Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Case of the Whiny Fiancee

Therapist Lori Gottlieb understands that letter writer Marina is a creature of her times. Marina has imbibed feminist theory and has put it into play in her home life. And she finds that her women’s studies professors lied to her.

They lied about the notion that men and women have the same relationship to household chores. They also lied about the notion that men and women would be equal parents. The latter issue has not yet arisen, but Marina seems seriously torqued to think of the gross inequality of pregnancy and childrearing. About that, her feminist handlers have nothing to offer.

Back in the day, when I was in college, teachers never, ever said a word about how we should conduct our everyday lives. They did not give relationship instruction and certainly did not tell us how to divide household labor. Today’s college students may be perfectly ignorant about the ways of the world. They may know nothing about the great books of Western civilization. But they know that domestically speaking men and women must participate equally in household chores.

Now, Marina has a fiancé who will do what he is told but who does not take initiatives around the house. He does not care about what is or is not lying on the floor. He will take out the garbage when told to do so but will not think about buying garbage bags when the family runs out.

Marina thinks of herself as a project manager. She sees her wonderful fiancé—made ever more wonderful by the fact that he puts up with her—as lacking in initiative.

If she had not been indoctrinated with the feminist creed Marina would understand that women have a special gene that obliges them to care about their household. We could call it the housewife gene, but if we did feminists would rise up in utter outrage. Marina’s fiancé does not have the gene, and all of her education has not allowed her to understand this elementary fact of human biology. Her education has taught her to live in total denial of biological realities.

Incidentally, we know that both Marina and her fiancé have careers. We do not know what they do, who contributes what to the family finances… we know nothing more than Marina’s feminist whining.

With no more ado, here is her letter, in its entirety:

I am engaged to be married to a man I love very deeply, and with whom I am very comfortable and happy. I have been in long-term relationships filled with doubts and anxiety before, and I feel nothing of those lingering sentiments here.

We are both very career-driven people and want to have children. We both believe that parents should play an equal part in the raising of children.

However, I play the project-manager role in our relationship. I can delegate tasks to my partner and he will do them gladly and without complaint, but he rarely takes initiative on his own. I can ask him to take out the trash and he will do it, but if we’re out of trash bags, he won’t notice that we are out and pick up trash bags on his way home from work.

We’ve had conversations about this and he empathizes, feels bad, and genuinely pledges to make changes—and he has. He now has tasks that are “his” (take out the trash, wash dishes after dinner), but still no big-picture ownership.

As we talk about kids, I’m exceedingly nervous that I will always be the project manager and that the very large bulk of responsibility—and the feeling of ownership—will be on me. It’s not that he will never leave work early to pick up the kids—it’s that he will never realize the kids need to be picked up and say proactively, “I’ll leave work early and pick them up.” He knows that if he does nothing I will always pick up the slack and whatever needs to get done will get done.

I know this is a several-years-down-the-line problem, but seeds of it are present today, and it induces anxiety for me, and then between us.

I want a partnership, not a person to delegate to. What do you recommend?


Obviously, Gottlieb has an important challenge. How do you explain to a woman that she has been brainwashed and can barely function in a domestic relations? Gottlieb understands that it’s all about the ideology and she knows how difficult it is dealing with a fanatic:

Maybe in your mind taking on more of the coordination role makes you feel like less of a team—like the management of the household falls to you and you alone, like some pre-feminist nightmare. But having different roles requiring equal effort toward a mutual goal doesn’t make you less of a team—it makes you the very definition of a team. You say you “want a partnership, not a person to delegate to,” but it’s only because you’re in a partnership that you have the luxury of someone to delegate to.

One appreciates Marina’s use of business terms to describe her household work, but still, a household is not a business and she is not a project manager. She is more a budding housewife… who is. as Gottlieb notes, repulsed by the notion. She is repulsed by reality. She could blame the feminist ideologues who brainwashed her, but she won’t.

Truth be told, Marina is not delegating tasks. She is treating her fiancé like a maid. One would hope, for his sake, that he wakes up from his own stupor and finds a better fiancée, but for now, he is signaling to her that he does not like being treated like a maid.

Gottlieb offers several pieces of solid advice. Living together involves adjusting to the other person. Since Marina understands nothing about men, beyond their capacity for abuse and harassment, she seems incapable of adapting to a human being who is just like her. This is ideologically driven narcissism. No surprise there:

Part of getting married is adjusting to living with someone else and adapting to each other’s habits, priorities, and expectations. And just as you’ll have to adapt to your fiancé’s, he’ll have to adapt to yours.

If your fiancé weren’t living with you, he might let the trash sit an extra day or two. He might not notice right away when the bags have run out or the dishes need washing. He might do many things differently from the way you do. But here’s the thing: You assume that your way is the “right” way and therefore he needs to adapt to your habits, priorities, and expectations. And that assumption will become a greater problem in your relationship than whether he takes the initiative.

Today’s liberated women do not just want to tell their men what to do. They want their men to like doing it. There’s no method in the madness. It’s more like wanting them to be equally brainwashed. Gottlieb explains it well:

In fact, often in therapy I’ll hear not just, “I want my partner to do X,” but “I want my partner to want to do X.” It’s not enough that my partner will attend musicals with me; I want my partner to want to see musicals with me. It’s not enough that my partner picks up the socks; I want my partner to want a sock-free bedroom floor. Underlying these demands is this: If my partner truly loved me/cared about me/respected me, he/she would want to do this thing that’s important to me.

It’s not about true love or really caring. It’s about the genetic differences between men and women. Read this story and you will understand why these marriages have so little chance of survival.

Our compliments to Gottlieb for addressing the problem well and tactfully. She is trying to lead this woman through the unenviable task of reinventing the wheel.

You do not want to confront the Marinas of this world too strongly about the fact that they have been brainwashed. Yet, if a pregnant Marina decides that her husband should breast feed their eventual baby and that he should change an equal number of diapers, she will either beat her husband into submission or will lose him.

One day another woman will come along and will commiserate with him. She will say something like: If you were my husband I would never let you change a diaper. At that point, Marina’s marriage will go on life support. But, she will never understand why.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stuart,

I think it’s also possible that what we have here is not so much a feminist and a non- feminist as far as housework, but a Messie and a Cleanie, as efficiency expert Sandra Felton categorizes the sock-droppers and sock-picker-uppers of the world. My dad was a Cleanie, my mom a Messie. If she had the female nesting gene it never found expression. They were born in 1927 and 1929 respectively. He had his immaculate area, she had her messy area, and they compromised on the rest of the house; neither one bothered trying to change the other.

I think where the feminism comes in here is Marina assuming her way is the way, rather than conceding the possibility that the occasional sock on the floor is not that big a deal.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or the more I hear about strong women the less of them I see or read about. It is stories like this and the one that follows that make me glad I am in my 70's. I really feel sorry for young men and understand why they would rather play video games. Why in the world would any male want what appears to be by all accounts very very selfish women. Despite all the college degrees learning about ideas, et al there seems to be no idea on how to actually apply those ideas to their lives and career choices.

Sam L. said...

I changed diapers. I learned on my brother.

Anonymous said...

The housewife gene? Lol. Men who traditionally lived in groups without women - soldiers, sailors, monks - were perfectly good at doing and organizing household tasks. Mount Athos isn't buried under a pile of garbage and dirty dishes. Sam from Lord of the Rings (based on real WWI British soldiers) cooked and cared for Frodo, that didn't make him any less manly. Any boy apprentice in a craftsman's shop went through the stage of doing chores. No one's genitalia are an excuse for being a slob.

That said, the obvious best way for a two-career family is to hire a housekeeper, so no one feels wronged and they also help some poor woman with employment.

Shaun F said...

"I am engaged to be married to a man I love very deeply, and with whom I am very comfortable and happy." Please excuse my cynicism - When you start out with a sentence like this - and you're writing a therapist - are you sure you're in love, comfortable, and happy? The younger generation will be endless billable time for therapists.