The First Thing a Vintage Housewife Should Do for Her Husband

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One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your marriage is to be disrespectful to your husband. Why? Because water seeks its own level: you married a man who matched you. And if you don’t respect him, you don’t respect yourself. When you make the choice to respect your husband, you are also saying, “I am worthy of self-respect — I chose a good man who deserves love and esteem.” The VERY FIRST THING you should be doing to make home life as relaxing and supportive as possible so that the breadwinner can succeed in providing for the family to the best of his abilities is to show your respect for your husband.

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Respecting your husband means listening to him without criticizing him, making fun of him, or insulting him. It means accepting his decisions, choices, and goals without telling him he is wrong about everything. It means that no matter what your husband does, you will not try to teach, improve, or correct him.

Respect a man, he will do more.
James Howell, Paroimiographia Proverbs, 1659

Honor His Choices

If he is old enough to marry you, he is also old enough to choose his own socks, books, stocks and bonds, food, friends, and values. He knows what he likes — he’s a grownup. You can’t change him by nagging or cajoling or disapproving of his decisions — even when you disagree.

Telling him how to load the dishwasher is insulting. You might as well be saying, “You mean you can’t even do something as easy as that?” When he takes the wrong freeway exit and he keeps going in the wrong direction, you will go past the state line and still not correct what he’s doing.

Seriously, respecting your husband means NOT treating him like an irresponsible or incapable child. It means trusting him to make his own mistakes, repair them, and cope with the consequences. It means, fundamentally, treating him as an adult.

Use a calm voice

Part of showing respect is controlling your own emotions to the point that you can use a calm, quiet tone of voice, instead of a shrilly shrewish voice. Don’t sound hysterical. Don’t whine.

If you DO strongly disagree with a decision that he has made, you can still tell him, but use a quiet, calm, gentle voice, and make it clear that you still support him.

Care about his likes and dislikes

Don’t you want others to at least try to please you? To care about your likes and dislikes? Well, then, do the same for him! It really doesn’t hurt.

Listen to him and respect his preferences. If he likes the smell of Ivory soap and Jergens original cherry-vanilla lotion, you’ll use those as the mainstay of your beauty routine. If he likes you to wear nightgowns to bed, throw out your sweatpants.

It also means actually asking him about his ideas, aspirations, and preferences. He has probably learned through bitter experience to close himself off. Be the one that he can open up to, instead of shutting him down. Open up your relationship to intimacy by not shooting him full of arrows if he shows a weakness.

Preserve Your Own Dignity

If you are whining, nagging, and trying to control your husband, you are a shrew. (Yes, I know modern social media is calling a shrew a “Karen” now, but the word “shrew” just sounds appropriately shrill and hysterical.)

Act like a lady. Even around your husband. Be discreet. Be dignified. Instead of having the unpleasant feeling of always nagging or arguing, you hear yourself sounding more virtuous and mature. And, by extension, you will find yourself to be a more virtuous, more ladylike, more mature wife.

When you are constantly trying to fix him, you have an unconscious refrain jingling in your head that goes like this: “I know better than he does … I will help him do it right.” With this background music, you’ll develop an air of superiority that is wholly unwarranted. Frankly, that feeling of superiority is a delusion that will not only destroy your marriage, but also destroy you. And it’s an ugly attitude to carry through a life where you’ll FREQUENTLY be wrong! It is much more dignified NOT to have to backtrack — because you didn’t make a fool out of yourself by acting superior in the first place.

Learn to apologize

In the beginning, you’ll find yourself having to apologize a lot. Not ONLY because your bad habits will run wild with you — also because by apologizing you act vulnerable enough that your husband will feel like we can be vulnerable and apologize too. That’s why learning how to apologize is so important.

When you apologize, be sure to reference the specific situation. The best formula to use is, “I apologize for being disrespectful when I criticized ________________. Please forgive me.” The more specific, the better!

Next, allow him to respond. Don’t comment on the situation. Don’t try to justify your criticism or position (good practice for ANY situation that warrants an apology to ANYONE!) in response to what he says or during your apology. And the temptation WILL BE THERE. Don’t you do it! It’s important that you listen to his response after you apologize and acknowledge that you really heard him. You may even need to reflect his own words back to him (without commentary!) to ensure that he feels heard.

The Reward

The most important thing you can do as an old-fashioned wife is to respect your husband. As traditional as it seems, the rewards are great. You’ll be more dignified and be able to respect yourself more when you respect your husband. You’ll get the rewards of greater intimacy and a more loving relationship.

Above all, your husband will adore you for it. And what’s better than an adoring husband?

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