Marriage counseling is big business and I almost feel bad because my advice is so good it may put a lot of good counselors out of business. Now I don’t claim this one piece of advice can fix already broken marriages but it can help build a solid foundation for new ones.
But, before I reveal my advice, let me tell you a story.
The other day Janice made some toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch and then whipped together some vanilla pudding for dessert. She apologized for the meager rations. “Adi was throwing a tantrum every five minutes and Elliot filled about 435 diapers today.” It was a busy day for her and I definitely had to order another box of diapers. We buy diapers in bulk so they usually have to unload the semi truck with a crane. I didn’t mind the toasted cheese sandwiches, though. Someone had voluntarily made delicious food for me to eat!
You see, five years ago I was living in my friend’s house with him and another dude. Good cooks were scarce. Generous cooks willing to share were non-existent. When cooking did occur in the kitchen, the edible handicrafts were guarded with the ferocity of a pit bull attacking an innocent bystander. “Hey, don’t touch my burrito! HEY! THAT’S MY BURRITO IN THE MICROWAVE! DUDE, I WILL PUNCH YOU!”
Two days later, ownership of the burrito is mysteriously relinquished the instant someone notices that the microwave is splattered with burrito guts. “OK, WHO’S BURRITO EXPLODED IN THE MICROWAVE?” Suddenly no one is aware of any burritos; past, present, or future. Shoulders are shrugged and alibis are mumbled as everyone scurries into the far recesses of the house.
One time I felt the urge to eat healthy so I went to BB’s Grocery Outlet and bought several frozen five pound bags of Brussel sprouts. Then I ate nothing but brussel sprouts for supper for a month straight. I’ll share my recipe if you want to copy it down: Boil in water until soft, drain, add several chunks of butter, salt with Lawry’s seasoned salt. Serve yourself straight out of the kettle.
Besides not cooking, no one also cleaned the toilet. One day I noticed the toilet was a faint yellow color. This stirred my soul in an unusual way – I dug through the cupboards, assembled an army of cleaning supplies, then took command and conquered the dirty toilet. It occurred to me that day that I had never scrubbed a toilet before. In fact, I‘m not sure that I’ve ever seen a yellow toilet (except for that one time in Thailand but that’s another story).
Related: Hiking & Reminiscing (the Thailand story I just talked about)
This meant that someone else was cleaning the toilets my whole life because a toilet, left to its own devices, doesn’t stay white! Huh, I thought. The only possible explanation was that my mom had always cleaned the toilets and yet I never once thought about the fact that, because I thought it wasn’t my job, I was making her do it. So this is why I give her a card on Mother’s Day! The light clicked on.
A real man doesn’t make a woman scrub a toilet. Well, I should say that he never specifically says, “Woman, clean the toilet!” because he would probably wake up with a tent stake through his head (it happened in the Bible, sort of. Look it up!). What happens instead is that a man usually neglects cleaning the toilet until it gets so dirty that the woman of the house voluntarily cleans it herself. At bare minimum, the man should lavish on the praise and admiration so she realizes her good deed was noticed. A man won’t lavish on the praise and admiration for a job well done if he never noticed the job was done.
So my piece of advice is this: MOVE OUT! Stop living with your parents. Stop letting your momma take care of you. Live on your own for five years and you will deeply appreciate whoever keeps your house, whether it’s a maid or a wife, or a trained Labrador Retriever who licks your floor clean when you spill stuff.
I deeply appreciate Janice and I hold her in high esteem because she does so many “lowly” jobs. I didn’t marry her so she cleans my toilets. I do not assume it’s her job so I’m always pleasantly surprised when she does it. Wow, I think, she cleaned the toilet again. What a great woman. She loves her family and doesn’t want us using yellow toilets. Personally, I think using gross toilets would help prepare us for the mission field. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I feel guilt nibbling at my soul for not helping my wife clean the toilets. Nonetheless, it’s humbling to have another human clean my toilet and so sometimes (here’s a novel concept) I clean my own toilet!
Janice seems genuinely surprised at how much I appreciate her sometimes. I just think of eating microwave burritos for months straight, then shiver involuntarily and give her a big hug. Sometimes it happens ten times a day. She doesn’t seem to mind.