When my husband and I first started dating, I loved doing his laundry. Sick, I know. What kind of self-proclaimed Chicana feminist who dyed her hair purple, wore combat boots and rallied against the patriarchy enjoyed washing her man’s dirty laundry?
He was just so damn fine, laying all up in his bed that didn’t contain any clean sheets or blankets of any kind — he simply slept enveloped in his clean laundry.
Clearly, he needed me. Going to the laundromat and washing his clothes was fun and new, no doubt because we made out the entire time. It also gave him the opportunity to see me with wifey goggles.
Then we got married (now, the laundry became part of my “job”).
Then we had six kids (laundry for eight people = so fun).
Then we had to go through some tough years in our relationship (even more fun than washing crunchy teenager socks).
Instead of doing sweet things for one another as we had done in the past, we closely guarded our hearts. Well, at least I did. I had such a long list of marital woes that I wanted him to fix and change, I didn’t know how to deal with them. I just stewed in my juices. When it came to my long-standing wifey duties, I went on strike.
Laundry was on the top of the list.
I rationalized it this way: he no longer does _____ for me, he forgets to do _____ and I really hate that I have to ask him to do _____ all the time. Marital reciprocity just wasn’t happening and after working from home and raising six kids, I snapped. I just stopped doing his laundry. This may seem cold, petty, mean. If you are old school, you may be clutching your pearls. Or, you may come from the other side and see no problem with not doing your husband’s laundry. I know how you youngins function. He’s perfectly capable of washing his own clothes. In fact, he washes mine too, I can hear some of you say.
Listen. That is not my reality. I come from a long line of brown women who were raised to dote on their men and I’ve struggled with it for as long as I can remember. It is most definitely a cultural thing. My mother woke up at four in the morning every day (even though she had a full-time job herself) to make my father’s breakfast and lunch. Her eyes bulged out of her head when I told her I wasn’t washing my husband’s laundry anymore.
More than anything, it was one of those things I did for him as his helpmate. Lots of wives bristle at the thought of being considered a “helpmate”. But wait. I have all the fire burning in my belly to be a strong woman, a powerful woman, a woman who makes stuff happen but I can’t deny God’s order for a blessed life. As a partner, it is a good thing to help the person you love and have committed your life to, regardless if are a man or a woman.
To be honest, it didn’t feel good seeing my husband’s dirty clothes piling up in the corner of the garage. Especially when I was washing my own and I could see his clothes just a reach away. I’d wince when he’d stomp around the house, looking for clean socks and underwear in frustration.
I felt like a terrible wife.
It wasn’t until we had a heartfelt discussion on how we could show love to one another in small ways (and big ways). For years, he considered his love language words of affirmation. But these days, showing acts of service is the way to his heart. Please, if you could help me with my laundry and leave a plate for me in the fridge so I can eat whenever I get home, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m a simple man, honey.
This confirmed for me what I’ve been struggling with for some time. I had stubbornly decided to match whatever efforts my husband put forth (however small I felt they were), instead of exceeding them out of love and grace. Marriage is tough, guys. We’ve been trying to figure it out for the past twenty years. Loving one person and loving them well is a life-long journey.
Sometimes it starts with a basket full of dirty socks.