Q: Your answer to “Roseless,” the woman bemoaning her boyfriend’s lack of “romantic ambition,” hit a nerve with me. My wife of 19 years and I shared equally in raising our three children. She only sort of “works” now, but I do the home chores and all the cooking — while running a very stressful business that keeps her shopping habit afloat. She can buy all the expensive shoes she wants; however, like Roseless, she complains that I don’t buy her flowers…enough. I don’t write cute Post-it notes. When I have grudgingly bought flowers or left a note that I’m at the gym and drawn a heart on it, I’ve been amazed at how appreciative she’s been. Well, I resent this. I’ll cook a gourmet meal or be under the sink changing the garbage disposal, and I make enough money to put us in the 1 percent, but all that comes up short.
A: You get no thanks for the 60-hour workweek, the cooking, the handymanning, but scrawl a heart on a sticky note and…you da man. When the disposal’s on the fritz, it’s got to be tempting to just write “xoxox” on scratch paper and stick it in the drain. Toilet overflowing? Shut the lid and slap a rose on top.
Your wife’s longing for romantic trinketry can be explained by a quote from evolutionary psychologist Dr. David Barash: “Sperm are cheap. Eggs are expensive.” This is shorthand for the physiological differences between men and women and the differing male and female psychologies that evolved out of them. A man can have sex with a woman and walk away, but a single sex act can leave a woman with mouths to feed. So, as I wrote to “Roseless,” women evolved to seek commitment cues from men — signs they’re emotionally attached. Bringing home the bacon (and gourmet cooking it, too) is important, but what’s essential to many women are all those sweetiepookiewookie shows of affection. In fact, you could say Hallmark is in the multibillion-dollar business of catering to female evolutionary adaptations. So, do keep drawing her those hearts and bunnies. “Want shoes with that?” you growl to yourself. And yes, it seems she does.
You’d like to point out that your chore wheel is not a Ferris wheel. Or is it? You mention that you’re in “the 1 percent.” If I were even in the 5 percent, I’d hire people to do just about everything for me except get out of bed. But, maybe you’re secretly into feeling superior, so you keep silently slaving away and cling to your resentment like it’s a pet.
The need to be right tends to be a stumbling block to being happy. Your marriage would probably be happier if you treated your problem wife like a problem employee (assuming you’d explain how he needs to improve, not throw flowers on his desk and storm out of his office in a huff). Take her to dinner and tell her you love her but have been feeling a little hurt. Tell her what you need: regular notice of and thanks for all you do to keep your life together running. Once you’re feeling more appreciated, maybe you can ditch some of your John of Arc routine. You’re rich! Hire a handyman! Spend Saturday having sexytime together in a swank hotel instead of feeling morally superior that she’s out shoe shopping and you’re under the sink snaking gunk out of the drain.u tell him that your spirit animal needs to pee.
Q: I know you tell men they must risk rejection to get dates. I’m pathetically shy, so I’m thinking of asking out this girl at the gym by giving her my card and telling her to call me if she wants to do something sometime. Win-win for the shy guy?
A: Your card will come in handy — if she needs to fix her car’s CD player or pick something out of her teeth. Women go out with men who ask them out, and handing one a piece of card stock with your phone number on it doesn’t count as asking her out. But, your shyness doesn’t have to be a drawback. (Own it, baby! “I am mouse, hear me squeak!”) On my radio show, therapist Dr. Robert Glover suggested approaching a woman with something like “I’m actually kind of shy, but I had to come talk with you…” Women are impressed by authenticity. Chances are, a woman will be especially impressed if you not only are open about your shortcomings but flip the bird at your fears to ask her out. Keep doing that and you’ll soon become one of those smoothboys who scores with women even while carrying on conversations with their breasts. Well, okay, maybe that’s overpromising a little. But, you can at least graduate from handing women litter to asking their shoes to the movies.