Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tit for Tat

As discussed previously, Mr. PhizzleDizzle has been taking excellent care of a frazzled PhizzleDizzle lately.

At the moment, he is cooking Indian food (he marinated chicken yesterday) and making hummus. Comrade PhysioProf is not the only dude on the block who can cook! I am sitting on the couch working (blogging?), and thinking about tit-for-tat.

One of the reasons why I feel so blessed to have Mr. PhizzleDizzle is that an entire aspect of life, the search for a partner, has been taken care of. I am not sure how life would be right now if I were not only trying to finish a PhD but ALSO trying to meet someone that I enjoyed being with. Or trying to deal with someone I was with that I didn't like so much. Instead, that aspect of my psyche can be devoted to my work.

With him taking such good care of me lately, I wonder about whether I would do the same for him. I almost feel like the husband lately. I hardly do any dishes, I don't pick up after myself, today I changed my underwear for the first time in 3 days (laundry day is approaching and I need to make it to the finish first), and I have generally lapsed in personal hygiene. When he is working this hard, will I do the same for him? Is that the hallmark of a good relationship? Do men ever think this way about returning favors/TLC? Does Mr. PhizzleDizzle feel underappreciated? I have been telling him thank you and that I love him so much every few hours or so. I am worried eventually he will get tire of this and resent me.

Also, am I fundamentally selfish? I am not sure if the time came I would be so gracious as Mr. PhizzleDizzle. I think I would still expect him to do a few dishes, or put some of his clothes away. Does this make me a bad wife? I don't know.

How do you handle times when you are stressed and busy as hell? Does your spouse take care of you? Do you do the same when they are stressed? What happens when you are BOTH stressed at the same time?

10 comments:

EthidiumBromide said...

As someone working a bazillion hours/week in a lab with a husband who works a bazillion + 1 hours/week as a doctor and therefore forces me to do 99% of the home jobs and chores because he works one stinking extra hour than I do (and that includes his stupid hours on call while he occasionally gets to sleep), I feel very well qualified to answer this question.

The answer is YES, I get VERY resentful... because he does not take the time to say thank you and that he appreciates what I do. But you do not sound like this at all. Husband, on the other hand, seems to think that it is my job, as the wife, to take care of him and cater to him all the time. If, perhaps, I was a child-free stay at home wife, this might be a different story. But, alas, I am not, and just because I work 89 hours instead of 100 hours, I resent the fact that I am supposed to do ALL the laundry and ALL the cooking and take out the trash and make the lists for the grocery shopping and pay all the bills and make the bed and keep the place neat and tidy and running... and Husband loads the dishwasher. And I'm just expected to do so... never a thank you or notice of appreciation that I work hard during the day, and come home and work just as hard so he can play Playstation and watch TV and relax. If I bring it up, he talks about how hard HE works during the day and that he just wants to unwind. Honestly, all I want is some appreciation here!

Like, case in point, this weekend he had a friend come to visit. So, I wound up cooking for our out of town guest, and my husband told me that I should make some kind of peanut butter chocolate dessert, so I made a new type of cookie bar. Husband just commented that he didn't really like them and wasn't happy that I wasted the ingredients when I should have stuck with what he prefers. Not even a thank you that I spent my one afternoon out of the lab baking at his request, even though I had my own things that I had wanted to do.

THAT is what causes resentment. But keeping in mind that even if you are stressed, taking the time to say thank you and let your SO know that you appreciate all that is being done for you -- I would guess that most people are like me, and as long as they know they are appreciated, and aren't expected and demanded to do things, are happy to make the lives of their loved ones easier in any way possible, even if it's just washing some dishes or making some hummus.

Ambivalent Academic said...

BH totally takes care of me when I need him to! He is awesome, as is Mr. PD.

I believe that reciprocity is key but it means different things to different people. The trick is knowing what your hubby needs from you when he's stressed and doing your best to accommodate. Maybe you would be kind of irked if you had to do the dishes for a full week, but maybe he doesn't mind doing the dishes. Maybe he just needs some quiet around the house, or a backrub or a cup of coffee in the morning. If he reads your blog at all I'm sure he knows how much you appreciate him...and that you won't be this stressed forever.

And EtBr, give your husband the finger for me. He's being a twit and he should step up.

JLK said...

"And EtBr, give your husband the finger for me. He's being a twit and he should step up."

I second that.

Why am I still awake right now and reading blogs? Because I realized that I had neglected my dearest PhizzleDizzle as a result of all the hoopla going on about the menstruation debate. So here I am.

Your post, PD, and the comments of EtBr strike a very deep nerve with me. This issue was at the core of my decision to split from my husband 6 months ago. There was a lot more to it than that, but the issue of fairness and balance fed into everything else.

Like AA said, reciprocity is key, but deeper than that it's about appreciation. It's about not acting entitled to anything that someone else does for you or so that you don't have to.

Even the smallest things that you can do for him will matter and make a huge difference. Telling him that you see everything that he's been doing and how hard he's been working to make your life together just a little bit easier for you is a big thing. If you have a free moment and there's a chore that needs to be done, just doing it- even something as simple as putting your own dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher shows that you're mindful of not taking advantage.

In my opinion, those little things make all the difference in the world. And if everything is crazy for both people at the same time, let the house go to shit. Who cares, really? I mean, basic hygiene and sanitation aside, there is nothing emergent in a household - it can always be dealt with when things settle down.

I have never been on the side of this issue where someone else was doing pretty much everything while I was busy. Never. I am always on the other side - the side that EtBr speaks of. Had my husband consistently said "thank you" or maybe even just taken the trash out when I asked, I may not have reached my breaking point with everything else.

"Thank you" goes a really long way. So do impromptu hugs and various displays of affection. So do little notes to say how awesome you think someone is.

And quite frankly, PD, so do blogs proclaiming to the world how wonderful your husband is. :)

PhizzleDizzle said...

Thanks for the input, all. I have been thinking about this some more, and I realized that the attitude with which you go into a task has everything to do with whether you view it as a chore or just as something to do.

In the weeks before the stress burst, I made muffins for hubby because he wanted them. I made homemade pizza, I made all sorts of yummy food for dinners, I would get him coffee in the mornings, all because I love him and wanted to. And he was appreciative. I did those things out of love and therefore, it didn't really occur to me to keep score. So much so that I sort of forgot I did them.

If he is the same as me, and as long as I am appreciative (and I am), I think he will not think of these tasks he's doing lately resentfully, not be keeping score, just as I didnt' keep score a few weeks ago.

Funny to think that while I'm worrying about tit for tat, maybe he is considering this his tat for my tit (*snerk*!!) from the recent past.

And he has no idea I blog - I think if he did he would be mortified with what I put on the Inter-Net :).

@EtBr - your comments sound pretty heavy...that's a difficult situation. I know doctors are stressed out, but does it have to mean your stress and tiredness mean nothing? How does he respond if, one day, you say, "I just can't cook today, let's order in"? Does he still expect you to cook? Do you ever talk to him about your resentment, and would he be receptive to a discussion? Also, don't give up hope - in the earlier parts of my parents' marriage my dad would often do what you describe with the peanut butter dessert. My mom would be upset and say, "I just worked all day on that, and all you can say is it's a bit salty?" or something similar, and his defense was that he just wanted her to know what he thought for next time. These days though, he is a model husband - he gets up early, he wipes the counters down in the kitchen after he spills anything, he feeds the dog, he does a few pre-chores in the morning to save my mom time when she gets up...she chipped away at him without ever making him feel too chipped away at...Actually, this reminds me, check out this article:

LINK

Not sure if your hubby would be receptive to these sorts of things, but you can think about it.

@AA - I am glad I am not the only one in blogosphere with a sweet partner!! And you're right - it does make a difference WHAT we choose to do for our partners, because different things do it for different people....good point, I'll remember that.

@JLK - thanks for the advice. The last thing I'd ever want is to split from hubby so to know some aspects to what led to your marriage ending is helpful. And your'e right - if the house goes to shit (which it totally has in the past), so be it, right? :)

EthidiumBromide said...

I have actually seen that link before, I find it hysterical (and totally interesting). See, Husband is really good about the little things -- he used to leave his laundry around everywhere, not pick up after himself, etc., and he's gotten better about that... the dirty laundry makes it in the hamper where it waits for me to wash it, the dishes make it into the dishwasher, things like that. I don't know how I could apply that technique to train him to say things like "Thank you for cooking me dinner even though you worked 16 hours in the lab today", you know? Part of it for him is just cheapness... he's not a cheap person for a lot of things, but when it comes to eating, his theory is why pay for ordering in when he has a wife who can cook for so much cheaper. So if I get home late and I'm tired and don't want to cook dinner, he'll just make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and not even care about what I'll do for dinner, rather than order in food.

I think things are just going to get worse when he moves away this summer... we'll be living in two of the most expensive housing markets in the country, and we can't afford to own/lease places in both and still save any money to pay back his $250K in med school loans, so he's actually going to move back home with his mother since he can live there for free. She doesn't cook at all, but she'll order in for him every night, and she has maid service (which also does laundry) so he will never have to lift a finger again. He is going to be so freaking spoiled and demanding!

chall said...

EtBr> I recognize the "just say thank you for dinner". It is one of those things I have with my from growing up - that it is really important to say "thank ou for the food" and other thank yous. (Laundry/cleaning etc.) Even if it is things you both share in doing, a little thank you never hurt did it?!

PD> he sounds like a good husband. Although, after reading all the things you did for him prior to being stressed I think it is nothing strange in the whole "we are sharing and now he takes care of me".

JLK> I second everything you said about thank yous and inpromptu hugs and saring. My former significant other and I had the fights over laundry, vaccuming and grocery shopping. The "fun" thing was that I cooked and did the dishes almost every day. The only thing I really detest however is vaccuming so when I wanted to discuss sharing the laundry and cleaning since I didn't see why I was 'supposedly' doing that too.... well, that's when we argued.

As a general> I think it is good to remember that maybe the house can look a bit bad from time to time, even if it screams inside of me (you're a bad woman) not to mentio that I cringe those nights when I get home and really have no energy to cook but we end up ordering in (bad woman, not cooking for you and your love). Then I shrug my sholders and try and tell my granny's voice in my head - if it's ok for a man to do it, it sure as hell is ok for me.

microbiologist xx said...

Hey PD! In some ways it is almost like you were describing me and L in this post.
L is great. He picks up the slack when I need him too. When he was doing everything domestic during my dissertation-writing extravaganza, I too thought to myself, would I reciprocate or would I reciprocate and get bitchy about it after a few days? I hope not, but I am a little selfish, so it is not impossible.
For day-to-day living we have divided up some of the chores and it seems that (for us) knowing what you are "in charge" of seems to keep us from getting to pissy b/c one of us feels like we are doing more than the other. For example, I hate laundry (he doesn't) and he hates cleaning the bathroom (I hate it less than laundry), so I clean the bathroom and he does the laundry. I know that when the bathroom is dirty I am the one to clean it. Sometimes I get annoyed, but then I think about how the laundry sucks AND requires much more time and I feel much better about cleaning the bathroom.

Candid Engineer said...

What happens when you are BOTH stressed at the same time?

Hahahahaha!!!! Yeah, this is when the shit really hits the fan in my house. We are insufferable when we are both stressed. When it's just one of us, we get through it, but God help us when the time comes that we are both stressed for an extended period.

I am glad, for you, for Mr. PD. Sounds like a great guy.

Nicky said...

Candid Engineer read my mind -- our house has total harmony until we're both stressed at the same time. We actually made a "rule" several years ago that we had to take turns being stressed. There have been moments when we're constantly at each other's throats, and one of us finally has the good sense to step back, take a breath, and say, "Okay, we're both stressed, and that has to stop. Do you want to be stressed tonight, or can you put it off until tomorrow so that I can be stressed tonight?" The absurdity is usually enough to get us through it.

And yes -- sharing responsibilities, picking up slack when needed, and being grateful for even the little things are definitely the keys. My hubby and I are, I think, very good about these things. I actually wrote about my own guilt over this issue here, in response to a rather bizarre NYTimes article on the subject:

http://gradovaries.blogspot.com/2008/06/household-chores.html

PhizzleDizzle said...

Nicky, I read that article too - it was quite interesting. I think splitting equal probably is too formal for me too - but that's probably because, like Mr. Nicky, Mr. PhizzleDizzle does his share just normally so there isn't a need for such rigorous splitting.

And i like the idea of having to take turns being stressed :).