Hey Will,

I’m hoping you can help me. My husband and I just completed a major (read: costly) renovation in which we added bathrooms to our kids’ rooms. But my 12-year-old son still likes to shower in our room. So after my husband leaves for work I let him, as it’s easier for me to ride herd on him  on school days. But it sends my husband into orbit! I don’t get it, what’s the big deal?

Baffled in the ‘burbs

Dear Baffled,

The best part about this gig is that I get to give the guy’s honest answer and I won’t end up sleeping on the couch. So here goes, your husband is right and you’re wrong, twice. (Man, I love writing this stuff!)

The first reason may not be your fault. It’s a man thing that most women either don’t know or don’t take seriously enough. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say it can be blamed for a lot of arguments, break-ups, unhappy marriages, and unhappy men in general.

*MAN FACT* — We are VERY territorial creatures.

Sometimes, when women become wives, they assume that husbands have changed and/or “out-grown” this behavior. That is absolutely false. We NEVER stop being territorial. It’s why we have OUR chair. It’s why we go to OUR bar and drink OUR beer. But when we meet OUR wives and have OUR children, something happens.

It usually goes like this; a husband and wife buy a home together. It is supposed to be THEIR home. But from the first day, the wife (unintentionally?) begins to decorate the husband out of each room. The kitchen and dinning room were never his; he knew that going in. The bedroom soon becomes her escape room, painted in soft colors, the bed covered in flowery comforters and throw pillows, the scent of potpourri wafting through the air. “But he said he loved how I decorated the bedroom.” Of course he said that, he’s no fool. Soon the kids have their rooms, decorated for them, and eventually by them. The family room is just that, a room for the entire family. The office, the living room, the game room, no velvet ropes, all access.

So where’s Dad’s room? Early on, he was promised the den, which became the family room. He was then told the basement could be his “man cave” but it’s now filled with summer clothes, artificial Christmas trees, and that Bow-Flex that she swore she’d use. Now dad just spends a lot of time in the garage, which, let’s face it, is actually the car’s bedroom.  What happens to a territorial creature when you take away all of his territory? He begins to take every opportunity to steal it back, a little piece at a time. My wife and I have been together for a long time, and I’ve been decorated out of an apartment and two single-family homes …so far. So now, if she says, “This is your half of the closet”, I guard it like it’s the Arc of the Covenant. If she says, “The back half of the basement can be just yours”, I’ll fight that Bow-Flex in a steel cage match before I let it sneak onto MY HALF. And if she says, “This bathroom is just ours now,” and I catch a child scrubbing his dirty little butt in my shower it will send me into orbit too!

Which brings us to your second wrong and this actually IS your fault because I’m pretty sure you knew this one. You and your husband agreed that the children needed their own bathroom. You and your husband agreed on the cost of the “major renovation” and you and your husband agreed that once it was done, the children would have their own bathroom and you two would have yours. I bet your husband has even told the children more than once, “This is just OUR bathroom now, so stay out of it!”

But you folded. It’s not that the boy took a shower, who cares? But the fact that you let him take that shower after your husband said no makes his word (read: him) not matter. As husbands, dads, and men, we don’t rule the house with an iron fist like our dads tried to, but when we do say no to something, we want that no to be respected. We expect our wives to back us up, just as you expect to be backed up on the things that you think are important and we think are silly (and trust me; there are a LOT of those). It may seem like no big deal to you, but we still like to feel like the man of the house, and whether we complain about it or not, it is a big deal to us.

Pretty simple fix: tell your son that his father’s word still stands in the house whether he’s home or not and mean it when you say it. Telling him within earshot of his father will earn you extra points and help mend dad’s slightly bruised ego. Remember, your son will be a man soon and seeing his father’s word and personal space respected will help him to be a stronger one. By the way, if you really want your son to be strong, I know where you can buy him a barely-used Bow-Flex.

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few, spare moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.