Tough Love, Tough Lesson

A parable about getting what you want in life

Doug Stewart
Feb 15, 2018 · 4 min read
Photo by Simon Wijers on Unsplash

There was once a man who was very particular.

He kept his closet color coordinated. His car was spotless (inside and out). His shoes were always shined and his shirt was always perfectly pressed.

There was only one problem with his perfectly designed life. His wife wasn’t so particular.

After 3 kids and 13 years of marriage, you would’ve thought she would’ve learned something from him.

It bothered him that she kept her closet in disarray. Her car (even though it was mostly because of the kids) was always dirty with crumbs from post soccer & dance class snacks. What was most irritating was she didn’t even seem to notice.

How could you not even see it, he wondered? Over time, he began to lose respect for the woman he fell so deeply in love with years ago. She was to busy to even notice. Taking care of the 3 kids, juggling high-pressure projects at work and trying to live up to the unrealistic standard set by her husband, it was all she could do to just keep up.

Until the night he finally got through to her.

The kids had gone to bed and as normal, she was scrambling to finish a work project. He hung up his tie, put away his shirt and slacks, laid out his ensemble for the next day and made his way into the bathroom to shower before bed.

Enraged by the sight, he found the bathroom in disarray. The hairdryer was left out, toothpaste residue was in the sink and from the looks of the shower & toilet, it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks.

He had had enough. He called out to his wife from the bathroom. Thinking he was maybe hurt or sick, she rushed to the bathroom to see what was going on.

He laid into her with a barrage of insults & criticisms the could have taken the paint off the walls. He let her know that

If he would have known what a slob she was he would have thought twice about marrying her at all.

He felt bad about speaking to her like that, but something had to be done. After all, he couldn’t continue living like this he thought.

As she laid in bed that night, she got an idea.

Tomorrow, I’m going to give him exactly what he wants.

The next morning was like any other morning. The alarm went off, she jumped up to get the kids ready for school, he prepared for his day, she rushed to just brush her hair and throw on a swab of mascara before everyone hurried out the door to school and work.

Later that evening, when he pulled into the driveway after work, he noticed her car looked like it had been washed. Huh, maybe the tough love I gave her last night was just the wake-up call she needed, he reasoned.

He walked into the house and to his surprise, it was spotless. The pillows were perfectly arranged on the sofa. The kids were sitting at the bar quietly doing homework (which never happened) and she was putting the finishing touches on dinner.

For 13 years, he had dreamed of this day. Finally! She gets it, he thought walking to the bathroom to wash up for dinner.

When he walked into the bathroom he was mesmerized by the sight of sheer perfection. It was spotless. It looked as clean as the day they moved in. Maybe cleaner. The glass was spotless, the grout had been scrubbed, he could even see his reflection in the toilet bowl.

He practically floated back into the kitchen and enjoyed one of the best home cooked meals he’d had in months.

Later that night he laid in bed relieved that (after all these years) he finally got through to her. The only thing he couldn’t figure out was how she had gotten everything done.

This ecstasy lasted the entire next week. Every day he would come home to a perfectly kept house, dinner, and most importantly a spotless bathroom.

Doing the math in his head, he couldn’t figure out how in the world his wife, who was normally going 100 miles a minute just to make get through the day, could get all this done. He was afraid that asking might cause her to reconsider her action and mess up a good thing.

A few nights later, he couldn’t take it anymore. Before turning out the lights, he rolled over and inquired of his wife:

I know this whole thing started because of what I said in the bathroom last week. What I can’t figure out is how fast your attitude changed. Not only do you seem to enjoy cleaning, it seems that you are most proud of the bathroom. The bathroom has always been your least favorite place to clean. Furthermore, I can’t figure out how you do it. Every corner is perfect. The shower sparkles and even the toilet looks clean enough to drink out of it. How in the world do you do it?

She looked deep into his eyes, smiled, and whispered,

I use your toothbrush.


What we think we want most isn’t worth it if we lose the most important thing, the relationship and respect of our loved ones.

There have been plenty of times in my life where I fought for something or tried to control something only to get it and find out it wasn’t very important at all.

As you go through your week, consider what’s actually important. Better yet, consider WHO is actually important.

Control less, Love more.

Thanks for reading! You can find more at

Doug Stewart

Written by

Dale Carnegie instructor | TEDx Presenter | Coach | Podcaster | Storyteller — Lives in Raleigh, North Carolina

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