My husband is the worst.
There will always be things that your husband or partner does that you don’t like. When it comes to parenting with another person, the list of things they do incorrectly or not up to your standards may be incredibly long, especially if you’re a type-A controlling person like me.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I tend to think that I married the man I’m with, the father of my amazing babies, because he is a good person and the only one I could picture spending the rest of my life with. More accurately, I just couldn’t imagine wanting to grow old with anyone other than him. He wasn’t just the closest one around when I thought I needed a husband. I married a person who is smart and funny, compassionate and respectful, a great cook and an adventurous spirit. He is also quite sexy and can be the most fabulously sarcastic asshole. He doesn’t take my shit, and won’t let me get away with being crazy. Seriously, when I get space aggressive at concerts, which usually happens when people make my being 5’3″ at a show harder than it has to be, he reminds me that if I start anything, he will pretend he doesn’t know me and if I pick a fight he doesn’t have my back, just to remind me to not be a psycho.
This man who totally lucked out in marrying me has also turned out to be an amazing father. It’s not that he only does the more “manly” play with our boys. He insists that our toddler give him hugs when he walks in the door, and our older son is more affectionate with him than anyone else. Mommy doesn’t always win when it comes to a bumped head or other injury – my husband is just as capable of cuddling a sick or wounded little person. He’s more laid back than I am, and brings that into his parenting as well, giving an excellent counter balance to my attentiveness and natural humming level of anxiety.
Now that I’m done bragging about my fab spouse, there are also plenty of things he does that bug the shit out of me. When it comes to parenting to-dos, like sleep training or potty training, my husband likes to just wing it when I want to do a ton of research. When we gave bottles during the night to our newborn so I could sleep a shift, I caught him putting my precious, hard-earned breast milk into the microwave, which is a big nope.
No matter what things he does that bother me, I will never take to a public forum, like a mom’s group or Facebook, and say things about him that I wouldn’t say to him in person, or that I couldn’t take back.
Lately the complaints about partners online has been bothering me. I’ve learned about the gambling problems of a stranger’s husband, the incompetent assholes who treat loading a dishwasher as a huge accomplishment, the unsupportive spouse who isn’t on board with whatever the wife is wanting around parenting, and the disconnected husband who the wife just doesn’t even want to be around anymore.
These could all be valid complaints, but here’s the thing – I’m not friends with a single one of these people in real life. Not just that, but these are things that are broadcasted in a very public forum, like thousands of people can see these posts. If my husband aired our problems to a huge group of strangers in a way that is mean, disparaging, and an attack on me as a person, I would be so incredibly hurt.
Stop trashing your partner online to a bunch of strangers.
It’s naive to think that everyone has perfectly supportive relationships. I know that not everyone has a great partner, or even a remotely not shitty one. But seriously, I can’t imagine that all of these people saying terrible things about their spouses are doing so because they really married monsters.
My stupidly level-headed husband has also reminded me that some people are lonely and may not have a group of friends to talk to about marital problems in real life. He thinks that people in large online groups or message boards must treat posting issues like a commenter online, and that sense of anonymity bolsters what they may say. This is a real thing, called the online disinhibition effect. Again, he’s much more mellow than I am, and he’s never been in a mom’s group to see the level of nastiness on display. I interject his opinion as a counterpoint, and to say that maybe I’m being too quick to judge this behavior as harshly as I am.
What works in my relationship may not work in all relationships.
I generally believe that my husband is doing the best he can, just like I’m trying to do the best I can. I’ve learned that when I treat people like they are incompetent or have bad motives, it’s hard for me to be in a productive partnership with them. I’m talking about just regular people that I’m not intimately involved with, like co-workers. Imagine if I started to treat the person who sleeps next to me, with whom I share parenting responsibilities, like he is an incompetent, no-good, unhelpful asshole? As I’ve stated before, I’m not an expert at anything related to parenting. But I would bet that my babies would feel the negativity flowing between us if I treated their father like the enemy.
Treating my husband as a partner who is being the best parent he can be isn’t just about preserving the relationship I have with him. I’m learning to be a mother, and just because I read a sleep book or a blog post on something doesn’t make my opinion the only one that matters. It’s emasculating for me to undercut my husband’s parenting abilities out of the idea that as the mother, I am the only competent parent. It’s a disservice to my children to not allow their father to be who he is, in all of his quirky glory.