What a lovely question today on an earlier post. Here’s what Susie asked.
Hmm, just wondering about a phrase my partner uses and, by the way, so
does my father to my mother! It goes like this:
Him: Are you going out for lunch today?
Me: No, why?
Him: I saw something for the house this morning. If you go out at
lunch time, you might want to get it.
Me: What is it darling?
Him: A fireguard. I told the guy in the shop I would send you in as
whatever I chose would be wrong.
Why do men (in my experience) “do” this to women? I have heard
friends’ boyfriends/partners/husbands say the same sort of thing. It
seems like a cop out, and puts them in “victim” role, because they are
damned if they do and damned if they don’t!
Let’s Assume Love and try to answer this. In other words, I’ll leave out explanations like he’s a manipulative jerk who despises shopping and thinks it’s fine to make you do it or a leech trying to get you to pay for what he wants. There are a few men out there like that, but not nearly as many as our Old Brains fear. Most are trying their best to love their women.
Some loving explanations:
- He wants you to have the best. He’s happy to pay for it, but he’s noticed that you’re a much more observant shopper than he is. You notice more about how things work or look. You’re more likely to spot before bringing it home whether they will fit in or not. So the only way to give you the best is to send you to pick it out. If this seems to fit and you don’t want to go pick it out, assure him you will be happy with any of the available options and greatly appreciate his care to get your input. Then ask him nicely if he would be willing to make the run to the store for you.
- He thinks it’s a lucky fluke you agreed to marry him. Men have been known to harbor for decades the awful thought that you will discover at any moment you deserve much better and leave. He wants a fireguard, but when he looked at the ones in the store, they looked like a set of doors with a happy marriage behind one and an empty, bleak future of rejection behind all the others. If this rings a bell, you might as well go select a fireguard. Then check whether you’ve become more critical lately or switched the way you show your love or even whether he’s feeling less successful in general and in need of a little extra respect and appreciation from you.
- Competence matters a lot to him. He doesn’t do what he can’t do well. He envies the way you can pass judgment so quickly on movies, meals, paint colors, crown molding, men’s slacks, even garage door tracks. And if someone comes along and tells you something new you ought to pay attention to, you change your judgment without even blushing. He can’t. Sound familiar? Buy him a copy of Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. He’s shooting himself in the foot. But this is something he has to work through on his own, and he won’t get it done before someone needs to go choose one of the fireguards. Don’t push him to do something he fears failing at if it’s as insignificant as choosing a fireguard.
- He’s got a legitimate reason to fear he’s stepping on your toes in this area. You may have reacted strongly to a choice he made that seems related to him even if it doesn’t yet to you. If you’ve been a bit touchy about his choices, acknowledge this. Then ask if he really thinks he would choose the wrong one or only that he would be accused of doing so. Offer to cheerfully accept whatever he wants to pick up today or go make your own selection in a day or two.
- He tried this in the past to get out of spending time choosing, and he appears to believe it’s a win-win that makes you both feel good. If you suspect this is the case, you can say, “I really don’t want to go shopping for a fireguard. Can we come up with a Third Alternative that meets both our needs?” You might shop online together or choose a dollar amount and phone the clerk to set aside the one closest to that price for one of you to pick up while out.
Not everyone has a heart of gold. But if any of these describe what’s really happening between you two, imagine what harm you would do if you accuse him of trying to manipulate or cheat you.
So, guys, are there women who do this, too? And gals, are Susie’s father and partner anything like your guy?
My husband hasn’t uttered this particular phrase, but I know he wants to be sure that he brings home the things I want or like. When I tell him, “Anything you get will be fine with me,” then I make sure I mean it and don’t criticize his choices after the fact (even if I am a bit surprised). If it’s something I’m picky about, I either write out detailed instructions or I just tell him not to worry about it, I’ll get it later.