The Sherpa of Should
At this point, we should wish you a happy Thursday and some crap like that but what if we don’t want to? What if we think that today we’re going to imply the wish and not be ‘shoulded’ into something, even if it is generally a good idea? Is the world going to end? We don’t think so.
Paul says: Technically, we write a blog that gives relationship advice but the idea of giving you a bunch of shoulds simply does not fit within our kingdumb. Shoulds are the antithesis of the uplifting smack in the head that we usually like to give out. It is the subtle difference between ‘have to’ and ‘get to’. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s take the old relationship adage ‘don’t go to bed angry’. As a rule of thumb, I think that it is brilliant, integrating the concepts of communication and keeping the relationship as a priority. Now let’s change the saying a little bit. ‘You should not go to bed angry.’ The difference seems small but the impact is huge. Where the former is a good idea, the latter is a command which is immutable and indisputable. And with the command come all of the emotions. Feelings of shame and inadequacy when you are not fulfilling the big should or frustration and anger when you are but do not really want to be.
You see, sometimes it is a good idea to go to bed mad. Being pissed and exhausted is a recipe for a fight that’s guaranteed to have the mouth engaged long before the brain kicks in. Other times it is not a good idea to go to bed angry. Laying in bed next to the person that you now are thinking of as your next victim might be a problem, especially if you keep sliding a pillow over their face. But your partner is destined to be aspirating feathers because the shmuck went to sleep and they SHOULD stay up and fight all night. Obviously, the love is gone if your soon to be ex is breaking all of the cardinal rules of should-ness. The slope into craziness is a slippery one and is greased with the word should.
I have a particularly big problem with being told that I should do something because I have authority issues. You want me to stink? Try telling me that I should take a shower. Say it with some authority and, maybe, a finger wag and you have just set me up to grow armpit cheese. Do it as part of a committed relationship and that is where my problem with authority meets my mommy issues and, well, let’s just say nothing good can come from that union. It’s a trigger fest with me digging in like the slave woman who gets sacrificed to the monster god in every fantasy movie. There is a lot of screaming and dragging and it all could have been avoided if you just didn’t say the word ‘should’.
Lee says: If you haven’t noticed, Paul loves the drama; thankfully, only in his writing. Within a couple, the ‘shoulds’ are abundant. As a young married woman, I had a list of ‘shoulds’ that was carried by a Sherpa named Floyd. My Sherpa would remove the list from the pack and rattle off a hundred shoulds every morning to me. Shoulds like, ‘You should make your hubby breakfast before he leaves’ or ‘You should make dinner and wait to eat with your man’ or ‘You should provide your man with oral pleasure as much as possible’. Floyd was a fucking taskmaster.
As a young wife I did all these things and more. I was exhausted. Until one day Paul looked at me and told me to stop. Not with the oral pleasures but with the breakfast at 5:30am and lunches that would never be eaten. I was being Betty Crocker with a smidgen of Donna Reed and Marylin Chambers (Deep Throat). The worst part was that I resented Paul for everything I should be doing. Is this what it took to keep him or was I just playing a part in this drama called marriage and neither of us was responsible for our behavior?
After 20 years, the ‘shoulds’ are at a minimum. We are old hats at this and there isn’t much that people can tell us we ‘should’ do. Paul still holds out for the oral ‘shoulds’.