For years prior to me actually getting married, I’ve read in numerous books and saw on countless tv shows that one important tip to maintaining a happy marriage is: Don’t be a wife that nags. To not constantly fuss about any and everything your man does wrong is almost as important a rule as being your husband’s freak in the sheets while being his perfect good girl in the streets. From Steve Harvey and his relationship advice, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, to Al Bundy-who always acted like he’d rather walk barefoot over hot coals than to listen to his wife, Peggy’s whiny voice- women are constantly being taught that women should not repetiitiously pester and/or complain to our men if we want him to actually listen to us and do what we say. Nagging is a sure fire way to guarantee that he’ll completely tune you out and he won’t listen to a damn thing you have to say.
So, from the time I began dating- which was way, way, way back in the 1990’s (I typed this in the voice of my 12 year old daughter, who says 1990’s like it’s the 1890’s) I made it my business to not be the girlfriend or eventually, the wife, who nags. Even when men berated me, criticized my weight, looks, or clothes, let me down with broken promises, cheap dates (I’m talking taking me to McDonald’s and expecting me to pay for my own food), and cheesing just a little too damn hard in other girl’s faces, I told myself to grin and bear it, especially if I anticipated the relationship actually going somewhere long-term, because I didn’t want to be the insecure girlfriend who’s always whining and complaining about something.
When I met my ex-husband in 2007, I had no idea that the relationship would lead to marriage. I wasn’t looking for a husband…hell, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. He just sort of fell in my lap. Had I been smart, I would have left him where I found him. Literally from day one, it was clear to me that he was still in the process of tying up loose ends with his ex(es), let him tell it. Mmm hmm…loose ends my ass. He was still sleeping and entertaining his ex(es) and I was just another notch on his belt. When I made the decision to not dump him and run for the hills as fast as I could despite his lying, cheating, and having outside babies with other women, I felt- like so many other naive women out there- that by me staying by his side while he dragged me through the mud and back repeatedly- I was being a down ass bitch, a good woman. Even though I resented the hell out of him, I quietly stuck by his side through all of his infidelities (until I got mad at him) until eventually he put a ring on it. Yay me! I finally got my lying, two-timing, womanizing boyfriend to marry me. Now, he’d become my lying, two-timing, womanizing husband and I fell into the role of naive wife who expected him to change. Let me tell you something, a leopard can’t change it’s spots. What’s allowed in the beginning of a relationship is more than likely what will continue. Expecting a man to change when you’ve turned your head and looked the other way when he’s been unfaithful numerous times before is not only a waste of time, it’s stupid.
My ex-husband was a crappy husband, to be honest. Sure, he was nice to me…sometimes. He remembered to give me the same generic gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day; he had enough sense to say no when I asked him if I looked fat, and told me that he loved me often; but he was still a liar and a cheater, and not even a very good one. But because I’d stupidly married him, I was determined to take my role as wife seriously. And part of that role included not nagging or complaining about all the things that I had accepted and allowed him to do in the four years that we were together before we said our I Do’s. So many of our Black mother’s and grandmothers often instilled in us, “Let the man be a man; stop complaining so much; give him a break…” and many of us women heeded their warning. I sat back and watched my husband flirt with other women, allow those women to disrespect me and my marriage, allow his buddies to disrespect my home and my marriage, I put up with his mediocre treatment of me as a wife, I didn’t complain when he failed to pay rent on time in spite of the fact that he worked two jobs, I didn’t complain when he had beer for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert; I didn’t ask him why he needed to take his cell phone in the bathroom to shower sometimes- all because I didn’t was simply letting my man be a man.
Let me tell you what keeping my mouth shut did for my marriage- ENDED IT! Even though the disappointment and resentment I felt for him didn’t always come put of my mouth, it resided deep down in my soul and that resentment intensified and grew stronger each time he disappointed me or lied to me or cheated on me, until I just couldn’t take anymore of his mistreatment. While I was sitting idle- biting my lip every time I felt the urge to go the hell off so that I wouldn’t piss him off or demean and undermine him as my husband and the man of the house- he was taking full advantage of the fact that I was going to sit back and allow him to treat me like crap, yet say absolutely nothing about it and demand that he treat me with more respect. He simply treated me the way I had always allowed him to treat me.
The first time I accepted the excuse he gave me as to why his ex(es)continued to be a part of our present, the first time I allowed him to cheat on me and I forgave him for it, by choosing to stay with him when he told me he had a baby on the way by another woman, and the countless other times he took me for granted, I was giving him permission to continue to cheat on me, to lie to me, and to be the crappy husband he’d shown me that he was. What I allowed in the beginning of my relationship is what continued…until I finally said, “Enough is enough.” Trying to be the good girl…the good wife who sat home while my husband ran the streets with his boys (supposedly) and choosing not to nag or complain about his many shortcomings, in hope that he would sit down and realize what a precious jewel he had in me, didn’t work in my favor at all.
Like me, many women have been trained to think that being quiet and submissive is the key to being a good woman and making our men happy. We shake our heads and talk bad about those women who are more vocal and won’t hesitate to put her man on blast in front of any and everybody when he’s not acting right, and silently judge them…vowing to never be that type of woman. From Hilary Clinton to Camille Cosby, women are told to stand by quietly- as a good wife should- and have our husband’s backs,even if he is embarrassing us in front of the general public by having affairs, illegitimate kids, or whatever the case may be, and do it with a smile on our faces…because that’s what a good wife does. But being quiet when you’re repeatedly being blatantly disrespected doesn’t make you a good girl or wife material…it makes you stupid and vulnerable to men who are looking for women that they can control, run over, and take advantage of. The more you both accept and allow the mistreatment to continue, the more you begin to crumble and die a little more each day inside, because regardless of the strained smiles that we wear and the happy couple photos we post on social media for all of our friends to see, we’re not happy being humiliated, cheated on, or made a fool of. Not only is your husband taking advantage of you, the longer you stand by him, you’re allowing him to kill your self-esteem in the process.
This is exactly what keeping my mouth shut has gotten me over the years. I should have began nagging, fussing, and complaining the first time my ex lied to me. Instead of worrying about keeping your husband happy, you should be more concerned with your own happiness first because a man doesn’t and won’t respect a woman who doesn’t respect herself. I recently read an article that stated that, “Most women are always going to nag and most men are always going to cheat.” I’m not sure how true this is, but I do know this- if a husband shows his wife the same respect he expects her to show him, doesn’t cheat and/or allow other women to come between him and his wife, doesn’t put other women, homeboys, or even family members before the woman he vowed to love, cherish, and honor, takes the trash out when he sees that it’s overflowing rather than making his wife ask him ten times to take the trash out, puts his dirty socks and clothes in the hamper rather than on the floor, and any other thing men say we constantly complain about, women probably wouldn’t have much to nag about in the first place. Anyway, I have one piece of advice for the fellas- if you don’t get your bullshit together and show your wife the respect she deserves, you won’t have to worry about her nagging, because one day you’re going to wake up and she will be gone.