate in laundry activities, but DID demand that his tshirts be folded one way and his polos be folded a different way, and that his athletic socks be folded differently from his trouser socks, and if you didn’t do it “right” he’d pitch a fit and try to make you do it over.
12 year old me one day turned to my mom and said “How about this, I’ll just do MY laundry and then I don’t have to help with anybody else’s laundry.”
My mom said okay.
I’m not sure why my mom never said “If I am folding your laundry I will fold it in whatever non-wrinkle-causing way I please, if you want your shirts folded in varying ways by category you can fold your own damn shirts”. They’ve been married like 30 years now and my mom still folds my dad’s shirts to his specifications.
I don’t though. I do the laundry for my SO’s and my household (in exchange for him doing other chores I hate) and I fold the shirts however I damn well please.
My horrible ex husband used to do like your dad, yell and scold to get his laundry done how he liked it, without lifting a finger. The day that ended was the day I asked if he had anything to be put in the wash, and he brought several armloads of dirty clothes, unsorted, and piled them in the kitchen next to the laundry room door. I told him that I felt like hired help–that if he wanted his laundry magically done for him, the least he could do was sort it, to save me the trouble, and since he knew his clothes better than I did (he had a lot of high tech fabrics that needed special treatment). He completely lost it and told me that I was not allowed to feel insulted. So I just stopped doing his laundry. Stopped doing a lot of the things that mattered to him and not to me. And eventually left him when the abuse never stopped.
Replying to myself to note that my kids have been in charge of their own laundry since around the age of six. This doesn’t mean it gets done or gets done well, but it does mean that I don’t do a bunch of washing and folding only to get mad when it gets dumped out of drawers and falls off hangers. Their clothes, their problem, and I choose not to care when they are all wrinkly.
Yep. I think my daughter was around 8 when I taught her how to run the washer and dryer and she’s done her own wash ever since.
My late husband didn’t buy us a dryer for more than a year after we moved to a new house. I struggled with producing five clean, dry sets of work clothes for him every week, as well as my own, even through a winter, but the very first time he had to do a load of laundry and realized he needed to peg the clothes out on the line, he went out and bought a dryer. Even after we had a washer and dryer, when I was in grad school, commuting, teaching and taking a full load of courses and doing the full-on second-shift cleaning up after his filthy hoarder ass, if he wanted to clean a shirt, he would put it and only it in the washer, and then the dryer. He would not add anything to make a full load.
I did the laundry when I was married (I like laundry and I’m picky about it). My husband had some shirts that could be ironed or could be removed early from the dryer.
He also hated full size ironing boards. He had one of those little portable thingies.
We lived in a building where the laundry was on another floor. Taking things out of the dryer early meant extra trips to the laundry room.
After he complained about wrinkled shirts, I told him that his preferred option, Mrs. Morley does his shirts, pulling them out early, was not on the table. Not was his 2nd favorite option: Mrs. Morley uses dinky pseudo ironing board or towel on the floor or table.
Instead: he could have wrinkled shirts, buy a full sized ironing board, or do them himself.
He chose to do them himself. He devised his own system and I never heard about the shirts again.
We divorced years later, and housework wasn’t why.
When I was like 3 or 4 I developed extremely strong preferences about how things were folded (uptight from day 1, working on it…) and my mom took advantage of this by having me everyone’s laundry when it came out of the dryer. It didn’t always turn out perfectly by “normal” standards, because it was done by a pre-elementary school child, but it made me happy (I got to make many organized piles and sub-piles) and my mom must have laughed all the way to the bank that she didn’t have to fold any laundry for the next 13 years.
I would gladly do it, then, because if I am aggressively telling you how to do something instead of just suggesting something else, the way you do it does bother me and you should either stop doing it your way or let me do it.
I learnt an Important Lesson while planning my wedding, LW. And that is to cheerfully say ‘ok, you deal with it’ every time I was treated like I couldn’t be trusted to buy insurance/book a DJ/rent hay bales.
‘I’m going to book this venue’
‘Do they charge corkage or do we have to buy from them? Do they have a PA system?’
‘OK, you take charge of the venue, dear’
It was amazing how quickly my husband stopped questioning my judgement.
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
“Honey, you should really be chopping the onions this way, and the rice cooker isn’t wrapped up ri-”
“Thanks for volunteering to help, babe! I think I’ll go read a book in the bathtub while you finish up dinner and clean the kitchen.”
This works fine some of the time, for some things, but it can easily become a way the pushy partner keeps control of some aspect of their shared life – finances, childcare decisions, cooking, household repairs, etc, and prevents the other partner from ever really getting a chance to develop their own skills or become confident in their abilities in that area.
Yep yep yep! My standard reply to this kind of thing: “If you want it done your way, do it yourself.”
I agree in this as a short term thing, but I want to caution about any kind of long term thing, as this is one of the ways I have spent my entire life watching my dad abuse my mom. It’s escalated slowly over 30 years to the point now where he will leave the room and give her the silent treatment for days if she asks him a question. And when I was younger, it was the kind of thing of, oh, honey, when you picked the kids up, did you talk to the teacher about X? Or, at the store, did they have a different type of juice? How was your day, did you have any meetings?
He’s used this strategy to such effect that she is now afraid to ask him anything and, after he’s left the room, will look at me and my sister and say “what did I say? why do I always make him mad?”
Sorry. This is a fine thing to do once or twice to try to stop someone’s actions, but it can become policing someone showing an interest in your life or asking for clarification.
I think that’s a completely different thing, though. “If you’re going to nitpick my cooking then I’m not going to cook for you” is not even remotely the same thing as “I’m going to leave the room and give you the silent treatment for days if you ask me a question about anything.” The latter is not the end-stage form of the former–one is a perfectly reasonable response to micromanaging, and the other is emotional abuse.
“‘Do they charge corkage or do we have to buy from them? Do they have a PA system?’”
Maybe it’s part of a larger picture that is lost in context here, but these seem like normal questions for one partner to ask another? If I booked something, my spouse is certainly entitled to ask questions about it and vise versa. (it might be annoying if the questions were aimed at making you change what you already booked after-the-fact, rather than obtain information in order to plan what to do at the event, though)
A, I think it depends on the context of the questions. When they happen on a background of the LW’s competency being constantly criticized/undermined (even if it’s not intentional) with “corrections” and “help,” they are just one. more. way. that the husband demonstrates he doesn’t really trust her.
Also a lot is lost when we can’t hear the tone of the question — sometimes all it takes is a little sarcastic emphasis to make it clear that the questioner doesn’t think much of the questioned.
I would also say it depends a lot on what was discussed before the decision was made. To continue from the wedding-planning example, my husband and I discussed what we wanted in our catering menu, agreed that features A and B were most important to us, and made it my job to pick an option from the several possible menus that had those features. I would not have appreciated it if, when I told him “I picked one! Here it is,” I had gotten the response “Did you make sure it has A? And what about B, did you check on B?” It was a different story with our florist; I made that choice on my own and presented it to him as a done deal, and in that case, it was reasonable for him to ask some “Sounds cool, will they be doing X and Y?” type of questions as long as they weren’t pitched in a tone of “… because you obviously won’t have thought to check.”
That was my thought too – there is a middle ground between “person 1 is in charge of booking the venue, doing all the research and making the choice” and “person 2 is in charge of booking the venue, doing all the research and making the choice”. I try for “person 1 does preliminary research, person 1 and 2 discuss findings. If person 2 is concerned about things person 1 doesn’t care about, person 2 does additional research and person 1 and 2 discuss findings. Person 1 and 2 make a decision together. Either person 1 or person 2 does the actual booking.”
The first one in particular seems like a good question to know-after all, if someone is going to need to go shopping for wine or if they’ll need to factor in the higher prices the venue probably charged in the overall budget.
It’s a great question to ask ahead of time. It’s a less useful question to ask after the decision and plan has already been made.
(Disclaimer: Your experience was legitimate and your solution worked for you; I’m not trying to discount your reality.)
Based on your example, I would probably react more like, “DAMNIT I didn’t even think about the PA system. Never mind! Let’s try that again.” I get hyperfocused sometimes and forget other relevant details in favor of The Thing On My Mind. Wedding planning will probably involve lots of “Did you think about ____?” and “Did you remember ____?” and “Honey, it would be better to do it this way,” (“Oh, duh. Thanks.”) and the like.
I haven’t started seeing it as “questioning my judgement” yet. More like making sure all the bases are covered and we’re on the same page.
Oh no… I’m HIM. I’m a business analyst, so my JOB is “process improvement”… and I sure take that role home with me (the rice cooker cord… YES! I would totally do that). I feel very, very bad for my Adult ADD-afflicted husband because I know his brain doesn’t think that way. I was always trying to find a “solution” for every problem… keys left on the counter? Maybe I need to install some sort of “key system” to take care of that. Coat hanging on the chair? Let’s find a way for him to get that RIGHT into the closet… maybe put hooks closer to the door as a stop-gap? The list goes on and on and on (I mean, who *wouldn’t* want to improve efficiency at home?!?). Ugh. Just typing this is making me exhausted.
It took me a while, but I finally realized that I’m really the only one who needs stuff to be like that… the picture frames lined up square… the pans on the toaster oven all straight and stacked in size order (no, really). I finally relented and admitted to myself that I can want all of this FOR MYSELF… but that I no longer expect others in our house to conform to my crazy need to have all the chairs pushed in and the spices in my pantry all lined up. I think it took us having a child for me to NEVER WANT TO DUMP MY ISSUES on another human being.
What I’m saying is, don’t take it personally – I have a feeling he thinks he’s honestly helping you by eliminating excess processes that waste time or energy. I’m not saying it’s right – just that you may have to give him a nudge in the direction of “I really don’t process stuff that way”. Another thing – and this is just in my own self-interest… I get this way especially when my husband gets lazy about keeping things in order. Frankly, he’s a pig – and I think this is an overreaction to that. Maybe there’s somewhere to meet in the middle – you make sure you’re keeping up your end and he lays off trying to fix everything. 🙂
“Honey, I know you want to help, but you are trying to find solutions to things that I don’t even think are problems,” is the most useful sentence I have ever said in my marriage.
That is a great way to explain things!
I feel after 15 years we have just about come to an understanding that we process things in different ways. He gets that when I am tired or hungry I don’t want to discuss trivial details of ANYTHING and I stop trying to change the way he does things if they basically work without being ‘improved’ (I will never understand why he can put all his dirty laundry in the laundry basket when it is in the middle of the bedroom, but when it moves outside the bedroom door he can’t 🙂 But I stopped trying to move it.).
As another ADHDer, my thought process goes like this: Laundry! I must put it away. I like this shirt. I wonder where my other favourite shirt went. Did I unpack my suitcase after my trip? Why am I holding this shirt? – If I see the laundry basket in the middle of the floor, at this point I go “OH YEAH! Laundry! I must put it away.” If i don’t see a laundry basket, I think “I guess I’ll put it down. Why did I come into the bedroom? I need a snack – Oh, the laundry basket. I’ll put that shirt in the basket next time I’m in the bedroom” and then walk away and forget that happened entirely.
Yup. I have ADHD and my household chores are very much organized on the principle of, “If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” If my laundry bin is not RIGHT NEXT to where I take my clothes off, the clothes do not go in it. Right now for practical reasons it’s about 6ft away, so I have to do a sweep every day or two to get all the clothes off the floor and into the bin three feet from where they fell. I have a very limited budget of complicated processes I can run full-time, and laundry is resource-intensive as is.
OH MAN that’s brilliant, thanks. I’m totally going to unleash that on certain people in my life. Heheh.
“Honey, I know you want to help, but you are trying to find solutions to things that I don’t even think are problems,”
That, to me, sounds so condescending it bothers on complete respectlessness.
I am definitely the person who would be on the receiving end of that statement in my household and I would find it a helpful reminder to not micromanage my partner. What about it do you find patronizing?
It basically says: “I don’t think these are problems, and thus, you shouldn’t either, silly boy” when what you mean to say is “Honey, I’ld rather do this my way”.
Well, I mean, okay. If someone said that to you when you were trying to optimize _your_own_ behaviour, then yeah that would be patronizing. No one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t worry about when you’re making decisions for yourself. But we’re talking here about a situation where you’ve horned in and tried to optimize something someone else is doing. I don’t think it should be controversial to point out that their opinion is the one that matters in that case.
In our house my wife is the less neat one so I struggle with not being the meddler when I am bothered by stuff like that. I try to deal with it by saying “it would be easier on me if you…” if I want things put somewhere or done a certain way etc. If I can’t phrase it that way, or it sounds in my head like such trivial BS, then that’s a sign to me I need to keep my trap shut 🙂
YES. It used to drive my ex crazy to watch me clean an area (say, the kitchen after dinner) because I’m ADD-inattentive type and one of my coping strategies is “pick a very small task, do that, repeat”. So I’ll pick up a dish and put it in the dishwasher, then I’ll fill the sink with soapy water, then I’ll put one thing in the fridge, etc. I know, intellectually, that this is a very inefficient method – but “put all the dishes in the dishwasher, then put all the food away, then wash the dishes” feels ridiculously overwhelming.
Part of the reason he’s the ex, of course, was rather than go off somewhere and not watch me clean the kitchen in this apparently crazy-making way, he would scold me about Doin’ It Wrong, which resulted in a lot of night where the kitchen didn’t get cleaned at all.
Oh gosh, that would drive me absolutely nuts! But the correct response to being driven crazy by a partner’s “inefficient” methods is never to scold or belittle, good grief. If I were in your ex’s shoes I might have to walk away and do something else so that I didn’t inadvertently say or do something unkind, but honestly, as long as the kitchen is getting cleaned by someone we’re all winning here. (Also, doing something “inefficiently” is way more efficient than not doing the thing at all.)
I’m ADD-inattentive too, and when I’m cleaning a space, I tend to just pick up whatever my eye falls on first and deal with that. If I look at the mess as a whole, I get overwhelmed and can’t deal with it, so I focus on one small thing I can do. You’re not the only one, is what I’m saying 🙂
Thirded, although I’m combined-type. Big messes is too overwhelming, but I can put away just the socks.
My to do lists consist of things like “fold x pieces of laundry” and “put y things away”
Oh, wow, that’s really close to one of my coping strategies too (also ADD-inattentive) and I’ve never heard another person talk about this! I’m a bit better if I’m cleaning at the same time as my partner but if I’m by myself in the house? I’ll fill the sink with dishes and let them soak, then go do something else, put a few pieces of laundry away, do a dish, play Skyrim for half an hour, have to use the bathroom, see that the sink needs cleaned so do that, and on the way back do five more dishes, put away two more shirts, tidy the table, play more Skyrim, etc.
Yep, this. I was pretty intensively domestically trained so I do have systems and internal checklists (like “put away food for leftovers, then throw out garbage, then scrape and stack dishes”) but I still need to take a lot of time and breaks, especially if I’m alone. It takes me ages to do things most people do in 20 minutes.
As an Anxiety Brain haver I have to say that I have this instinct but I suppress it a lot so I love that the Captain acknowledged the possible role of anxiety in this. He can/should definitely still change his behaviour and LW likely already knows if he is especially anxious, but reading through the letter I definitely cringed a bit at recognizing myself.
One thing that my mum used to say when my dad did this (I come by it naturally…) was say “Do you want to do this instead?” or “Do you want to take over this task?”
Yes, what’s that famous quote – never let the perfect get in the way of the good? Something like that.
The Perfect is the enemy of the Good. 🙂 Attributed to Voltaire. I love it. I should remember it more often!
A guy at a conference I attended refined it further: “The perfect is the enemy of the DONE.” Sometimes, he said, you should just let go of the project/proposal/whatever and move on.
I think this applies to the domestic arena. Rather than feel guilty because my mom would have washed the sink after doing the dinner dishes, I figure, “The dishes are done and so is my work here! My partner won’t notice/care that I didn’t wash the sink. He’s just delighted that I’m willing to clean up if he cooks.”
Then again, I’m in my late 50s and finding the things that used to tie me in knots (my house isn’t as clean as my mom’s, although I don’t like shopping or dressing up I should still have a nicer, “grownup” wardrobe, why can’t I figure out how to use makeup, et al.) really didn’t matter at ALL.
Pointing out the “right way” to do something is the wrong way to keep a healthy relationship.
LW, your instincts are gold.
My husband is a perfectionist engineer. I am a bodger and a klutz in many areas. The insistence of his advice goes up with his anxiety/depression. He drives me up the wall with it sometimes, and it’s nearly driven us apart, but what has helped is: I am actually interested in optimising rice cooker stowage, at least in theory, and will ask him about it later. He will usually back down when I say that I’d just like to get this done for now even if it’s not perfect. If he won’t, I give him a big hug, which usually brings him out of his anxiety spiral. I have learned that it isn’t about me, but about him feeling responsible for everything (life is really tough when you feel like you have to perfect the whole of existence). He has finally got the message not to start optimising something when I have been working hard on it. But it is not an easy trait to live with, and it does need addressing before it becomes toxic.
I’m a bodger, a klutz, AND a perfectionist engineer. And totally engage in this advice-pushing stuff and KNOW I need to stop. (You can imagine how well that goes, when half the time I don’t even follow my advice myself…) Thank you and many others for telling your stories and coping strategies and how you make your partner stop over-advising, going to try to bash them into my own head now and remember that other people are 100% capable of living their own lives.
We have a saying in my social group, “It’s not efficient if it doesn’t work.” It actually came out of a strategy game, but it applies to a lot of things. Giving unwanted advice rarely works, so while your goal may be to make life more efficient or perfect, that tactic doesn’t work and thus isn’t efficient. Reminding yourself that it’s an inefficient and unworkable tactic may help you use your own perfectionist tendencies to combat it. But then, I combated my own perfectionism by deciding that perfectionism was a personality flaw, and since I wanted to be perfect, I needed to excise it from my life… and that actually worked surprisingly well for me. I don’t know if it’ll work for others. But if you can mentally pat yourself on the back for being more efficient and better every time you refrain from offering unasked for advice, it might help you feel better about it, since you are still reacting to a potentially anxiety making situation by doing something that you’ve identified as the right path, and thus are clearly being awesome and closer to perfect. (I know, I’m offering advice on how to not offer advice, but I figure Captain Awkward threads are a healthy outlet for this sort of thing.)
I absolutely love this, particularly your logic spiral.
I actually think I will employ this strategy, thank you!
That strategy worked well for me, too, another recovering / recovered perfectionist. A thing I used to do a lot was focus on whether I was doing things in precisely the way that I had been told or convinced myself was the “correct” way to behave. I trained myself to instead focus more, in general, on whether particular, discrete behaviors I was employing were actually effective in achieving their desired / intended goal. This made me more effective, and also reduced my anxiety and stress levels a lot, because I spent less time worrying about whether I was doing everything “correctly” and instead focused on the learning process that happens when you work in short cycles where you act, then observe the consequences, then revise your behavior, and then act again. The key shift in attitude for me was to focus on whether my behavior was actually functional as opposed to “correct” (according to some idea I had picked up somewhere about how things “should” be done).
The version I learned was “if it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid”.
My spouse and I both optimise processes for a living. I can really empathise with all the people in these scenarios. The question that works for us is: “What, exactly, are you trying to optimise?” If necessary, point out the trade-off: “It’s at the expense of [thing I’m trying to optimise/getting the job done at all/my inclination to do this job/spoons]”.
This! This is exactly how I was thinking I would start the conversation if I were in the LW’s position. Approx script:
“You know in the kitchen that time, when you wanted to show me how to coil the rice cooker flex: what were you trying to optimise?”
“The thing is, how I feel in that kind of situation is [describe]. Please could you factor that in, and next time, optimise for my wellbeing / happiness / energy levels, instead of [other thing they were optimising]”.
Then, once you’ve had that conversation, you can always refer back to it in the moment.
If the partner isn’t acting in goodwill, then I wouldn’t expect this to work. It’s more for the situation where the partner doesn’t entirely realise the effect he’s having (which is the vibes I got from the LW).
This is sheer brilliance and I’m keeping it in my back pocket!
Yeah. This dynamic is the one big issue in my marriage. We have had that exact same argument over onion-chopping. And my husband has a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Since he’s gotten treatment for the anxiety disorder, it is MUCH MUCH easier for him to overcome his impulse to optimize all my household processes. Not to say that the LW’s husband has a medical condition. But if you are telling him straight out “Honey, I actively don’t want your input on my culinary techniques” and he can’t seem to stop giving that input…I think that might be a topic to bring to a therapist.
Also, hope you can take this as a hopeful story, LW. I love my husband and we have a great marriage. We’ve had a lot of fights about this subject but because he is fundamentally a good person and a feminist, we’ve come to a pretty good place about it.
Hah! I’m married to one of these guys–he’s great, but he’s sure he knows how to do EVERYTHING better. We are an older new couple, so it REALLY grated–how in the world did I survive 50+ plus years on this earth without all this advice. I handle it several ways–one is just by laughing out loud, and saying “Seriously?” Or, “you have your way, I have mine.” If I’ve had enough, I say, “Do I tell you how to do things? Do you want me to START?” It usually stays on the level of friendly bickering, and the incidences have drastically reduced. Especially after I started in on him folding towels: “no, no, not in thirds lengthwise, they won’t fit in the drawer. always put them in so the ends are towards the front so they’ll open when you pick them up . . .” I managed about three minutes of ridiculous How-to-fold-towels, channeling Martha Stewart–had to stop because I was laughing so hard.
To be fair, my husband is very organized and has a System for everything, which I do appreciate when it comes to home maintenance, finances and his business. It’s his security blanket. I can respect that without having it smother me.
Hah! I can sympathize with both sides of this scenario.
I was married for a really long time to a toxic jerk who used optimizing as a (one of many) gaslighting strategy. (I really, really don’t think that optimizing always comes from this place, but this particular guy’s behavior did.) Any opportunity to make me feel stupid or incompetent! So I did a whole lot of figuring out what his “correct” way of doing things was, having really tight justifications for doing things in a particular way, thinking through everything, never being caught out in a mistake, etc.
I am now with a guy whose former wife used Control Freakiest Controller Who Ever Controlled the Housework as a (one of many) gaslighting strategy. Any opportunity… (Literally: she was away for a weekend once, and a dish got broken in the course of washing. No one but her was ever allowed to wash dishes again. There were rounds of “I have to do everything because no one else can do it right” and “this is why we can’t have nice things” for YEARS.) Dude… has atrophied domestic skills. It’s not that he doesn’t have skills, it’s just that he hasn’t been able to get them the fresh air and exercise they sorely deserve until relatively recently.
It is HARD. Neither of us want to fall into the safe, familiar, toxic habits (him: not lifting a finger around the house ever; me: feeling under enormous pressure to do everything, and do it perfectly, all the time) and both of us want to feel like competent and respected adults with credible life experience. For him that means being observant and pitching in, and for me that means Shutting The F Up 99% of the time. Then, on the fairly rare occasions where I Just Can’t Stand It and the unsolicited advice just sort of jumps past my teeth, or he feels a sudden desperate need to assert his general knowledge of the world and his inner mansplainer pops up, it’s a source of humor and affectionate snark.
(But HOW do you hang the hand towels on the ring if you don’t fold them in thirds longwise first???)
You just smoosh the short edge through the ring and yank the ends down even.
…Oh, that wasn’t a serious question? 😉
That’s what I do! Sure, it’s scrunched in the middle, but the ends can air out better!
“I have to do everything because no one else can do it right”
Taking it out of the domestic realm for a bit, I have heard That Exact Sentence from my boss when I have suggested that if he feels overworked, he should delegate more. Frequently, when he undelegates something from an underling, there is generally an “I don’t understand why you can’t do this simple thing” subtext, to which the answer is frequently “Because you didn’t give me all the information I needed to make this simple thing happen, and when I asked you for the information, you took it away from me and did it yourself. Again.”
(That paragraph needs some serious detangling, but it’s not getting it tonight.)
I sympathize with those tendencies, because I’m still fairly new to having staff myself, and letting go of some tasks has been challenging. Yes, it only takes me about two or three hours to complete Major Monthly Task X where it takes my assistant most of a work day, but freeing up those two or three hours means I can get something done that is NOT in assistant’s skill set. I’ve had EXACTLY the “That isn’t the way I would have done that, but what Assistant didn’t isn’t wrong, just different, so I’m going to shut up now” talk with myself. Occasionally, I do have to say, “This is irrational and I know it is, but I really prefer this to be done like this, not that,” but that is almost always an oversight in my training, easily corrected by a quick supplemental “Let me take five minutes and show you how I’d rather do this in the future” chat.
It’s that supplemental chat that my boss seems unwilling to have, a lot of the time, and the result is that many of his direct reports feel unempowered and undermined much of the time. It may be faster in a specific case for Boss to do the job, but it means the person who should be doing it doesn’t learn anything about getting it done, and the next time we’re back in the same situation. If he took the time to train people, it would be slower in the moment but would have long-term benefits.
And, wow, this was a MAJOR tangent. My apologies to all; apparently I had some complaints to get off my chest.
Yes. There is nothing like having a boyfriend teach you to do something you’ve been doing for 20 years without mishap to show you just how incapable you are.
Like, for example, I didn’t know I am such klutz. That must explain why in the time we dated I might have spilled but never broken anything in his place. But he put the first deep scratches on my (few years old) car in a car wash. And hung a framed print of mine with a nail that couldn’t take the weight thus having it fall off the wall, breaking the framing glass.
My reaction: well these things happen. It’s not super great, but it’s not the end of the world, and I can’t move by myself, so, thank you for helping.
We’ve got a “if it bugs you, leave the room” policy in our household. Which means 99% of the food prep happens solo (I am an incompetent onion-chopper, he is so bad at judging which pot to use, ignorance is bliss).
Of course, it helps that we both grew up eye-rolling at our parents having these exact arguments. I learned that there’s no point in doing certain chores “wrong” because my mom inevitably redoes them “right,” and he learned that his dad got stuck with so many unpleasant chores by offering too much helpful advice. So there’s a certain amount of “welp, I know exactly how this plays out, so I’m not going to start it.”
The good thing about dating someone who is Logical (and presumably cares about you/isn’t a huge asshole), is that even if emotions aren’t necessarily logical, they exist and once he is made aware of them, they are a completely valid input for his analysis.
Wrapping the cord this way is the most efficient way of storing it, so if your goal is efficiency, his input is valuable.
In a world where a) your wife has personal preferences of how she likes doing thing, as every human does, and b) your wife finds it incredibly irritating to be instructed on basic matters that she is already capably handling, on which she has not requested your help, it no longer is logical to assume that efficiency is the goal. He has to understand that the goal here is maintaining a harmonious marriage, even if that means sacrificing efficiency. Thus: the only logical course is that he should keep his mouth shut on this kind of shit.
Also, as the Captain implies, if this is very important to him, he also has the option of doing it himself (although having dated someone that does stuff based on the presumption that they are more capable than me, that can be pretty horrible, too). If this is a really serious thing for him where he can’t stand not to be in control and cannot bear to see inefficiencies in his home life, definitely couples counseling, and possibly 1-on-1 if necessary.
OP, I hope you know this doesn’t have anything to do with organization, logic, your husband’s career, or anyone’s supposed “brain sidedness.” On the contrary, it has everything to do with your husband being a control freak – an asinine personality style that comes in all kinds of packages. Do not let your husband suck you into an argument into whose way is better or more “logical” for accomplishing whatever trivial task gives you the opportunity to confront him in the future. This is a marital grievance regarding his condescending and faithless treatment of you, not the semifinals of the National Rice Cooker Putting-Away Competition.
I agree with this. I’m dating a computer engineer, who is also an avid cook, who has never once corrected any aspect of my frankly dubious food-chopping techniques, even when I’m helping him prepare native dishes from his country.
I, on the other hand, am about as about as arty-farty left-brained creative-type as they come. I’m also – frankly – neurotic about certain aspects of household order. I have control freak tendencies which I have learned to reign in over the years, because I realised that there is nothing in this world more obnoxious than explaining to someone that they’re doing a boring-but-necessary task the “wrong” way.
So yeah, please don’t fall into the trap of “he’s just like this because ENGINEER”. Micromanaging is not a fundamental trait of super-organized/efficient people.
I am an indifferent to sloppy housekeeper, but am obsessive about trivial things like how the dishwasher is loaded. I nearly get twitchy about these things, but since I recognize that this is my issue, I generally quietly do the necessary rearrangement or whatever. If a housemate questions, I admit that this is something irrational that makes me feel better, and no one has yet objected. I get a lot of strange looks though.
I vent on Secret about my roommate. A LOT. (Four months til the lease is done, thank god, four months.)
As far as I can tell, *everyone* is obsessive about how the dishwasher is loaded. Dishwashers bring out the worst in humans; we only put up with them because hand-washing causes 100x as many arguments.
We aren’t. Whoever loads the dishwasher gets to decide how to load it.
Dishwasher is temporary. As long as the Good Frying Pan doesn’t go in there, hell, I don’t care. However, I am… somewhat control freaky about where things live when they come out of the washer.
Yes, there we do run into problems. DH doesn’t necessarily get the difference between the glass mixing bowls that can’t go into the microwave, and the Pyrex casseroles that can, plus he’ll just put them all together because “well, they’re all glass.” It’s also a problem when I’m trying to find something and I have to think about what his thought process might have been to track it down.
I agree with this too. I’m an engineer-type (not an engineer professionally, but close) and very organized and left-brained, but a guy I call The Ex (who was in many ways far more people-oriented and fuzzy and artistic than I am) was definitely The Mansplainer in our relationship. I will own that I also tendencies to give unneeded/unwanted advice (I’ve been called on it at work, justifiably) but he would give me “advice” on such varied topics as how to properly take trays out of the oven, communicate, dance (and why dancing was a Thing I Should Enjoy), develop professionally…the general vibe being that I didn’t know How to Human properly. Surprise, the relationship didn’t last once I decided that I could really Human just fine on my own, as I had been doing for 27 years before I met him.
It was far more yikesy than the LW’s husband, who seems more mundane about the whole thing, so hopefully he’ll be able to knock it off once he gets an idea that it’s super annoying and condescending. But I do agree that it really isn’t about personality types; it’s about mental attitudes and habits.
Yes! I’m a software engineer myself, and I am having many feelings about this idea that this sort of blatantly undermining control freak behaviour is somehow normal for people in my profession. It reminds me quite disturbingly of the way people make excuses for men who are deliberately making women uncomfortable by saying maybe they’re just socially awkward. NO. There is a difference between socially awkward and predatory, and there is damned well a difference between jerkface control freak and person who does a job that involves a lot of logic and organization.
I really don’t think any of this “optimizing” behaviour is about optimizing at all. It’s about control and browbeating people into doing things your way. If the mansplaining partner really wanted to be as efficient as possible, he would keep his mouth shut. It takes far more effort to hound someone to do things his way than it does to just let you do it your way. If he’s that into efficiency, maybe he should try doing things the efficient way 🙂
Also, to second David the Engineer’s comment below, this jerktacular behaviour is NOT good engineering. Over optimization is a waste of everyone’s time, particularly when it convinces your partner, who you supposedly *love*, that you think they’re too stupid to put away an appliance without your help. Again, that’s a truly terrible return on investment and if an engineer reporting to me wasted his time like that I would pull him off any important project because he clearly cannot be trusted to manage his own time.
I wish everyone would stop excusing this blatant dickbaggery as “oh he’s just an optimizer.” No, he’s a jerk. Putting a nice spin on it just means he’s a manipulative jerk.
Yup, this is how I feel too. My husband is an engineer, and he doesn’t do this to me, because he respects me as a competent adult. I really, really hate how people justify this behavior as being because person does [thing] for a living or because person is trained in [specific] way. I’m a trained anatomist; my first instinct isn’t to cut everything open as a problem solving technique, but it’s sure as hell what I’d do in anatomy lab. (“Is this dead animal pregnant?” “Idk, let’s find out!”)
tl;dr, this isn’t a “he’s an engineer” problem, this is a “he doesn’t respect you properly” problem.
If only more managers were like you!
I am really feeling this comment. Thanks for putting this into words — I couldn’t get past my initial response of “Who the fuck CARES how the cord is put away, as long it’s not wrapped around somebody’s neck?” I feel like my response to this behavior would be a combination of screaming, “I DON’T CARE I DON’T CARE I DON’T CARE” and “You just wasted five minutes of my life with this trivial bullshit. Please stop.” (No, it totally wouldn’t, because both my parents micromanage me, and my response is usually ignoring/”STOP IT” in my best dog-training voice. But I am super relieved when I remind myself that this is a trait I can select against when dating. Herugh.)
You might not care how the cord is put away, but I do. If you will not put it away the way it needs to be put away, let me do it. But do not assume that just because something seems trivial and unimportant to you, it seems that way to me.
Nobody is assuming that. A lot of people have proposed this very solution — let the person who thinks it’s important be the one to take care of it.
I really don’t think any of this “optimizing” behaviour is about optimizing at all. It’s about control and browbeating people into doing things your way.
I can’t agree with that. It’s *possible* that he’s a jerk, but as someone who has certain hangups over wastage and who feels anxious when things might be wasteful or unsafe, I can definitely see the rice cooker thing happening, especially when I feel I have a choice between ‘hey, could you do x so it’s easier in the future’ and fuming to myself because everything is in a mess and it takes me twice as long/the cooker doesn’t fit into the cupboard properly etc. And it’s *not* fairer on my partner for me to feel resentment and not say anything until it gets way too much (‘you _never_ do x’) and it’s not fair to expect things to be done in a certain way _without_ saying anything about it.
A couple of things that have helped me to keep this under control:
– Asking myself *why* this is important to me. This helps me to gauge my reaction
– express myself clearly and explain *why* something is a problem, where ‘I’d like you to not leave filled mugs on the front counter because I unplugged the kettle and accidentally dropped the plug into one. This is a problem.’ is just as valid as ‘I’d like you to not do x because it sets off my anxiety’. At this point, I have weeded out ‘I don’t like it’, ‘I’d do it differently’, and ‘but I’ve always…’
Sometimes I just need to exercise my tolerance muscles, because a lot of things Don’t Actually Matter. Nowhere near as much as having a good relationship with the person you love matters, and it’s not as if I haven’t ever wasted time or money or energy…
There is a difference between “but it’s objectively better than the adequate thing” and “but the thing you do is actively detrimental to me because…”
Putting away a rice cooker with Cord Wrap A v B is one thing. Putting a rice cooker away with Cord Wrap A v Cord Unwrapped Cord Tanglefest is another.
Not only that but… An unplugged plug ending up wet in a mug… is not, in my experience, a problem. I’ve done similar mtself. Plugs can be dried.
I would not leave mugs on that counter if it bothered you, because that is something I can see makes you more upset than changing could ever inconvenience me, and it’s your kitchen, too.
That’s not an optimization issue, for me, or a problem. It’s a how do I treat you, my person I care about issue and problem.
Point being, a lot of the time, this isn’t about agreeing to the shared problem. It’s agreeing to the shared solution to two different problems.
I really don’t think any of this “optimizing” behaviour is about optimizing at all. It’s about control and browbeating people into doing things your way
I think the problem is, to the kind of “logical” person who really identifies with Being an Engineer and Being Efficient, “optimizing” and “making everyone do it your way” are totally indistinguishable, because they think that they are always the most efficient and if there were a better way, they would naturally adopt it! (Oh, the twisty logic of “logical” people who don’t want to admit that sometimes they prefer “inefficient” methods.)
The jerkitude here comes, at the root, from self-centred thinking and lack of humility, since it assumes that one is the smartest and most experienced person in the world and no one else has anything good to offer.
I see a lot of my relationship in this and will be snagging those scripts (though honestly I cannot cook rice, even in a rice cooker, so if someone wants to come over and micromanage that for me…).
Regarding the specific insurance example: I find myself in that situation a lot, less with my partner and more with my parents but one thing I have found that is sort of helpful is I make a list of all the things I’m going to research (which I’d do for me anyways) and then share that with involved parties and ask “anything else?” Then when they say no (they almost always say no) but come back after I’ve made the decisions I can inform them it was on the list that they consulted on and if they’d read it… I don’t want it to be entrapment but it always kind of works out that way.
I really do not mean to be mean, I’m so sorry if I come across that way, and I also have never met a rice cooker. But I am wondering… wherever it is you live, do you have Different Rice? Because the rice I encounter is cooked by dumping it in boiling water and leaving it there until it tastes right. So, you know… I’m confused, and suspect that I’m missing a big part of the rice-picture, if this is something that many folks struggle with enough to warrant a dedicated appliance for cooking rice?
The point of this thread is not how to cook rice, so could you perhaps use the internet to research the answers you seek about rice cookers and how rice might be ruined on a stovetop? Thank you!
A rice cooker is meant to make cooking rice, especially in large volumes, more efficient. You put the rice in, press the magic buttons, and walk away from it until it beeps to say “I’m Rice!” They were invented in Japan, but are marketed worldwide now.
Plus, in cultures where rice is the major component of most meals, families make massive amounts of it every day, and a big rice cooker does a better job of cooking it and keeping it warm than a pot usually does.
There are tons of different kinds of rice and sometimes knowing how to do something in theory doesn’t translate to the real world!
I’m from an Asian culture where we have a deep attachment to this staple grain, and didn’t appreciate your musings on the idea that people might use rice cookers because we “struggle with” cooking rice. That was really an unnecessary addition to your very valid curiosity.
Indeed, the crux of much of the advice given in this very post is that you can wonder why someone is going about a task a different way without attaching a charge of incompetence to the proceedings.
I’m sure you’ll have read the other comments (all true! did you know there is HUSBAND-FORGETTING RICE? yeah!) and googled rice cookers to your heart’s content by now, so I’ll say no more on the matter.
My apologies, I didn’t mean to derail. It turns out that I was quite right about missing part of the picture – I didn’t think that the “struggling with” would be down to incompetence in basic cooking tasks (though there’d be nothing wrong with someone having a magical device because they *did* find basic cooking tasks difficult), and you lovely people have explained where the necessity actually comes from. Thankyou and I’m very sorry to those of you whom I upset!
I can’t cook rice either. Fortunately my partner puts up with the soggy mess that ends up on his plate with good grace. 🙂
I wish I’d stuck to my guns when I did something similar to your research approach. My partner and I got married last year and I started assembling the guest list very early, checking in with my parents often about who should be on it. Just before we were ready to send out invitations, a whole year after I first talked to them about the guest list, my mum suddenly remembers someone else who should be on the list (someone I have only met a handful of times). Ack! Fortunately we found space for them, but I wish I’d just said “you’ve had months to do this and now it’s too late”.
My main area of weakness is when looking for something misplaced. Somehow I feel that I always have to look myself and can’t trust my partner to have looked properly. I am trying to get better at this.
Well, if you need Thing, and Thing is still AWOL…
But then there is saying “how could you have missed Thing! It’s right here!” Versus ” I found Thing! It was over there. Isn’t it odd how sometimes you just need another pair of eyes, for perspective? ”
Because I bet the reverse has happened in your case, you know? And when it does, saying “thank you!” helps a lot.
Usually the thing has very much disappeared (and usually it’s very much my fault! but mostly we have a lot of junk and things disappear into junk mountains) and neither of us can find it. I really should trust my partner more, he’s pretty thorough with these kinds of things, but I think it’s a “seeing is believing” sort of thing. Also my mum is very prone to the “can’t see it if it’s right in front of her” and usually needs someone else to look through her handbag to actually find whatever she’s looking for. I need to remember my partner is not my mother!
I just don’t get it, I am a Good Cook who can make some really elaborate meals and desserts and then I try to add a dry grain to some boiling water and I end up rice water all over my kitchen and rice that is either still crunchy (you cooked for two hours!) or a soggy mass (you cooked for ten minutes!).
I have learned that I need to keep paper trails of every and all interactions with my mother if I don’t want to be accused of lying about the most mundane things. It still happens, I used the phrase “jumped the shark” and a family dinner devolved into everyone telling me I can’t just make up stupid phrases. That paper-trail obsession can be a detriment in my relationships where the other person isn’t trying to accuse or talk down to me because I’ll often over-react to a honest slip up “No, you said THIS and here are texts, emails, and conversation transcriptions that prove it!!”
Kudos to you on surviving wedding planning, I keep putting it off because I’m so afraid of what will rain down on me when I do… putting it off to the actual point of saying “I don’t want to get engaged yet because I’m too afraid to deal with my families opinions can we keep dating quietly and also move in the middle of the night and not tell them?”
“Kudos to you on surviving wedding planning, I keep putting it off because I’m so afraid of what will rain down on me when I do… putting it off to the actual point of saying “I don’t want to get engaged yet because I’m too afraid to deal with my families opinions can we keep dating quietly and also move in the middle of the night and not tell them?””
Longtime lurker here and this is my first comment because this just jumped right out at me. I’ve been engaged for three years and kept putting off even really thinking about wedding planning- there was a block in my mind I just couldn’t explain- until last year, when I finally gave my mother a well-earned kick out of my life. All of a sudden, boom, I was able to think about it without immediately boiling down into a puddle of anxiety.
I’m not suggesting you should cut off your family- that’s definitely not a one-size fits all solution! Just that I relate to this feeling so much.
I relate to this also.
Oh wow yes on the wedding planning thing. Would be awesome to have a thread on this sometime – Offbeat Bride and etc are great if you actually want a wedding, just a weird one, but how do you deal if weddings are just Not Your Thing?
Oooh, this one hits so many of my hot buttons. My dad was like this. I can still park the car within six inches of its optimal position on the driveway. I also don’t speak to him if I can avoid it. He won all the battles, but lost the war.
I love that! Won the battles but lost the war. I feel like that’s how my mother is.
Anyway fistbumps of solidarity to the OP. I appreciate the question as it applies to my life somewhat. I need to remember to use my word more and keep the conversation strictly to how it irritates me regardless of who is right or efficient.
I feel you. This was one of many of my father’s abuse tactics. I can clean a room impeccably with minimal materials, I can walk silently through any environment, traceless. I know exactly how to place any object within it’s dust-circle as if I had never disturbed it. He won all those battles. But none of his children speak to him, nor does his ex wife, and he has no friends. But hey, without us around to… yknow, exist, his house is exactly as he wanted it.
My pastor in my childhood church once said in a sermon, “you can be right, or you can be married.” That is probably related to winning the battle but losing the war.
I am no longer a church-going person, but as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate that pastor Larry is wise man.
Oh great. Now everyone’s going to put their rice cookers away wrong and refuse to listen to reason.
Oh, would that there were a “Like” button.
Pretty sure it’s the end of civilizations as we know them.
Mom? Is that you who wrote this letter? (Optimized onions = totally the kind of thing Dad would do, okay.)
Since this was a Dad-thing instead of a Spouse-thing, in my case, the thing that finally put a stop to the worst of it was:
Dad: Makes disrespectful comment regarding Mom.
Spouse: “Um…that IS the person you’re married to that you said that about? Why do you talk about your spouse that way? I don’t talk about my spouse that way!”
He has, literally, several years later, NEVER DONE THIS AGAIN in front of Spouse or me. And our relationship is exponentially better for it. I’m still kind of shocked that it worked.
Would that that would work in my extended family!! So far, we just respond to the awful jokes with flat-affect “that’s not funny.”
Amusingly (to me at least), what Husband is doing isn’t even good engineering, but a rookie mistake. What he’s doing can be called over-optimization. Typically, over-optimization is measured by time spent searching for an optimum solution compared to the gains over an existing good-enough solution, but time can be replaced by any critical resource. In this case, the critical resource being expended LW’s good will, a renewable but not infinite supply.
I love your response and will be pinning it for use in future potential arguments.
This. This. This.
Yup. This has been added to my folder of favorite CA advice/comments.
I was going to say the same thing but you beat me to it. 🙂
I had a boss as a very young woman who expressed the counter-productivity of over-optimization to me very succinctly one afternoon after watching me search for a quarter that had flown out of my drawer and rolled away.
“Novel,” he said dryly, “I just paid you a dollar to look for twenty-five cents.”
“Then pay me enough that I don’t need to choose between looking for that quarter and washing my laundry in the sink next week.” Sorry, not the point, I know… but my boss keeps having me come in to fill in for her on days when I have lease signings, doctor’s appointments, family weddings (once to get her nails done!), and I kind of wish she’d respect that sometimes my $9-an-hour job is really not worth the $700 it will cost to find a new apartment…. but another thread, another day.
…it was his quarter?
Had this problem with a former co-worker who thought it was his job to find the absolute lowest cost for each piece of a project. Once, he took WEEKS of bargaining to save a total of five cents on each unit we manufactured. His boss had to sit him down and say, “We paid you $XXX over the past few weeks of trying to save a couple of pennies on the bid. That work saved us $YYY. YYY is way less than XXX. We’d rather say ‘this cost is good enough’ and let you move on to other projects that are now several weeks behind.”
Co-worker didn’t get it, which is why he’s now a former co-worker.
(Lest I go too easy on this boss, I once had a chat with him where we had two different understandings of the idea of “sunk costs” with respect to a long-delayed and, at that point, totally stalled project. My understanding was, “We’ve already spent $ZZZ on development. If we start at zero now and continue working, will we ultimately make more money than we will spend *from this point*? If so, then let’s keep working. If not, let’s kill the project and move on with life.” His understanding was “We’ve already spent $ZZZ, so now I want to see it through.” I guess I can sympathize with that, but it sure didn’t seem like a way to run a business.)
I will be borrowing this with attribution, thank you!
Thank you, that’s a great way to frame it. I’m going to use this argument on myself, I think.
I’m a bit of an optimizer, and the one thing I’ve learned to do is front-load with questions. “Are you open to advice right now?” “Can I try something to make that easier on you?” “I think I see a way to do that more efficiently, do you want my advice?”
Part of what taught me to back off was after I’d moved out from a family that offers advice a lot, I moved into a very fixer-upper house with a disorganized landlord who let me use his tools for little projects, but never offered advice. I could be in the living room putting a piece of cat furniture together, swearing as I measured and re-measured and put together and took apart, and he would stay glued to his book. I felt like he trusted me to be competent and not burn the house down, you know? It was actually a really great feeling and I loved it.
I try to use, “May I offer a suggestion?” but I think yours are better.
These are good scripts, but I think you have to be ready to jump back fast if you use them — a lot of people (like me) are used to those questions being used pre-bulldozing whatever my answer might be. My dad often asks before he jumps in and tries to Do It Better, but whatever my mom or I actually answer is usually irrelevant, because he is going to Help, Dammit! So if you get an exaggeratedly angry “NO” to any of those, that might be why.
Ha, I use the “NO” enough on my own. Sometimes, “Nah, I’d rather sit here and look stupid until I’m absolutely certain my way won’t work.’
My darling husband does this too. Just to be warned, even if he gets what you’re saying, respects it, and tries to improve, it’ll still be a process. Possibly lifelong. I recommend your and CA’s scripts above, but I have one I pull out too. If he tries to say “well, I do it this way”, I shrug and say “well, this works for me”. Maybe it’s because we’ve had enough conversations about his controlling/mansplaint tendencies, but he he doesn’t argue that his way is better what I say that.
You know what you need to do! You are in the right! Go have conversations with your husband who I have every faith is genuinely trying to be helpful – and should show that by laying off the micromanaging.
My ex-boyfriend told me all about his, much better, way of cooking carbonara while I was cooking us carbonara… on our first real date. Following my instinct then could have saved me five years and a world of misery. Because yes, being treated like a child was not very conductive to my love for him.
I felt exactly how you describe, LW, but for me the real conflict turned out to be his unwillingness to acknowledge it at all, that his ‘being helpful’ was actually actively hurtful, not the behaviour itself so much (irritating as it was). So were I in your place, I would be very alert on his responses to your boundary-setting.
I’m glad that Present You would just burst out laughing at that guy, like, really? THIS is your move? Correcting my cooking? Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Let’s pour one out for our younger, more forgiving selves.
I know! There’s carbonara debate and a girl you seem to like in the kitchen and you choose to invest in the former?
And after all that head-messing I STILL like my carbonara better, so nyah.
This is a super important point: If the ‘splainer has the ability to step back and acknowledge that it would be better to shut the fucke uppe, then it doesn’t have to harm the relationship. If the ‘splainer is incapable of even recognizing and/or acknowledging the undesirable dynamic, you’ve got a real problem.
Yes. For that reason I think the LW can’t stress enough that it’s not just an annoying habit to fight over, but that the underpinnings of the behaviour are pretty seriously hurtful. Nothing like having to say out loud so many times that your place is among the adults to make you feel that with every word you say, you’re getting smaller.
Yes! People do things that annoy each other all the time, it’s normal. It’s also normal to acknowledge that and try to stop annoying each other when it’s pointed out. When someone doubles down on the annoying behavior instead, it tends to break relationships.
Years ago I was working at a college radio station, and one of my student coworkers burst in on me (after I turned off my microphone and started playing the next piece of music) in order to testily correct my French. The piece I was about to play had a French title, and I didn’t really know how to pronounce it and had to wing it in the moment. Not really possible with French! LOL.
A while later we were able to have the conversation that the way he did it was totally unhelpful and made me feel like a fool, and he admitted that he was interested in me and thought that would be a way to impress me and show me how smart he was and make me like him.
Totally not the way to accomplish that. Your carbonara-guy story made me think of him.
That more than one guy tried this as a tactical move in love is hilarious. Disturbing, but hilarious.
“But you are not my onion mentor.”
Even when you are the “onion mentor”, it can be really tricky to navigate between giving too little and too much guidance. I know I’m giving too much when my students and post-docs start smirking as I ramble on…
Hail, fellow Prof!
I am a woman who teaches in a very male-dominated field, and sometimes I have the privilege of channeling The Student Who Knows Everything About Everything – “Student, I know you’ve worked with this camera before, why don’t you take x, y, z students and walk them through it.” Good for them, good for me.
Yep! I would say at least a third of my mentoring efforts revolve around creating situations that enable my trainees to mentor each other.
Yes, this is such good advice, and something I’ve definitely had success using with my students/interns/etc. Except when The Student Who [Thinks He] Knows Everything About Everything doesn’t actually know what he’s doing, but persists in mansplaining to everyone around him anyway. Postdocs and professors in the lab – who, oddly enough (not so oddly!) are female – included! But that’s a story for a different comments section…
If you’ve told your partner that something they do TO YOU bugs you (like mansplaining), and they continue to do it, then that seems out of line to me.
In my family, if someone does something to you that they know bugs you, you get to tell them “Stop it” in a voice that is angry and growly. I think of it like dogs nipping one another to get a behavior to stop. It works pretty well.
I’m also a perfectionist nag, so I totally understand the desire to nitpick everything Partner does. I’ve found that thanking Partner for doing stuff they do, and thanking them extra when they do it in a way I like, is the best way to nudge them towards behaviors I want. Also, if Partner does something their own way, that I like, I point that shit out and praise the hell out of them, and start doing it their way.
THIS IS MY HUSBAND and I’m so glad someone finally understands! He is a computer programmer and while he is the sweetest guy ever, his brain is trained to optimize everything for maximum efficiency. He tells me the correct way to fold jeans, to roll up socks, the quickest route to drive to church, which gears I should be using on my bike, which lane I should be driving in on the highway, etc etc etc. How to correctly wrap the cord around the rice cooker is totally something he would say!
When I point out that his micromanaging is irritating and patronizing, he seems genuinely baffled that I wouldn’t want to know the BEST way to do something. From now on I will use the phrase “I don’t need optimizing,” although I predict his response will be “why not?” Maybe “because I’m your wife, not your computer code” will be a good response!
I feel like something to the effect of, “You not understanding why I feel this way does not make the way I feel wrong, and even if you can’t wrap your head around me not caring about optimizing every task, you need to respect that I don’t” could be useful to communicate.
I feel like the Captain’s last script might be the best — “This is not an [optimization] issue, this is a how you are treating me issue, and I have already told you I don’t like being treated this way.”
I have an expression that I pretty much only use on myself, but which is helpful to keep in mind (that I might have learned here?): “Please put your ignorance in the form of a question.” In this case, the idea (or a softer expression thereof) might be useful in reframing the whole thing to spotlight the fact that, hey, I do things for reasons, too, man. Why not try asking why I do things a certain way–you might learn something. Jeezy creezy.
Yes! This here! My bf used to “correct” the way I hung out washing: I turned the clothes inside out (“Why are you doing that? It creates more work), and I hang shorts, undies etc by the waist (“Why are you doing that? You get more airflow if you hang it this other way.”).
I hang my washing that way for a reason. I’ve been doing laundry since I was a kid so I think I’ve got it down. In the end I just explained in great detail why I did things a certain way. He stopped “correcting” me after that.
PS – we’re in Australia. Airflow is rarely a problem. Fading by sunlight is.
This is the only way i can handle my husband’s attempts at optimization. Because, as it happens, I’m ALSO an optimizer. But I might have a different GOAL than he does.
See, explaining is good, the other person just has to explain back. That way, the optimal solution can be found.
No, genuinely, that’s exactly the reaction I like! I think a lot about how I and why I do things, and having somebody share that is great!
When my husband and I began living together a few years ago, we had some conversations that ran that way, too. In the end, I invested in a rather weighty tome called Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. Then, whenever the issue came up, I appealed to authority. “Why are you doing that chore *that* way?” “Because the book says …” It worked so well that I think the last such conversation was well over a year ago. Best $20 I ever spent.
Another answer that I think is true and he might understand is that having to put that much thought and effort into how to optimize everything is a lot more work and draining than just doing things in a way that you’ve already got down and works. That building new habits is a lot of effort, and the return on the investment is a very small gain. Basically, he is over-optimizing as was explained above. I think if it was something major, you’d probably want optimizing. If he saw some way you could save thousands of dollars or drastically improve your health or some other huge gain, then you’d probably be open to that. But trying to optimize every small task is actually highly inefficient, and having to discuss every small task is highly draining. He probably doesn’t find it draining, which is okay – different people work in different ways. But if you can make it clear that you by a huge cost just for listening to and thinking about his suggestions then he may get that he is being highly inefficient. Basically, he’s ignoring all of the energy and emotional costs of dwelling on trivia for you. Plus, he’s acting like you haven’t already optimized your life. You have. He’s showing a lack of trust in your judgement of when sufficient optimization has been done and putting in more work would not be worth the pay-off. You may not have consciously thought of it in those terms, but you have made a calculation along those lines, and you have decided your way is good enough. Putting it into his language, that you have optimized and he is destroying your carefully balanced optimizations might make some sense to him. Because I think that’s completely true.
I see what you’re saying, and I agree with it. But trying to explain that “actually, by micromanaging me you are actually lowering my output by raising my emotional costs with very little benefit” is starting an argument about optimization, which I will never ever win against my husband. He will always out-logic me and explain that ACTUALLY the costs are very low and OVER TIME the benefit will outweigh the initial cost and don’t I care that I will wear out the elastic in the socks etc etc etc. I just don’t even go there.
A simple “darling, you are being picky” tends to work better.
Ah, that makes sense. And obviously if your way works better for you, then it’s a much better option.
The long-form answer is “because changing the way I do things is incredibly mental resource-expensive and you keep messing with my system at inconvenient times and in inconvenient ways” but yours works too. 🙂
He’s making an assumption that his way is the BEST way to do things, and that anything you do differently is inferior and incorrect. Which is a totally obnoxious attitude. He is supposed to be your friend and supporter, not your SAT scorer.
YES. And really, assuming that his way is the BEST way is the core of makes mansplaining different from any other form of advice giving.
His way is assumed to be best, by him, because HE. It’s not really about careers or brain function or anything else.
My husband is an engineer. I’m a mathematician (and neater than he is), and we still have the rice-cooker type conversations all the time. I find the best coping mechanism is to tease him for it– “Oooh! What are we optimizing TODAY?”
Agreed, I have definitely found the best reaction to “you’re doing it wrooooong!” is a teasing “mwahaha, this must be driving you NUTS! Watch me slice this big awkward chunk of onion in a terribly wrong manner!” or “Is the cord wrapped perfectly yet? How about now? Now?”
But of course, it’s good-natured rather than toxic teasing because he already acknowledges it’s a bad habit that deserves to be made fun of.
Oooh this is gold, I literally burst out laughing reading it!
If I can have a little STORYTIME, long ago I used to have an ex who once took it upon himself to teach me The Art Of Onion Chopping (yes, the Onion Mentor FTW). I watched him demostrate his Chef Method and concluded that I would rather do it wrong while keeping all my fingers attached to my hands. After some time, he gave up, but I am quite sure he used it as one of the many proofs of my inability to meet his Girlfriend Standards. (Which of course has nothing to do with good-natured teasing. So, ugh, I would use some optimizing as to what response goes where, I guess…)
I love this! It’s a way of showing the absurdity of critiquing someone’s onion-chopping-rice-cooker-cord-wrapping skills without getting into an argument over WHY it’s absurd.
I am picky about certain things, and one of my husband’s favorite ways to “irritate” me (to point out how ridiculous I can be) is to cut randomly-shaped pieces out of the middle of a half-eaten cake or pan of brownies. It does get the point across…
I bet triangle shaped brownies taste better, though…
(You are very gracious)
I love your husband’s “solution”. That’s brilliant and I can totally see how it would be “irritating” without actually being toxic to the relationship. Kudos to him. 🙂
I’m a bit of the LW’s husband; I see my in-laws or my husband doing things in my house that aren’t the “logical” way of doing things and it grates on me (why are you hanging the dishcloth over the sink edge instead of the tap, it doesn’t get airflow and dry and it gets all smelly that way!), but I just keep it to myself. I know that it’s my issue and if my husband doesn’t care that his clothes are still inside out when he folds them and puts them away, why should I?
I think whether actions/phrasings work or not must be a very individual thing. For me, that’s too close to things that were done AT me by someone abusive, because if I didn’t do things their way, I couldn’t have anything nice.
This wouldn’t work for everyone, though. I have OCD (for real, diagnosed), and if I baked something to share (which I really like; it’s one of the ways I show love), and someone cut a random slice out of the middle, I would seriously not be able to eat any more. It would ruin them for me (yes, I’ve been working on this for years, but I have been unsuccessful), and I would feel like my attempt to show love was being repaid with ridicule for my mental illness.
My (soon-to-be-ex) husband would do things like this to me all the time, even when I told him it was not funny and actually made me feel extremely anxious. He also wasn’t very good at setting up these “little jokes” and they often ended with a giant mess (which I had to clean up, while he sulked) or something being broken, and even our daughter hurting herself on one occasion.
If fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this has contributed to me transforming into something just like LW’s husband (not that that’s an excuse!). But seeing things “done wrong” can make me feel really upset,and I have a lot of trouble gauging whether or not my anxiety is justified or completely ridiculous.
This post has been really helpful, though, and I’m going to be trying out a lot of these strategies to see if I can stop “optimizing” other humans.
Someday, I may forgive a person I know for casually cutting into a pumpkin pie I’d baked like she was Zorro wielding a rapier. Fortunately the pie was on the custardy side, so I was able to smooth over the asymmetrical slashes and redo it properly. And then I had a serious conversation with my mother about how to approach that person and say, “I am very fond of you and enjoy kitchen-sharing with you on holidays. Please never cut one of my pies again.” Just thinking about it, months later, gets my back up.
Not every picky person has genuine OCD. I totally get that for some people, cutting a triangular brownie out of the middle of the pan is an entirely appropriate bit of affectionate teasing. But goddamn, if someone did that to my brownies I would be really upset. Fortunately most of my loved ones know better.
Yep! My Dad tends towards this, but over the last few years my Mum has started responding brilliantly and I’ve picked it up. It’s quite a specific ritual interaction.
Turn to face nagging father.
Hold gaze for a moment.
“Okay, I’m doing it this way”
“Why don’t you want to do x?”
“Because I don’t”
“But it’d be [easier/quicker/neater/simpler…]”
“I’m aware of that”
To begin with he’d stare in exasperation for a moment and then wander off. Now we rarely get beyond “Okay”. Everyone is happier for it, including, I believe, Dad. 😛
I endured years of my otherwise pretty easy-going husband explaining exactly what I should say, verbatim, in assorted situations, until I finally snapped one day and said, “I know how to talk, okay, honey?” I’m not proud of being so snappish. On the other hand, he did pull himself up short. It’s a habit he learned from his otherwise easy-going mother, God rest her soul, who had a whole pack of twitterpated adolescents to raise simultaneously and got used to very slowly and carefully explaining things step by step lest the oven catch on fire again or yet another plant up and die. At least he restricts himself to telling me what to say! That is, he still starts the ritual Jacob Two-Two sentence opener “You can say to [service provider/teacher/child/fellow hobby club member/whoever], you can say…” but I give him a Look now and he shuts up.
Coming back to my comment because I just remembered something that happened years before this incident–fairly early in our cohabitation, in fact. My then-not-officially-husband overheard me explaining matter-of-factly to a guest that she needed to take a different fork because that particular fork was my husband’s fork. At the time, I just took his need to have an exact fork and spoon (but not knife for some reason) clean at all times in my stride, like his need to carefully demonstrate proper towel folding and stacking technique. He came to me after the guest had gone to apologize for being so “anal.”
I still have his exact fork and spoon clean for him at all times because it doesn’t bug me to do it, and he says nothing about my towel folding and stacking technique because he has become a lot more easy-going. About everything but what I should say, anyway.
My favorite way to tease and be teased on this is to design the set of experiments we’d have to do to conclusively determine the right way of wrapping the rice cooker cord. I mean, first we’d have to get one of every kind of rice cooker ever made…
Or for a variation, pitch the invention that eliminates the need for rice cooker cords.
The a rule on my house is, he who does the work gets to do it his way.that goes for making beds, cooking, folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, changing toilet paper, and all the other things couples fight about.
If he doesn’t like the a way you chop an onion hand him the goddamn knife and have him do it.
I’ve seen this summarized as “Whoever did it, did it right.”
I remind myself of this whenever husband washes dishes.
Unless the dishes are still dirty. Then they’re really not done right.
I’ve had this confrontation a couple of times with my bf: he thinks I’m being picky and correcting him, however I can *see* grime/food/whatever still on the dish. I also use a lot less detergent than he does and I rinse everything because I can taste the residue on the plate/glass next time I use it. So that’s a thing, too.
I think that goes to the Captain’s comment about then the discussion needs to be about what qualifies as doing the task, which is a different kind of discussion. It doesn’t sound like the letter writer’s spouse thinks the onions won’t be chopped sufficient to the task at hand, so much as he thinks there is a better way to get the chopping done. And if you want your onions more chopped, then that shouldn’t be approached as, “You could chop the onions better if you did it this way” so much as, “I prefer my onions chopped more finely” then the other person ca decide whether to agree to your level of desired onion-chopping while still choosing how to chop them. After all, I think you’d be okay with your bf washing the dishes using a different method, so long as they still came out to your level of desired cleanliness. So there’s no point in muddling the issue of end result by arguing over how to do it. If he can’t get things to your desired end result and you both agree that that’s a problem, then he might wish to ask you for help in how you get it that way.
This is an excellent rule. I have seen something similar called the Designated Control Freak System. Here’s an essay on that: http://www.polyamorousmisanthrope.com/2008/04/13/designated-control-freak/
In the essay it’s more being used to navigate who makes decisions and does tasks in a multi-adult household, but I think it’s very useful for this kind of situation as well. “Okay, you obviously care more about this than me, so why don’t you do it?” has worked for me with my boyfriend, who occasionally is Right Way about trivia. Fortunately, he’s awesome about being called on it, eg “Huh, I guess I do want to make lunch.”
Been there. Sometimes still there when he is anxious or upset. It’s clearly his way of coping with the Big Scary World. It’s also his way of connecting to me when he’s lonely.
For the first 15 years of our marriage, he dismissed my reaction to this behavior as “oversensitivity”. We tackled a number of other issues and worked through them and our communication improved, but this remained a sticking point. Then we had this conversation:
Him: I really don’t like it when you’re angry.
Me: I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at Third Party. I told you that.
Him: I know, but it’s upsetting whenever you talk like that even if you’re not talking to me or about me.
Me: How come when you’re upset by my anger, that’s my problem, and when I’m upset by your meddling with what I do, that’s *also* my problem?
Him: I never thought about it that way before. I guess…I guess I need to pay more attention to how that makes you feel.
He says this was a complete revelation to him – the idea that someone else’s viewpoint was as valid as his was, apparently, a new idea. That was 15 years ago and there was an immediate change. Since then, I’ve come to understand what drives the behavior and now I can point it out to him gently and he can hear me. It’s often the first sign he has that he’s stressed or anxious.
I’m… kind of terrified of the prospect of being married to someone for 15 years who doesn’t think my viewpoint is as valid as his is. I just, are there warning signs for that? Or is it just something you learn gradually?
I feel like if you live together for more than 3 months, and jointly host parents/families/holidays, you will generally learn all you need to know about how much your partner respects you, and whether or not your feelings rate higher than making sure the forks are laid out on a precise grid. You get a lot of unintentionally honesty when people are stressed out and worried about how they will appear to people… who are not you. (Have seen this go down… the holiday party stress-yelling was not an outlier, but an actual prediction of day-to-day interaction ten years later.)
Also? Sometimes you can ask.
I once asked a difficult friend if she respected me, and she said “no, but [she] really only respects [parental figure],” …as though that made it ok, and something I totally wouldn’t mind. People who put themselves higher than everyone else do it because they have, in their mind, a justifiable reason, and are frequently unashamed to admit it (because wouldn’t everyone agree?)… whether or not they can come back from that, as in Jay’s story, is a whole other thing…
When you are raised by people who don’t believe your viewpoint is as valid as theirs, it’s not so easy to figure out that this is a problem. My parents were wonderful and supportive in many ways, and also did not acknowledge that my feelings were valid if they didn’t fit into their idea of how I should be feeling.
I did ask my husband if he respected me, and he always said he did – hence the conclusion that I was “oversensitive”. He also gave me ample evidence of respect in other ways. He doesn’t think I’m incompetent, and therefore any belief I had to the contrary was clearly wrong. He also had to learn that emotional responses are valid for anyone – in his family of origin, emotion is completely discounted and only concrete, rational evidence of Being Correct is worthy of consideration.
It bothers Uncle Vixen when I leave the car in fifth gear at highway speeds because I didn’t realize I hadn’t shifted up to sixth. It bothers me when he stays in the right lane being frustrated by the slow traffic rather than pull into a passing lane and go around (and when he doesn’t turn on the turn signal because there’s no room in the next lane, but to be fair, that drives me bats in every single person who does it, because the people in the next lane are not mind readers and DO NOT KNOW YOU WANT TO MERGE IF YOUR BLINKER ISN’T ON, ahem). We both manage to stay quiet about almost all of the other things we each believe the other does non-optimally. Fortunately, we also have communication habits such that we’re likely to apologize even before the other one has to say “It kind of sucks when you scold me for doing the same thing you just did.”
LW, it really raised my hackles when you mentioned that you do ninety percent of the cooking in your household, but your husband still feels the need to pass comment on your onion chopping technique. Similar for the insurance issue. For me, that’s very important information about the dynamic. If you barely ever cooked and your husband was giving you advice on onion-chopping on one of the rare occasions you decided to pitch in, well, that’s a totally different kettle of fish. But if you’re the primary menial/admin task performer in your relationship, and your partner feels the need to offer you helpful guidance on your responsibilities, he needs to be shut down quickly and firmly.
I agree with several of the commenters above. The minute your husband starts backseat driving, hand him the wheel and get the fuck out of there.
Husband: “Oh, are you really going to chop the onions like that?”
You: “Well I was, but since you have a better technique, here, have at it. I’ll be browsing Netflix with a glass of wine, let me know when dinner is done.”
Seconding this. It’s also telling you signed yourself ‘not his employee’. Do you feel like one? Because that’s not conducive to a supportive marriage.
Spouse used to do this until I was frothing-at-the mouth angry, at which point I was the unreasonable one.
One evening I was making stir-fry, and he came into the kitchen to critique me (bringing in our toddler child who he was supposed to be keeping out of the kitchen, but the lure of ‘splaing was too strong).
Instead of my usual pattern of either trying to ignore him or responding directly to his comments, I washed my hands, picked up Child, and said “That sounds great! I’ll take Child, you go ahead and finish up in here,” then took Child to their room and played.
Spouse came and peeked his head in,
“Are you upset? We can talk about…”
“We’re having fun! Can’t wait to try that stir-fry!”
“Well I don’t really…”
“That’s great! It sounded soooooo yummy when you were describing it”
“How long will it be? Child is starting to get cranky.”
Spouse spends an hour and a half making mediocre stir-fry.
“MMMM! This was delicious!”
“I think I should have…”
“Best ever! C’mon Child, lets get your bath!”
Spouse is now the Maker of Stir-fry in our house.
Rinsing dishes and loading dishwasher,
Cleaning bathroom mirrors,
Folding laundry, and many more.
If you use this technique, you have to be willing to stick to your guns, and never say or do anything that calls into question the new natural order of Spouse is the Sole Person Who Does Thing.
When they start a conversation about Thing, praise the job they do and walk away. Even if you are in a better position to do Thing, ask them to do it. When they do a terrible job at Thing, express gratitude for a job well done.
On the rare occasions Spouse ‘splains me now, he accepts his new task with good grace
This…this is beautiful.
That is *excellent*.
Reminds me of this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5087&en=3edcee0d461222fa&ex=1169438400&excamp=mkt_shamu
🙂 🙂 🙂
I think one of the reasons it ended up working out for us, was that Spouse is loving and overall very considerate of me.
We had this dynamic of him wanting to do his part of the ‘second shift’ but not knowing how to ask to be a part of things, and me being brought up in the hyper-competent martyr role of womanhood, so I was both fighting for control of everything, while being angry that I ‘had’ to do it all.
A lot of the critical ‘splaining came from anger at feeling like he didn’t a place in our family, and an attempt to contribute something.
So me releasing control to him and forcing myself to be okay with what happened, gave him the connection he craved, and me the security I so desperately needed.
I’d like to emphasize one thing I see in your letter.
Your husband is doing something patronizing infantilizing minimizing and just plain inappropriate. I believe that’s why you react so strongly.
I think responses emphasizing “fine you’re right, and it’s now your job” may be the best way to convey just how rotten his actions are.
By the way, I am always right, but that doesn’t mean I need to correct people in their day to day lives
My right-brained and not super patient with being treated like a child self would tell him he can follow you around telling you how to be more efficient when he’s comfortable with you following him around telling him how to be less of a tightass, but that’s maybe not the most helpful way to go about it.
I guess I just want to empathize and validate your feelings. I would be irritated too. My husband does this thing where when he agrees with me he’ll restate what I just said, rather than just say “yes, you’re right”, and it drives me batty. If he were straight up correcting me about unnecessary stuff, I’d go bananas.
I used to have this dynamic with my little brother: I was five years older and I filled a parent-like role for him for most of our childhood, so it grew from there. When I was about 20 and he was about 15, he called me out on it and said that not only did it make him feel less respected, but it also made me seem like a narrow-minded person who needed to feel in control and wasn’t able to tolerate different ways of doing things and seeing the world. Because my baby brother was a wise and compassionate person, he did all of this in a very loving way that got me seriously thinking about the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of relationship I wanted with the people in my life.
I am inclined to slightly obsessive behaviour, and I still notice it when people load the dishwasher less efficiently than I could, or miss a spot while wiping the counter because their pattern is less “optimal” than mine, etc. etc. And when I notice it, instead of saying something or squirming or whatever, I silently say thanks to my brother (who has since passed away) for making me a better and kinder person than I used to be, and I remind myself that I have consciously chosen not get hung up on tiny details or try to force my way of seeing the world onto other people. I remind myself that my perspective on which way to do things is not necessarily right, and that I will have a better and richer life if, instead of always assuming that my way is best, I make time to watch and listen and see how other people do things and why. If I think they are doing it wrong, I try to ask impartially whether it even matters. Almost all of the time, it doesn’t.
LW, you know your partner: is this the kind of self-growth idea he might be interested in? Maybe he would like to become a more relaxed and open-minded person who may indeed have ideas about how to optimize tiny details, but also possesses the compassion, perspective, and self-awareness to realize that not every task needs to be optimized. Maybe he would like to understand that, when it comes to being a human being with relationships, optimizing things is not always the most optimal thing to do.
My spouse does this, espcially when I am cooking. Spouse’s mother convinced them that the only guaranteed non-poisonous food in the entire universe was food cooked by mom. After twenty-five years, we’ve established that I am a better cook than spouse’s mom, that I take spouse’s food peccadillos imto account more consistently than mom ever has, and that I am not trying to poison spouse.
When spouse’s anxiety ratchets up, mocromamaging my cooking is the first thing that happens. Spouse hates to cook and I love it, so I do the cooking in our household. However, I will not be badgered, micromanaged, or imterrogated while I do it. I have walked away from cooking in the middle of a complex process and let expensive food burn to a crisp. I have learned to recognize the warning signs and make the choice clear. “You can manage your anxiety appropriately or you can take over cooking this meal or we can let this food burn. Choose now.”
It took couples counseling to make it clear to me that this was about anxiety and spouse’s mother’s food weirdness. It took couples counseling for spouse to grasp that I am not their personal stress-relieving squeeze ball. It took lots of words, some patience, and very firm boundaries on my part to make this pretty much go away. But it also took spouse being open to the idea that I am an adult who can manage on my own. And their awareness that treating me like an infamt would be a good way to make sure I never cooked vaca frita for them again as long as they live.
I feel like this is a slightly evil trick to play on an incurable Optimiser. But I also feel like it’s justified, and use it on mine when all else fails.
“i’m just trying to help!”
“Well, you’re not actually being very helpful. I think you need to work on your helping skills.”
The feedback loop is fun to watch.
Alternately, there’s the ‘wreck their fun’ approach where instead of discussing whether they should do this you just make it clear that you give no fucks and are not taking advice at this time. The problem is, you have to do it consistently until they give up.
Thus: “You’re cutting onions wrong!
3) “Well, that’s my problem, isn’t it?”
4) Do you want to chop these onions, or do you want to change the subject?”
5) *turns music up*
6) (this works in my relationship. It wouldn’t in some. Apply with caution or use your own equivalent) “You realise I have a sharp knife covered in onion juice, right?” This works because my Optimiser KNOWS I would never, ever actually threaten him with a knife, so they correctly interpret it as “this is my last nerve, get off it.”
I’m an optimizer, and your “slightly evil trick” is my godsend, honestly. A lot of super-right-brained ~logical~ people do not pay attention to human factors like emotion and stress, and don’t realize that upset + stress = lowered cognitive capacity, so they are just SO SURPRISED that their “helpful” comments (which come across as criticism, and are often stressful and upsetting) are not received in the open spirit of scientific inquiry. Nnnooo. if you want to teach or tell someone something, you have to make sure they’re in the right frame of mind for it.
An actual quote from my life:
“My anger is irrational?! We are in a moving car at highway speeds and you are PISSING OFF THE DRIVER! I think that’s pretty fucking irrational, don’t you?!”
I actually pulled over a couple of times and refused to drive when my ex husband pulled that one on me.
I wish I had realized this was an option while my husband was alive and criticizing my driving. (I’m actually a really good driver. He was a terrible driver.)
Also, all of this is before we address the very strong probability that one’s Optimiser is actually demonstrably wrong about the safest and most efficient way to cut onions, because a large part of the issue is that most Optimisers are unable to restrict themselves to situations where they actually DO have expert knowledge.
Which is pretty much the Platonic Ideal of the line between Optimising and Splaining, I feel.
*does not explain opinions about Better Onion Dicing, though horribly tempted*
Yeah, my first thought for dealing with the “just trying to help!” line was to just say that it wasn’t actually helpful. You tried to help, but it didn’t work. Hopefully you have learned and won’t do that again.
Your “slightly evil trick” is actually the thing I’m usually falling back on when someone (usually a stranger doing a walk-by know-it-all) is being “helpy” at me. Telling them “Your intention to help is appreciated; your actions aren’t actually helping, however,” and noting how they react tells me if this is someone I want anything to do with ever again. It becomes clear very quickly who is interested in actually helping and who is only interested in compelling my gratitude. It’s amazing how a perfect stranger–usually, I fear, male (I’m a woman)–go from “Let me help you” to “Fuck you, then,” in the time it takes to tell them, “What you’re doing isn’t actually helpful.”
My husband and my friends, who genuinely do want to help, only need to be told, “Thank you, but that’s not actually helping. Here’s what I actually need–” They respect that.
My dad, on the other hand, made it clear the whole time I was growing up that, whether the “help” was helpful or actually caused me harm, whether the “compliment” made me feel appreciated or confused (“Yes, I *do* have long hair. What about it?”) or even sleazy, it didn’t matter:
“YOU SAY ‘THANK YOU’.”
“But what if–”
“No. You say THANK YOU.”
The moment I went off to college and was beyond his ability to punish, it was wonderfully freeing to be able to be “rude” and stand up for my needs, boundaries and emotions.
Ya know…there are lots and lots of ways to say “Thank you.” With the right tone, “Thank you” can become, “Fuck off” or “Gee, you’re an asshole who is standing on my last nerve.”
Yes, my boyfriend has learned the difference between my “thank you” thank you and “Fuck you” thank you. 🙂
My mother is bad about telling me how to do things, just runs away with the idea that *of course* I’m going to stop what I’m doing and switch to her way, no matter how many times I deflect or say that I’m fine with doing it the way that I am. “Yup” or “whatever” wouldn’t even slow her down. When she really gets going, the only way to stop her is to say “I could do that, but I’m NOT GOING TO.” One time I had to say that twice in row to get her to stop!
So, by way of confession, I DO believe – and fortunately, my family has been able to agree on this, after some loud Exchanges Of Views and a few Disasters – that there is one time when you’re absolutely entitled to make people do it Your Way: group projects which require expertise that one person has notably more of.
We’ve gotten good at agreeing on Who Is In Charge, and on how much “ask me later if you want and I’ll explain” is acceptable.
Examples: If we’re preparing a Formal Festive meal, I am in charge of the food. Completely in charge. If I say I need you to come back from the store with matchstick carrots, baby-cut will not do, do not call me and ask. If I ask for garlic diced small, that’s what I need. If I interrupt you and ask you to do something differently, I really do need that to happen.
Actually, we ALWAYS have a Kitchen Boss, decided at the beginning. Just, normally having to stop and explain things won’t throw my whole schedule and make me burn the pastry. And it’s not always me, but big festive meals for large groups, that’s me.
My Optimiser, otoh, used to work as a coder, primarily on crypto. If he says a site or payment method or whatever is insecure, don’t use it – I don’t use it. If he says not to do anything to the network settings, I assume he’s Doing A Thing and leave stuff alone.
On hikes, Optimiser is the Route Finder and Expotition Planner. I am the Safety Bear. I don’t argue that we can do a longer route before sunset, he doesn’t argue that we need more – or fewer – supplies.
But here’s the thing; this only works when you’ve successfully built up a fund of faith that the other person DOES see you as a competent adult and is willing and able to treat you as one.
This works beautifully when the people involved are aware of their, and the others’, strengths, even when it’s a pair of splainers. Spouse and I can work side by side on different aspects of the same task like we’re effin’ rock stars. Try to work together on the same task, and it’s begging a micro-manager showdown. This is why “I roll, you cut” when we are painting works, but “I roll this wall, you roll that one” doesn’t. LOL.
Yes, exactly. My wife and I are a well-oiled machine. My husband and my wife are a well-oiled machine. He and I … *sparks* but we work on it.
We BOTH work on it. I’ve muttered a fair bit about him in this thread, but a lot of it applies to me too, and he’s aware and actively dealing with some expectations from his family that work fine for my in-laws but don’t work for us.
In a high security job I had, the Boss Of… is called being the Incident Commander. The IC has that role till the incident is resolved because more than anything all parties involved need consistent leadership.
“I am in command” means corrective input is not welcome except under most dire distress.
One of my friends used to live with my parents and me when we were in our early teens. We used to cook together a bit. After a few attempts we realised that one of us had to be in charge and the other was the assistant, otherwise there is chaos, fighting and hurt feelings. As long as one person was in charge there was generally harmony and success (we took turns at being in charge). I have stuck to this structure (more-or-less) when cooking with others ever since. I will even be the assistant if I know I have more skill and experience than my “head chef”, because I know they can ask if they want help, or I can offer help if I see a problem developing, but I won’t barge in and start doing something.
In my family in the kitchen we also have an “irregular verb”: I help, you interfere, he/she/they takes over and ruins everything (the concept of irregular verbs originally comes from Bertrand Russel I think, but we got the idea from “Yes MInister”).
I love that irregular verb.
Sweet husband’s comment on seeing a stack of folded towels: “Sometimes they are folded correctly, and sometimes they are folded by people I love.”
Yoink! Borrowing that.
A month or so ago my boyfriend was over while I was folding laundry and he picked up some towels and helped fold. I remember glancing over and noticing he was doing it “wrong”, and then immediately reminding myself that there’s no actual REASON I always fold towels the same way except habit.
My husband and I had this conversation early in our dating life. My policy is that asking me if I’d be interested in some advice is always okay, but offering unwanted advice flat-out is going to be a bad idea 99% of the time. I explained this (don’t actually remember the conversation) very straightforwardly early on. (You have to be straightforward about it, hinting does nothing with many people.) It’s kind of amazing how well it’s worked out, I really don’t get irritated by being asked if I want advice, and when I say no, he really just doesn’t offer it.
This letter made me squirm because I am so…efficient. Me and my mum were the Doers of Things in my family forever, whereas my partner’s mum did everything for him, so even though it’s my first time living independently and not his, I know how to do many things he doesn’t, and I know the ‘best way’ to do them. However, luckily he isn’t terrible at many things that actually push my buttons. I know that with the things that do push my buttons, I can be a bit insufferable, but then so can he in other ways – like one thing he does is consistently act surprised when I can do something he can’t do or that he thinks he can’t do, even though this is a daily occurrence because I am a Doing Things superhero, goddamnit. But we get by, very happily. I don’t know that it’s so much Optimising is Rude and Bad or “if you’re doing the thing, you’re doing it right” – I think there’s room for give and take and the odd bicker and I think it’s OK for me to continue to scoff when we are changing the sheets together and he puts pillows in pillowcases from the bottom up… But if you’re saying you feel like staff, and you’ve tried to tell him and he dismisses your feelings, THAT is very much the problem, not anything inherent about advice or perfectionism or onions.
The engineer bit does not necessarily come with the mansplaining bit. For what it’s worth, my guy is an engineer, and I’m a fuzzy, social science-type. He’s pretty dang capable, and generally more level-headed than I am (wheeee, lifelong anxiety), but it doesn’t mean I’m less-than. He does sometimes talk to me like I don’t know what I’m doing, but he’s also very responsive to me pointing out that he’s doing it and tries not to do it at all. Also told him flat-out that our relationship will not be like the one his parents have, where his father really does treat his mother (who was actually the primary breadwinner for the family for pretty much ever, and in a strongly male-dominated field) like she doesn’t know how to do anything and she seems to have this learned helplessness thing going on.
I hope your engineer, LW, ends up being at least as responsive as mine, even if it ends up taking a Conversation or two.
Not quite the same dynamic, but what about when there’s an actual difference between the cleanliness standards of a couple? With my partner I’m the more picky one about quality of cleaning (and an optimiser by nature), but I don’t want to do *all* the cleaning. We each have our areas of the flat we’re supposed to keep clean. I just don’t know how to handle those situations when he’s just finished some cleaning work and is proud of himself, but I can see all the bits he missed or which he sees as clean enough, and while I don’t want to criticise or optimise him when he’s just finished the job, I know those bits will keep bothering me until the next cleaning time. It would also be patronising if I touched up what he missed after he cleaned, isn’t it? O.o
My regular way is asking him if he could clean X missed thing/area next time. I do this a while after he’s done, so I’m (hopefully) not spoiling his happy moment.
Any better ideas for resolving this kind of difference? I’m a bit worried that I put too much stress on him by him having to consciously remember all the little specific things I ask him to do about his job, which wouldn’t occur to him or bother him by default. I also told him to let me know if he wants me to do anything differently with *my* cleaning, but he’s a laid back guy in general, and doesn’t really have anything similar in reverse.
My partner is on the spectrum and finds things like wrinkles and so on uncomfortable, but instead of having me make the bed to his expectations, he makes the bed.
What if your partner does the cleaning his way, and you finish up with anything that strikes you as inadequate? Yes, it means you’re still doing the cleaning, but if they did 2/3 of it first, say, isn’t that better than nothing?
Unless you guess your partner is doing it on purpose so that you’ll go, Oh forget it, I’ll just do it myself?
I think it’d be best to discuss it at a time not linked to a particular task. If I were you, I’d probably be inclined to accept a little more work to reach my higher standard, so long as his standard isn’t a serious problem (such as being a health hazard). So, I would tell him that you’ve noticed that you have different ideas of clean enough, and you acknowledge that his really is sufficient, but there are a lot of little details he probably doesn’t notice that will bother you if they aren’t done, and ask him if he’d mind if you just go through and handle those little bits after he finishes his cleaning. I assume the extra bits aren’t a huge amount of extra work for you. And if you still act positively toward him and act as if he did get the job done, and now you’re just doing the things that make you feel more comfortable and happier, I think that would probably be okay with most people. Basically, don’t frame it as his job isn’t sufficient, just that you like certain particular details and you’d rather just do those things to make your home comfortable for you as it seems unlikely they will harm or bother him. So, while touching up after might normally be patronizing, if he understands that it’s your way of just making yourself comfortable with your living space without criticizing him, then he may be able to not view it that way.
You could try to get him to learn your standards, but I’d worry that he might not even really see the bits you do. And it also seems a bit tougher to sell the “I want you to do more work” angle than the “I want you to be patient while I do my personal fussing that makes me happier with my living space.” Although if the workload is too uneven, then it is more complicated.
Would you consider moving from an “area” method to a “task” method? If there are large time-consuming tasks that can be done imperfectly for him to do, and then smaller more detail-oriented ones for you, that might help. For example, if he declutters and vacuums a room, you can come in after him and dust and tidy everything else up.
A few thoughts:
I like the suggestion of changing how you divvy up tasks so that he does the beginning work and you come in behind with the detail cleaning. I don’t think this would be patronizing at all, and he would probably be happy to not get a comment on what he did wrong every time.
Another option might be to identify thing where your standards are the same, or his are perhaps higher. Those are perfect tasks to assign to him. (I’d be careful that this doesn’t leave all the “second shift” stuff to you, though.)
Also, and I appreciate that this is easier said than done, but it would be a kindness to adjust your own standards a bit. I’m a lot like you in that I’m quite clean, but I’ve had some stress in my personal life recently that has required me to clean less and I’ve just had to learn to live with it. At least for me, identifying what I’m doing has helped a lot – “yes, self, I know there’s a big pile of laundry at the foot of the bed. It would be great if we could get that cleaned up. But, it’s way more important to study for this exam, so we’re going to just leave it for now.”
My partner and I live in adjacent houses, and he’s both fussier than I am about how things should be done and way more concerned about whether things are messy, so it’s a challenge, when he wants help with cleaning his house but also wants to dictate all of the methods. I’m learning to leave in the middle, for my own peace of mind, when he gets too involved in how I help – after all, it’s his house, so he’s welcome to clean it (or not) in his own way, and I’m welcome to help (or not) in my own way. More aggravating is when he wants me to make dinner for us in his house, but then makes little comments the whole time about every step of the process. I’m hoping that with clear communication, these things will work out over time.
There’s a related issue, though, which also involves whether or not something is being done the “right” way, and that is that he and I have very different styles when it comes to driving. I believe that when you have a passenger in the car, the priority should be on driving so that the passenger is comfortable. He believes the priority should be on efficiency issues, like conserving fuel. This means that he doesn’t like to brake very much for turns, such that passengers sometime get flung against the side of the car. Or when someone ahead is turning, he wants to trust that they’ll get out of the way in time, so he doesn’t slow down. Me, I’d brake slightly, or at least decelerate, if someone ahead is turning, because maybe I can’t see that there’s a pedestrian or some other issue on the street they’re turning onto that would keep them from getting out of the way promptly.
Riding with him can be pretty stressful –about half the time I get out of the car with my stomach in a knot. My son (age 14) is more easy-going than I am, and he also finds it stressful. On the other hand, I’m told that his dad drives the same way, and his family is all used to it, so to him it seems normal, and I seem to be overreacting.
Of course, one solution is that my son and I don’t ride in his car. Another is to mention as I get into the car, each and every time, that I’d like him to please drive “slowly.” (I don’t think I drive any more slowly than he does, overall, but it sure seems a lot more smoothly.) So which is better – is it best for us to think of this as my little quirk that he’s being kind to accommodate, when he remembers? It’s sure tempting to me to treat this as more of a social norm that he’s violating, but then that bugs him, of course, and maybe then I’m guilty of this same type of over-managing of processes that annoys me so much when he does it, by saying that he’s not doing it the “right” way. That is, maybe it’s different because comfort and safety are involved, or maybe I’m just kidding myself. What do you think?
I’m sorry, I know this is the wrong solution, but it’s the one that I immediately thought of.
1. Develop vertigo (don’t do this if you can help it; it’s really awful, actually)
2. Throw up in his car from the increased sensitivity to motion sickness
This should only need to be done once to be massively educational.
Ha, yeah — actually, I get vertigo fairly often (I seem pretty susceptible to labyrinthitis, plus I get motion-sick if I don’t focus on the horizon in the car), but I hardly ever throw up, even from food poisoning.
He is a reckless driver and for your safety and the child you might want to stop riding with him until he takes a driving class to learn how to decelerate properly. There are a lot of things that do not matter very much. Safe driving is not one of them.
Hell to the yes. You can think about saving fuel in situations like standing in front of a red light and turning the engine off or nah. Not slowing down when someone is turning is *dangerous*. It’s reckless driving. It endagers everyone in his car and also in front and behind him. How does it make sense to save 0,01$ in fuel but having to pay thousands of dolars for a car crash you are responsible for? (Not to mention the potential physical injuries.)
He is making you physically and mentally uncomfortable in a situation where he has all the control and responsibility. I would state this, and request that he drive in x and y way while you are in his car. I had to do this: it took being very direct and unapologetic. He changed his driving style out of consideration for my comfort, and I rarely have to remind him.
Sorry, should have added that it’s not micromanaging or over-optimisation to protest when someone has total control over your safety and comfort. Once in the car, you cannot take the task over yourself or walk away, and the task being done wrong has major consequences. The task has to be done differently or not at all.
Let’s run this scenario through Jane’s excellent suggestion rubric above, shall we?
1. What is the benefit of my suggestion?
If he follows it, you will not be flung about the car like a ragdoll, and also you will not feel super anxious every second in the car with him.
2. Why do I think this is important to share with the other person?
Because you are (legitimately) worried that he is going to cause an accident.
3. Is there a health hazard involved?
Just death & dismemberment. And fire, don’t forget fire. Otherwise, no, unsafe driving is totally not health hazardous.
4. Does this person seem tired, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable?
WHO CARES READ #3 AGAIN
Seriously, don’t drive with this guy unless he agrees to not be a jerk. And if he tries to claim that ‘fuel efficiency’ is more important than safe stopping distances and speeds while you and your child! are in the car….that will tell you a lot about how much he values you, your safety, and comfort versus his need to be right.
Cleaning is – (up to a point, but that point for most people is a long way away) a matter of preference. Safe driving is a matter of life and death.
If someone fails to pay attention when you say ‘I do not feel safe when you do this’ that’s a red flag. It doesn’t matter whether they’re the best driver in the world; when you say ‘I don’t feel safe’ it’s a dick move to ignore you or to try and mansplain you into that no, it’s perfectly safe. (It’s not. And it’s not energy efficient, either.)
I appreciate your concern for your partner’s mindset while driving — I am extremely sensitive to criticism/unsolicited “advice” in general, and that extends to passenger-seat driving. I once snapped at a friend for trying to watch for oncoming cars while I was merging because: I AM DRIVING, LET ME DO MY JOB. (I also am carrying over my family culture, wherein my brother once informed me that when I check for cars as a passenger I am blocking his sightlines and thus, need to cut that shit out.)
It highlighted a big difference in how we see the issue of car safety — from her point of view, the risk of making me angry at being condesplained to was worth avoiding the possibility that I hadn’t noticed something obviously dangerous; from my point of view, her making me upset while driving was creating a new and unnecessary hazard (especially when she was pointing out things that she had no reason to suspect I didn’t see? wha?)
My friend has politely declined all offers to have me drive her anywhere since that point, so that’s one way of solving the problem. The inconvenience is worth not having the conflict.
(Sigh, it sounds really weird now — and maybe it was — but to be clear: she was looking for oncoming cars and telling me to watch for them, while I was turned around in my seat doing that very thing?? the added value of her contribution was unclear.)
Having also had merging advice volunteered on me while I was trying to merge, I understand how distracting and not conducive to good merging it can be.
Discussions about passenger comfort and safety can hopefully be done while not actually on the road, once you know what the issues are.
To be clear: I think your consideration of your partner is commendable, but I think in this case he is WRONG WRONG WRONG and should change how he drives so you feel safe.
Re family culture and driving: When riding in the back seat of someone else’s car, to this day I duck my head down to “make sure they can see” when backing out of a parking space. (I am of average height, btw.) People invariably give me funny looks when I do this, because why wouldn’t they be able to see? Well, my dad couldn’t, or thought he couldn’t — and I think we can definitely file this under “the right way to put away the rice cooker,” because he certainly had a long list of those things. We all bring weird quirks to the table, or in this case to the road …
Hypermiling turns my daily commute into a game, and helps keep my focus on the road. The 2-3 dollars in gas I save each way adds up to around $100 a month. We are on a very tight budget, and having even a small cushion of my own against the unexpected helps my anxiety around our stretched finances.
That said, you, his partner and the mother of a child in his car, express discomfort and concern for you and your child’s safety then are dismissed, argued with, and patted down? Nope. Not okay.
Hypermiling is an inherently nonsocial, and when taken to it’s extreme, anti-social thing to do. Even my casual form of it requires my complete attention and focus. That’s part of the appeal, as it’s easy to get distracted and complacent during the everyday drive to work and back.
It’s not for picking my kids up from school/childcare, when they may need part of my focus on them. It’s not for driving with friends while discussing whatever restaurant/movie/festival we’re going to. It’s not for when Spouse and I are reviewing our grocery list en route to three different food stores.
And it’s most certainly not for making my passengers feel like they have to brace themselves every time we make a turn. My loved one’s security is worth far more to me than a couple bucks, no matter how tight things get.
He is choosing 2-3 dollars in gas and the pleasant feeling you get from winning a level of Candy Crush, over you and your child’s comfort and safety. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not Okay.
Being a passenger in someone’s car is an act of trust. You are literally putting your well-being in someone else’s hands. A partner taking that trust and using it to push past my boundaries, to make me doubt my right to expect to be safe with them, that raises alarm bells.
As a learner driver, your partner’s driving terrifies me. Brrr! Maybe it would help to mention that some vehicles may be on the road for the first time? Ugh, scary stuff.
Also, he does realise fuel efficiency doesn’t come from driving as quickly as possible at all times right? Just go down a gear or two to go round a corner with some control.
That said, my parents have quite different driving styles. My mum gets annoyed at how fast my dad drives, whereas he gets annoyed at her not asserting herself enough on the road. Over the years they’ve more or less learned each other’s preferences, but there’s still occasional friction. I imagine if they weren’t prioritising keeping each other happy and comfortable it would be almost impossible.
Thanks for the help. I think most of the people who’ve tried to help me with this are assuming that he actually is driving in a reckless or unsafe manner. I couldn’t say for sure that he actually _is_ reckless, in an objective sense, since I don’t know one way or the other; I only know that it feels that way to me and that his natural tendency is to drive in a way that makes me feel tossed about and leads me to worry about whether he’s noticing when cars are slowing down ahead of us. He certainly doesn’t feel that he’s doing anything unsafe (he’s a cautious person by nature in all other contexts, and I think he’s offended that I don’t trust his judgment), so he resists anything I have to say on the topic except for appeals to my own comfort level. (And I am definitely direct and clear about it!)
He does want me to be comfortable, he’s definitely a kind and considerate person, so (when he remembers the issue), he tries to anticipate what he should be doing differently, but his sense of what would be comfortable is so different from mine that he’s constantly surprised by my reactions. His position is that he should adapt to me and I should adapt to him and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle, but in this context, that’s not working so well.
That is, if it were possible to show him that he’s doing something objectively wrong, then he’d be more likely to change his overall style of driving. As it is, he’s thinking that he has one among several normal and acceptable driving styles, and given that his driving is otherwise “fine,” then he’s doing a special thing to try to accommodate me. So it hasn’t sunk in as deeply as if he believed he was objectively wrong, and I have to remember to remind him and then put the energy into discussing all the instances where he still hasn’t quite gotten it, as they come up. And I just want to sit there and trust him and relax…
But – this is your sense of safety and comfort, which is inevitably based on a subjective perception. There is no meeting in the middle. Either he learns to consistently drive in the specific way you need, based on listening to what you tell him, or he doesn’t drive you. Driving has many variables, there is no one right way to do it (although plenty of wrong ways), but most people agree that the point of it is to get people safely and comfortably from A to B. If people don’t feel safe and comfortable, the mission has not been achieved.
I agree with you 100%. That’s a great way to put it.
Wanting to be in a car where a reckless driver is not putting people at risk by chasing the almighty $0.0035 cents of fuel optimization when turning the corner is not “a little quirk”.
Seriously. I get optimized at by the light of my life sometimes, but if they are driving they often check in with me on whether I feel safe in the car if even e.g. the weather conditions might be unnerving. And I occasionally get random reassurances that “If you ever feel uncomfortable with the way I’m driving, let me know, okay?” Super-conscientious driver. I feel very safe in that situation. If I could at all avoid it, I would not get into a car where there was a coin-flip chance of my getting out with my stomach in a knot, because…
Ugh. Put it this way; THE GIFT OF FEAR’s advice to listen to your gut when something is making you afraid does not need to get thrown out when your husband is not driving badly AT you. Because he is driving badly, and that is potentially so so bad.
About the 2 examples you’ve given. First, not braking much when turning means he doesn’t have as much control of the car if something unexpected happens – NOT SAFE (or efficient)! And your second example is even more glaring. He doesn’t KNOW what the other driver is going to do until they do it. TRUSTING that they’ll be out of your partner’s way is WISHFUL THINKING, not reality. NOT SAFE. It seems that driving yourself for YOUR OWN SAFETY is the best thing to do.
My mom is the absolute worst about this. I have trouble figuring out how to navigate it because on one hand, it pushes (and probably installed) all my screw-you-i’m-competent buttons. On the other hand, I know it comes at least in part from her childhood, during which there were dire physical consequences for doing dishes in the “wrong order.” I want to act compassionately on that knowledge but god, it is so frustrating.
“Those anxious feelings are his to manage, not yours to compensate for by conforming to his way of doing everything.”
Here’s an explanation that might be helpful:
“When you correct me, especially on things of minimal importance, it causes me to feel frustrated and distracted. If the benefit in efficiency for doing things your way is x, and the loss of efficiency, time, and mental energy due to the frustration you cause me is >x, then your helpfulness is a net detriment. Please accept that your attempts to fix things which are not broken cause harm which outweighs the good they achieve, and assume that if I do things in a way different from the one you would expect I probably have a reason for it.”
“I know you are trying to help, but some/many of the things you attempt to assist me with are not problems. When I put away the rice cooker, I know that I am the one who is going to take it out again, not you, and so I put it away the way I like it. Having you tell me how to perform (culinary, laundry, accounting, whatever) tasks feels like the marketing department coming in to tell you how to redesign (chairs/computer code/consumer electronics/whatever it is that he works on).
Lastly, getting at the deeper principle:
“Efficiency is very important with regards to systems. People are not systems, however – we are complex individuals with our own thoughts, emotions, and desires. You cannot optimize someone else because you cannot read their mind.”
If he responds that people ARE systems, then, well, I think you have a problem (at the very least, we’re very complex and incompletely-understood systems).
I wouldn’t recommend going overboard (because ‘eye for an eye’ does not end well) but it might be useful to illustrate how it feels to be on the receiving end once or twice. Pick something trivial (such as the way he buttons a shirt, or something) and ‘correct it’. Or maybe just pick a single day and correct a number of things he does. Afterward, explain that you were trying to help him grasp what it’s like to be on the receiving end so that the two of you could have a more productive conversation about why it is an irritating habit. Whether or not this is a good idea depends on his temperament, though. It won’t actually help with most people.
Optional Extra: “Consider how important something is before bringing it up. The way I chop an onion is profoundly unimportant unless you have a safety concern. If something does seem important, try asking me whether I have ever thought about your alternative way of doing things, or consider suggesting it as another way that I can test out rather than making it a correction, especially if the task at hand is something I do on a regular basis and you do not.”
Long time lurker, first time commenter.
Thanks for your post, and ouch ouch ouch–I’ve been on the wrong side of this and I struggle with it. I do see the pain it causes, and that helps me. Empathy is key. Grab bag of thoughts:
What won’t work: giving him a taste of his own medicine. I don’t think this will work, as if you try to one-up him on logic and efficiency, either he’ll browbeat you into submission with his better way of doing it, or if you’re actually demonstrably correct with the ironclad logic of a geometric proof, rather than see how annoying the whole procedure is to go through regardless of who’s right, he won’t see that at all, rather he will just get all excited about learning a better and more efficient way from you on this one occasion, which will just go to prove that he should keep “helping” you with 99% of the other cases when he, of course, knows better. So I wouldn’t try that.
Would the you-say/I-feel approach work? “When you say X, I feel Y.” Even shortened to just the Y, in context:
He comments on cord-wrapping: “My nerves are all on edge now.” (He sits up and takes notice, light bulb moment–or not?)
He comments on onion-chopping: “I’m feeling patronized.” or even, “Boy, I guess I must be pretty stupid.”
Insurance questions: “I’m feeling rather deflated and devalued as being too dumb to figure out travel insurance. After all that work I did talking to them, too.”
Fixing the fixer:
Easier (and less in-your-face) than therapy: encourage him to read Deborah Tannen’s “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation” and “The Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair in Love and Marriage” by Geo. Bach (1969; and yes, still relevant). Maybe he’ll see some things to fix in his conversational style and being the fixer that he is, apply them.
Disarm and preempt with creative, right-brainy approach:
Next time you put away the rice cooker, twist the cord into the shape of a daisy, add some yellow twisties (or cello tape) to hold it steady, and possibly a grape tomato at the center for a dash of color. I double-dare him to comment on it. In response, you could talk about how dreary and angular the kitchen looked, and you thought that this would spice it up, in the absence of having any art in the kitchen. And isn’t this a form of art? And he likes art, doesn’t he? Keep a completely straight face, and report back.
Finally, just for fun, and to keep a historical perspective, the term “mansplaining” likely comes as a result of a well-known incident that Rebecca Solnit wrote about in her 2008 article, “Men who explain things”: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/13/opinion/op-solnit13 .
Initially feeling a sense of irony in suggesting how to fix this problem, given my own struggle, but then realizing on the heels of that thought that when advice is requested, it’s all right to offer it. (And you don’t have to accept it! I might be wrong! Really!) Breathes a sigh of relief, and hoping this, or one of the other comments, or all of them, will help. Peace.
I’ve been there, LW. While hiking, my ex-boyfriend tried to explain to me the “correct” way to tie my shoes when I had to stop to re-tie my lace. I said something like “Can you please stop correcting me on things?” and he blew up at me about how he was just trying to help me and stormed off back down the path. There were other moments of being shown how to do basic things both before and after this. I tried to explain to him how it was infantilizing and how incredibly frustrating and humiliating it was to be on the receiving end of that, but he just never got it. To him, it was more important to be right, even to the detriment of interpersonal relationships. We talked about it to the point of “If you keep doing this, it will eventually cause me not to like you anymore; do you understand that?” It wasn’t why we broke up, and it didn’t happen 24/7, but it was a caution symbol for me, and for months after we broke up I always felt like there was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that I was doing things wrong, that I didn’t plan things correctly, etc. as I went about my life.
Sometimes I read these things too fast and miss the “ex-” and get VERY WORRIED. Congrats on that prefix!
He’s an engineer. I’ve got one of those too. We’ve been married 30 years and the number of times I have wanted to wrap an (incorrectly coiled) flex round his neck is uncountable.
I’m a dairy farmer – his one and only time in the milking parlour, he started mansplaining my job to me ( there was, apparently, a “better” way to put milking cups on a cow). He got cut short when a cow pooped down his back and filled his boots with liquid cowpat and he has never set foot in the parlour since. Yay.
I use the Captain’s method on him as the cow method is a bit antisocial. It does work and I totally recommend it. We can now joke about it when a bout of mansplaining starts, which defuses things nicely. And letting him have the odd little mansplain and thanking him sweetly (pick your fights) makes him feel all competent and engineery and I get stuff fixed on farm when I want it. 😉
You have my sympathy. Good luck!
The Captain’s advice definitely beats my typical method of heading straight to rage: “You needn’t patronize me. I am not a child and I know exactly what I’m doing/understand the subject under discussion” so coldly they get frost bite and I’m labelled a bitch.
I have finally – finally! – broken my Nigel of back-seat (well, passenger seat) driving. I do most of the driving, have been driving more years than he, and have an exemplary driving record, but that never stopped him from commenting on my speed, closeness to the vehicle in front of me, concern over potential actions of other vehicles, etc. It took him a while to break that habit, and while breaking that habit, he’d get to the point that he didn’t say anything, but he’d flinch or or brace himself (for some impending collision, not that there was one and the airbags would probably break his arms when braced against the dash if there was one anyway), crane his neck around all the time, etc. All that movement in my peripheral vision was as annoying as the back seat driving. And now, finally, he’s cured.
The funny thing is, he grew up on a tiny island where he didn’t need a driver’s license, and then didn’t bother to learn when he came to big city because of good public transportation. When I first knew him, he didn’t back seat drive at all. It wasn’t until after I taught him to drive that he started back seat driving at me. Classic case of mansplaining behaviour, if you ask me.
As someone who is not a good driver and who took years to get better (if not over) this tendency, and who also has observed similar tendencies in others who are also not terribly experienced behind the wheel — I sort of wonder if it isn’t related to the sort of hyperawareness/rules-lawyeriness which less-experienced drivers tend to exhibit. Something to do with cognitive load and levels of arousal on new tasks versus well-learned tasks, perhaps?
I’m a pretty experienced and good driver and I flinch and brace when someone else is driving, so it may not be just less experience speaking. In me, it’s an involuntary nervous response, and usually worse when I have high anxiety. I usually keep my mouth shut, because rude, but sometimes I grab or brace (trying to break) before I can stop myself. I try very hard to sit in the backseat whenever possible, because the less I see, the better off everyone is.
I feel like it’s a control thing; if you’re used to having control it’s hard to give it up. But at the same time if you are unable to mask it (or unwilling/unable to sit in the back seat), it can be very annoying/distracting to the driver. I get how anxiety could cause issues for many people, but it is really not the problem with my Nigel. He is very much one of those people that once he learns something he considers himself an expert. I like arguing/discussions and we have some interesting ones (if we can’t convince each other, we end it by googling or making a joke “let’s go there right now, we’ll see who’s right about this” and we dissolve into giggles because backstory), so ‘splaining immediately turns into a lively discussion instead, but damn it used to drive me crazy when I was driving. He took to carrying bus change around in case I ever just kicked him out of the car. I never have, but he believes in being prepared.
Let me clarify, because it sounds like I’m contradicting myself in those two posts.
If someone is patronizing me as they splain, I go straight to frosty. (“Everyone knows that’s not how you’re supposed to cut onions!…”)
If someone is busy splaining something that I believe they’re actually getting wrong I become argumentative. (“All those physicists who support string theory are wrong because…” [when speaker is not a physicist but read a popular book on string theory once]”)
I am a left handed person, so everything I have ever done in my life looked wrong to my family members. I have tried hard not to learn what I lived. It can be fun among friends when making a gallon of guacamole to show and tell how you peel and seed an avocado. Or even all the ways to tie shoes. Sometimes it is a dominance dance and needs to be addressed on that basis.
My heart hurts, Not His Employee, for you and so many other posters in this thread. This was me a year ago.
Forget the left brain vs right brain, engineer vs not, overreacting vs not. I am a left-brained half-Vulcan engineer, and it’s Still Bloody Patronising to be constantly corrected. I spent 11 years using my words, saying calmly that I know how to hang up washing / drive / chop an onion, and to please stop telling me how, it’s annoying and makes me feel like you think I am not a competent adult.
I am also capable of optimising my own life. If someone demonstrates a better way of doing something, or tells me ONCE why they personally prefer to do something a certain way, I am capable of making a valid decision on whether to adopt that way of doing it.
He would turn it down for a while, then forget, and resume. As time went on, he got more subtle at doing it. Phrasing things as a question, using “we don’t” / “we should”, more gently and patiently ‘splaining why his way was right. Subtlety or being “good at helping” does not change the basic problems, which are that he does not think you capable of making your own decisions, and that he thinks his way is the only right way.
Your instincts are dead on with that conversation you are thinking of having. Do it. Your words are fine. Wait for the inevitable “but I’m just being helpful”. Leave him to mull it over a few days, then go back and do it again. Say “NO THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT, I NEED YOU TO STOP NOW, IT’S REALLY HURTING OUR RELATIONSHIP”. (because it is. if not now, then in 2 years’ time. or 10.)
I did all that. For many years, his response to the above was “ooh. sorry.” and he’d turn it down for a while, and I’d accept it as price of admission.
The first time his response could be summarised as “This is just how I am. You need to not let it upset you. And you also need to get better at Adulting” – was the clear signal of the beginning of the end of our relationship. It was the landmark that showed me he was no longer able to care about my happiness. The only thing I could have maybe done better was to respond “MARRIAGE COUNSELLING. NOW.” – but I suspect it would have only made the long slow-motion train wreck even slower.
My marriage disintegrated for several reasons, but this issue was what killed my love. And, 6 months later, makes me happy almost daily that I do not have to put up with this any more. And thankful approximately weekly that my mother brought me up with a sense of self-confidence that even that couldn’t destroy, cos seriously, it takes a lot to still view yourself as a competent intelligent person in the face of constant implication to the contrary.
I wish you fairer waters to sail.
This comment rings SO TRUE to me. My mansplainer actually left me after 10 years because I was ” not making the most of my potential” and “not ready to lead an adult life.” He suggested that once I got my “life together” perhaps we could get back together. At first I considered this because after all, we’d been together a long time and I loved him, but then I thought “Well fuck you.” It turns out that I did not want to BE the person he’d been trying to turn me into, nor is there anything wrong with the person I am.
Illustrative: In the morning, I liked to shower, then go check my email and get dressed, then go back in the bathroom to brush my teeth. It was a habit I’d originally developed when I smoked so that dressing and toothbrushing could come after my morning cigarette. After I quit smoking, he thought that I should change my pattern to do all bathroom things at the same time. I did not want to. He nagged me about that for SERIOUSLY FOUR YEARS. Was it affecting him? No, except that he felt it was inefficient. And “this is how I want to do it” was not an acceptable response because I had no logic to back it up, only my “emotional” desire to do things my way. With many things, cleaning tasks especially, I tried the “If you think you can do this better, you do it” to which he always blew up and claimed that I was immature and it was not his responsibility to do it, he was just making sure that I was doing it RIGHT (because I=spoiled, immature child not capable of completing tasks correctly and within his timetable on my own). I thought that he was right, and that I needed him to tell me what to do because I was clearly not measuring up. OP, you are so very very lucky that you recognize this behavior as a HIM problem and not a YOU problem.
Obviously, there are some ‘Splainers who are good intentioned–there are many right here in the comments!–but for me now, this is a serious red flag. It has been seven months since we parted, and although I am happier than I ever thought I could be to be free, I’m also having to put in serious work to see myself as a competent, capable person. When I make mistakes, it’s very hard for me to cut myself some slack (“How could I have known, I’ve never done this before!”) rather than defaulting to “God, how could I make that mistake? Any reasonable adult would know _____.”
OP, I suspect that–as Englyn points out–his reaction to your request is the most important thing. If he recognizes that this behavior makes you feel bad/unhappy and accepts that as a reason to stop doing it, then that is awesome. If he merely points out that you and your “crazy” emotions are invalid, and that it is not his fault that you are having this irrational response to his perfectly reasonable advice, you might have a problem on your hands.
(I’m sorry this is so long and slightly O/T…this just hit a raw nerve.)
“Every reasonable child/adult on the planet knows to do x task z way, why are you so useless” was a constant underlying message of my childhood and I still have trouble some days recognizing my jerkbrain spouting nonsense from the past and telling it “no, actually, every adult has their own system and as long as x gets done, doing it way g or h or f isn’t going to break the universe.” Because the alternative is curling up in bed crying and not doing x at all.
I’m sorry you went through that. And I agree, his reaction is key to whether this will improve. As someone with explaining tendencies, I agree both that some people who do this have good intentions and that it is also a red flag. Basically, it’s a form of immaturity that hurts other people, and some of us will be capable of learning that, recognizing that, and changing it as we see that we’re hurting others. Some people don’t outgrow these things. But it’s a real red flag, because it really does hurt people. I did other stupid, well-intentioned things that I try to avoid now. Like accepting things that bothered me without saying anything, because I thought I was being super good, accommodating, and I was taught that in relationships you need to pick your battles, so I figured I shouldn’t mention little annoyances… and, of course, then eventually some of them blew up into me being really, really upset and my partner not hearing about it til I was really upset and hurt over it, which was completely unfair. What can I say? I was young, I didn’t grow up with lessons in how to do relationships well, and I made lots of mistakes, which I regret. I try to do better now on several fronts. But being well-intentioned doesn’t really fix anything. It just means that if the person responds poorly, and you decide it’s a deal-breaker for you, you can hope that someday they do mature and learn better and end up in a happier relationship. I think it’s completely legitimate to walk away because your well-intentioned partner does not yet know how to have a respectful, happy relationship. And it’s not like you can really have a respectful relationship with someone you have to view as not yet capable of relationshipping.
I hope this letter writer’s explainer is the sort that will think about the emotional effects and get better.
Your “emotional” desire to do things your way…
Why shouldn’t you do things your way? You’re the person doing them.
I once was making something, not to get into details but I’d made things like that before. And someone who had a One True Efficient Way pushed me to do it differently. I did. When I finished, I hated it. Absolutely loathed it, never wanted to have anything to do with it. It wasn’t mine, it didn’t feel like mine. And I cried, because I hated it for not being mine when it should have been.
I tore it apart. I remade it my way. Which was hard, after someone else getting into my head and interfering with my way, but I did.
I still didn’t like that it had been not-mine, but it was better. I am nobody’s automaton, my doing flows from me. And I don’t find wanting to be present and myself, in the doing of the things I do, to be something to be discarded in the name of logic and efficiency or unemotionality. It’s illogical to expect you to make yourself uncomfortable and feel like not-you simply to satisfy someone else’s ideal of efficiency. It’s also a really bad sign when someone wants to control you that much, and pulls a reverse onus on you to get you to justify not changing.
I am teaching DearOne to sew. Sometimes his stitches are not perfectly spaced, and I fight back my urge to push him to make them perfect because THEY ARE HIS CLOTHES. HE GETS TO SEW THEM HIS WAY. My job is to coach basic technique and make sure he doesn’t stab himself. Thank you for sharing this story, it’s really important to recognize that sometimes, the journey is part of the experience.
“NO THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT, I NEED YOU TO STOP NOW, IT’S REALLY HURTING OUR RELATIONSHIP”
Yes. This. Anyone who doesn’t respond to that with an immediate change in behavior needs to find the door, rapidly.
LW, I am also wondering if this is a new(ish) behavior for your man. It has absolutely no relevance in regards to the advice and scripts you were given, but I’m curious in a “how do mansplainers work?” kind of way. I noticed it was several years in to my relationship after I’d had plenty of time to establish what I could and could not do on my own that he decided my mundane techniques needed correcting, I wonder if that happens with any frequency.
Husband and I had this problem in the beginning…but it was mostly me doing the ‘splainin’. I had lived on my own for quite a while before we got together, raising two small kids alone, and I had A System, My System, The System for doing All. The. Things. And then, one day he was doing a Household Thing that I normally took care of, just to take some pressure off of me, and I came in with my ‘helpful suggestions’ and he says to me, ‘Look, either I can do Household Thing, or you can do Household Thing, but if you’re going to tell be how to do Thing because you know how to do it so much better, then you should probably be the one to do the Thing and I’m going to go sit down and prop my feet up because it’s been a long day already’. And I realized just how unappreciative it sounded like I was being of his best efforts to help me. I had to evaluate – Do I want his help, or do I want my way? And really, did it matter that much if Thing was done his way sometimes and my way another? Well, no it didn’t. So, if Husband is professional onion-chopper, I’d suggest handing off that chore to him…along with all the cooking responsibilities. If husband is the very best rice-cooker-cord wrapper, then leave it out for him to put up…along with all the rest of the dishes. And next time, finding a travel insurance policy is his job, too. He can spend his entire day getting all his questions answered to his satisfaction. If he wants it done ‘right’, then he can do it all – by himself – while you go have a nice cup of your preferred beverage and relax.
I definitely have micromanaging tendencies, especially around food prep-related things, and one of my favorite things about my partner is that she does not put up with that for a second and has helped me unlearn much of the behavior pattern to the point that I’m not able to mostly manage the impulse myself before it even affects her. One of the sweetest things she’s ever done for me was to sit me down in the kitchen and make me mac n’ cheese when I was stressed and hungry, expressly forbidding me from getting up and fussing over anything related to the cooking process while she did so. She used a different amount of water than I did to cook the pasta, and you know what? It was totally fine, and I we were both left less stressed than we would have been if I had fussed.
The rules I now hold for myself to prevent micromanaging are as follows – if the way she does Thing does not involve/affect me, I have zero right to comment. If the way she does Thing does affect me, I can only comment if I politely ask permission to do so first. Example: Partner puts away a shared snack food, but folds the top haphazardly in a way that does not seal the bag. I am allowed to keep our shared snacks from getting stale by saying something like “Would it be okay if I showed you how I fold bag tops so that they seal well?” and then show her if she agrees. Taking the bag from her hands and sealing it myself without comment, on the other hand, is unacceptable.
Oooh, also. Helpful, optimising engineer my arse. If this were really where that is coming from, he would be asking a bunch of questions, with genuine intellectual curiosity, about why you do a thing your way – in case it actually turns out to be better. And he’d change to do stuff your way occasionally, when it does turn out to be better. He’d also respond well if you point out that him also doing the work you’ve already done on your insurance is inefficient.
Nope, this is about someone trying to prop up their self worth by appearing better than you at stuff. Which makes it totally understandable. And they still need to Get Off Your Foot and stay off it.
Agreed 1000%. Like what we say to the devs at work: if a whole lot of customers are using your software in a certain way, you don’t get to tell them they’re doing it wrong.
I may live to regret this, but I have made a journal entry for the benefit of people who really really do want to talk about how to chop onions.
The problem I run into is that frequently the unsolicited advice is correct. Like, it genuinely does make more sense to wrap the cord around the rice cooker a certain way, because then it fits in the box correctly. And I can see, even in the moment, that that way makes more sense, or is more optimal, or whatever.
Part of the issue is that I’m not always receptive to advice. (Advising me on litter scooping, sure. Advising me on how to cook a thing when I’m already starving, there’s a hotline for that.) So sometimes I need a script for “you’re totally and entirely correct in every way, please go away now”.
The rest is just… I have no interest in experimenting with much of anything around the home, because I’ll just do it wrong. The whole “if they offer unsolicited advice, that means they’re volunteering! mwaha!” trick is fine and all, but sometimes I want to screw up, as daft as that sounds. I want to make a bunch of pasta in the most inefficient way possible, so that I can keep track and do it better next time. But that knowledge already exists, so I’m just wasting time (and food). I don’t know the scripts for “I’d like to be wrong for a bit; please go take a walk or something”.
THE WORST: I too can be a perfectionist. (And a bit of a slob, figure that one out.)
Slob perfectionists represent.
I sometimes wonder if my slob tendencies stem from that fact that my perfectionism in exhausting, and towards the end of the day/week I just don’t have the energy left to do any more.
In my case (and, to hear chunks of the internet tell it, in many perfectionists’ cases) it’s partially down to the logic of “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” I am currently in the process of learning to half-ass things. lol
Being disabled forced me into that position of learning that it’s ok to do some things half-assed. I only wish I had figured it out sooner. I was raised by a perfectionist with impossible standards. Clean the whole house but forget to move the dryer and sweep up the lint behind it? FAILURE! So, all chores had equal importance and they all had to be done One Way, The Only Right Way. Now I realize that I’m just not going to have spoons to cook, clean, organize, and optimize all in one day…and if I try, tomorrow I’ll be doing exactly nothing as I lie in bed trying to keep my pain at a non-emergency level, meaning I’ve failed at optimizing, for sure. I know from experience that I won’t be able to wash, dry, fold and put up all the laundry today, so I have to accept that clean underwear is much more important than whether I pull them unfolded from a laundry basket or unfold them from a drawer; having at least *something* to wear is fairly important, and that means it really is ok if I’m putting undershirts and pants in the same load; and eating a meal of some kind today is more important than chasing away the dust, which will be there again tomorrow anyway. Also, having a Husband to do the things that I don’t have spoons for means that he gets to do that chore however works best for him, which is more important than the chore possibly getting done The Right Way… next week… or month… sometime… maybe… when I can get to it.
Zoe Mulford has a song called “Life is Too Short to Fold Underwear”, which is a philosophy I highly approve of 😉
Argh, so much yes. I spend so much time making sure things are perfect from the get-go that things never get done! I’m trying to train myself to trust future-me to pick up the additional details later. (As doofy as it sounds, agile has been helping with this. “Get a working product out the door” is a surprisingly useful way to think of things.)
The reason *I* am both a perfectionist and a slob is that because I want to Do the Thing right, sometimes I don’t have enough energy for that, and so rather than Do the Thing imperfectly, I just don’t do it at all.
As your nosy picky partner, I think both your scripts sound perfect just as you wrote them, and you should not hesitate to employ them on me. “You’re being helpy again” would also get the point across. As much as I try to shut myself up or preface with “Would you like a suggestion?” when I start wanting to backseat cook/knit/clean/whatever, I can’t always catch the helpiness before it slips out, at which point it’s perfectly appropriate to whap me on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. And I will go take a walk and wait for you to text me when the pasta’s done.
It doesn’t sound daft to want to screw up. I find I get a lot of pleasure from working through the issues and figuring out how to do things right, or at least well enough so it works, by myself. Someone stepping in and telling me how is depriving me of both how I learn and the pleasure I get from experimentation and earned success.
Too often others act like the goal is just to get the task done, when it’s not.
This makes me think of why I won’t let people watch me play video games! I do things inefficiently and often make wrong choices, and sometimes die a bunch. But that’s fine by me! So often someone (ok let’s be honest, some dude) will try to give me ‘helpful’ hints about how to do something in a video game and I’m like, yes you’re right GO AWAY NOW PLEASE. It’s fine if I’m wrong–that’s it exactly.
Uh-oh, I might be a girl-splainer. But Im not sure, can someone read these and tell me so I know if I need to change?
1. An ex used to wash the dishes by hand, so there’d always be pieces of food left on them. I didn’t tell him how to do them, but I did re-wash them and also very rarely Id tease him about it. (My analysis: probably ok, but I shouldn’t have teased him.)
2. I pay a woman to help me with cleaning. She loads the dishwasher so that there are lots of spaces between the dishes and then runs it like that. I prefer to run it full, so as not to waste water and electricity. So If I see the dishwasher loaded inefficiently, I rearrange some of the dishes to fit (lots) more. I never complain to her or tell her how to do it, because it is kind of picky.
3. I have my kids wipe down the table after dinner. If they don’t do a good job, I bring them down to eye level and show them all the crumbs they missed. We both laugh about it, and it gets cleaned up.
There are many other things I do like this. Like LW’s husband, I have “logical reasons” that others may or may not appreciate. Is this ok or am I a girlsplainer?
#1: It might have been helpful to have a conversation about this. Maybe not while he was washing the dishes, but some neutral time where you could have told him that you noticed an issue and then the two of you could discuss what to do about it. Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done.
#2: this woman is your employee. If you are actually paying someone for their labor, I think it’s okay to insist on them meeting certain standards.
#3: I don’t have kids so I don’t really have a specific suggestion for phrasing. I could see how this conversation could be a positive experience and how it could be a negative experience, depending on your approach and attitude. But in the same vein as number 2, your kids are not the same as independent adults who chose to live with you. One of your jobs as a parent is to teach them things, so I don’t think your out of line teaching them things per se. That obviously also changes with age – you might carefully watch an 8 year old cooking, but let a high school student figure it out and make their mistakes, since you can probably trust the high school student to not accidentally set themselves on fire or whatever.
#1 I don’t think you need to tell an adult how to do the dishes, unless they say something along the lines of needing advice. I don’t think you need to wait for a neutral time. E.g. if you’re drying up and putting away while they’re washing, just point out the dirty bit on the item and let them rewash. It happens to both my partner and me. Sometimes we miss things because we’re tired, or we forgot to wipe that part, or it was covered in soap bubbles and we just didn’t see it. We just hand it back to be washed without judgement and say where the dirt is. If someone thinks it’s acceptable to have bits of dried food or something on plates the next time they use them, that’s a different conversation.
#2 I think it’s totally cool to raise issues about energy and water efficiency. I’d say requests rather than commands/orders would make the whole thing go smoother. She may also have reasons (whether valid or not) for loading the way she does (like not leaving things dirty for longer, waiting for enough stuff to run a full load so the food doesn’t get too dried on, or leaving space so the water circulates better). It might be worth bearing this in mind?
#3 If you’re all laughing then to me this sounds excellent.
To clarify, by ” I don’t think you need to tell an adult how to do the dishes” I mean how much soap to use, what temperature and quantity of water, what implement, etc. I do think you can tell someone if they’re not reaching a sufficient standard (i.e. food left on plates, etc).
One of the main objections to being Optimized like this is that it’s unpleasant for a partner to be treated like an employee or a child. The person in #2 is your employee, and the people in #3 are your children, so I think it’s fine to tell them how you’d like things done.
I think a key difference between what you’re doing and what the letter writer is frustrated by is that you are disagreeing over the final result. You want a particular end result, and you aren’t as pleased if you do not get that end result and that end result directly affects you. You aren’t complaining about the process, except in as much as you don’t get the desired end result. If the people in question found a way to get your desired end result using a different technique than you use, it sounds like you’d be just as content. I think keeping the conversation focused on the end result you want is appropriate. Then if they ask for help in how to get that end result, you can show them your technique. Although, with kids it does make sense to show them techniques from the start, since nobody is born knowing how to do this stuff, and teaching your kids basic life skills is actually a really good thing for parents to do, and it sounds like you’re not making them feel miserable or like failures in the process, so that sounds fine to me. Sometimes it actually is your role to teach people things.
I think the explaining problem comes in when somebody is doing a perfectly acceptable job or they’re doing something that doesn’t affect you, and you butt in to tell them how to do it. For example, I often cook food for myself in ways that make the food come out less tasty. I am aware that there are other methods, but it’s just for me, and it’s easier for me to do it this way, and that’s my choice. I wouldn’t appreciate somebody butting in and telling me how I can do it better, because doing it better isn’t my goal, and it’s not harming them, so why should they be jumping in to criticize my technique? And since the end product isn’t for them, they can’t really criticize that either. Or if I’m doing laundry for my partner, it’s not really his business if my technique seems weird to him (which it probably would if he paid attention, since most of our clothes no longer run, and I do a weird sorting by temperature and agitation that mixes colors and whites, which would likely shock and disturb many people, but I also keep new clothes that might run segregated at first). But if I actually were regularly causing color bleeds, it’d be quite valid to have a talk to me about how I am doing laundry, since I wouldn’t actually be getting the task done sufficiently well.
So, that’s my guideline, based on the Captain’s advice. If it affects you and the issue is actually the end result, it’s a legitimate thing to discuss. If it doesn’t affect you or your issue is just how the other person likes to get to their perfectly fine end result, then it’s none of your business, but you are welcome to at some point say, “Hey, I noticed we do X task differently, would you like to see my method for it and see which you like better?” Because hey, maybe they actually will prefer your method, and learning from people is cool. It’s just not cool to criticize people for being different.
#3 is how I got taught to do a lot of things–do the thing, evaluate the results, correct. The part that sounds really great is you bringing them down to eye level so they learn to evaluate things themselves. (A lot of people don’t know to move their heads when looking at a wet table to get information from the quality of light reflecting on it.) It’s not you swooping in and telling them they’ve done it wrong, it’s you providing them with support from the beginning of a task until the end.
You are allowed, indeed you are expected to tell your employees what you want done, and train them on how you want it.
Hi, I am a left-brained engineer(ish) lady, and in my first couple years at work, I used to do this to my coworkers all the time! And for the very same reason as your dude: I know a better way! Everybody wants to know a better way, right?
I was fortunate enough to have one coworker who responded well to this, and another coworker who responded very badly to this, and I was just barely clueful enough to deduce, based on this evidence, that — weirdly enough — not everybody actually wants to know the better way, in the moment, every time.
It was hard, but I learned to catch my impulse, take a deep breath, and ask: “would you like me to show you a more efficient way to do that?” And then respect the answer.
After doing this for a while, I started to see that my helpful suggestions were in fact interrupting her process, and that’s why she didn’t find them helpful. Sometimes, in a different context, when she wasn’t actively in the middle of trying to accomplish a task, she was interested. And sometimes, she just wasn’t: she had a way that worked well enough for her, and that was good enough.
This was a really important lesson for me to learn, in the “how to be a civilized and not-obnoxious person to be around” category.
So an additional possible script I might suggest would be something like, Husband, I realize you’re trying to be helpful, but sometimes I’d rather do things my way than your way. Please ask me first, “would you like to know how I would do that?” And if I say no, then I need for you to respect that, and just drop it.
By a combination of good luck and timing, “Let me ASK for help” is the solution my darling spouse and I settled on – one’s need to be helpful will never, ever trump the doer’s own choices. (Things like “immediate danger”, “ruined painted sign”, “burned dinner” are not in the “helpful” category, and get processed under a different protocol – which is designed to return agency to the doer at top speed after the intervention. “You’re doing it wrong” is never sufficient reason for that one.)
Our personal language flags, “maximizer” and “satisficer” come from an old Scientific American article about choices (which is behind a paywall, darn!); I notice our personal style involves a lot more back-and-forth negotiation than other couples around us. It’s shocking how often the eyebrows of others go up when heroic hubby offers a choice, and I reply robustly with a different opinion. To that extent, I experience “man-splaining” as gendered. However, I’ve also occasionally made my sweetie suffer my micromanaging him, so we’ve learned to focus on the other’s agency – whoever’s doing the work gets the final say on how it’s done. We did go through a period of responses like, “But you do it, too!!” but quickly realized that simply repeated the original error – of trying to pre-empt the doer’s own choices. (Not to mention it was painful as hell.)
Just as a little extra, I recently ran into this article, about the near-universal need to put an oar in… “Project Managers, Ducks and Dogs Marking Territory” (https://rachelbythebay.com/w/2013/06/05/duck/)
This type of controlly advice destroyed my marriage. It got to the point where he was trying to control the way furthered my career, the things I did around the house, the way I spent my days, even hovering over my shoulder when I was talking to customer service reps and yelling at me to hang up because they were wasting my time. If I did say “well you do it then” for the things that didn’t necessitate me doing them, he would do it grudgingly and guilt-trip me about it. We went to marriage counselling and our first assignment was for him to try not telling me what to do and how for an entire week, and for me to do things on my own. Trying to accomplish this drove him INSANE; he was angry the entire week. As for me, I was a nervous wreck, thinking I was the one who was flawed and that I clearly was a total failure who couldn’t do anything right, rather than someone who just did stuff differently. It made me terrified to do anything because of the inevitable “screwup” (in his eyes) I knew would occur. Not a recipe for a happy marriage, and the day we split up was a huge weight off my chest.
All this to second Captain A’s statement that nipping this in the bud and discussing it is ESSENTIAL.
yeah — it’s been interesting reading the comments here, about relationships (parents / friends / colleagues / partners) that have successfully worked this one out. I recognized what she was describing *immediately* but in my case… I’m divorced from that guy. He had a high standard for household dusting which I did not meet (and which involved a different sort of duster than the one I used, of a kind we did not own, but which he could have bought at any household goods store), and he let me know it, but… he never did any dusting. When we traveled abroad to a place where I spoke the language and he didn’t, *any* situation where I obtained information would be subjected to follow up queries by him “uh-huh did you ask what colour the storefront was? Uh-huh did you ask what time they open the next day?”. Inevitably, these would be about things he knew I had NOT asked, because if I had, I would have said “they also said the store is pink. They said they close at 6 pm today, AND open at 9 am tomorrow”.
So in short, they were not about abstract “betterness” but all about questioning my fundamental competence as a human bean. Why did he need to do this? Who the fuck knows. It’s so relaxing viewing that as a timeless mystery rather than an important problemo for me to strategize around.
I guess you meant “fundamental competence as a human being” but I had a good laugh thinking of your competence as a human bean instead.
(Also: wow. Glad you are divorced from him. Ick.)
I assumed “human bean” was intended, personally. I’ve seen it used playfully like that before. But as not the author, I cannot speak to actual intent.
Ah, I didn’t know that! I’m not a native speaker so sometimes I’m not familiar with expressions, especially ones that are playfully/funnily used. Regardless, the thought of a literal human bean amuses me.
Apparently the phrase originated in the children’s novel The Borrowers, which is adorable.
My husbo did this kind of thing for a while after we first began cohabitating. “Helpfully” reloading the dishwettner, vacuuming, drilling things, re-folding laundry… The list goes on! So I tried an experiment- Every time he “helped” me, I handed off to him and let him finish the task. After a couple weeks of katamari-like task accumulation, a light shone through. He exploded about “having to do everything”, I explained my frustration with his paternalistic need to constantly correct my techniques, pointing out that things may have been done differently, but they didn’t have to be done by *him* if he’d just shut up and accept that we may proceed with tasks differently. And now, five years later, household labour is pretty much split down the middle. He loads the dishes and folds the laundry in his anal-retentive manner (which, thank gods he does, because i HATE doing dishes and fding things), I bleach all the surfaces and rock the stain removal. We take a while every weekend to tidy and do projects, and both reserve the right to walk away if either of us opts to ‘splain to the other how we’re doing it wrong.
My dad is an engineer and this sounds so much like him.
It’s pretty obvious to me that the advice/”correcting” is an act of love. He wants to give LW the gift of The Best Ergo Correct Way. My cat is coming from a similar place when he leaves half a mouse in front of the bedroom door.
Craig Ferguson said it best I think, when he said he had a realization one day about the way he learned to approach subjects.
1)Does it need to be said by me?
2)Does it need to be said by me right here?
3)Does it need to be said by me right here, right now?
He claimed it only took him three marriages to figure it out.
As for the chopping onions thing, at this point in my life I’d be tempted to hide a squeeze bulb o’ fake blood in my hand, and when they offered their advice on how to cut onions say “Okay, let’s try your way…”, scream, spray blood everywhere and yell “My middle finger! I cut it off! Auuuugh…! Oh, wait, no, there it is” (flip bird, get a new onion).
That is awesome.
Craig Ferguson, yes. One of my very favorite observations.
I’m a literary critic and editor by profession. Add in real-deal OCD (diagnosed, not metaphorical) and you get someone who has opinions at everyone, about everything, all the time. That includes having opinions at my partners, about household things, all the time. I try really really hard to throttle it back before they throttle me, but I can’t always stop myself.
Memorable recent example: my partner J kindly offered to do a regular cleaning task that I usually do, since I was exhausted, and then he pulled half a dozen paper towels off the roll for it. “Oh,” I exclaimed, “you don’t need that many! It only takes two!” He turned and gave me a Look and said, “Well, I guess I’m just not as efficient as you are.” I know that look and that tone, so I very sheepishly mumbled something about how I try too hard to be efficient and I’m sure his way is just as good, and then I slunk away to my room so I wouldn’t have to watch him doing it wrong… er, his way.
So a bit of advice for the OP from the Helpy Explainer’s perspective:
Definitely sit your husband down for an actual conversation about this; a series of one-off events won’t make any difference. In that conversation, talk about your feelings. Emphasize that your feelings matter. The dishwasher being loaded “properly” matters less (or should matter less) than you not feeling hassled every time you load it. And the perfectionism is really about HIS feelings–that is, his feeling of discomfort when he sees something being done the “wrong” way. From that basis, talk about how you can set up a situation where you both feel as comfortable as possible. By emphasizing that everyone has feelings (yes, even engineers) and everyone should get to feel as comfortable and unstressed as possible, you keep the two of you on an equal footing and set the stage for collaborating on a solution, instead of pitting your onion-chopping method against his. If the conversation veers toward the idea of there being one right or wrong way to do a particular thing, redirect it: “I don’t want to get into specific situations right now. This is about the general dynamic where I do things my way, and you feel uncomfortable observing it, and then you try to tell me how to do them your way, and then I feel anxious/upset/stressed out. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel anxious/upset/stressed out. How can we fix this?”
(If he’s not generally a feelings-y kind of guy, you may get some pushback when you try to talk about his emotions as though they exist and matter and are separate from notions of objective correctness. It may take a little patience and conversation before he’s willing to admit that he does have an emotional or visceral reaction to seeing you do things the “wrong” way. But if you try to talk about your distress without talking about his discomfort, it becomes a matter of your womanly feelings versus his manly logic, and that conversation never goes anywhere good. Just be prepared for him to be somewhat distressed by the realization that all this time he’s been acting based on mushy squishy feelings rather than pure rightness and righteousness.)
Once the sequence of events is laid out like that–you do, he observes and feels, he advises, you feel–it becomes clear that there are four ways to disrupt it for the better:
1) You don’t do things at all–if it’s something he’s fussy about, he does it.
2) You do things in a way that doesn’t make him uncomfortable.
3) He doesn’t observe the things you do, and thus is not bothered by them.
4) He doesn’t give you advice, or gives it in a way that doesn’t upset you.
2 is the solution that’s obvious to him and 4 is the solution that’s obvious to you, but in my experience the best solution is 3. Once I went off to my room and let J clean things his own way, I forgot all about how many paper towels he was using (other than to mentally note the exchange as a sign that I have not yet entirely succeeded in evicting my helpy habits). I used to be a dishwasher-loading hoverer; now I do laundry while X does dishes. If your husband has a specific other task to do while you’re cooking, that will help him stay out of your hair. Perhaps he could vacuum the living room, or re-fold all the towels.
Rearranging his thinking to realize that the problem is not with how you do things but with his observation of you doing things will probably be quite difficult for him. He’s used to thinking of this as a right way/wrong way problem. But it really isn’t. There are lots and lots of possible right ways. Any onion-chopping method that results in chopped onions and unchopped fingers is perfectly acceptable. You can illustrate this by pointing out that when he’s out of the house or busy with something else while you cook, meals come out just fine–and my guess is that at those times, he doesn’t get stressed out wondering whether you’re chopping onions the Best Possible Way. He just comes home and enjoys a nice dinner that you made all by yourself without any helpy advice.
Solution 1 has its merits, but I recommend leaving it for those things where he really would be fretting about it even if he weren’t around to see you doing it. I am so fussy about how my handkerchiefs are folded that even if J or X does the laundry, I ask them not to fold my handkerchiefs, because I’d just have to redo it. I’m also in charge of household finances because just the thought of turning that over to someone else makes me break out in hives. That said, I cannot literally do everything–though I occasionally try–so I keep a limited list of things I absolutely must do myself, and apply solution 3 for the rest.
Once you implement a general practice of him walking away from observing you rather than giving you advice, it’s probably helpful for both of you to try to move toward agreement or compromise where you can. You might learn his way of doing a couple of things that are very important to him; he might learn your way of doing other things, or have a real conversation with you about why you do it that way and actually listen to your explanation. There are also verbal tricks that help smooth out these interactions, like him getting in the habit of asking “Would you like some advice?” (and taking “no” for an answer), or you having a predetermined safeword that you can deploy to stop the advicing as soon as it starts. But needless to say, unless your husband is putting in some effort, there’s no space for compromise, since that’s a process that requires more than one person.
Accommodating each other does NOT mean that you need to work on being less upset when he explains at you, because the explaining is prioritizing his comfort over yours, and that is rude. Over time, if he generally finds ways to limit the explaining, you’ll probably find it easier to tolerate the occasional slip, but that’s a side benefit of him putting in the work to mostly not do it in the first place; the more he exhibits respectful behavior, the more you’ll be able to trust that he really does respect you, and to see hiccups as old habits rather than a sign of disdain.
It also doesn’t mean that you have to do everything his way because his discomfort over things being “wrong” somehow matters more than the effort you put in to learn things and change your ways. If you do take the trouble to do things his way, he should be really sincerely and loudly appreciative of it. The first time J made my bed in exactly the way I wanted, without any prompting from me, down to the placement of the pillow seams, I nearly cried with happiness. It was such an act of generosity and kindness, and I made sure to show my gratitude. It was certainly not anything that he owed me, nor was it an objectively correct method of bed-making. It was just a gift. And he could feel free to make that gift in part because I was working hard on stepping back and letting him be himself and do other things the way he wanted.
Good luck! I hope your husband is receptive and you find good ways to sort it all out.
This is wonderful. Thanks for writing it – both the advice (very clear) and the story at the end, which made me so happy, I almost cried too!
This is a really excellent comment.
This is indeed wonderful, from the disarming of the logical/emotional trap, to the recognition that someone doing the finicky details right is an act of love that should be appreciated. Thank you for writing this!
Whoooooops, just realized I assumed the LW was female because I’d seen that assumption in a lot of the replies, but there’s nothing in the letter to back that up, so for “womanly feelings vs manly logic” read “subjective feelings vs objective logic”. Apologies, LW.
What a wonderful comment. Thank you so much for writing it!
Yes! Number 3 all the way! Not being there to observe really is the least stressful option for all concerned.
I used to do this, LW. Particularly when my boyfriend was ironing and cooking. But I started to hear myself, and he pointed it out too, and I stopped. You might want to point out to your husband that it is absolutely exhausting trying to control everything and he probably doesn’t realise. Every time he lets something go it will get easier to do.
Best of luck to you both.
My partner used to do this and would often say ‘I’m just trying to be helpful’ if I commented. To which I would always say ‘stop trying to be helpful’. Now when she does it, it just generally takes me looking at her for her to realise ‘I’m being helpful again, aren’t I?’ And stopping. It can be done 🙂
My husband and I have a similar thing with ‘efficiency’. As in, when he puts something away or starts washing it up when I’m still using it, he’s being ‘efficient’ in tidying as we go…
My husband and I are both programmers. We’re also natural optimizers. We also both have anxiety issues. We also both grew up with mothers Who Always Knew the Best Way to Do Things. Both our mothers were the sort that if you asked for help, it meant you didn’t get to complete the task. They just did the rest of it for you, because it was just faster that way.
After years of one or the other of us starting a fight by “helping”, we decided that we didn’t like fighting and being miserable because of this and that it was stupid and we had to find a better way, because this way was obviously NOT the best way, or it wouldn’t feel so bad.
So there’s multiple levels now.
1) “Do you need any help?” Yes or no and the asker has to accept the answer. I HATE asking for help because of my childhood. If I’m trying to learn something, I doubly don’t want help. But my husband has found that if he can restrain himself until I ask, we don’t fight … and I’m more likely to ask for help in the future, because each time he waits to be asked, I build more trust in the fact that he lets me try on my own and doesn’t swoop in to “fix” it prematurely. He also helps with the exact thing – “I can’t figure out why this screw won’t sink into the fastener properly” – and doesn’t try to take over the whole project, which helps build trust and love.
2) The watermelon situation. I love a very specific type of seeded watermelon that is only in stores for 2-3 weeks a year, and which you can’t buy pre-cut. I would get a watermelon, bring it home, wash it, and try to slice it. I would invariably cut myself. I tried different methods – big knife, medium knife, slicing off a bit of the bottom to make it stable, bracing it, no matter. I would cut myself. So one year I’d woken him up – he was working overnights and I had to wake him up in the middle of the afternoon with, “Don’t freak out but we need to go to the emergency room and I can’t drive because of my thumb….” And we’re sitting there in the waiting room, waiting for me to get stitches, and he says, “Look. I appreciate that you are independent and strong and can cut up everything else but watermelons. But…. can we agree that I cut up watermelons from now on? It scares me every time you cut yourself badly trying to slice up your watermelon.” I said, “But you don’t like watermelon, that seems a bit unfair.” He replied, “No, but I like you, and your fingers, and I’d rather spend 20 minutes cutting up watermelon than 2 hours in the emergency room.” So, since it’s a safety issue, he now cuts up watermelon, and I say thank you and that I appreciate it. Him cutting up watermelon has kind of turned into our version of the Sandwich of Love (referencing https://captainawkward.com/2012/02/13/190-the-sandwich-means-i-love-you-a-valentine/)
3) Driving. So my mom is also a consummate passenger seat driver. My husband made it clear that this makes him completely batty. So now, if I notice that he’s been talking and we’re getting close to the exit, and he’s not doing his “I’m getting off the exit” thing, I’ll say something like, “Hey, are you trying a new way home?” And he’ll either say “Yes” (because sometimes he does, just to try out alternate routes) or “No, why?” in which case I’ll point out that the exit is coming up, but he’s still in the far left lane, and say I figure he hadn’t noticed because we were talking. It’s not so much placating as acknowledging that he might have a valid reason for what he’s doing. I tried just not saying anything at all, but after the third time he completely unintentionally missed an exit, we settled on this as a compromise.
4) Anxiety. So we both get more controlling if we’re having an anxiety spiral, but it has a certain edginess to it, so the other will note it and say something like, “You’re starting to get weirdly controlling and optimize-y. How about you tell me what’s causing you to anxiety spiral, instead?” It’s a redirect and an acknowledgement of, “hey, I know you aren’t doing this on purpose, but you need to cut it out” and also “Hey, look something’s bugging you, so let’s focus on that instead.” For us, it’s sympathy and boundaries all wrapped in to one, and keeps us from getting into an anxiety-spiral triggered argument.
5) Realizing, “Does this really matter?” Seriously, as long as the towels all fit in the closet, and when you pull one out of the closet they don’t ALL fall on your head, it really doesn’t matter how they got there. It took me awhile of saying to myself, every time I opened the closet, “It’s more important that he did the laundry than correcting how he did it. It doesn’t matter. There is no Perfect Folding of the Towels.” It sounds ridiculous to say that I had to apply CBT methods of recognizing cognitive distortions about ** towel folding **, but it really was worth it to not have to do laundry anymore.
So this has become a really long comment – my main point was that depending on the topic, that different solutions might be appropriate, but that if your partner is willing to find a way to deal with these impulses that works for both of you, it really can get better. I completely support what you want to say to him – I think it’s great, and really gets the point across! – and hope that it works out well for you.
#3 has been an issue for us a little bit because my partner just moved here permanently …well, I guess it’s coming on two years, but still, he doesn’t always know his way around, he often *does* know his way around, and he also likes using different routes sometimes. So it’s not always easy for me to know when he is lost or when he’s just trying a different way. (So why is he doing the driving? Well, he likes driving, and how else is he going to learn? But if it’s something particularly complicated or fraught, like we have to be there on time, I’ll drive.)
Reading about how you and your partner have worked this out makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. #relationshipgoals
I have to disagree captain.
I have found that answering unwanted suggestions with “Thanks honey for taking over!” and retiring to the couch with a glass of wine for me while he washes up the plates/irons/cooks dinner/chops veggies has worked wonders.
Now, I do get irritated when he stacks the dishwasher wrongly, so I do it myself. I have encouraged him to do that as well. We know at home that if we offer unwanted criticism instead of help, we will actually end up doing the chore.
Except the cat. She bites our hands, gives side eye and gets whatever she wants.
My mother is a commander in household issues. She would complain that we couldn’t do things right, so she basically trained us to give her less work. As a teen, I was the only one, as the eldest, who was supposed to help in matters such as folding, dish cleaning (by hand) and general cleaning. In order to not get her annoyed, I mimicked most of her strategies. I lessened these in intensity once I moved away and began living alone. But she and my dad still keep trying to “evaluate” me constantly, and tell me that what they would have done in case X and Y, because they has 30+ years more worth of experience, after all. It took me a lot of courage to find a counter-strategy against their advising: basically, I began retorting in the lines of “oh gosh, thank you for pointing that to me, I am just that plain stupid”, “I wouldn’t have managed to survive eight years of my own without you reminding me that every week”, “how come that I never thought copying you after 20+ years living with you? ah, yes, because this works better for me, I am such a bad daughter”, etc…
There was this time that my mother tried to reinforce herself in my own house: she and my brother came to visit for a week and the first day she cleaned the dishes even if I asked her not to. Later on, I began to prepare dinner, and went to pick a large dish in an upper shelve. Suddenly a bunch of small dishes fell ON MY HEAD and crashed on the floor. When I asked her, angered, what the hell were those dishes doing in top of the large dishes she answered back that she had put them there because my system of keeping small dishes in another shelf and not in top of the larger ones was very space inefficient. Yes, she had rearranged all the stuff in the kitchen. I shouted to her that I could have gotten hurt when all those heavy dishes fell in top of my head, and she retorted that if I had maintained the rules that she had taught me when I still lived with her I wouldn’t be complaining.
It was a perfect moment to remind her of one of her favourite sentences when I was living with them: “my house, my rules, you don’t have a say between these four walls, suck it”. I didn’t add the “if you don’t like my rules, there’s the exit door”, though.
After I began answering back, my mother at some point resorted to the “You can do whatever you want, but you should do this…” sentence before offering her masterful advice, so I would just learned to interrupt her with “Yes, I can, yes, I will, you’ll be informed when I take a decision…”.
I find it interesting that a lot of these issues come up about cooking.
I had a partner where we could talk everything out. He was cheating in sleeping with me, I cheated on him, my mental health issues, his irresponsibility…we could and did talk all of them out.
But have both of us in a kitchen cooking at the same time ?
We had massive arguements about how to chop onions.
We ‘fixed’ it by never both being in the kitchen at the same time.
Can we figure out our terminology? I thought “mansplaining” (as much as I hate that word with a passion) was men trying to explain condescendingly to women about feminism. Not a catch-all term for any time a man explains anything at all.
“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.”
That feels like something a teenager would say. I CAN DO IT GO AWAY, GOSH, I’M NOT TEN ANYMORE. Plus snooty eye roll. Really?
While I agree that the LW’s husband is probably being an irritant here just with the frequency of his comments, the LW seems to be blowing up about pretty small things. It’s a rice cooker; get over it. Honestly, if someone told me a neat way to wrap a rice cooker cord, I’d thank them. It sounds like the LW is impatient and is letting this grate for no particular reason, when she should *also* be trying to approach this problem from the other direction. It sounds like the husband is truly trying to help, not being a douchebag because he’s an asshole who wants everything done his way or the highway. If the husband is going to work on letting her do it however she wants and not offering any advice ever (apparently), then the LW better work on not getting pissed every time he tries to do anything helpful. She’s taking everything he says in the worst possible way. Rice cooker advice? He must think she’s a baby and doesn’t know how to do ANYTHING EVER. Questions about insurance? Can’t be for his own clarification or to make sure she has her bases covered; it has to be about HER TOTAL INCOMPETENCE IN EVERYTHING. It honestly sounds like she has trust issues and assumes even the people she cares for are out to get her or demean her.
I’m dismayed at how quickly people overlook what seems like kind of bratty or overly fearful behavior and assume that the LW’s husband is just an asshole and is 100% responsible for this conflict’s existence. I’m very glad to see people in the comments pointing out that it’s not just men who have “helpful advice” tic, because otherwise I’d claim that it’s because he’s male that people here are jumping on his back. People are acting like he’s going, “no, no, do it like thiiis” and taking the knife away from her and painstakingly, condescendingly showing her how to dice onions or something. He’s just making an offhand comment trying to help. There is a world of difference. Also, she hasn’t even *talked* about this to him yet; why are you guys all calling him a dickbag when he hasn’t even had a chance to know she’s annoyed and change things?
If none of this seems reasonable to people here, let’s try another tack…if you married someone and their lip-smacking/advice-giving/nose-picking/whatever else annoying small habit is really that bad, why did you even marry the dude? Some things you just have to let roll off your back. Water, ducks, etc.
On a whole other topic, LW, if you want to have a conversation, have it. Communication is good.
@Alcor, mansplaining (which grew out of this piece by Rebecca Solnit) is when men explain things to women that the women already know. It’s not one specific situation, it’s a dynamic that a woman expressing something or doing something must needs be commented upon or improved or explained by a man. It’s a cultural soup. I like the term Condesplaining that Mel coined, above, because everybody does it in certain situations. However “Everyone does that sometimes!” doesn’t automatically cancel out the times when it is a factor of gender dynamics and sexism. Here, where the husband sees himself as the more logical one who has more logical ways and is inserting himself into tasks that he doesn’t even do, I think gender dynamics are or might be a factor.
This is not the first comment you’ve made on this site that boils down to “I don’t understand why the letter writer is so bothered about a thing that bothers them, let me explain why this is a stupid problem and they shouldn’t let it bother them.” I notice every time you do it, I do not appreciate it, and I would like to remind you that you don’t have to understand it for it to be true.
“mansplaining (which grew out of this piece by Rebecca Solnit) is when men explain things to women that the women already know”
So if I genuinely think I know a better way, it’s not mansplaining?
That’s exactly what LW’s husband is doing. He’s not a bad person; he genuinely thinks he knows a better way. It’s still mansplaining. He’s assuming that a) His way is objectively better, and that B) It matters anyway in a situation like this.
Are you a man? Are you interrupting and talking over women? Do you expect women to stop what they are doing and pay attention to your “better way”? Do you think your knowledge grants you automatic authority and people giving a shit about your contributions to how they do things?
Why would this behavior be fine if a man does it to a not-woman, or a woman does it?
It wouldn’t be fine. If you don’t understand why, that’s cool with me – we don’t have to engage with you until you understand or agree.
No, we agree that it isn’t fine. I just really dislike the term “mansplaining”. It’s sexist, as it implies that all men are assholes.
I am delighted by the synchronicity of literally having this link open one tab over:
There is absolutely nothing about the term “mansplaining” that implies that all men are assholes. It is a word that describes a specific gendered behavior. It does not imply that all men do it — I’ve known my husband for almost 14 years and can’t remember a time that he’s mansplained to me — or that the men who do it are doing so intentionally and with malice aforethought. I’ve also seen “whitesplaining,” “cissplaining,” and “hetsplaining” used to describe similar behaviors on a different axis of privilege. If you are a man, and the implications of the word “mansplaining” make you uncomfortable, then don’t do it, and call out men who do. And if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.
“Everyone does that sometimes!” doesn’t automatically cancel out the times when it is a factor of gender dynamics and sexism.
Apparently, I have far more detailed memories of childhood than most people. People really vary on how far back they remember and how much they remember. And so often I feel that when we talk about things that sound like a child would say them, it’s because the child is being treated without respect and has no useful recourse. A ten year old would say that… and be completely right. But an adult would blow off the ten year old, because it’s socially acceptable in many places to act as if a child is automatically wrong or that it’s okay to treat a ten year old disrespectfully. One of the key ways to notice this is that the complaint is 100% legitimate and true. We just tend to call certain types of complaints immature, because it’s a great way of shutting people up and making them keep taking disrespectful treatment. Personally, I don’t think it’s right to do it to a ten year old and I also don’t think it’s right to do it to an adult.
And it might seem like blowing up about small things, except a) the letter writer hasn’t blown up but has sought out advice at how best to handle an annoying situation b) small things add up and it’s actually the mature, responsible thing to fix them while they are small rather than letting them become big things (that’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way – not dealing with this would be immature, and is exactly the sort of mistake I’d have made when younger) and c) you don’t judge somebody else’s emotions and tells them how much something irritating has a right to annoy them.
If you would be okay with somebody treating you this way, and would actually appreciate advice on how to do basic tasks you already know how to do, then that’s great. You are completely welcome to encourage people giving you advice. But it doesn’t change the fact that people who don’t want that advice should not be given it.
And as to why to marry somebody who isn’t perfect… I think most people do that because they love the person. Also, perfect people don’t exist. Working through problems is generally considered a necessary part of building a good relationship. And you’ll notice that many comments are about people who dealt with this sort of problem (from either side) and worked through it successfully in a relationship. But generally, it works better to actually try to fix problems than it does to try to pretend they don’t bother you. Then small problems become big problems. Then you blow up and get angry at your partner with no warning, and it’s not fair to them. Been there, done that, got better. Now, I try to actually mention problems when people are still able to talk about them with good will, and it works out much, much better. Since you like unsolicited advice or claim to, I recommend you give it a try. Don’t accuse people, just tell them when something annoys you and see if you can come to an agreement with them that works for both of you with neither of you being annoyed. Sometimes you can. Sometimes they don’t even mind making a small change for your happiness. Sometimes they’re even happy to do it. Sometimes people feel betrayed to find out that you’ve been pretending to be okay with something for years, but it secretly bothered you, and you let them hurt you over and over again, even if just a bit, because you didn’t trust them enough to tell them or think that they actually cared about you and want you to be happy enough to actively want to find solutions together with you. As I said, been there, done that, got better.
And so often I feel that when we talk about things that sound like a child would say them, it’s because the child is being treated without respect and has no useful recourse. A ten year old would say that… and be completely right. But an adult would blow off the ten year old, because it’s socially acceptable in many places to act as if a child is automatically wrong or that it’s okay to treat a ten year old disrespectfully. One of the key ways to notice this is that the complaint is 100% legitimate and true. We just tend to call certain types of complaints immature, because it’s a great way of shutting people up and making them keep taking disrespectful treatment. Personally, I don’t think it’s right to do it to a ten year old and I also don’t think it’s right to do it to an adult.
Wild applause seconded 🙂 I am astounded at how children and young people are expected to just take it when people are blatantly disrespectful to them. a) why do we get to grouse about how long it takes kids to grow up and get out of “prolonged adolescence” if we continually tell them we disrespect them and b) I’d bet a whole lot of money that the awful people in a lot of these anecdotes probably learned to disrespect others because it was modeled for them, and their victims learned to shut up and take it, exactly the same way.
I’ve occasionally had to deal with this sort of thing with my partner. He’s very good at doing a lot of kinds of things, and sometimes I’m having trouble, and he has a tendency to come over and want to “help” by taking them out of my hands. And OTOH, sometimes I *do* need some help with something that just won’t work right for me. What has worked for us is me laying down a rule: “Don’t offer help until I specifically ask for it.” Because basically, as long as I’m still swearing and muttering, I think I *can* get it to work.
Ugh, this really struck a chord with me. For cooking, cleaning, laundry, household stuff in general, there is a Right Way To Do Things and it’s my way of doing it and if things are done a different way dinner will taste funky, the floor will be filthy, the laundry will get moldy and the birthday party will be ruined. It’s not that I think I’m more logical, it just stresses me out if Things Are Done Differently. I’m working on it.
(My mother is the same way and while she, too, isn’t as controlling as she used to be, us cooking or cleaning together is… awful.) My friends sometimes see this side of me and tease me about it, but of course my partner gets the worst of it. He handles it really nicely, asking me how I want things to be done when I get jittery. But I do know it’s a problem and he shouldn’t need to accomodate me.
Anyway, I know that isn’t a fun topic for many of you, but this moment in Black-Ish: https://twitter.com/black_ishabc/status/523195665988722688 Cracked me up so much. This is me.
Could be a personality difference (which is no one’s fault and requires compromise on both sides). For instance, I’m ENFP (yes, Myers Briggs has issues but it works for my example) which means I’m forever on the lookout for ways to perform tasks more efficiently. I get super jazzed and excited if I’ve found a way to do something differently but more efficiently and want to share it with the whole world! My partner and I had to negotiate areas where I could do that to my heart’s delight even though it was annoying to him (rearranging the furniture for optimal flow semi-regularly) and areas when I bit my tongue even though it was hard (the kitchen). It requires a bit of compromise on both sides and understanding if sometimes you get so excited about something you forget. And remember that it’s also hard for people like me to understand why you’re not just excited about a new way to arrange a rice cooker cord.
I have found a fairly effective yet tactful way to get someone to stop with the unsolicited input on whatever youre doing: pause, face the person, look straight into their eyes and hold the gaze for 3-5 seconds, then say “thank you (for your opinion/advice/input).” Then continue with what you are doing.
My guess is that the stare makes them a little uncomfortable. It works well to get the point across.
Yikes. LW, I feel your pain, or at least I used to. Partner comes from a family where you do a thing, and then someone goes and checks to see if you did the thing PROPERLY, or that you DID in fact turn it off, etc. It was explained to me as this cute little quirky dynamic– they even called it “The *family name* complex*.
How much did this fly with me? Literally not at all. The second time Partner tried to “complex” me I informed him that it was in no way acceptable, and if he did it again we’d be having a much more serious conversation. It worked!
A possible interim coping strategy (for things like onion chopping) while negotiating the peace, if you find that he is struggling to improve his interactions is to “divide labor.” For example, in my house, we both load the dishwasher. My bf loads it “wrong” (in my eyes) and I load it “wrong” in his eyes. So basically if one of us has started that load, we will abandon the task to whosoever is on it. And then it’s loaded, run, emptied, and no fight. Or you can sneak in and fix it right before you hit “run.” : ) My thinking on this was either if you want to do the dishes, that’s awesome, I don’t want to! Do it “wrong” all you want, it’s getting done! And I try to remind us both how lucky we are to have someone who wants to do the dishes around. So like with the onions, you could say “I’ll chop them my way when I chop, and you can chop them your way when you chop, and the end result is finished chopping, so we’re both winners!”
All that said, THAT SHIT DRIVES ME NUTS and I feel your pain. And engineers can be particularly tenacious on this point, god love them, since their whole world is centered on optimization of processes. I agree with the Captain that you are approaching it well and that if he doubles down, it’s not about the actual behavior but about control/lack of trust/whatever it ends up being for him. I wish you good fortune!
LW, one of the things that makes me stop bugging other people about How To Do It Right (which I have many opinions on) is this little checklist:
-how important is it that it be done my way? What are the consequences of it being done a different way? (If consequences are stuff like ‘She has to go to the hospital’ or ‘we set the stove on fire’ or ‘we lost much dollar’, it’s very important. if the consequence is ‘the onions are cut a little too big for me’, I can fucking chill).
-prioritize: spouse’s feelings/comfort > size of cut onions. Straight-up. Because being told ‘the way you do things is wrong’ is frequently upsetting and, if not necessary, you shouldn’t hurt people’s feelings. Period.
Oh god, my whole family has done this in the kitchen for generations. I finally managed to get my mom off my back while I’m cooking around her by invoking my grandfather (“Mom, don’t be PawPaw, I know how to do this”), because it drives home the “you are doing to me what he did to you, and we both know how much you hated it, so stop it” idea. She still does it to my stepdad, but his approach is to just step back and let her do the work. Which also works. The only bad thing is my mom does this in almost all other realms of household things, from yard work to painting to cleaning, complete with passive aggressive “I’ll just do it since you don’t know how to do it right” which as an adult, I’m finally just embracing “I guess not!” as my response and walking away, but as a fairly smart kid, it was so incredibly frustrating and demoralizing.
At home, I do 99% of the cooking, so it rarely comes up, but oh my god, I have to practically sit on my hands two rooms over the few times my husband is cooking something for himself–especially if he asks me for advice, because I am so tempted to just go in there and tell him exactly what to do, do it for him, or smother him with a variety of options of what he can do. The dishwasher would be a thing, except he actively acknowledges that he never learned how to load a dishwasher, and I don’t mind rearranging stuff so more fits in. I’m just happy he doesn’t want me to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher (unlike my mom).
There are other instances where he does the micromanaging/explaining thing instead of me, and plenty where I want to micromanage/explain, and we just remind the other that we know what to do. By now, we also both know that if the other wants help, they’ll ask for it, which goes a long way, as does knowing the other WILL help if needed and able. We’ve mostly learned the things that the other person sucks at doing that we’d rather do, and the things that we can live with the other person doing because it means we don’t have to do it. In the rare instance that we both have a preference that is counter to the other’s way of doing things, the person doing it or most affected by it decides.
(Really, we just try to figure out what damage our parents did to us and work very hard to undo it or accommodate it as much as we can. Neither of our parents were all that good at communicating or being considerate of each other’s feelings, so we’re trying to use them as examples of how NOT to treat each other. So far, it’s working really well.)
“Mom, don’t be PawPaw”
This. My grandmother (mom’s mom) was extremely critical. When I was a teenager, I started saying, “Ok, Granny” when my mom started being critical at a level that made me feel picked on. Since she spent her whole life dealing with her mother’s criticism, that comment would cause her to stop criticizing immediately and apologize.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for addressing this issue so kindly, and add that I nearly spat a mouthful of ginger ale onto my keyboard at work when I read the musical interlude.
Both my mother and my boyfriend are prone to this and it drives me crazy. The worst was when we had to live with my folks for a while and I would get both of them at once- often with contradictory “advice”. On at least one occasion they collectively made me cry (and then felt awful because they weren’t trying to). On the bright side, seeing some one else doing this in the context of our conversations at the time about it seemed to help my boyfriend “get it” a bit more. Now, he leaves the room if he doesn’t think he can keep his mouth shut, asks if I want advice or if he can give a suggestion before interjecting, and apologizes immediately if I’m annoyed enough to call him out on falling back into his old ways. My mother, on the other hand, continues to criticize most decisions I make in life, explain how I Should be eating, how I Should be parenting, etc until redirected (“Ma, I’m not arguing, why don’t you show me your latest art piece?”) in almost every conversation. I know she isn’t TRYING to make me feel incompetent she just can’t seem to stop herself without a little help. So yeah, I think this can happen in either gender although the framing might be slightly different.
I have little to add to the genius ideas and comment above other than the fact that I’ve been literally sitting on my hands to NOT send this link to my SIL. I love my SIL, but her husband is … he elevates mansplaining to an art. A condescending, irritating, infuriating, and frankly demeaning art that seems centered on making sure my SIL never feels like she can do any damned thing. He can’t stand me because I don’t put up with it. That’s ok because I can’t stand him, either.
I am also in love with a ‘splainer. He is in charge of training and managing employees in his job and is also the oldest of four brothers, so he is very much in the habit of telling people what to do. This serves him well in some instances–he’s a GREAT manager. But, to put it kindly, it also annoys the piss out of me when we cook dinner. 🙂
Like you are doing with him now, I’ve tried to be pretty clear about trying to nip that behavior in the bud. I used my words and let him know what was bothering me, just like you have done. I’m going to share what happened when we got into the “why do you do this” conversation, because I think it might be similar to the one you get in with your husband, since you referenced feeling like an employee in your letter.
When I told him that I didn’t want him to tell me how to do certain things I could handle on my own, he did balk. He was “just trying to help” and didn’t mean anything as a criticism, even if I took it that way. I told him the help wasn’t always needed and that I didn’t like when he talked to me what way because I felt like he was telling me what to do, rather than offering suggestions or help. When I asked him to talk to me differently and not give what sounded like orders to me, his response was that he would feel like he was being patronizing to me by not being able to talk to me as straight as he would to an employee. I had to specifically tell my boyfriend that I am NOT his employee and I am NOT his girlfriend, and by that very characteristic he had to treat me differently. He might have been in charge of caring for his brothers, and he definitely has to coach certain behaviors at work, but neither of those things apply to our relationship. It did make a certain kind of logical sense to have me in a separate category, so that helped him get it. Explaining to him that you two have a different relationship, getting his logic brain to put you in a different category, might help.
To try and fix the problem, we set rules around how we’d approach offering help. We’re set out some questions we should ask the other person before we chime in. The most important question is: “If I didn’t offer any advice or help in this situation, would the ultimate goal still be accomplished?” Apply this to your onion situation: maybe if you chopped onions like he said, you’d save two minutes of onion chopping time. But if he didn’t offer the advice at all, you’d still get the onions chopped and you’d still eat dinner. Therefore, his “helping” is not necessary to accomplish a goal in the situation. If the helping isn’t necessary, don’t offer it unsolicited, period. This has been a really important check on our thinking that we both try to implement. We aren’t perfect at it, but it helps. The other question is to use your words and ask “Would you like some help?” or “Can I make a suggestion?” before an opinion or help is given. We are both allowed to say no to that and it drops it, but if we frame it as a question first, it makes it seem more like teamwork and a conversation than an order. It’s really nothing but semantics but it makes all the difference in our attitudes and how we feel.
I hope you find this helpful! Wishing you the best of luck as you work on this with your partner.
I have three sons. I frequently have to remind the oldest one that his brothers already have a perfectly functional parent in the room who can tell them what they should be doing.
Oh, god. I am this mansplaining dude. Thank you for this post; I’m going to try to stop annoying the fuck out of everyone I love, now.
Seriously, good for you. It’s hard to see your own flaws and try to correct them. It takes a lot of strength of character.
Remember that you’re allowed to ask your loved ones for help making this change.
“What I’m hearing is that you’d really like to take over insurance-buying tasks from now on.”
This. This would be my answer. At least for the insurance thing.
For everything else, I would probably say something like “Thanks for your input,” and then do it however I want to. And then in response to “I thought I told you to do (x) in (y) way!” I would say something like “I didn’t realize I was your subordinate. I thought this marriage was a partnership of equals.”
And if he got mad at that, I would divorce him, because anyone who can’t embrace marriage as a partnership of equals does not get to be married to me.
This might be part of why I am divorced.
Of course, the RIGHT way to chop onions is— [/me bites hand off]
If your husband is an engineer, then maybe you just need to explain this to him as an engineering trade-off. Would he rather have a happy wife and imperfectly chopped onions, or a disgruntled wife and perfectly chopped onions?
There’s a problem with the if-you-don’t-like-how-I’m-doing-it-then-you-do-it tactic. That’s the one where he says okay, and then little by little she’s squeezed out of doing anything in her own home. I daresay most of us don’t love every little aspect of every bit of housework, but we do like to have some control over our space. We like being able to put things away, file, fold, clean, cook, organize, tidy, and wash at least some of the time even if we’re not big on scrub. When we say you do it, we’re ceding power. Taken to its logical extreme, he ends up doing everything and then, with some justification, complains about having to do everything.
I like better the Captain’s original advice to call attention to the dynamic while it’s going on and not to get bogged down in the relative pros and cons of different ways to coil electrical cords. There’s also the count to ten trade-off. That’s where you give him the opportunity to name 10 (or any number) things that he wants you to do differently. You also get 10 things. In my house, he gets to decide on some ridiculous system having to do with which (disposable) sponge can be used in the refrigerator, but in trade, I get to tell him not to tailgate. It’s a safe bet that he’ll be able to rattle off 10 things he wants you to change right away thinking that he’s “won”. Then when your 10 things start to trickle in, he’ll want to argue. You don’t engage, you just ask him which one of his 10 things he wants to give up so the score can stay even.
Yup. Two people who have a tendency toward their being One Right Way results in a terribly painful argument about how to label the lentils. Not that I would know anything about that.
On the plus side, the Lentil Incident was over something sufficiently absurd that it served as a nice obvious sign that we both needed to chill a bit.
This reminds me of the time my dad asked me to clean the doors of all the cupboards in the kitchen. I did, then when he came to inspect my work, critiqued my technique. I told him that I had cleaned the cupboards as requested, and if he wanted it done his way, he was free to do the work over himself. If he didn’t want to redo my work, he would have to live with the fact that the cupboards had be cleaned horizontally rather than vertically because I wasn’t redoing an hour’s work to satisfy his preference for a certain cleaning technique.
LW, perhaps you can try something similar with your hubby, especially if he resists the idea that his “help” isn’t helpful to you. I.e. “would you like to chop the onion then?” In response to his way being “better”
At the risk of telling you how to do it better (being a guy myself), my *suggestion* would be to ask him something like this: “Since you’re clearly very good at coming up with better ways to do things, rather than me figuring this out, I’ll ask you to do it. You clearly have a need to express the more-right way of doing things. I have a need to feel respected that’s not getting met with the way you express your more-right ideas. What would be a more-right way for you to meet your need that would also meet my need?”
Hoo boy, can I relate to this one. When my boyfriend and I were newly dating, we were in the same intense college program. He was, grades-wise, the better student of the two of us so when we would work together on our assignments he would often insist on “helping” me with unsolicited critiques of my work. He even took the pencil out of my hand once to show me how to do it “right”. Now, this was born from a genuine desire to help me, but he could not have gone about it in a more frustrating way.
Fortunately, after a couple fights about it he learned to wait for me to ask for help/his opinion before giving it. He still slips up sometimes but he is so much better than back then. It also helps that we are no longer in school and don’t work together professionally.
Ps: hi awkward people! I’ve been reading these letters for a long time now, and I finally am actually comenting! Yay!
Reminds me of when I got a book contract to write a beginning Internet book (in 1992) and the guy I was dating at the time was a real geek, and he kept telling me how I should be doing the book differently, and I finally told him to get his own contract and write his own goddamned book.
We have a rule at home.
If doing *it* in a specific way is that important to you, then it gets to be your job from now on. It really needs a partnership where both of you are already pretty good at handling the workload fairly, but it’s an effective tactic for forcing people with mansplaining tendencies to start stopping to really think about whether their way of doing things is really SO important.
Ah yes, this is familiar to me. Even though I am one of the least domestic people on the planet, I have very strong opinions about how to wash dishes/load the dishwasher, and how to do laundry. There is One True Way, and it is My Way. And so…I handle all of the dishwashing and all of the laundry in our house. As in, I have instructed my husband just to leave his used plates/utensils/cups in the sink, because I’ll just have to rearrange them if he puts them into the dishwasher.
Caveat: The husband is allowed to provide input about the output. For example: “My shirts seem to be shrinking, can we do something different?” So now I take his shirts out of the dryer still fairly wet and hang them up to dry. And yes, there are a few things he wants done His Way — for example, he has very little tolerance for disorder, whereas I embrace the chaos, so he’s responsible for keeping the house orderly/decluttered. Which is quite a task, given that we have several small mammals of various species around, so I do not feel overburdened with my chosen tasks.
I think that every person in a romantic relationship gets to have one or two tasks that they need to have done Their Way, as long as they are willing to take on essentially 100% of the work behind those tasks. Though I fully admit this can cause problems if both people (or all three, or all four, et al) have the same Must Be My Way tasks — maybe you then trade off?
Yup. My boyfriend is on the spectrum and is very picky about wrinkled sheets, so instead of nagging me to make the bed as perfectly as he’d like, he took this on as His Job. Similarly, he likes having clothes folded in particular ways, and I hate folding period and it doesn’t matter to me how they’re folded, so he does this job, too.
I was reading this post, and finding it fascinating to see both sides of the conversation be mostly respectful of each other and exchanging ideas. And then, totally by coincidence and out of the blue, partner said “Chores are today. You don’t like how I mop the floors. If I sweep, will you mop?” And then I tackle-hugged him, because it was so perfectly in line for me with the conversations here and about how to be careful of each other. No, I don’t like how he mops the floors, but I haven’t said anything about in a very long time. And now I am off to mop the floors.
I am an optimiser. I am a controlling beast. It’s usually under control (ha!) but it busts out when I am feeling powerless in other parts of my life….for example…
– my dad is sick. I have no magic wand for this. I super clean the house, throw out all my boyfriends old socks, and explain to him how to hang up his wet towels every day that week.
I try really really hard to not do this, but I can’t always catch it before it flies out of my mouth. I know I learnt it from my venomous tongued mother and I do not want to become her. So I’ve had to learn to accept other peoples methods as not wrong just different, I’ve actually learned even better ways to do things (WHO KNEW!!!) and I am much better at gracefully being told to shut up and back off.
But it has taken a while to even acknowledge I have this issue and try to address it. I feel terrible about it 😦
I agree with everything everyone’s said, but I just thought I’d leave this comic here for laughs:
It was funny til the last panel. KEEP YOUR ONIONS IN THE FRIDGE? Only sweet onions go in the fridge.
Actual conversation between me and SO:
so: Will you help me with dinner?
me: Sure, whatcha need?
so: Chop this onion.
me: How do you want it chopped?
so: Whatever is fine.
so: Not like that!
me: Yeah I’m done helping.
We’ve both gotten a lot better about navigating this kind of stuff (driving, laundry, etc) but it still pops up every once in a while, and it is rage-inducing.
Him: You’re not chopping that onion correctly. Me: Why? Will chopping it incorrectly cause the Earth to stop revolving around the sun? Will it prevent us from finding a cure for the common cold? Will it cause a Nuclear Winter? No? Then get over it.” There are some things that are highly important (food safety so we don’t get sick from spoiled food). There are also things that ‘splainers need to just get the fuck over and deal with.
I hate replying to old posts after five hundred thousand people have posted, but. As someone who is diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and as someone who does NOT like to try diagnosis online (no matter how long the acquaintance or, err, writing sample);
if he doubles down, I’d suggest marriage counselor + gentle nudge at a therapy intake evaluation. Even without having a personality disorder himself, if your “mistakes” make him super-anxious, getting a therapist to help him with that may ease him into leaving you alone.
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