Editorial: If my husband loved me, he’d know why I was upset

Two days ago, I was feeling particularly low and nothing I did was making me feel better. Add to that a bout of flu and getting out of that low slump was pretty hard. I can’t say I’ve entirely recovered either. I was looking at my social media that day and saw a very innocent question doing the rounds. “Tell me three things that make you happy,” says the tweet from a person who makes quite an effort to stay on track with things that are good for her. I went down that thread and saw that most respondents were women. I don’t know why, but men rarely answer questions like this. Maybe because they are a lot more compartmentalised in general and figure as long as their basics are in place, they don’t need to do the ‘little things’ that make them happy. Or I don’t know if it’s because men tend to not notice they are unhappy or a little blue till it actually hits them on the head.

Every time women say, “Oh, I am not like other women,” I want to point them to my social media. My observation, time and again, is that most of us are exactly the same because we all carry the same pain. We carry the pain of not being loved the way we desire to be loved, we carry the pain of compromise: when we were children we made room for our father’s likes and dislikes, when we are older were made room for our boyfriend’s preferences, playing down and ignoring our own, when we are married, we choose to place our husband’s and our children’s preferences over our own, many times. I am not saying we entirely ignore our needs, but our needs come way down the line in our list of priorities. Take this incident, for example. On a Facebook group that I follow, this young mother (who I just wanted to hug) wrote in saying her husband tends to ignore the temperature that is suitable for the baby and turns up or turns down the AC according to his wish. Unmindful of whether the baby is cold or warm. He doesn’t listen to his wife who tells him, “Look! Your baby is too cold/too warm! Can you please not fiddle with the temperature?”

How very difficult for an adult woman to tell an adult man something basic like this. An adult man, mind you, who fathered that child and is as responsible for its health as is the mother. The problem was not this though. This woman took her baby after yet another argument about the temperature and went to sleep in the spare bedroom. She’d been in there an hour when she posted on Facebook saying, “My husband hasn’t come to make it up to me, what should I do?” I read that question, and all the answers to it, and wanted to take that entire group of women and hug them. Almost all of them said this is exactly how their husbands behaved too and that a little tolerance/love/practicality from the woman’s side would help. One woman, however, had a terrific answer. After it was established that one hour later the husband hadn’t come forward, it was because he had comfortably fallen asleep in the temperature of his choice, this commenter suggested she go and place the baby with the husband, secure the baby with pillows and blankets to keep it safe and then come back to the spare room and sleep. Within minutes, the husband would be a lot more aware of what needed to be done and would ask to be forgiven. I thought this was great advice. Except that it makes me sad that women need to force their husbands to do things in order for them to realise that responsibility for a baby is a two-way street.

But here’s the other thing that struck me in this situation. That this young mother who was upset was sitting alone in a spare room, waiting for her husband to come make it up to her, to say sweet things and cajole her back to their shared bed. Imagine the intense aloneness of this mother who starts to equate her husband’s feelings according to his actions. “If he loves me enough, he’ll come to me,” she thinks and waits and waits and waits and he never comes. And then next morning, she is sulking, barely talking to him while handing him his tea or eating breakfast. And he’s utterly confused and asks her what happened. “If you knew me well and loved me enough, you’d know why I am upset,” she responds. This is difficult because now, not only does he not know what happened, he’s never going to know what happened. And what do men do when they are confused? They stay away. Which makes it worse because now the woman feels that he doesn’t love her enough to talk to her and patiently find out what happened. By the end of it, three days have gone by and everyone is confused and hurt and trying their best not to upset each other but still wanting to make a point. Till one person cracks, and everything comes out in a torrent. From here on, the woman says she’s never going to give the man that much importance. From here on, the man says impatiently, if you are upset about something please say it aloud, I can’t read your mind.

How many times have you had this play out in your home? I feel bad for the woman: full of expectations that will rarely be met. But I have a secret to tell you ladies. Most men, the way they love their women, believe that after that first flush of declaration and love, they don’t need to keep doing the small things. They don’t need to bring you the flowers or tell you how pretty you look. They don’t need to tell you that you are the centre of their universe. They do other things: buy life insurance, make sure you have a well-fitted home, buy a safe car, stay healthy and work hard so your children’s future is taken care of. I know all this is traditional and not new, but I say this to remind you that there are other ways to measure happiness than to find yourself wondering why he has not tagged you on a post on Facebook saying how much he loves you on your birthday or anniversary. I say this because so many of my friends, acquaintances and others complain that their husbands are ‘boring’, that they don’t show them how much they love them. There are many different ways to show love, ladies. For your own happiness, I suggest you look for those ways in your marriage and don’t let the public lives of others be a benchmark.

You don’t have to believe me entirely. Read this piece written by a relationships expert to know why couples who are happier tend to be less vocal about it on social media. The other pieces I’d love for you to read this week also have to do with taking care of yourself. You see, taking care of yourself physically is not just the only way to look after yourself. Telling yourself that your husband loves you and finding reasons to be grateful when you aren’t feeling so special is also one of them. But let me move on to more practical things: If you’ve just had a baby and are dealing with hair loss, this story is for you. It can be a distressing time and you don’t need to add to the hair loss by worrying about it. With more and more of us depending on expert knowledge for following diets and exercise regimens -- as opposed to traditional knowledge that has kept us healthy this long -- it’s immensely important that we eat correctly. Rujuta Diwekar busts diabetes’ 5 biggest myths. And finally, a reader post that touched a chord with many of our readers. This mother lost her child in a mall and I don’t think she has had a worse day ever. By the way, when are you sending in your post? (Here’s how you can do it.)

Until next week.