STFU (shut the fuck up) is probably one of the most misunderstood pieces of advice I see here. It seems like once a month I read the following:
My husband has been out of work for the last 18 months, since he was fired from the Dog Food Factory. Initially, he was really depressed, so he'd spend his days playing video games and complaining about how unjust the whole thing was... except that it really wasn't. He called in sick all the time, because he didn't feel like going to work, since he hated his boss. I didn't want to say anything, because I read RPW and know the importance of STFU, so I trusted him to be responsible... but he wasn't. After a few months of video games and moping, I assumed he'd start putting in job applications and going on interviews, especially since I was working double shifts with our first baby on the way. Now it's been a year and a half of being the dutiful and faithful wife. I encourage him and spoil him, even though I'm exhausted from new motherhood and 60 hour work weeks, but he won't put in any applications! I'm trying so hard to keep my mouth shut, but I'm not sure how long I can go on like this!
STFU is not a directive to be a doormat. It's a sign of trust and respect, both of which are earned and reciprocal. If your husband is intentionally sabotaging his current job or has been unemployed for an extended period of time, without looking for new work, he's not respecting you as his wife or himself as the leader of your household. He's abusing your trust and loyalty. A similar situation:
My boyfriend and I have been living together for five years. When we moved in, the plan was to get engaged within a year and married within two. We were both on board with this and excited about it. However, my boyfriend hasn't mentioned engagement since shortly after we signed the lease. I've been reading RPW and I know I should continue to STFU, but it's been five years and I'm about to turn 28! I'm not sure if anything will ever change, if I don't speak up.
While the above boyfriend isn't neglecting his family, he is disregarding the goals and the plans you made together. He's disrespecting the parameters he set with you and wasting your time if he's changed his mind without saying so. In both situations, you're completely within your rights to speak up, because you're strongly impacted. STFU isn't intended to reward steamrolling or abusive behavior. It's a method of respectfully placing your trust in your partner. So what does it look like?
A few months ago, my husband and I were expected to go to dinner with his supervisor... who he hates and still thinks is a moron. I didn't want to go, because I know he finds the man insufferable, but the supervisor was paying and being really pushy about it, so my husband made it clear he'd be pretty upset if I refused to go. Day of, we were running errands and lost track of time. I didn't have time to go home and change, even though I didn't feel dressed for a restaurant. My husband thought I looked fine, so I decided to STFU. Dinner was awkward, but bearable, until it came time to pay and the supervisor asked for separate checks. Wait. What? I thought he was paying! I looked to my husband for some sign that this was unexpected and saw nothing. He seemed totally fine with picking up our check. Earlier in the day, he'd told me he wanted me to wait on a purchase, because we didn't really have the money, but he could pay for a dinner neither of us wanted, when he promised it was on the supervisor?!?
But wait... I trust my husband. I know he's not a pushover and supervisor or not, he would not have just taken that hit, when he didn't even want to go to the stupid dinner. There must have been something more to this. So, I decided to STFU. When we got to car, I calmly asked "Did we pay for that or...?" to which my husband explained that his supervisor had given him and his coworker cash, so they could order what they liked and not have to worry about going over some limit.
Consider the alternative. Instead of accepting that my husband didn't care that I wasn't dressed to impress, I throw a fit and insist on going home to change. By the time we get home, it's too late to go to dinner at all, my husband has to cancel with his supervisor, and he's pissed, because he'll never hear the end of it. Perhaps I do keep my mouth shut over my attire, but the check is the last straw. Instead of trusting my husband to handle it, I blurt out "I thought he was paying," to which I get the same explanation, but I sound ungrateful to the man who bought us dinner and embarrass my husband and he's pissed, because he'll never hear the end of it. Instead, STFU saved the day, because I trust my husband, who has earned my trust.
While I've outlined a daily interaction, STFU has long term applications as well. The supervisor my husband hated? I was always worried that he'd do something to get my husband fired. He was constantly pinning things on my husband and taking credit for his work. He spread rumors about everyone and bad-mouthed my husband to upper management. He kept him from getting a promotion and multiple people thought it was because he was threatened by him. I vetted well, however, and married a man who had been very successful in the oil field, something that only happens if you know how to play the game. When he'd vent, I'd occasionally ask if he'd mentioned some of these concerns to upper management and sometimes he did, but I was careful not to nag. The culture of my job is vastly different than his. I had to trust that he knew what he was doing, despite my fears that this idiot supervisor was going to screw him over. It's a good ol' boys' game and my husband is the best good ol' boy of them all, so I STFU.
Three months ago, upper management called my husband into the office to talk about his supervisor and some issues they were having with him. My husband told them, without exaggeration or feeling, some of his problems. He left the office with a promotion to crew chief of another department, proving that my trust in him is earned... and sometimes so is my silence.