PODCAST EXTRAS: Is It Man-Bashing to Assume Men Can Take on Emotional Labor?

by | Jun 18, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 39 comments

Is It Man-Bashing to Expect Men to Do Emotional Labor?
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If we say that it’s okay to expect that men will want to be engaged at home, and will want to share the mental load, are we man-bashing?

We’ve been talking all month about emotional labor and mental load–or just how overburdened many women feel when they are responsible for remembering all of the details of the home and the kids, and when others rely on them to keep absolutely everything together. 

In reply, many women have said that their husbands have called this “man-bashing”. And a few women insinuated that this was also man-bashing.

So Rebecca and I thought we’d tackle this in the podcast today!

But first–a quick shoutout to my Sheila’s Spotlight product! When I highlight an affiliate product that I just love, and you purchase it, it helps support this blog, since I recently got rid of the ads I hated. But let me tell you–I love the Grillmasters Club! My sons-in-law have both recently bought houses and love barbecuing, and if you have a barbecue man in your family, this is an awesome subscription box that makes a great Father’s Day gift! Every month you get a new sauce or barbecue rub. Check it out!

And now–listen in to the podcast!

If we think that men are more than capable of stepping up, and that most men WANT to step up, isn’t that the opposite of man-bashing?

I actually think that most men are good guys and that they want to be equal partners in the relationship, but that’s just not the norm in our culture. And if they hear about how burdened their wife is, most men want to step up.

But when we talk about things that women almost universally find difficult, the quick “go-to” criticism is that we’re man-bashing. I find this really unfortunate. If you’re in a relationship, you should care if your spouse is burdened and feels tired and exhausted. And you should care if they feel taken for granted. That’s what Rebecca and I were talking about today, partly based on this comment that was left on Facebook: 

Whew. I shared the first podcast with my husband and tried to explain THIS is what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t express- mental load!! After listening his takeaway was I was listening to “man bashing” and that he “helped” as much as he could but he had a job and worked all day and is tired when he gets home. He just wants to “relax”. He said he would “try to do better”, I just need to let him know what I want him to do and he will do it (maybe). MISSED THE WHOLE POINT?!?! I don’t know how to explain it any better than you already have and he still can’t fathom what I’m talking about! I’m so frustrated!!

We get it, and next week we’ll be talking about how to have these discussions with your husband.

I’ll also be sending out a special email on Tuesday with some examples of how to have these conversations. I’ve got 46,000 people on my email list right now–if you’re not on it, you’re missing lots of extra stuff! So sign up, and you’ll get that email!

But in the meantime, the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, that we’ve been talking about all week, has some great strategies for these conversations. And the 100 Fair Play cards can be a visual, physical reminder of how heavy the mental load can be. 

 

 

Fair Play:

A Game-Changing Solution for Sharing Mental Load and Emotional Labor–

that will transform your marriage!

But I’m going to be super honest and transparent here: It does sometimes seem like if we want to ask men to do something, we have to tell them what’s in it for them.

It’s like we can’t just say, “be a good person” or “do what’s right.” We have to tell them, “don’t worry, you’ll get more sex,” or “you won’t have to work that much harder”, or “you don’t even have to do 50%. Just a little bit.” 

I know that when men approach women about some things, women can be super defensive, too.

But  a reader called me out about how I was phrasing much of the stuff about emotional labor and mental load, trying to convince men to do the right thing. She said:

Your blog post on emotional labor was quite effective in demonstrating how women are required to bring this up to even get a shot at change. Can we talk about the emotional labor of having to make sure it’s not acknowledged that women in general DO have it worse? (As you know, study after study confirms less free time) The exercise of having to make sure to not trigger defensiveness in husbands is exhausting and a big part of the emotional labor. Also having to make sure to frame it as him getting more sex so that’s why he should consider changing. Not because it’s just the right thing to do. Or even the kind the thing to do. Also the reassurance that it won’t have to be 50/50. Only 21% is the magic number so women will be ok as stated in other posts quoting Rodsky. So the emotional labor looks like: 1. Have to plan out and execute assurances that it’s not focusing on who has it worse (even though you do have it worse) 2. Have to make sure it’s framed around change so he gets something he wants. 3. The goal isn’t even equity you must assure, if he does 21% and you are left with 79% that will feel fair. Sigh

Lisa

And I looked back at that post, and I realized she was right. I was trying to phrase everything into, “don’t worry, guys! There’s a ton in it for you, too!”

I think I do that a lot. And maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. I do think that when we go into these conversations, saying, “you’re not being fair and you’re doing everything wrong” isn’t very helpful, and likely isn’t a good heart attitude. But I do get frustrated sometimes that when all I’m arguing for is that men be invested, that so often that’s called man-bashing, when I’m trying so hard not to.

And, honestly–I’ve never done a series that has resonated so much with women. 

The number of emails and comments and Facebook comments that have come in about how much “mental load” encapsulates the frustration so many women feel is astounding. This is a real issue. It may be “man-bashing” to talk about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. And if we want to work towards emotionally healthy marriages, we do need to address this.

So today, on the podcast, Rebecca and I got rather heated and talked about this phenomenon. Please listen in! And now I’ll give you all a chance to respond (and I’m getting ready for the tomatoes to be thrown at me!).

What do you think? Is it man-bashing to say that many women are exhausted? How should you talk about this stuff? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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39 Comments

  1. Staying well

    If there is an underlying belief that men are the ones in control, then anything that criticizes how they do something is going to seem like bashing. Couldn’t the root of this issue be the power-over mentality that comes from the belief that husbands have authority over their wives?
    I’ve learned so much about dealing with people from two authors: Patricia Evans who wrote Verbally Abusive Relarionships and Dr Henry Cloud of Boundaries fame. If Patricia Evans is correct and there are two main categories of people: those who want power over others and those who are willing to share power with others, then whether or not someone remains defensive when criticized or appealed to for help may be a good sign that the person wants power over you. (They may not realize it- it may just be ingrained in them from upbringing or belief systems). All of these ideas and tactics for sharing mental load will only work with someone who wants to share power. When they don’t- then convincing them that it is helpful for them is only way.
    Cloud (and Allender and others) discusses the wise , fool, and evil issue. The wise person is the one that can be approached with these kinds of issues. The fool isn’t going to listen to reason or appeal. So the way to handle the fool is limits and consequences to preserve your sanity and in the hopes that the person will wake up and grow to be wise. The evil person can’t be reasoned with at all and does have evil intent and therefore the goal is to protect yourself from the evil person.
    It is completely reasonable for a spouse (wife or husband) to want to share feelings and ask for a redo of systems because of being overwhelmed. If that isn’t possible because of defensiveness and blame shifting (claiming man-bashing can definitely qualify as blame shifting), then most likely there is a deeper rooted belief that prevents it.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      “then whether or not someone remains defensive when criticized or appealed to for help may be a good sign that the person wants power over you.”
      I would focus more on the appeal to help part than the criticism part, largely because picking people apart is not appropriate.
      If you say, “hey, it would be so much easier for me if you would ‘own’ the task of taking out the trash,” or “can we develop a system for keeping track of all the to-dos in the house”, then that’s an appeal for help.
      Criticism, however, is not the same beast. Someone with equal or lesser ‘power’ can criticise someone with more power, often out of frustration, OR criticism can be used as a tool to assert power over someone else.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Although criticism can become inappropriate, it is not inappropriate in and of itself and is actually an important part of a healthy marriage. If someone is doing something wrong, their spouse needs to be able to point out not only what would be better, but also what is currently being done badly.
        If we’re not able to criticize each other in love, then we can’t be honest! Connor’s called out ways that I do things wrong before and it’s on me to listen and be humble, since it’s better if we can just come right out and say what we were thinking so that the argument lasts as short of a time as possible! 🙂 The goal, in all of this, is simply to be able to be humble and gracious in our marriages while pursuing truth–and that can mean saying “honey, you’re being selfish in this and I need you to start taking more initiative.”

        Reply
        • Jane Eyre

          Hi Rebecca,
          I agree with you – sorry if I did not make that clear. The appropriateness of criticism depends on context.
          My own issue is that, in my marriage, I hear a LOT of petty criticism from my husband’s friends and some family. They didn’t like the way I planned my wedding. They don’t agree with the number of cats we have. They think I should have more kids or should have had kids sooner or should have had kids later. They don’t think I was skinny enough at a size 4. I once wore a sundress with a small hole in the seam to the pool. My car has a small dent in it from when I was rear-ended. I am wrong for being sad at leaving my home of over 30 years to be with my husband, and I am wrong to be sad for missing everything I built there.
          Nothing about that criticism would make me a better wife or a better Christian. Hence my complete lack of patience with it. I think the people running their mouths about someone else’s wedding, midsection, reproduction, vehicle, or job might be the ones in need of a humility check.
          It also harkens back to the woman whose husband got on her case about not weeding the driveway (?!?!!!).
          The term “constructive criticism” exists for a reason. If someone’s going to a job interview, pointing out the hole in the seam of a jacket and offering to find the needle and thread is constructive. If you’ve got your little eagle eyes parked on someone for any little flaw you can mock her for, and you’re all hanging out around the pool, you’re being a tiresome jerk.

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very well put! And I love Cloud’s and Evans’ work as well. In my iron sharpens iron series earlier this year, that’s what I talked about, too. When someone refuses to change, then consequences are necessary, and you should institute them to also preserve your sanity.
      I do think that the evangelical church as a whole does see marriage as a power-over relationship, and that’s why you can’t bring things like this up easily. It is a big problem.

      Reply
  2. Nathan

    > > he had a job and worked all day and is tired when he gets home. He just wants to “relax”.
    Point taken, and believe me I often feel the same way. Stay at home parents have a job and work all day, too. They just don’t get paid by an outside source. That doesn’t make either job more or less valid.

    Reply
  3. Nathan

    > > I just need to let him know what I want him to do and he will do it (maybe).
    Absolutely correct that this is missing the point. Ownership doesn’t mean that I sit around and wait for my wife to tell me to do something. Ownership means that I notice that “X” needs to be done and I do it even without somebody telling me that I need to do it.

    Reply
  4. Terrance

    When you say “We have to tell them, “don’t worry, you’ll get more sex,””
    That doesn’t register to me. I’m a man with lower sex drive than my wife. We discuss this and do our best to serve her needs. I already worry a lot about sex and that I’m not enough for her. If she said this to me”dont worry you’ll get more sex” I would know she’s dinging me for being a worrier (assigning a feeling to me) and also trying to wedge the conversation with something I already am deficient at.

    Reply
  5. Anon

    I am a man and I usually work and my wife usually studies. The kids goes to daycare. But this summer she got a job and I because of my work have vacation. So I have been home with my kids. I have always felt that I should serve my wife so I have been doing everything at home. Cleaning, making breakfast , lunch and dinner, laundry. And when my wife comes home I like giving her massages and so on.
    My wife when she comes home often just sits on her phone because she is too tired. The other day I got very upset. I started to feel resentment because of this. I didnt know why but I realized that it was because I felt unappreciated. I could tell my wife and she understood but I dont know how much will change.
    Its not like I want her to do a ton of stuff but I guess I want her to acknowledge what I do more. And I guess thats a problem too because as you say I think many men wants to get something out of this and I think thats the kind of mentality I have had. I must say that I love doing all of these things. I take pride in having her breakfast ready in the morning, having lunch and dinner ready and clean so she doesnt have to. but I guess that I must admit that there are hopes for maybe more sex or at least more physical touch which is my love language. And I guess thats whats wrong with some of my motives. I have never ever told her that we need to have sex because of how much I work at home but I guess that its an expectation I still have. I see that now and need to change.
    But as I said, I dont have any problem doing everything like I am now but I do feel that to do that I need a lot of appreciation. Or else the resentment kicks in. I guess I have to learn how to communicate that in some way at the same time as I dont put pressure on her.
    Something I struggle with is that I feel guilty if I tell her to do something. LIke I dont have the right to ask because she has worked all day. This feels like it will be even more true when she starts earn more than me. I guess its a cultural thing but I will feel kind of bad to be honest when she makes more than me. So I feel I need to be good at taking care of the home even if I would work exact as much as her because she would be the primary breadwinner. Maybe its just a dumb cultural idea but I read recently that women that earn far more than their husband usually divorce their husbands. So I guess I feel like I need to do more to feel that I contribute in some way.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anon, you sound like you are going through exactly what we’ve been talking about all month–just with the roles reversed!
      And certainly she’s tired when she gets home. But so are you. You’ve also worked hard all day, and looking after small children is actually often more draining than work or studies.
      Also, while you’re not doing these things to get something, that doesn’t mean that your desire for more physical touch or for more of a relationship are invalid. You need those things, period. It’s not about what you’re doing or not doing; it’s just about basic emotional needs that should be met in the relationship. It’s totally okay to talk to her about this and say, “I feel as if we’re not connecting, and I feel overwhelmed right now, and I think we need to rebalance our relationship.”

      Reply
  6. Harriet Vane

    I have a question- why is it in this whole emotional labor debate is it just assumed that the husband’s career is untouchable and unchangeable?
    My husband is a military test pilot, and I stay home with our two small children. My husband has worked insanely hard our whole marriage, and I and our relationship and family have borne the cost. We’ve moved seven times in eight years. I have a mental health disorder which my therapist says was triggered in part by the insane amount of stress the military has caused in our lives. In so many ways I feel at the end of my rope.
    I’ve been trying to have all these conversations about emotional labor with my husband. They usually turn into fights. And his biggest argument is usually “my job is demanding and stressful so it’s unreasonable of you to want me to do more than I already do at home.”
    That’s why I have this question. If a husband’s job is so stressful and demanding and drains him so much that he can’t share an equitable amount of the burden of running a household, why is the answer to the wife usually just “suck it up”? Basically the message that I (and I think probably many other wives married to driven husbands) am hearing is, “your mental health, physical well-being, and the health of our marriage are not as important as my career. It is more important for me to channel my passion and energies into my work than to channel some of that into the running of our household.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great point, Harriet. I’ve said frequently that if a couple’s lives are so insane that you can’t connect and the stress is so high, then you need to make a 5-year-plan, which may include switching jobs or moving, so that the level of stress is no longer this high. If a job is destroying you or your family, you really need to ask if that’s worth it, and while in a very, very few cases it may be (say discovering a vaccine for COVID), in most it is not.

      Reply
    • Doug Hoyle

      That is a valid point, but it leads to many questions that have to be asked and answered. One aspect of the military life, that is overlooked in your comment, is the long term benefits of the military, as well as other occupations. Are YOU willing to give them up for what is arguably a short term gain. At some point, your kids will move out, and a great deal of your workload will move out with them. If your husband retires, in theory his workload will drop at roughly the same time yours does. If he continues working beyond his retirement, it can be at a reduced level, but either way, your workload will have diminished to some degree.
      It is pretty easy in the civilian world to replace one job with another, and still hang onto similar benefits (with the exception of salary), but leaving the military is a whole different animal, because those benefits last not only his lifetime, but yours if he should die before you, and also in many ways can be passed on to your children if they remain in school.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johnson

        Doug,
        Valid questions. Another valid point of view is that HER opportunities for a getting a steady job as the kids grow and saving for retirement for is greatly reduced by his being in the military.
        Is HE willing to be flexible. Willing to give up on his wants/needs/dreams as much as he is wanting her to give up hers?
        This is not just about one person’s opportunities. The decision should be made for what is best for BOTH. Flexibility to consider other options for what is best considering all factors.

        Reply
        • Doug Hoyle

          All of those are important considerations, which is why the matter demands a conversation about the entirety, and not one persons desires. Trust me, I lived it and I know how hard it can be. We were fortunate that WE did not move often, but my time in special operations required me to be gone a great deal. It was a trade-off. The special operations community is anchored pretty solidly in Fort Bragg as well as a few other locations, so while you may travel a great deal, your home generally stays in one place.
          Another consideration is that for many, the military is a genuine calling. It is certainly not just a job, and it is not an easy thing for some to let go of. I have been out for more than 20 years (exposing my age here), and I still miss it tremendously. I often refer to it as a previous life, because that is what it feels like.

          Reply
          • Lisa Johnson

            Doug,
            Yeah I agree this is often hard. Hard to figure out how much to prioritize callings or balancing conflicting good values. Callings matter but so do relationships.
            I think it’s critical for both husband and wife to START from the place of healthy sacrifice and also good boundaries. Those are in tension.
            So often it goes off track when one or both aren’t willing to sacrifice or be flexible. Or if one or both give too much and don’t stand up for themselves in a healthy way.
            It’s hard that’s why it takes focus and effort and frequent readjustment to get it right. At least it does for me 😀
            Thanks for your input!

          • Maria B

            An easy trap to fall into is to say “I can’t walk away because I’ve invested so much already.”
            And wanting to quit too early is another trap to look out for.
            From the outside, quitting looks the same as admitting to being on the wrong path. Which is why I appreciate that you did not say that she SHOULD tough it out, instead saying that there are reasons to CONSIDER doing so.

  7. Lily

    I can’t wait to listen to this podcast! I’m unmarried (in my early twenties), but during this quarantine I have been living with my parents. My dad is so unable to bear the burden of the family because of mental illness (and the medicine he takes for it) and can only handle the happy moments, not the deep struggles all of his children (and my mom) now have because he was emotionally unavailable during our growing up years and still today. I feel guilty talking about it, because I am afraid that it is dishonoring to my father, and that has affected my faith as well. I feel the weight of my mom’s burden in our home, and this has largely turned me off of marriage in general, because my perspective is that all men are like this. Most of my close friends have similar (or worse) father situations and haven’t been married long enough. I am ashamed to talk about it for fear (again) of dishonoring my father, but it is a deep ache. I don’t know if I can bear a repeat of my childhood in marriage. Are there men out there who don’t have to be told to do basic things and who don’t take it as “nagging” (and therefore can bear) being asked to contribute more to the family? What does that even look like?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Lily, that’s so sad! I’m so sorry for all that you’ve grown up with, and for the terrible examples you’ve had. I want to answer your question, though: YES, there are certainly men who “own” their tasks and who don’t need to be asked to contribute to the family. There really are. And if you don’t know any, then perhaps you need to find a new church and a new community!

      Reply
    • Maria B

      Lily, you mentioned fear of dishonoring your father. His greatest accomplishment as a parent is helping to make you. And any siblings you have. Is there any greater way to honor a parent than to do what God put you here to do? Do wounds from your upbringing prevent you? If that is so, then it honors your father for you to heal from the wounds left by the way he raised you.
      To a point, protecting his reputation honors him. But only to a point. Once it becomes a choice between your well being and his reputation, you’re well-being should be the priority. So if, in order to heal from the past, you have to tell someone that your father was emotionally unavailable, so be it.

      Reply
  8. Andrea

    The term “white fragility” has recently entered the English-speaking consciousness (Robin DiAngelo wrote a book about it a couple of years ago and it has now gained major attention) to describe the defensiveness white people display when the topic of race comes up. It is excellent, and if you don’t have time to read another book, I suggest you watch her YouTube videos, like me. I am bringing this up, though, because I think what today’s podcast is about is male fragility. If you happen to be in the demographic that enjoys certain advantages over others, then becoming equal will seem like something is being taken away from you (and it is if you’re used to having 4 hours of free time, while your wife has none and now you have to scale it down to 2 to be equal).

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think you’re right! I’ll go check out the videos, too.
      I think the problem, as we said in the podcast, is that in the church we focus far more on gender roles in marriage than we do at pursuing God’s calling in marriage. In fact, we treat the two as if they are synonymous, when they are absolutely not. The main question we should be asking is, “what plan does God have for my time, passions, and giftings?” But if, instead, we’re spending all of our time enabling a spouse to do nothing, then we’re missing out on God’s plans.

      Reply
  9. Maria B

    Been reading some comments about how sole breadwinners (usually men) are overwhelmed from breadwinning and how sole homemakers (usually women) are overwhelmed from homemaking.
    Is that stress due entirely to the work they do? Or is some of it because they have to do it all on their own?
    Breadwinner has to shoulder the entire burden of breadwinning. If he (or she) gets sick or needs to train for a different job, there is no backstop. No one else to step in and fill the gap. Is that why he (or she) is too mentally stressed to share the labor load inside of the home?
    And the sole homemaker has little to no opportunity to get a decent job. Being tied to the home and the kids. This series has already pointed out how stressful it is to be 100% responsible for everything in the home, so I won’t reiterate.
    So, how about a five year plan to address the imbalance?
    (Caveat: the sole breadwinner and sole homemaker dynamic works well for some couples. As in, both are happy and thriving with the arrangement. This comment was for couples where the sole breadwinner is super stressed from being the sole breadwinner. And the sole homemaker is super stressed from being the sole homemaker!)
    Now, if one spouse is happy with the arrangement but the other is suffering, the spouse who has it all should sacrifice some so that the suffering spouse can have some happiness, too.

    Reply
  10. Nathan

    And certainly she’s tired when she gets home. But so are you. You’ve also worked hard all day, and looking after small children is actually often more draining than work or studies.
    Sometimes those who work outside the home fail to realize this. In an episode of “The Simpsons”, Homer observes that he has to go to work every day, and the kids have to go to school every day. “The only one who has it easy is Marge”, as we then see Marge on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor

    Reply
  11. T

    https://mustbethistalltoride.com/an-open-letter-to-shitty-husbands/
    Not sure if it’s allowed to post links, but I thought this was a relevant viewpoint to the discussion. WARNING: bad language and coarse humor sometimes!!
    I think this blogger’s POV could be helpful in terms of communicating to men what it means to their wives, even if the husbands would just acknowledge the wife’s needs in this area. Even if not much changes in the handling of the emotional load. I know that I don’t want my dh to “have to” do more, but it would be nice to have him understand the concept and appreciate what I do for the family. And acknowledge it, out loud, once in a while, not just when I break down. (Sorry if I broke the rules with the link!) I love the blog!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Okay, there is bad language, but that’s a really interesting website! Thank you!

      Reply
  12. Lisa Johnson

    Sheila,
    Thanks for highlighting my previous comment about the emotional labor of dealing with defensiveness in this post!
    You said: “And I looked back at that post, and I realized she was right. I was trying to phrase everything into, “don’t worry, guys! There’s a ton in it for you, too!”
    I think I do that a lot. And maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. I do think that when we go into these conversations, saying, “you’re not being fair and you’re doing everything wrong” isn’t very helpful, and likely isn’t a good heart attitude. But I do get frustrated sometimes that when all I’m arguing for is that men be invested, that so often that’s called man-bashing, when I’m trying so hard not to.”
    It’s funny my comment wasn’t intended to “call you out”. It was a plea to address why it’s so hard for so many women to get basic fairness. The defensive responses you get from many men in the comments is what so many wives experience.
    I was struck by the way you carefully do emotional labor trying to compose your posts so men will even consider opening their mind to small change (only 21% and you will get more sex!) is so sadly common to what wives experience daily. You even get accused of man bashing too.
    If I had anything to “call you out” on it might be the blind spot of not seeing or acknowledging how common this is. That it’s not fixed by explaining or spreadsheets or nice tones of voices. (I assume it’s because you and your daughters have not experienced this directly)
    When you say “I think most guys are good guys” the definition of a “good guy” needs to change imho. A “good guy” is **more than likely** to be defensive, to resist change that doesn’t benefit him. It doesn’t mean they are evil but they have a big flaw that is damaging the marriage. (We are all flawed of course. Women have their own blind spots.)
    But most men are raised in a culture that trains and rewards self focus and defensiveness around “control”. Some good in that. But not good for relationships.
    I’m sure you have read lots of stuff about how much of a problem this is. Gottman’s research identified men accepting influence from wives as the NUMBER 1 thing that determines the success of a marriage. And yet, the majority of men don’t. (And while it has improved some it’s a huge problem regardless of age including millennials).
    More acknowledgement is required imho. How common it is. How the majority of “good guys” have this blind spot flaw. (It’s even worse for Christians sadly because of all the gender role/authority teaching).
    Why is it hard to acknowledge it appropriately? I get it. It’s the bind you are in that so many wives are. Trying to ask for ANY change in ways that don’t trigger defensiveness. That’s how I meant the original comment.
    I love have you are one of the few marriages blogs to consistently talk about the importance of boundaries. It’s a unique strength of yours. The post about making people uncomfortable so they change is gold!
    PS I’m a huge fan of your blog. I hope this didn’t come off as critical more than explanatory. 😀

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Lisa! Yes, I love Gottman. In fact, my husband’s first post on this blog was all about how husbands need to accept their wife’s influence (and how evangelical culture makes us think that’s a weakness). I know what you’re saying about “good guys”. Again, it’s always balancing the “how do we get guys not to defensively discount what we’re saying?” It is difficult to always have to ask that question, and yet I do–whether I’m talking about how wives deserve orgasm (I still can’t believe that’s controversial) or whether it’s about mental load.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johnson

        Sheila,
        Yeah I know it’s so exhausting. I give you a lot of credit for working so hard.
        So much mental labor on such basic stuff. Just to try and get the person to agree to consider the topic.
        And that’s all before you can even get to discussing possible solutions.
        I know you love Gottman and I did read your husband’s post! I’m sure you are also familiar with Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy books. As you know EFT is highly researched as successful to improve marriages. It has a lot of really powerful help for couples to get out of the defensiveness by seeing the system of pursue and withdraw (or criticize and defend etc )
        She has a book with her information designed for Christians called Created For Connection. It’s the perfect antidote imho for the Love and Respect book. Maybe you can highlight the ideas in that book someday like you are Fair Play?. ( I’m not related to Sue Johnson by the way 😜)
        Thanks for all your emotional labor to help people! I really think you do so much good work to restore dignity to women.

        Reply
          • AspenP

            Thanks for posting this! It looks like a great book & hopefully helpful for my marriage.

          • Lisa Johnson

            AspenP,
            I hope the book is helpful for you! 😀
            I think it’s really good at finally understanding WHY couples get stuck in these common patterns. It can be so disorienting if you don’t see what is happening clearly.
            PS I am not in any way affiliated with the book. Just think it could be helpful. I have a long list of helpful books ha ha so glad Fair Play is being highlighted by Sheila.

  13. Cristi

    While I was listening to the podcast, I was struck by the comment about how women and men should have equal amounts of free time. For far too many years I believed a lie about how a wife/mom only got free time if everything else with the house and the kids was done. No wonder I spent so many years being completely burnt out.

    Reply
  14. Sarah O

    “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    I liked the commenter who tied white fragility and masculine fragility together, even though I’m sure there are loads of readers who hate both concepts. I’m going to build on that a little.
    Through my faith, I believe that all humans are made in the image of God and that “the Spirit giveth light to every man”, meaning we all have some instinct of right and wrong, even the unbeliever. I think we sometimes perceive “deep pits” around injustice that we prefer to just ignore.
    Like ok, if we admit that black people don’t get the same educational opportunities as whites, are we going to fall into the gaping hole that is the totality of black experience? Because I really don’t want to go into that hole. So I’m not going to talk about educational inequality.
    We do the same thing with “feminists” and “women’s issues”. If we talk about emotional load and uneven labor distribution within families, are we going to have to go into the gaping pit that is the history of women’s experiences in marriage, education, medicine, law? Cause we don’t wanna have to go there. (article ffrom 1883 on reducing divorce by…improving marriage for women, maybe? https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/03/11/to_limit_divorces_undo_husbands_dominion_over_wives.html)
    It’s like we know we can’t fill the whole pit, so we use that as an excuse to not throw in the handful of dirt we COULD actually put in. I’m not sure if it’s cultural or human nature.
    We can’t do everything, but we are accountable for doing what we CAN.
    And we need to really start looking at whether the disclaimers around injustice are even gaining us more listeners or just making us feel less vulnerable when doing an unpopular, but right thing. Not at all a dive at Sheila and her team who have a ridiculously tricky job addressing a huge audience on sensitive topics, but in general. Every time a topic of injustice comes up in Christian circles, we have to get through 30 minutes of disclaimers before we can even say the thing we want to talk about. Is this tactic really reaching hearts and minds that are hardened against the sufferring of others?
    Cartoon with some language…https://www.google.com/search?q=cartoon+men%27s+egos+can+be+so+fragile&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS767US767&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjqntiPmZjqAhVykuAKHRIuBqMQ_AUoAXoECAsQAw&biw=1920&bih=937#imgrc=1NoG-DEvxaUnqM

    Reply
  15. A.Daniel

    There were two paragraphs of historical context that would have been immensely valuable to this conversation, but your post length limitation prevented me from including those, so I’ll omit them. They explain why men are so unwilling or unable to share emotional burdens. Here is where those two paragraphs left off:
    If asking your husband to share the emotional load or do things around the house triggers defensiveness, it’s because he’s struggling emotionally in ways you are unaware of. Furthermore, if you have to COERCE your husband into doing things in the house by giving him rewards, that is not only insulting to him as a man, but you’re treating him like your child, and he’s probably been treating you like his mommy for some time.
    Why am I saying this? Because I was that man. Married for 11 years, grew up as a Christian as did my wife. I studied theology independently and even led a small group. My wife was my rock, not vice versa. I leaned on her strength, and she didn’t have mine to lean on. I was emotionally unstable, easily angered or triggered into defensiveness or frustration and withdrawal. I was unpredictable, and unstable. Even after work, she didn’t know if I was going to yell at the kids or be happy. I struggled with deep issues of feeling like I would never be good enough. We had an imbalanced sex drive because I would only do things around the house to earn “brownie points” with my wife. I ACTED just like the kids did, and she was consequently attracted to me in the same way (she wasn’t). She LOVED me but was not emotionally and primally attracted to me, so the conversation of sex came up CONSTANTLY, and always in the context of her not meeting my needs, followed by my moping and self-pity, like a little boy who’s begging mommy to fix his booboo. It was loving pity sex, not mutually passionate, erotic, lustful sex. My wife was overwhelmed often and sounded defeated whenever she’d ask me to do something, like asking the boys to clean their room. You could practically hear me saying, “mommy, do I have to?”
    You know what the amazing thing is? Once I figured this out and started acting like a real man, we had the best sex of our marriage. I had a shit-eating grin on my face all night as I looked at her and repeated, “what the hell was THAT!” My wife didn’t change anything, yet I got the intimacy I was craving and more I had never imagined possible. As for emotional load? I welcome it. I embrace it. I ask for more, because I’m not burdened by the lies I’d been telling myself for years. I weaponize my emotions into tools for productivity. I run two businesses that make a cozy 6-figure income ON TOP OF my full time job as an IT security engineer and its accompanying salary. I have 4 kids (two older boys) that changed their atttiudes as soon as I grew up. I don’t need to be bribed with sex. I work out 5-6 days a week for 1.5 hours each day. If I’m asked to do something, I don’t need to know what’s in it for me; I’m doing it because it needs to be done and because I have taken responsibility for my kingdom. Not only does she not have to deal with her child of a husband that leaves all of the emotional burdens of running a family on his mommy’s shoulders, but she feels empowered and secure in taking on more, knowing she can lean on my emotional strength.

    Reply
    • A.Daniel

      Here’s the historical context that was supposed to go at the beginning:
      Men don’t share the emotional load because they’ve been conditioned not to. Go back to the industrial revolution. Prior to this, boys joined their fathers working on the farm, learning to innovate, and learning how to be a man by direct example. Following the industrial revolution, men gave up their crown to be a cog in the industrial machine. Furthermore, during the two world wars, we had two generations of men that were taught NOT to feel as it could get them killed. Following that, we still had fathers that went into offices or factories and worked long hours, spending MAYBE 30 minutes each day with their kids, if they were lucky. These emotionally suppressed men were always taught NOT to feel, that feelings were bad, that crying meant you were a little b****, to just “suck it up.”
      Men became progressively more burdened by their emotions and their inability to process them, which is why so many of them sedate with alcohol, drugs, porn, video games, etc. WE WERE NEVER TAUGHT TO FEEL. They are already under such great emotional stress, unable to cope with their emotions (or worse, the feelings of rejection, worthlessness, inadequacy, and that they will never be good enough), that adding to their emotional load without any promise of relief seems unbearable.

      Reply

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