How to Train your Husband
Updated: Sep 8
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Okay, ladies - let's be real. You can't train your husband, and honestly - do you really want a husband who acts like a trained animal? Well maybe some people do, but what I'm really talking about is how to help your husband understand your needs. Like the saying goes "Happy Wife - Happy Life".
Let me give you some info on myself before we get too far down the road. I have LOTS of weird quirks; I am a very routine-oriented person; and although I don't have clinical O.C.D, I am kind of O.C.D. Let me illustrate with some examples.
1. Ron and I have separate bedrooms. Now you're wondering, what the heck am I doing listening to advice from a married couple that can't even share a bedroom? Well, we do what works best for us. I have always had a very difficult time sleeping, and Ron SNORES like a bear and has restless leg syndrome to put the icing on the cake. The two of us trying to actually sleep together just never worked. Any little movement he would make would wake me up, every tiny (or huge) snore would wake me up. And then Ron got so anxious about waking me up that he couldn't sleep. Yes, we still have sex (no children in this house remember), yes we still hang out in bed and talk or watch TV. We just don't actually sleep together.
2. More about my sleeping problems...Even with prescription sleep medication, sleep can be a big struggle. What I have found is that a routine helps me immensely. I start winding down for bed at least an hour before I want to actually sleep. I wash my face, brush my teeth, take out my contact lenses, and get my outfit ready and ironed (I iron EVERYTHING - thanks Mom for that habit!). I also layout my breakfast dishes so they're ready to go (that quirk comes from my Dad!). Once I start this routine, I need space - I don't want anything to start stressing me out, or getting my mind worked up; I really don't want anyone to even talk to me. Once I am actually in bed and my door is closed - NO ONE and NOTHING better bother me. I am off-limits once that door is shut. And I need QUIET. Ron tends to go to bed later than I do, and if he does anything loud (and by loud I mean a normal amount of noise), I come unglued. He has now interrupted my routine of winding down and de-stressing. If something startles me - it's all over. I will not sleep that night.
3. I am what you might call "particular" about how things look around the house, and how things are done. I don't think this is all that unusual for women - not to make a sexist generalization, but we tend to be more concerned about how the decor looks, how clean the house is, how the pantry is organized, and a big one for me - how the dishwasher is loaded.
4. This is just a small sampling of my quirks. No need for you to think I am a total weirdo yet!
So how did I "train my husband" to not drive me completely nuts with all these little things? Well, as I said, you can't train your husband, but you can get him to understand what you need from him. I should note, that Ron thinks a husband can be trained; because he thinks it happened to him. He offers some of his insights at the bottom. Anyways, this took me a LONG time and until I figured it out, it caused a LOT of fights between us. It took me a long time to realize that Ron doesn't just magically know that I like the dishwasher loaded a certain way (really just in a way that the dishes will actually come clean). He doesn't magically know that if he opens my bedroom door at night because the hall bathroom is out of toilet paper and he knows I have extra in my bathroom, that I might punch him in the throat. Speaking of toilet paper - he can't just magically know that the roll should be put on the toilet paper holder so the toilet paper rolls off the top (the right way). (By the way, this is Ron, and I believe there is only one way a toilet paper roll should be applied, and that is so the paper rolls off the top).
For so many years anytime Ron didn't do something just the way I liked or thought it should be done, I got irritated at him. Over time, a little irritation grew into annoyance, then anger, and resentment. Why can't he just do it right?! But you know what the biggest problem was? It wasn't that Ron was a jerk or lazy, it was that I never TOLD him about those things that bothered me; and more importantly, I never told him WHY.
Take for instance my sleeping issue. Even though we realized fairly early on in our marriage that we could not share the same sleeping space, Ron did not understand just how hard it was for me to fall asleep. Once I finally explained it to him and helped him understand what I needed, he was so much more conscientious. Is he perfect? No. But if he makes a noise while falling down the stairs, I don't get angry at him for it. I know that he now understands what I need and he really tries his best to accommodate me.
I do the laundry, once a week, usually on Fridays. I hang all the clothes that need to air dry and then fold all the other clothes and they go in our separate laundry baskets (separate bedrooms require separate laundry baskets). Our tiny laundry room is on the main level of our house and right off the great room, so on laundry day, the laundry spills out into the great room. Once the laundry is done, and we each have a full basket of clean laundry I take mine up to my room and put it away (if not on Friday, then for sure on Saturday morning). Ron's basket will sit in the corner of the great room for much longer. When he finally takes it up to his room, it just sits on his floor - he never puts the clean laundry away. So Friday comes around again and I go to get the laundry baskets full of dirty clothes to take downstairs, and he is still full of clean clothes, with a pile of dirty clothes right next to it. This drives me CRAZY!!! For years, I would be so annoyed at Ron. It got to the point where I told him I wasn't going to do his laundry anymore if he couldn't put the clean clothes away. I would angrily throw his clean clothes out of the laundry basket onto the floor. But guess what - that didn't change anything. Finally, I told Ron why it was important to me that he put his laundry away, and that it felt like he didn't appreciate that I had done the laundry and that he was taking me for granted. And just like that - he started putting his laundry away! Well, not exactly - but he is much better.
I mentioned the dishwasher. I have a particular way that I think the dishwasher should be loaded - from back to front and from left to right (am I nuts?), but for me, it just makes it easier to load new dishes in there. Ron doesn't really follow this logic and just puts dishes in there any which way. We used to scream at each other over how to load the dishwasher - how dumb is that? Did Ron finally get on my bandwagon and start loading the dishes just like I wanted? NO. He still loads them all cattywampus. But here is another important lesson I learned - LET IT GO (Frozen theme song playing in the background)!!!
There are some things in your marriage and in your life that are really important - for me one of them was getting a good night's sleep. But there are also a lot of things that just don't really matter. Once I decided to let those little things go, I cannot tell you the difference it made in our relationship. Do I still roll my eyes when there is a glass on the bottom rack of the dishwasher? YES. But then I move on. I don't let it fester and get me angrier and angrier when it happens.
You have to decide for your marriage and for your well being what those important things are and what you can let go of. If it really is important to you, then tell him. And nagging at him doesn't count - that doesn't help anyone. But have a real conversation with him and let him know why it is important to you and how he can show up for you. Those other things that aren't so important - LET THEM GO. (Are there things in your relationship that you've decided to let go of? Share them with us in the comment box below).
Okay, Heather makes some amazing points, but I do believe that men can be trained. I'm a "victim" of such training myself, and to be honest, I'm kinda glad. If you watch our video on this topic, you'll see that having a clear understanding of how you expect to be treated is the first step to training your husband. Before the training begins; however, it is important to make sure your expectations are reasonable. This can simply be done by running them past a few people. If I may, don't just use friends for feedback, as they tend to side with you on most anything. Get real feedback; critical feedback. Once you have those expectations identified and cleared by others, it is time to set the expectation. Beware, as a sudden change in expectation will often be met with resistance. This leads to our next step, the need to figure out what is motivating the resistance. Some guys just didn't pick up on the expectation, others may not take you seriously, and some may become passively aggressive. In an effort to avoid such backfires, you should clearly present your expectations with an explanation as to why; as Heather stated above. For example, you may say the following:
"I really like to hang out with you and your friends and look forward to it tonight, but it really hurts me when you make fun of me when we're together. I know you care about me and wouldn't want to deliberately hurt me, so can we make a deal? If I think you are starting to make fun of me, I'll subtly tell you. How would you like me to tell you?"
You can see that the wife has now gained cooperation from her spouse and will be able to provide feedback to help him modify his behavior. She gave a solid reason as to why the behavior should change; one that is hard to argue. Who would want to say that they intend to deliberately hurt their spouse? Now, appropriate feedback is needed and plenty of reinforcement as the behavior changes.
Note, this is not just about changing behaviors or getting your husband to do stuff around the house; this is about teaching them how you should be treated. As such, it is of the utmost importance that you have a firm understanding of how you should be treated.