Here’s a little glimpse into the minds of (many) women in heterosexual relationships- a typical phone conversation between friends.
Girlfriend 1: Can I vent for a minute?
Girlfiend 2: Always. Is this a coffee or vodka conversation?
G 1: ?
G 2: Well, if I have to drive to help you bury a body, I need to stay sharp.
G 1: Oh, no. Not yet. You’re good.
G 2: K. (pouring noises). Go ahead.
G 1: So, AGAIN, my husband is pissed at me for being pissed at him. Like he reserves the right to be angry at my disappointment.
G2: Ugh, yeah. I hate that.
G1: Right?! Like I bring up ANYTHING I need him to do and first he pouts and argues like a pissy teenager, and then eventually, begrudgingly agrees to do it, but then DOESN’T actually do it, so I remind him and then I’m a bitch nag and he’s mad at me.
G2: So not fair.
G1: I mean, what the actual baby-man-ego-monster-fuckety-fuck?!
G2: And you’ve told him what it is you need, specifically?
G1: Uh, yeah. I’ve told him. And he’s always like, “Well, if you wanted it done THIS DECADE you should have specified! If you’re in such a hurry, just do it yourself.”
G2: So annoying.
G1: Or, like, something I asked him to do six weeks ago, I’ll remind him and he’ll be like, “Oh, I couldn’t. I was tired from work.” Or “I was busy…this morning. Couldn’t fit it in.” What the fucknugget?!
G2: Exactly. What the fucknugget. You’re tired from work, too! You’re busy, too! What’s that sound?
G1: Oh, I’m peeing. Is that OK?
G2: Yeah, it’s fine. Go ahead.
G1: He’s always bitching about me being stressed, not being happy, not wanting sex. Well……
G2: And you definitely don’t feel horny when he’s doing all that…
G1: Exactly. I feel loved when chores are taken off my plate, and I need to feel like shit’s in order enough to relax and want sex. I need to feel HEARD in order to want to touch his peener.
G2: And you’re SUPER clear about what you need him to do for this peener touching to occur?
G1: I think so. But, honestly, I’m kind of pissed that I have to ‘ask’ for it at all. Like why is this all on my list? Shouldn’t it be on his, too? Why am I always delegating stuff that needs to be done in OUR life? A RUL big turn off is feeling like his fucking mom.
G2: Oh, yeah. Hear that.
G1: (Sigh) Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m just never content.
G2: You think? Hang on. (Yells, away from phone) DO NOT DRAG YOUR SISTER DOWN THE STAIRS ON THAT BLANKET.
G1: You good?
G2: Yeah, go ahead. She’s got a pretty thick skull, it should be fine.
G1: I don’t know. I mean, I have certain expectations about how our house and kids and life and everything should be managed. Maybe they’re unrealistic?
G2: Not if they’re YOUR expectations and you’re not just trying to fill some sort of ideal image.
G1: What do you mean?
G2: Well, I know there have been times that I’ve felt external pressure to present a perfect house, perfectly well-behaved, highly-achieving kids, perfectly sculpted body, you know, all that. And like, if I don’t, I’m failing at being a good wife and mother and woman…just a minute (away from phone), FINE, GET A BAND-AID. ONE. ONE BAND-AID. Where was I? Oh yeah, it’s all old garbage conditioning. As long as you’ve worked through that stuff, then trust your needs.
G1: Yeah, I’m thinking. It might be some of that. But ALSO, he’s a turd.
G2: Oh, for sure, it can be both.
G1: So I’m trying to be unambiguous about what’s on my plate, and where I need help, but even when I tell him multiple times, he doesn’t take the initiative, or actually do it. (crunching sound)
G2: What’s on your plate right now?
G1: Oh, you know, like worrying about-
G2: No, I mean literally on your plate right now- what are you eating?
G1: Oh. Lay’s. The Dill Pickle Kind.
G2: Oh, damn.
G1: Yeah, I don’t fuck around when I’m anger snacking.
G2: No, you do not. So after you’ve asked him to do it and he hasn’t…
G1: …then I bitch to my girlfriends on the phone and eventually just rage clean or rage make the phone calls to the pediatrician myself…and he gets all shitty about me being mad at him.
G2: You’re more than mad. You’re hurt. You don’t feel supported.
G1: Right. It’s exhausting. I just want a partner who…
G2: Partners. Picks up some of the planning, the anticipation of what needs to be done, the emotional labor.
G1: Exactly. And the fact that he does SOME things around the house wins him some sort of superman medal because it’s so much more evolved than 90% of his cohort, than all of our dads. So I’m simultaneously let down and guilty about feeling let down.
G2: Again, like a failing woman. And that’s layers of gaslighting.
G2: So what do you plan to do?
G1: I don’t know. Eat more chips? Boycott in bed? I’m always doing the math on whether it’s worth staying and begging him to get it ONE MORE TIME or pulling up stakes- but man, that means fucking up my kids’ lives and how would we afford it, etc, etc.
G2: And also sometimes you like him and have fun together?
G1: Yes. And that. Dammit.
G2: Girl, I hear you on all of this. It doesn’t help that you’re stuck in the house together, that there’s all this stress raining down on all of us right now…everything feels especially hard.
G1: It does. Thank you for listening. Please go check on your kids and evaluate them for concussions now.
G2: Yeah, yeah. I’m available any time. You know I love you.
G1: I love you, too.
G2: Just say the word and we’ll both leave our husbands and start the commune we’ve been talking about.
G1: Thank you. It’s comforting to know it’s an option. I’ll bring the snacks.