Reason #8 for Getting Married: Man of the House

You know one of those parenting refrains meant to put off your kvetching as a child? “When you’re an adult you can do what you want…” or something similar. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it – I earned the right to not hear it several years ago, and it’s been quite a pleasant ride.

Which is why it always bothers me when I hear a particular phrase from married friends. And that phrase is (all together now):

“My husband doesn’t let.”

Pardon me a sec while I release some feeling:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

I really don’t like it. Quite frankly, it creeps me out.

I mean, when was the last time you ever said anything similar? Probably when you were a teenager. “My mother  doesn’t let.” or “my father doesn’t let” or “the principal doesn’t let” or something like that. It’s the complaint of the minor – the youngster who is helplessly restrained by the power wielded over him/her by  authority figures.

That is not how I visualize my relationship with my husband.

I always thought of marriage as a partnership. And by definition, that’s a union of equals. Yes, halachically, the husband gets to call the shots. But that’s a last-resort thing, in my little idealistic view.  Pulling rank, so to speak. Until then, you compromise. I mean, most things are not really important, and it’s just a matter of  gauging who it’s less important to. And the big stuff you’ve hopefully discussed already. I mean, that’s what dating is for, right?

So, I really don’t mind lines like “I’d rather not, it bothers my husband” or “It would make my husband nervous and he did the dishes last night.” You’re looking out for him. Sounds right to me.

And it’s not like it’s only the pushovers who suddenly start ending every conversation with “My husband doesn’t let.” Often I’m quite surprised by the ones who happily leap into matrimonial bondage. However, I never said anything until one particular friend played the line after a fairly innocuous request.

Me:  So, are you up for a day trip to Mogadishu?

Her:  Sorry, my husband doesn’t let.

Me: What? You too?!

At which point she bursts out laughing for a good three minutes.

Her: Bad4, that’s half the reason to get married!

Me: What? So you can miss day-tripping in Somalia?

Her: No, so you can blame everything on your husband, and nobody can say anything!

Me: What?

Her: It’s just an excuse.

Me: Really?

Her: YES!

Me: So what you’re saying is that you really don’t feel like going to Mogadishu with me, but instead of just telling me straight out, you’re blaming your poor spouse?

Her: Hello, yes! That’s what I’ve been saying.

Me: O-o-oh… But… everyone? I mean, is this something they teach you in kallah classes?

Her: Just about!

Me: Okay, I’ll go find someone single to go to Mogadishu with.

But apparently not all NMFs use supposedly totalitarian husbands as excuses. Just yesterday one informed me, in all seriousness, that she knew of one other person who believed that marriage was about compromise, rather than one dominant partner, and that both of us are single.

Now, that is certainly true. I am single. That is why I am not, among other things, writing dating handbooks or offering marriage counseling services. But that doesn’t mean that everything I  believe are the beliefs of the non-marriageable.

So, are there any married people out there who believe that you can have two equal partners who work things out together, rather than one who tells the other what to do?

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41 thoughts on “Reason #8 for Getting Married: Man of the House

  1. Being a single guy, I hear “My wife doesn’t let” or “my wife wouldn’t be happy” from my married friends as well, so I think it goes both ways.

  2. It is just an excuse. I’ve been married 30 years, and if something will make my husband uncomfortable, I’ll try to consider his feelings. But if it something I feel strongly about and have to do, of course I’ll do it. Am I above saying- oh, he’s not available- when I’m turning down an invitation for both of us? No, but I am certainly not following “rules!” He would absolutely say the same thing (yes, we have discussed this 😉

  3. Here you go: I’m married and there’s no way I would ever “let” or “not let” my wife do something. She’s her own person…

  4. I believe that they mean “My husband rather I didn’t” and becuase they love and respect their husband (or fear?) they prefer to try and honor those wishes. If they do something that their husband prefered that that didn’t you just wouldn’t hear that but if they aren’t doing something because of that they tell you.

    AND there are some (we’ve gone there) who tell their spouse “I don’t want to do x so tell me you prefer I didn’t so i can use that excuse” it’s really wonderful you can add that to the list of reasons to get married.

  5. I try to divide my husband’s actions that I don’t like into two broad categories: Things That Directly Affect Me, and Everything Else. I thought the shirt he pulled out of the back of the closet yesterday was hideous, and while I told him that I didn’t like it (he’d been asking me what clothes he should pack for his business trip, so this wasn’t just out of the blue), I would never, ever tell him to wear or not to wear something. It’s his body; I am not wearing the clothing. On the other hand, he is the sort of person who thinks that if he got where he was going for Shabbos before the 18 minutes start, he wasted time, because he could have gotten there later. If he’s coming home for Shabbos, that’s one thing, but if we’re driving together, I am totally willing to push for an earlier departure, because I’M not OK with the possibility of camping out in a motel somewhere if we don’t make it in time.

    I don’t use my husband ‘letting’ or ‘not letting’ as an excuse, although I suppose I could, because I hate how it makes both of us sound – like I’m an easily manipulated puppet, and he’s some sort of dictatorial chauvinist. People should think about how they’re portraying themselves and their spouses before they go for the easy out like that.

  6. two lines i really heard from married girls:
    1) “i havent decided if i am letting him go yet” (on ‘allowing’ her husband to drive in and out of NY with other guys for a wedding)
    2) “i wanted an updo but my husband doesnt let” (on how to wear her sheitel for her brother in laws wedding)

    whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat???

  7. I’m in total agreement with your friend.
    It’s 100% an argument/discussion ending excuse that women use when they don’t want to take the blame for something.
    It’s the second best use for a husband, after having somebody to carry your lipstick and stuff for you at weddings.

  8. I’ve said “My father doesn’t let” when a chatty Jamaican fellow asked for my phone number on the train. He thought it was because my father is racist. I then spent a week thinking I had a stalker.

  9. Oh, being an alibi is a definite part of marriage.

    I just never heard “doesn’t allow” used seriously as the alibi before.

    “Oh, sorry X has plans for us”, “I have to cancel, X is feeling under the weather”, that sort of thing.

    “X won’t let me come out and play”, not so much.

  10. I think wives not letting their husbands do something is much more common. Guys do such crazy things sometimes, that’s why they need us – to keep them balanced.

    “Eizehu isha k’sheira – ha’oseh retzon ba’ala” – everyone knows the first translation – a righteous woman does her husband’s will. But not everyone knows the other translation – a righteous woman MAKES her husband’s will.

    My own take on it is that a REALLY righteous woman makes her husband’s will without him even knowing it. He might not have to outwardly say “My wife doesn’t let” (thereby making him feel inferior), but his decisions are driven by his wife’s intuition.

  11. I’ll admit, it is a very handy excuse.

    But, as you even state- marriage according to halacha is that there is a husband at the head of the table, not a wife. Most things are worked out, compromised, and discussed among equals. But, what if there is something that you can’t compromise about? What do you do then?

    I personally would bend my own wishes to my husband- like Patricia Batton said- I love and respect him, and he is the guy I chose to marry. If I really disagreed with him, and had very valid reasons to back it up- I would suggest going to a third party- like a Rav.

    And, as the Rebbbitzen who I discussed what you said today with said to me- most husbands in today’s day and age, with their educated and intelligent wives, very rarely use the ‘husband at head of table’ card. Most are willing to compromise or work things out.

    Let the tomato throwing begin.

  12. As a single guy, A typical conversation may end up like this:

    Me: Wanna go Xing
    Friend: My wife doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
    Me: Can I speak to your wife?
    Friend: Hang on.

    Friend: Alright, what time?

    Works like a charm.

  13. I believe that, with more newly marrieds, “My husband doesn’t let” often means “I married this great guy with attitudes and standards that I really admire, but in practice, I’m not quite there yet- it’s hard”. I think it’s also important to remember that compromise doesn’t happen instantly- it can take years for “what he does” or “what she does” to become “what we do”.

    The excuse thing? Yeah, I’ve done that.

  14. While there must be controlling and rigid (and probably borderline abusive) husbands whose wives must ask permission, I don’t know any. Having been married over 20 years, I may use my wife as an excuse, but if I really wanted to do something reasonable, she’d probably encourage me, not say no. In 20 years, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked “permission” and when I am asked my opinion, I generally try to reflect her opinions back to her. That is, I encourage her participation if that’s what she wants and let her use me as an excuse if that’s what she wants. (Except regarding dress, where I will almost always compliment her, since I have no sense of style).

  15. Please speak English and use the verb “let” with an object, i.e. “My husband doesn’t let ME.” Do you enjoy speaking like immigrants??? Well, yes, I guess you do. But is doesn’t say much for your education or your job prospects.

  16. #16 BUT IS doesn’t say much for your education or your job prospects.

    Ummm…you started a sentence with “but” and you wrote is instead of it.

    How about just stating use the verb “let” with an object, i.e. “My husband doesn’t let ME.” No need for the rest of the comment.

  17. Bad4, I told a meshulach weirdo who kept ringing my doorbell that my husband doesn’t “let me” open the door to strange men when he is not home. He came yet again when my husband was home, and my husband told him, yep, it’s true, he doesn’t let me open the door to strange men when he is not home.
    But I agree, quite classless to say that in normal situations, makes you sound stunted or loserish, I would NEVER say that to anyone in real life. I would be a man and say,I don’t want to go.

  18. My husband calls it the 51/49% equation.
    He officially has the winning 2% but will always take my 49% very seriously before exercising it.
    The only time he has so far was when I tried convincing him that I didn’t need jewelry for Yomim Tovim.

    Oh, and we established the “my husband doesn’t let” excuse during sheva brachos. I have yet to use it, but my husband told me right away that I earned the right to use it whenever I need to, and he will back me up no matter what or to whom. It seems that his parents were big fans of it. I choose not to use it because it makes him sound like a jerk, but he told me he couldn’t care less. So yeah, it’s an excuse.

  19. “My husband doesn’t let”??!??! People SAY that???? I say, “My husband doesn’t like it.” Sometimes. But my husband doesn’t LET??!? What is he, your FATHER? God, grow a pair.

  20. Chan,

    Thanks for your interesting insight on Isha K’shayra Osah Ritzon Ba’alah.

    And, may we all merit to fulfill that role at the right time together with the right person!

    Hey, any brocha can be fulfilled!

  21. I’ve only heard this from women where:

    The husband was a yeshiva guy and the wife came from a “balabatish” background.
    The husband was a “bester bachur” or “Rav”
    The husband was an MCP (Male Chauvenist Pig)
    Or where the women wanted to use their husband as an excuse for some behavior.

    Most people (and I’m an older man) never use that excuse.

  22. You can tell your friend (if she really is a friend) that there are actually a whole lot of people out in the frum world who are married even though they think like you. Some of us are actually married quite a long time, too, B”H.

    As for the excuse thing – it’s one thing when a high schooler does that; I did it plenty, at my father’s suggestion. But for a married woman?! It’s as bad as talking about your husband like he is a child you need to take care of. blech!

  23. It seems most of the posters so far are of the opinion that 1) marriage is indeed usually compromise, 2)using the spouse card is an excuse, and 3) it’s far better to speak as if you hold the other person in high esteem (ie I say no b/c he doesn’t like it) rather than b/c the other had stated a dictatorial fiat.

    In practice, my wife tells me to use her as an excuse all the time. I’m not being rude when I decline (or request) X, rather I know that it makes my wife anxious and I have concerns for her feelings. She comes across looking like the bad guy, but for a bunch of reasons (she’s not actually there, the concerns are more legitimate for a mother, etc) she doesn’t come across as so “bad.”

  24. My wife and I have mutual veto power. For example, if either of us object to a particular person being a guest, the guest is not invited. We maximize freedom of choice wherever possible – for example she eats triangle K out, but doesn’t bring it home out of respect for my (and honestly the community’s) choices. I don’t specify what clothes are tzniut and she doesn’t insist I wear Rabenu Taam tefillin.

  25. This type of statement brings several “I Love Lucy” episodes to mind. And, as you know, Lucy always still did what she wanted.
    I think for most it is just an excuse. I get it usually on the business end. “My partner said no.” Then there are the wives who claim their husbands are their business partners, and they made the decision and the husbands who claim their wives said no. One business owner once told me I would have to speak to her husband. When I finally got him on the phone, he said I would have to speak to his wife.

  26. I’ve never used the “my husband won’t let” as an excuse–I’d probably choke trying to verbalize it. But as a social excuse I’ve said “I’m sorry but we’re busy” or “it’s house policy not to do X,” which includes both of us, even if I haven’t checked on how my hubby feels about it, and so has he. We back each other up on the statement if anyone should be crass enough to check.

    Re the mini grammar lesson above, both “my husband won’t let” and “my husband won’t let me” are infelicitous. In the second case it’s imperative that something follow the “me”–“my husband won’t let me go to Somalia.” Otherwise p’shat of the statement is that your husband won’t rent you out, let meaning to rent.

  27. I dont know. Ive been married awhile now and I have never said those words. Nor have I ever heard them. Ive heard plenty of men saying “My wife doesnt let” but usually that is in jest.

  28. On the (more rare than common) occasion that I’ve heard someone say those words seriously (as opposed to [usually husbands] in jest), it has creeped me out. It makes me cringe to hear someone say it at all, even when it’s just an excuse, because of that.

  29. [raises hand] Yeah, we believe that marriage is about compromise. He doesn’t tell me what to do….and I only tell him what to do when it’s something that he usually wants to do anyways, ie, go to shul, but he doesn’t want to at the moment.

  30. Don’t tell your husband to go to shul.
    That’s totally obnoxious.
    Don’t run his life for him. He’ll get to shul when he wants to.

  31. “So, are there any married people out there who believe that you can have two equal partners who work things out together, rather than one who tells the other what to do?”

    Well, as usual, it depends. If husband and wife can work whatever it is out and come to a mutually agreed upon decision then great. However, there will be cases where both sides have very strong feelings and in that case “compromise” is a fiction because both sides just end up feeling bad – in such a case someone is going to have to be m’vater and give in (both sides cannot “be happy” that is simply the reality)

  32. “So, are there any married people out there who believe that you can have two equal partners who work things out together, rather than one who tells the other what to do?”

    Coming to this post a little late, but yes. I’ve been married almost five years now, and my husband and I are absolutely partners. There are definitely times when I acquiesce to his preference on some things, and there are times when he goes with what I want. But I would never be able to actually say “my husband doesn’t let” about something as a genuine, valid excuse. Our marriage just doesn’t operate like that.

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