Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Jerk Training

I am a jerk. I have admitted to it before, so this is not news. What may not be as apparent is that I fight my natural jerk-like tendencies almost continually, so I don't need any help in the jerk department other than help in acting like someone other than me at any given stressful moment. Imagine my surprise when I came to the realization that the only person in my store of personalities that my husband seemed to respond to (other than the Sultry personality) was the Jerk.

For example: If I notice a problem with bedtimes slipping further and further along the Time/Space Continuum until Martin children get to bed late next week on any given night, I let my Watchful Momma handle it. Watchful Momma brings such issues to my husband's attention at the first available opportunity as soon as he walks in the door. Confronted with her, he might nod before dumping his work paraphernalia and dashing off to change. If I bring it up again at a more reasonable time and I am, in fact, Reasonable, he usually mumbles a few assents before running off on some other vital family tangent. If, in my determination to fix the problem, I approach him again as Determined to Discuss Matters as is womanly possible, he invites out his dynamic duo, Irritated and Dismissive, to deal with my Nagging, who is already on her way over.

I don't know about your marriage, but when my husband invites Irritated and Dismissive over, the Jerk always comes along. She doesn't want to miss the fun.

My inner Jerk responds predictably to my Irritated and Dismissive husband. I tend to emphasize certain WORDS and PHRASES. Sentences take on the form of emphatic one-liners. Language is my weapon of choice, being an English major, and my use of it has been so finely honed that I can wield it with the skill of a sabred ninja (I mean, really, I was an English Major. I didn't have anything else to do in college). Although this is handy on Twitter, it's not as helpful outside of a universe where people can simple press an Unfollow Button to be rid of anyone as obnoxious as I can get. In fact, if I am a Jerk long enough and well enough, my husband's own inner Jerk will come out to play!

That's never very helpful.

What I realized in my never ending quest for self improvement is that my timing is atrocious. My husband is not a multitasker. Asking him to even think of two things at once creates a mental state closely resembling this actual MRI image....

MRI of the male brain, multitasking.
So it is in my best interests, when all is said and done, to wait until my husband is physically and emotionally capable of providing and receiving input. He can't be busy or preoccupied when I need his attention and if I can't get that attention right then, I'm going to need to practice being Patient, one of my least donned personalities.

On my husband's part, he needs to act and react to my needs other than those times when I am blowing it. Although he tends to be a person who lets things go until the last possible moment, every time he waited until I behaved badly enough to get his undivided attention, he was unwittingly reinforcing me to behave badly! I was learning that only Jerkiness worked, so I was even more tempted to be a Jerk. I don't need any help going from Jerk to Harridan, truly. All it takes is falling further down a slippery slope.

So if you, like me, find yourself frequently exasperated by spousal inattention, check your timing. Try again later. Rare is the family emergency that has to be discussed RIGHT NOW with NO DELAY if the timing is off. As a last resort, you can leave a sweet note (and I mean SWEET) asking him to be thinking of input and solutions to a given problem so you guys can hash out an action plan later.

If you are like my husband and find yourself often feeling nagged and harassed or blown up at, you may want to ask yourself if you work on the philosophy that most people problems magically "go away" with time. Are you waiting until your spouse is mad at you before you will make any reasonable changes? If so, you are training up a real Jerk in your wife. Reward gentleness by listening and reacting long before the problem becomes complicated with emotions. And if it is too late and she is already angry and upset and feeling unheard, apologize with something like, "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you about this until you felt this frustrated with me. Let me make you some tea first and then let's see how we can tackle this together." Then, while she is staring blankly in surprise, go in for the hug.

Repeat after me, "A man can hug a porcupine and live." It's my husband's mantra.

"Every TIME I try to talk to you, you shut DOWN like a light switch!"
is Porcupine for "Hug me!"
Source: Google Translator

Although Sheila at To Love Honor and Vacuum is not running her usual Wifey Wednesday meme this month, you might want to go and visit anyway: she's talking about sex!


  1. I LOVED this post. I have so been there done that far more often than I wish. :)

  2. I can't really say, "Oh, good! I'm not the only one, then!" but I really, really want to!