What Women Really Want (For More Than Valentine's Day)Caitlin Abber

As the child of a working mother, I never even thought that being a stay at home housewife was an option. Certainly everyone has to work and bring in an income, and everyone has to clean the house and cook dinner now and again. We were a family of five who needed all hands on deck at all times. Dividing up the responsibilities based on outdated gender norms didn’t just seem masochistic, but also impractical. My dad is a good guy who worked hard and did his fair share around the house. I thought that that was normal and how partners managed life together.

It wasn’t until I started dating in my early twenties, and getting into progressively more serious relationships, that I realized this was not necessarily the understanding for many young men. Whether their moms worked outside the home or not, many of them still needed someone to provide balanced meals for them, remind them about a bill that needed to be paid, or do their laundry every now and again. When you love someone, this seems like no big deal. “Just throw your clothes in the washer with mine” seems like a cute thing in the beginning. That is, until you are doing more for them than you are doing for yourself – and when you are subjugating your own career goals for the sake of your partner’s clean underwear.

People in long term relationships have all been guilty of this from time to time. Some may call it sacrifice, or support. Others might say that their partner “needs them”, that “housework just isn’t their thing.” No matter how you explain it or try to make it sound more acceptable to your single friends, there is no doubt that inequality in a relationship causes resentment – and even happy couples harbor a little resentment every now and again. (Admit it, ladies, you do. Stop saying you’re 100% happy all the time because that is a dumb, unhelpful lie.)

But when does the resentment turn into a lifetime of, well, hating your life? In a Valentine’s Day article on Huffington Post Women, writers Robert B. Barr and Jill W. Bley, Ph.D. gave supposedly helpful information about what married women “really want” from their husbands for Valentine’s Day. This list includes things like, “Do the laundry, and do it well.” and “Don’t bother your wife for sex if she doesn’t want it.”

Um, DUH?!

Doesn’t your wife want and more importantly, deserve, that every day? I mean, who are these guys reading HuffPoWomen for Valentine’s tips, anyway? And why did anyone marry them in the first place if they can’t do laundry and hound their partners for sex all the damn time? If Barr and Bley are correct, and all a married woman really wants for Valentine’s Day is to be left alone, then there is probably a bigger issue at hand. Like the fact that these women are married to jerks.

In her 2010 book, The Unfinished Revolution, Kathleen Gerson notes that most women would actually rather get a divorce than be a housewife. While I think this is kind of an offensive notion to women who are truly great and happy stay-at-home moms, it also makes perfect sense to me. As someone who works from home, and ultimately gets sacked with a lot of the day-to-day household responsibilities (mostly because the house is my office, so if it’s dirty, I have to look at it all day), I still raise my hand when I feel like I am doing more than my partner. On the weekends the household, the pets, and much of the burden of maintaining some kind of semblance of adulthood in our lives falls to him so that I can have fun. Because that is what I want. I don’t want to be left alone, I want to cut loose! So that is the deal we’ve made, and with minor jabs and nagging here and there (from both sides), it seems to work for us. And if it didn’t, I’d get out – because I have big, crazy, impractical dreams and I don’t want any one else’s dirty laundry to get in my way.

But he is a different kind of guy than most, and as I mentioned earlier, I have dated plenty of men who simply do not have a clue when it comes to what constitutes as helping out around the house. I even briefly dated a guy who had the same dishes in his sink for three months (out of principle I refused to wash them), and had his dad take care of them when he came to down for a visit. That was a red flag for me to get out, or get sucked in for life. Because most men have not changed. According to Gerson, 70% of men in her study hope to convince their wives to deprioritize their careers and focus on homemaking and raising children. Gross! Convince them how?

I hate this idea that the dude you decide to shack up with secretly has this plan to manipulate you into forgetting about all of your goals and make you his personal assistant. I hate it because I’ve seen it happen, and it sucks, and men who think like that give a bad name to men everywhere. They make single women believe that they need to get all of their partying/dreams/instagramming out of the way now, because they will be too busy clipping their husband’s toenails to do it later. They make relationships look like less fun alternatives to being single (which, yup, they sometimes are), and more like dream crushers and isolated fart bubbles where you have no friends and argue about car insurance with someone who is constantly nagging you for sex. They make women who choose to be in monogamous relationships seem unhappy, when really, they are just working on maintaining the happiness every day – which you have to do in life in order to survive.

The grass is always greener, for single folks and partnered folks alike, but one thing is certain: maintaining your personal happiness is a lot of work, and its much easier to do when it is not wrapped up in someone else’s notion of how you should be spending your days. Whether you have a boo this Valentine’s Day or not, the best part about the whole damn day is that it is yours to do whatever you want with. This is 2013, baby!

I know that men get lazy, and that women can be difficult (dudes, we do everything now, give it a rest), but it seems like we just aren’t meeting eye to eye about the most basic stuff.

So I am going to give you a solid piece of no-fail wisdom. Something Barr and Bley seem to be lacking.

What does your girlfriend/wife really want for Valentine’s Day? Beyonce tickets. They go on sale Monday. If you are single, they also make a great gift for your bestie. Everyone is happy now. You’re welcome.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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  1. Not necessarily a bad article, but I’m a little perturbed by the way you present the findings of Gerson’s study. In a link you yourself produced you can see the data and read this quote: “The vast majority of young people – about 80% of women and 70% of men across all races, classes, and family backgrounds — desire an egalitarian marriage in which both partners share breadwinning, housekeeping, and child rearing.” This was the ideal position for both men and women. The statistic you cited was only men’s fallback position, in the event that they, “…for whatever reason…couldn’t sustain an equal partnership.”

  2. Great post, and a good topic too. Reminds me of a post I read on Mamamia a month or so ago – about what happens when a husband/wife’s appearance changes considerably throughout a marriage. Bit of an awkward subject to broach but it made me think – http://www.mamamia.com.au/relationships/marriage-and-aethetics/

  3. I really loved this post, thanks for making me think. I actually read another article that was really relevant to this a few weeks ago on Mamamia, which basically said that marriage is much harder than you expect. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded that getting married doesn’t automatically solve every life problem. Here’s that link: http://www.mamamia.com.au/relationships/fairytales-are-crap-marriage-is-hard-work/

  4. Hey look another feminist article about the unfair division of housework that ignores easily referenced labor data that shows men work two thirds more overtime than women, he works 70 hours, she works 40, they share income, what a jerk/man-child he is for not doing half the housework! Its funny how feminists can complain about traditional roles that slight them being archaic and gross while they have little or no problems with men retaining traditional roles\concepts that benefit women, like marriage. Gee why arnt men wanting marriage? Ever think of asking men? Gee why does no reproductive rights and the most likely statistical outcome of losing half your stuff and most likely full parental rights scare those silly man children/jerks so much? Equality is not a buffet.

    • I get that you’re bothered by the double standards many feminists (or feminazis as you and other “anti-feminist” men commenting on HG call them) present, but you were off-topic after presenting your opinion on Caitlin’s article. So, if you really want to comment on an article here, it’s best that you leave your ignorance and bullshittery out of HG and educate yourself on how women worked their asses off in order to obtain the same rights as men in America. Or better yet, try being in a woman’s shoes in which it can be a bitch to balance between work and caring for the family and the home. I might be defensive of HG, but this is a site that caters to women, feminist or not.

      Anyway, I’m not saying you should stop commenting, but it looks like you need to be aware of the audience that HelloGiggles writers are reaching out to. Normally, they don’t attract men who cannot seem to know about issues that women face on a daily basis, but some like Caitlin’s article do. Therefore, I ask that you be considerate.

      • Bull shit on you, I never used the term femi nazi. If you cared at all about education you would know that men also had to work their asses off and give up their lives to obtain the rights we have today, like voting. If you cared about truth you would want to observe reality and realize it is a FACT men work two thirds more over time and at more physically demanding and dangerous jobs, by choice. It is also a FACT that women spend the most. This author like every other feminist conveniently leaves out these FACTS when trying perpetuate the feminist narrative, manipulating the truth to validate their limiting ridged view of gender. Sorry that you like to be marginalized by ideology sorry you like your dogma dissent free, but thats not my problem. Feminists have no right not to be criticized, they have no right to tell half-truths without consequence and they have no right not to be offended. I beg you to debunk what i say but you simply lie about what i wrote, and claim im off topic and all mean, how very feminist of you.

        • Look, I apologized if I “lied” to you. It was more of me misunderstanding what you wrote as I had to finish my reply quickly without having the chance to edit as I had to put my iPad away and do a quick errand for my father. And I do not consider myself a feminist, yet I do believe women should still fight for equality, be it through rights and how they should be paid based on the job/career they have instead of being paid less just because they are female. But I will tell you that I am on the fence if I had to say if I support or do not support the right for women to undergo abortion, the right for gays and lesbians to marry, etc.

          Anyway, I understand that men do work more than women, given the hours that they work along with how physically-demanding work can be for the former. But I do want to let you know that there are women who have to work as hard as men. They choose to work overtime so they can support their families even if they are married because the husband might not be the breadwinner of the family. He could be laid-off, fired, or he doesn’t earn enough money so he could provide all the necessities for his wife and children. Also, society has changed in which most families MUST survive on double incomes. Therefore, the man and the woman of the house must work. It can be sad since neither parent or even both parents can be around to tend to their children, but it is reality nowadays. In addition, I learned in my Women’s American History class that not all 1950s-era housewives were happy with performing the tasks that a homemaker should do and as a result, they took tranquilizers that pretty much did damage to their health. I’m not stating this fact because I’m bashing housewives. I do support and respect stay-at-home wives but you have to know that not all women want to be a homemaker, even in present times. I’ seem to parrot what Caitlin’s saying, but there are factors like paying student debts that place women into working over being “cooped” up in the house. Like I mentioned before, the need for double incomes also plays a factor too, yet it does not hinder how women can still love and care for their men. It’s just that men shouldn’t be too dependent on them, even if said men are just dating women. The “dependence” should best be saved for marriage and boys and girls should latter needs a break once-in-a-while, so it doesn’t hurt for men to help around.

          • The wage gap is not based on men and women in the same position it is based on general yearly incomes, feminists conveniently leave that fact out along with how free choices such as overtime and chosen field effect it, they simply assert its discrimination to fit their narrow little cliched narrative. It can be proven men work more and share their income with women, if he works thirty more hours a week, she should be doing more housework and same goes for a reverse of that norm. There is no evidence of the sexist claim men are “dependent on women” to do housework, in fact as the marriage rate declines and the divorce rate climbs many men are doing their own housework and its technology that has reduced it to light part time duties instead of a full time job, washing machine dishwasher vacuum, men are aware now more than ever of how little effort is needed to keep things tidy.

            • I get what you said. However, I don’t see how women should do the housework more if their men is working extra hours, but it’ll have to depend on the situations they themselves are in.

              Anyway, maybe you can let the authors of HG know about what you have to say, be it contacting them directly or writing an article on here. I don’t know if either ideas fly, but men are always welcome to express their opinions. As much as I like to debate, let’s just end it for now because I have to put my focus on trying to talk to Alexandra Conrad here.

  5. What I want for Valentine’s is less expectations. I watch my own poor mother wrack herself with hope every year that my dad will surprise her for Valentine’s, and every year he disappoints her. All the woman wants is a flower or a nice dinner. Instead, she receives crappy chocolates he didn’t put much thought into and him sitting on the couch watching stupid TV shows. Show the person you love that you care the whole year, and don’t feel like February 14 is the be-all/end-all day a lot of people make it out to be.

  6. I should have known you were a genius by the way you spelled your name. Great article!