NOTE: I find this is a touchy subject with a lot of women, so do me a favor and read the entire post before you get mad at me. Afterwards, feel free to get as aggravated as you want. (I think…)
Sixteen years ago I married a wonderful man. My husband is a devoted Christian, a loving father, and the spiritual leader of our home. He’s honest, hardworking, and dependable in every way.
But this dear, precious man I married is also a “messy.”
My husband, (who gave me permission to write this post, by the way,) leaves dirty clothes virtually everywhere but the laundry basket. There are more adult-sized dirty hand prints throughout my house than child-sized ones. I find his pocket deposits–mostly crumpled receipts, metal screws, and chewed up drinking straws–everywhere! And if I ever break a limb it will likely come as a result of the random places he leaves his work boots.
Me? Well, I’m not a bona fide clean freak, but I do appreciate having a place for everything and everything in its place. When things look neat and tidy, I breathe a little easier. I’m able to relax better. I honestly enjoy my home more when its in order.
But the older I get and the more conversations I’m privy to, the more I realize there are a lot of women out there who are really, REALLY uptight about their houses.
Case in point? Just the other day I stumbled across a Facebook post from a Christian organization simply asking for suggestions on how to deal with a messy spouse. If the majority of the women who left comments there claimed to be Christians, (and I’d say most of them would,) many of them were hardly shining examples of Biblical womanhood and godly submission. Scores of the comments I read did more to bash husbands than to offer solutions and several even went so far as to suggest a woman leave her husband if he wouldn’t pick up his stuff!
Seriously? You’d walk away from a marriage because your husband doesn’t pick up after himself?
I also found a message board where a woman was absolutely ranting because her husband leaves his shoes and socks in the middle of the living room floor. Other women were chiming in like her total overreaction was completely justified! Now maybe this speaks to how far I’ve let things go, but shoes and socks in the middle of the living room floor are really the least of my worries! If my husband is intentionally crushing cornflakes into the carpet or using the space between the couch cushions as a garbage can, that’s different, but socks and shoes in the floor? Surely if that’s the worst thing a woman can say about her husband, she can count herself blessed!
Now. Let me say here that my own messy spouse came quickly to the defense of many of these women, saying that in a world where so many wives are expected to work outside of the home just as many hours as their husbands, it isn’t fair that they should also have to handle 100% of the housework as well. But before you go nominating him for Husband of the Year, you might as well know he’s also one of those old-fashioned husbands who believes a woman, a mom in particular, should be home, not because he’s a caveman who thinks women have no rights and should be barefoot and pregnant at all times, but because homemaking and childrearing, if it’s to be done well, is a full-time job. Former generations that encouraged women to stay home once they married weren’t nearly so sexist as they were practical! With time I think women have learned that so-called “equality” comes with a very high price. But I’m getting off-subject here…
I also realize that a little messiness becomes a much larger problem where there are underlying marital issues. If your marriage is already struggling, a husband’s disregard for the home becomes a much more personal affront. I understand that, and I sympathize.
But consider the last two paragraphs to be my disclaimer before moving on to what I really want to say. Sometimes, ladies, let’s face it; we can be absolutely obsessive about our homes. And it’s not right.
I believe with all my heart God places within women a love of home and a sense of security and comfort that comes from making that space clean and beautiful and uniquely ours. Wanting it tidy is good and right and proper.
But accusing, insulting, and disrespecting my husband in order to have a clean house, on the other hand, is WRONG.
I figured out a long time ago that my husband doesn’t leave his socks in strange places because he doesn’t love me. He doesn’t forget to put away drinking glasses and plates because he has no respect for me and my system of cleanliness. He doesn’t even leave his laundry in the floor because he’s lazy.
You know why he does it? BECAUSE HE DOESN’T THINK LIKE ME! Much of the time my husband doesn’t even notice the mess that’s driving me crazy, but even if he does, it doesn’t bother him. It doesn’t cause him stress. It doesn’t make him unhappy. And even if he knows a particular kind of mess or a certain habit of his bothers me, because he doesn’t fully understand it, it stands to reason it’s much easier for him to forget it.
Now this same man is driven nuts by the way I cannot function in spontaneity. Spring on me the idea of a surprise trip across town and my brain literally shuts down. Offer the suggestion of taking me out to eat when I’ve had a meal planned and suddenly I’m crying because my plans for the evening have just been hijacked, even though it was all intended just to give me a break! My husband grew up in a family where they did virtually everything by the seat of their pants. He thrives on chaos! He can think on his feet! He loves surprises and adjusts well to change. But he’s married to me—Mrs. Structure. I know that part of me sometimes drives him crazy!
But that’s how differently we think. Now can he learn to see the house through my eyes a little better? Sure, in the same way I can learn to be a bit more impulsive at times. (I have improved in that department in the past 16 years. Some.) But the point is, no matter what I do or how much I gripe or how miserable I try to make him, my husband will never be me. He will never think like I do or see things exactly as I see them. He’ll never agonize over toys strewn across the living room or cry over a spill in the kitchen. (Both of which I have done.) To expect that of him is to expect him to be something he isn’t, which isn’t fair even if it was possible!
And I’ve made this mistake many times along the way–NOT EVEN BOTHERING TO ASK HIM TO HELP. I’ve wanted him to magically see my need, to view our house through MY eyes and then leap to my rescue without me uttering a word. When he didn’t do it I was hurt and angry at him all at once, when, honestly, he just hadn’t noticed! Not because he’s mean or evil or self-absorbed, but because he thinks differently than I do! When I just ask, he has no problem helping.
But whether he helps or not, I’ve learned that a clean house is not worth a strained relationship with my husband. I won’t needle him and nag and criticize or allow myself to become embittered over something that will pass away. I will not sacrifice my marriage on the altar of a clean house.
So if you drop in for a visit, first of all know I’m likely to panic because I can’t handle spontaneity! But also know the house is liable to be a little out-of-sorts. It’s not perfect. It’s not spotless.
But it’s a happy home. And isn’t that what matters most?