Are men becoming more depressed?

I read this study by a professor at Arizona State that found men to be much less happy than they were two decades ago. Apparently, in recent years, the life satisfaction of the average male has declined even faster than women’s.

This evidence surprised me. I typically survey my own life satisfaction moment to moment (Am I happy now? How about now? Now?), but I suppose I’ve just taken my husband’s for granted. So long as his sports team is winning, I figured he’s feeling “fine.” Blessed with a calm spirit, I’ve only ever known my husband to be unflappable. He’s the frustratingly normal ying to my neurotic yang. If you measured his range of negative emotions, you would likely see a flatline and call the doctor. I always assumed that his happiness could be charted along the same even path, but, after reading this study, I worried that this really wasn’t the case. Maybe his life satisfaction has been declining as fast as RIM’s employee morale over the years and I’ve just been too self-absorbed to notice? Having held the monopoly on sadness around here, maybe he feels like there’s no place for him to air his own troubles?

I felt terrible at this prospect. I needed to let him know that he’s allowed to be sad too if he wants to. I wanted to reassure him that he could always lean on me, that there were always vacancies for him at Boardwalk and Park Place. I decided to broach the subject after dinner one night.

“Are you satisfied with your life?” I asked him, “Would you say you’re as happy as you used to be?”

My husband sat back on the couch, pensively. Recognizing that men have difficulty talking about their feelings, I sat next to him in an effort to provide reassurance.

“It’s okay,” I said gently, putting my hand on his, “You can tell me anything.” I turned to face him, nurturing a safe and open space.

He cleared his throat. I was pleased we were making such significant  progress in our marital communications. Eat your heart out Dr. Phil!

“Well..” he started.

“Go ahead. I’m here for you.”

“I hate the way you load the dishwasher.”

What did he just say!??

Sometimes it’s like you’re trying to fit as few dishes in there as possible.”

Excuse me!??

“And you minimize the surface area that actually gets any water.”

Is this for real!??

“The spoons are all nested.”

Did he just say ‘nested?’

“The bowls turn over and fill up with water.”

Did I really marry the dishwasher Nazi?

I was stupefied. How long had he been harbouring this dishwasher resentment? Before getting married, we had talked about family, religion, where we wanted to live, but we had never covered dishwasher loading. It never occurred to me, but perhaps we should have because, when I thought about it,  it’s really all important. The big stuff is important, of course, but maybe true compatibility is borne out of the little things. After all, it’s those little things that we do day in and day out that, cumulatively, have the greatest impact on our day to day lives. Whether a spouse puts an empty milk carton back in the fridge, leaves laundry on the floor, empties food into the side of the sink that doesn’t have the garburator-these things mean something and can sometimes contribute or detract from marital harmony more than deciding what holidays to celebrate.

The fastidious placement of dishes in the dishwasher isn’t all that important to me but it is important to my husband, so I should really try to fix it because I respect him and I want him to be happy. And, really, at the end of the day, his pet peeve is a really easy fix. In fact, it would take virtually nothing at all from me to fix it.

“You know what honey?” I said, dropping his hand.

“I promise to never put a single dish in the dishwasher ever again. It’s all yours.”

I can feel our life satisfaction increasing already!