How to stop fighting about housework

dadI got an email the other day from a mother of a toddler with special needs. She works full-time and feels overwhelmed with parenting and housework. She wants her husband to help more with their son’s care. Whenever she’s asked for his help in the past, he’s responded for a couple of days. Then he’s quickly slid back into his usual slacker dad ways.

Her story reminded me of my own life, when our daughter was 1. She was sick nearly constantly due to the various germs she picked up from daycare. One week it would be a high fever. The next diarrhea. Then a rash. Since I worked at home, I was the person who cared for her when she was sick, which meant that I usually got sick, too.

If someone had asked me how I felt on any given day, I would have responded, “Exhausted, and my back hurts.”

My husband was not exhausted because he was rarely home. While I was dealing with a double GI illness (hers and mine), he was out with his friends.

My husband and I, of course, had our share of fights, most of which ended in tears (mine, not his). After these fights, he’d do more around the house for a while. Then, slowly, over time, he would disappear from our lives, and I would start planning his funeral.

Flash forward 4 years. Last week, I had the flu. As I lounged on the couch and watched Brokeback Mountain, he cleaned the house. Then he cut the grass. Then he made me a smoothie. Oh, and it was my turn to ferret our daughter to and from Pre-K, but he did that, too.

All without me asking.

And this is how he is most of the time. Most of the time he is not the slacker he was 4 years ago. Most of the time, he’s the guy who notices that the kitchen trashcan is full and who takes it out instead of waiting for me to do it.

What made the difference? Me asking for help over and over again.

It’s important for you to understand that your spouse is not intentionally trying to annoy you. Unless your spouse is a true sadist (rare), your spouse really does not enjoy seeing you upset. The vast majority of people would rather keep their spouses happy than risk the tears and/or yelling. Your spouse doesn’t help you for two reasons:

1. He’s clueless. He really might not see the dirt that bothers you so much. He probably doesn’t have your bionic nose, so he truly doesn’t realize that your baby has a toxic situation going on in his diaper. He also might not mind the clutter and the dirty clothes. The mess and clutter might bother you, but it might not bother him at all. You’re the one with the agenda. For him to follow it, you need to share it with him.

2. He hasn’t developed his housework and parenting habit. He needs to practice over and over again, in order to get into the habit of helping you in the way you want to be helped. Him helping for a while and then backsliding is a lot like what most people do in January. They exercise for a while and then stop. It’s part of the human condition. He needs your help to stay consistent.

(Note: You can easily swap a “she” for my “he’s.”)

Now, let’s talk about asking for help. This will require one or more big conversations and several smaller ones.

The Big Conversation: When you are both calm, tell him how you feel and what you would like him to do about it. For the “how you feel” part, try to move beyond your anger and disappointment. Here are some words that might work: overwhelmed, like I am drowning, exhausted, like a failure, scattered, scared. If you can, give him a specific example of how this problem plays out in your life. Are you too tired or too overwhelmed to do something you once loved, like tennis or golf? Say, “I want to become the woman I once was, the person you fell in love with. I need your help because I can’t do this on my own.”

Then be as specific as possible with your request for help. “Help me around the house” is not specific. “Prioritize me and our child” is not specific. “Every day, I would like you to pick up the stuff on the floor, wash the dishes, and watch our son so I can take a nap” is specific.


The Small Conversations:
Whenever you see him doing nothing, ask for his help. Let’s say he’s watching car racing while you are folding laundry. Say, “Could you help me fold these sheets?” Let’s say he’s reading the paper while you are washing the dishes and your son is tugging on your leg. Say, “Could you entertain him while I do this?”

Then, whenever he helps you with anything, say, “Thank you.” Even better, hug him. If you are up for it, have sex. Reward him. Whatever you do, do not micromanage him. Let him change a dirty diaper his way, even if it’s not your way.

Are you thinking, “But I shouldn’t have to tell him what to do. No one tells me what to do and I still do it.” That may be true, but that’s not going to get you folded laundry. The only thing that’s going to get you help around the house? You asking for it-repeatedly.

If you do ask for it repeatedly and you continually reward him for his help, you will, over time, eventually come to marital nirvana, where he really does do it all without being asked.

Who does more housework?

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How do you split up the parenting and housework? Leave a comment.

40 comments… add one

  • Trista June 2, 2009, 10:47 am

    Thank you so much! I do feel like I should not have to ask, but need to bit the pride factor and just ask for help and stop trying to do it all. You are wonderful and I thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Bea June 2, 2009, 11:01 am

    Nice post. This is the number one thing my husband and I fight about. It seems, however, that when I ask for help, it comes across as nagging. I know it takes two to nag, but do you have any tips on making the requests for help more happily received?

    Reply
  • Alisa June 2, 2009, 11:28 am

    I think it helps to phrase it as a question rather than a demand.

    Can you help me fold the laundry? vs. Get up and fold the laundry.

    Can you change the baby’s diaper while I am cooking dinner? vs. Yo! The baby’s been sitting in his own poop for 2 hours. What’s wrong with you?

    Hey, I’m exhausted, and I feel overwhelmed with the state of our house. Would you clean up the front room while I do the bedroom? vs. Clean up the house for once. It’s all your crap anyway.

    The words, “Thank You” go a really long way to reducing the sense of nagging, too.

    Reply
  • Pennie June 2, 2009, 12:22 pm

    As the wife, I’m the one who does less of the housework, and reading this is exactly what I would need to hear, specific requests of me (I know, as the woman/wife/mom I should know what needs to be done when, but I was raised amongst all boys, my dad raised me, and did everything, I have a lifetime of doing nothing to get past)… then I know what my timeline is, what needs to be accomplished, ect…

    Reply
  • Alicia Cleveland June 3, 2009, 8:29 am

    I agree with most of this post, but one thing that always irks me a little is the fact that women are always told to give their men a “reward” for doing (to me) what they should be expected to do. I do the housework/chores on a daily basis and while my husband thanks me, I don’t get a reward every time I do something. And really, should I? We are adults (not dogs – although I know men are often compared to them), we have responsibilities. Splitting the chores is something that should be done and expected. I read something recently that resonated with me…it said that if either partner rewards or shows too much appreciation towards the other partner who is doing most of the housework, then it is treating it (housework) like it’s above and beyond what is expected. Now, of course, when I do things, I want to be thanked and appreciated, but it makes me feel like I am doing something special…that housework is special. And it’s not. It just needs to get done. Not sure if that makes sense. After saying all this, I would say that I do think that the reward system might actually work (and i guess that’s always the goal of something), but I would prefer to go the other route and just keep asking for it repeatedly.

    Reply
  • Ginny June 3, 2009, 2:44 pm

    RE: the reward system, you can run into comparable problems with dogs if you reward every time, after the animal has learned the behaviour. Rewards are great, but they should be put on a schedule as soon as everyone understands how the game works. As for the Thank Yous, I think they are just nice, and there’s no reason not to be generous with them. I’m sure my dog appreciates praise, but it’s not a reward. The hugs and sex you should want to do anyway, or be working on. That part has more to do with having a good relationship generally than as a specific reward for housework.

    Reply
  • Mel June 9, 2009, 9:44 pm

    Hmm Curious how there is only 1 vote for the spouse doing the most housework… I do think often and say often that I should not have to ask for help. And yes, that gets me nowhere. Then I often ask for specific things to be done, and I get ‘Oh later’ ‘in a minute’ or my favorite ‘quit nagging me.’ If I don’t nag, IT DOESN’T GET DONE!

    I guess I’ll just have to wait for the 4 year mark to see if practice has made perfect.

    Reply
  • Abby July 8, 2009, 6:54 pm

    OK, here’s the thing: My husband is happy to help with Request #1 and Request #2. But when we get to Request #3, we get into the eye-rolling & “nagging” debate. This infuriates me, because as I continually point out to my husband, I have 50 bazillion things on MY to-do list — why is it OK for him to do 1 or 2 things & then call it a day?

    The other thing is, since I am home & my husband works 10 hour days at an office, the consequences of his slacking will never impact him, they will only make MY life harder. For instance, if he doesn’t run the dishwasher, he’s not the one handwashing the sippy cups at 7 a.m. I am. If he doesn’t put the laundry in the dryer, he’s not the one stuck without a single pair of clean Cars underwear. My son is. So until something inconveniences HIM, I really don’t think my husband will “get it” no matter how many times I explain.

    Also, I agree w/ Alicia re: rewards. Though we DO try very hard to say “thank you” to each other regularly.

    Reply
    • James Redmon May 3, 2013, 11:43 am

      If he is working 10hrs a day and you are at home then there is no reason he should be doing housework. Your role model for being a house wife should be June Cleaver not Kim Kardashian. I assume you fully enjoy the financial fruits of his labor. You have to bring something to the table! Seems like a lot of women are just looking for the meal ticket.

      Reply
      • Alisa May 3, 2013, 11:48 am

        James–I’m a working mom who financially suports my family. So I have both perspectives on this and I can tell you: raising kids is a heck of a lot harder than working. The months I was home with a baby were the hardest months of my life. My job feels like a walk in the part in comparison. I think there’s a misunderstanding that a woman at home isn’t “working” while a man in the office is “working.” In reality, assuming she’s not home watching TV or whatever (sure, that happens), they are BOTH working long days. SAH moms never get to punch out from their workday, so they are always working, often even in the middle of the night. For marital harmony to take place, both have to put in a good effort to keep the house running smoothly.

  • Steph July 21, 2009, 9:27 am

    All I know is that my husband USED to help me when we didn’t have children. Then the twin boys came and it was all downhill from there. He rarely did anything at first, he played the whole “deer in a headlights” card for a few years. I worked full-time and had all the responsibilities of the housework and kids. I slept so little that I developed hypothyrodism a full two years after I had my twins! I tried everything, from asking to not asking to letting the house just go….nothing worked. He thinks that taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn once a week is him helping. He’s also said that because he works harder than I do for more hours that I should do most of the work. Well I found that after these past 5.5 years of arguing, crying, trying, hurting, etc., it just isn’t worth it. I’d rather be happy and raise my sons as a happy mom instead of being miserable and having a dirty house. I’m staying in this marriage for the kids and their happiness. I want him to be a good father to them, that’s it. As for the rest, he either helps or he doesn’t. I’m too tired to care what he does or doesn’t do anymore. I just figured that being married is my punishment for some cruel things I must have done in another lifetime. So I’ll just serve my sentence and be the best mom I can be for my boys.

    Reply
  • Marc July 31, 2009, 9:46 pm

    I will admit that I used to not do my share of the housework. I can tell you that nagging does not work. It will work in the short term, but in the long term it only made me angry at my spouse. After years and years of nagging we ended up switching roles, so now I’m doing all the thing she was doing. She has recently had the gall to tell me that she thinks I am still not doing as much as she is, even though I’m doing everything she was doing! Which tells me that she isn’t even seeing or acknowledging what I’m doing any more- she’s got her mind made up about this and is not acknowledging anything I’ve done. I’m not saying that is what is Steph’s situation is, I’m just giving a different perspective.

    After a while a man will become numb to nagging. For me, the solution wasn’t just helping her out– I will tell you that they had to become my responsibility EVERY DAY for me to do them on a regular basis. For example, I am now responsible for packing lunches every day. If I didn’t pack them in advance I’d have to take the time in the morning, making me late for work. That or the kids wouldn’t eat lunch. Needless to say I got in the habit of doing it the night before.

    My wife works longer hours than I do. While she is still at the office, I am cooking dinner for me and two kids, cleaning up, and frequently giving the kids a bath (I also do all the shopping, meal planning, taking care of the dog, ensuring cars get fixed, etc.). And all of this is after working full-time. If we tallied everything up, I would definitely come out as doing more around the house than she. However, the way I see it is if she shares the duties while we’re both there, we’re even. It’s actually not fair for her to work more hours at the office and then add that much more at home. Both of our days should end about the same time, for the most part. Some days she finishes before I do, and some days I am still cleaning up while she is watching TV.

    And following up on another thread, I would love it if my wife traded sex for duties around the house! I haven’t had sex in over a year, and I must admit it’s getting more difficult for me to keep my mind on the marriage, and I’ve never been the cheating type in any of my relationships. The sex thing is only a symptom of bigger issues of course. I don’t want just a roommate. I also don’t want to have an affair- I’d prefer to divorce first and then pursue whatever I want to pursue. But I am going to try working on my marriage first, which is what brought me to this site. I’m not giving up yet.

    Reply
  • Alisa Bowman August 1, 2009, 7:36 am

    Marc-you make a good point, one that I often forget to mention. It’s not necessarily about how many hours of housework one person does vs how many hours another person does. It really has more to do with free time. Who is sitting around watching TV, sleeping, reading (etc) while the other spouse is parenting, cleaning or working at the office. In other works, the pays the bills work counts, too, as you just mentioned. Also, there are sometimes other factors. For instance, I need more downtime because I work a creative job and support our family. When I’m not creative, I don’t make money. I need to be rested to be creative. So our balance has more to do with what I need in order to feel rested, which isn’t really a cut and dry formula. The end result: it’s a discussion. A problem that two people can solve over time, assuming both are willing to try.

    Reply
  • Catherine August 3, 2009, 12:42 pm

    I don’t think asking someone to do chores every time they are doing nothing is a good idea, as people need time to relax. I think you could drive someone away or into hiding somewhere like the garage if you do that. I think a good idea (and one that avoids nagging) is to get a whiteboard and write down weekly and once-off chores (plus things like vacation dates and other planning), and then erase or place a check mark next to them as they are done. If you both work and some things just don’t all get done then you can set aside an evening or weekend morning or afternoon and split the chores and get them done quickly together. I also don’t like the idea of rewards.

    Reply
  • KB August 3, 2009, 4:20 pm

    Boy am I glad I found this site. I see that I am not the only one going through this.
    I work full time outside the home. My husband was injured on his job a couple of years ago and is unable to work. (He has occasional black out spells and is unable to drive).
    We have 2 boys, 4 and 5 years old.
    My day starts with getting the kids up, ready for babysitter/school, taking them there, and going to work.
    After work I pick up the kids go home and usually cook supper, do dishes, laundry, etc. While the husband is at home all day doing basically NOTHING! Occasionally I come home and supper is cooked. He can sit and play on the internet half of the day but can’t go 15 foot into the laundry room to fold it or start another load.
    I have talked to him MULTIPLE times and things get better for a day or two but then it is right back where we were. I tell him I can’t do everything.
    GRRRRRR I think men and women truly are from different planets!!!

    Reply
    • frustrated May 6, 2012, 12:31 am

      I can relate – my wife stays home with our daughter who is 4 and not yet in school and we also have a school aged boy who is gone all day and home after school.

      I do ALL the housework – I come home and nothing has been done. I work all day and come home and immediately start cleaning up, doing laundry, etc.

      She does some of the cooking but none of the clean up. After dinner she hands me her plate and expects me to do everything. If i dont do it – it just doesnt get done.

      I do grocery shopping, chores, everything.

      She does almost nothing around the house. When I ask her for help she accuses me of “nagging” and will almost never do even the most simple of tasks.

      She has an active social life and goes out on a regular basis – I`m home doing laundry, etc.

      She doesnt appreciate what I do and how I have no downtime after working all day and coming home and picking up after her.

      Frustrated!

      Reply
      • Dubly frustrated December 27, 2013, 9:14 pm

        Even before my wife broke her leg 3 months ago I have been frustrated that I can’t even have a relative or friend over to the house without running it through the cleaning committee. I don’t know if it’s a male/ female thing or just a personality trait but her consept of acceptably clean is radically different from mine. After 8 years of trying to please I still don’t really know what the standard is. What I do know is that there are several closets that are rigged for avalanche and my attempts to fix that are frowned apon.
        I have certainly heard all the lines about how “I shouldn’t need to be asked” and “I never praise her for doing it” but her mother comes most days to watch our children and no special cleaning is needed for that. It seems that there is a double standard for my family and I am expected to know what to do. However I feel I should be able to bring someone for dinner on occation without multiple days notice. The whole cleaning routine feels to me like both a lie and a double standard. Wouldn’t it just resilience a great deal of stress just to be honest: “Welcome to my home, this is how we live. Surprise! It’s not a museum.”
        Now for all you naysayers, I’m not claiming to do more of the housework. But not because I sit around watching TV. Both of us work very hard but she does more housework because she chooses to. Now that she can’t walk she is extremely frustrated with my inability to keep up. I’m just no as good at filling her role. I’m slower, I make silly mistakes, and I just do things differently. She used to run around cleaning the hose in a huff when she was mad at me for not cleaning, like this is some sort of massochists punishment, or to say “this is how you do it stupid”. Now she just crys. And I feel helpless and discouraged. So for those of you trying to get your husbands to clean more I would suggest approaching it the same way you would go about teaching a fashion designer to dig a ditch, or if it makes you feel better. Try teaching a ditch digger to work in a china shop (for Chinese wages).

  • Harry August 7, 2009, 10:45 am

    Wow ! I am impressed with the honesty and the maturity.

    Reply
  • Lynn August 11, 2009, 5:39 pm

    I as well am glad I found this site. My husband is addicted to the computer and it has only grown worse over the years. I have talked to him repeatedly about helping me more and making more time for the children, it works for a few weeks and then goes right back. I made the final talk this past January and told him if things don’t change, then when I am done with school and can find a job, the kids and I are moving and he is not moving with us. The kids have even said in front of my husband to get off the computer. He has said a few times to “help” him because he is trying to change, yet I am still doing everything and he is still on the computer playing his games and chatting with the guys.

    When I ask him to help his usual comment is why, i cannot do it to your standards, i always do it wrong, so why should I do anything at all or something to that affect. If he does do anything he expects me to basically kiss his feet and just poor on the honey and tell him how wonderful he is and how he did such a wonderful job.

    I am so tired of working on this marriage, it exhausts me more than just raising the children and taking care of them everyday.

    Reply
  • Marc August 13, 2009, 9:06 pm

    Lynn, the only thing I can say in reply is that when your husband does help, do you then criticize the job he’s done? I was in that situation too. The way that comes across is that I’m going to get sh*t whether or not I help out (either bitched at for not helping, or bitched at for not ‘doing it right’). So if the outcome is the same, why bother helping in the first place?

    I’m not saying it’s right, just saying that is a possible dynamic at work.

    Reply
  • Lynn August 14, 2009, 6:40 pm

    Marc,

    That has been his excuse in the past, that I criticize him. I know I like things a certain way especially in my kitchen, but for the most part, the rest of the house is fair game. If the floor is picked up and swept and clothes put away, great. I don’t really care as long as it is done. I have a laundry basket in our bedroom full of his clothes because all he does is throw them in his closet. I don’t share his closet, I share the kids because I got tired of clothes falling on me when I was trying to get my own. He won’t put them away, but he gets mad at me when he cannot find anything.

    I think the problem is that he is so insecure and unsure of himself that it is easier to make excuses than to just grow up and face reality. Now, when he does do anything, I either go overboard and tell him what an awesome job he did and how perfect it is and great job or I just don’t say to much. He does dishes about 2 times a year and helps me straighten things up after he is so tired of the mess and not able to get to anything. Usually, he has yelled at the kids over and over and they are in tears and everyone is upset. I have pretty much learned it is easier to clean when he is not here than to do it when he is here. Sometimes I am not able and everyone suffers! It is pretty pathetic.

    Reply
  • Angela September 14, 2009, 12:03 pm

    Today we had our first major fight since we got married 5 years ago. All I asked was will you mow the lawn today and he said no because our 16 year old son could do it. I said he’s been doing it all summer and I think we need to share responsibilities. He said he works so therefore our son should do it. Well my opinion is, we all work, so just because you work that exempts you from household chores???? He said when he was growing up, his dad never did any work, and that as a boy he had to mow the lawn all the time..so now that he’s a man, he wants our son to do everything. That’s not fair. I think we all should pitch in. Today our son is sick w/ allergies and all I asked is that my husband mow the grass and he refused saying he’s never going to do it. That’s not right. Then to hurt his feelings, which I know wasn’t right but I was so angry at his attitude, I said I knew before we got married that he was lazy and not a clean person and I should’ve heeded that, then he really blew up and said “if you want me to move out I will!!” Wow…all this over the freakin’ lawn.

    Reply
  • wornout September 18, 2009, 10:45 am

    Hi all,

    I found this site after a google search this morning. That followed an eposide last night.My husband, who in the past 18 years has seldom, and I mean seldom lifted a single finger for housework, expected a “thank you” for emptying the dishwasher. He gets to work around 8:30, and is usually home by 6:30 – 7:00. One weekends, he goes to the gym for 3-4 hours, then mows our very small lawn, straightens up the garage, and washes his car (sometimes mine). Before he leaves for the gym, he reminds me not to let the girls go anywhere until the house is completely clean.

    Upon his return home, around 1-2pm, he comes in the house, inspects it, and then will tell the girls they cannot leave until he is done with the yardwork and car. In other words, nobody is allowed to leave until everything is done…. even though he spent the day at the gym. Now our lawn is 16×20. Does it really take the whole family to be there while he mows the lawn, so the kids can sweep up the clippings? Do they really need to be here to help him dry his car? No. This has led to countless fights between he and I because I feel that if the kids cleaned the entire house, they’re done. They shouldn’t have to wait hours for him to return home, to help him do what little he does.
    Now before you jump to conclusions, I until very recently, worked full time earning as much as he for the past 18 years. I paid bills , cleaned house, picked up and dropped off kids, did the shopping, laundry, painting, replacing faucets, dishwashers, you get the idea….. everything except the yard. In the 13 years our kids have been in the public school system, he has dropped them off or picked them up from school 8 times, yet he has for the past 18 years driven right by their schools every single morning. To put it bluntly, I am sick and tired of him thinking this is some sort of hotel, staffed by the meanial people. I will NOT thank him for emptying a dishwasher, or anything else. He doesnt thank me for earning a generous income, for dinner on the table every nite, for cleaning his laundry… nothing. Neither myself or the kids have received a compliment from him since I can’t remember. We’ve had the “talk” numerous times, and he says he didn’t do many chores growing up because “he was in sports”, and didn’t have time, yet our kids are also, and have very busy schedules. He has been steeped in life time of thinking that women are the workers in the home, and we should all look like June Cleaver, all dressed up and pretty for him when he comes home from a hard day of work. I actually said this to him once, and his response was “my mom did it”. Ummmm. yeah, and she’s on anti-depressants and a nervous wreck who can’t sit down for fear there might be a dirty sock in the house that needs to be cleaned. And her husband talks to her like she’s a dumb-s–t. That’s not me. I am one of 6 raised by a single mother. Everybody pulled their weight. We love our best friends, however I can sense the my husbands resentment when the come over, because he does lots of housework, yardwork and everything in between. So no, I don’t owe him any pat on the back. He lives here too.

    Reply
  • wornout September 18, 2009, 10:51 am

    forgot to mention this…. he is also a perfectionist. He never “does” anything, but inspects everything. if it’s not done the way HE likes it, it must be redone. The description narcissistic authoritarian comes to mind quite often.

    Reply
  • Lynn September 18, 2009, 11:08 am

    This reminds me so much of several conversations in this house only reversed! My husband thinks that I am the one that expects everything to be just so and perfect and he says he doesn’t like to do anything because he cannot do it as I want it, thus I bitch at him either way. I am a perfectionist and I have learned over the years that I just don’t say anything and hide my suprise when he steps in to help. I have been doing as this article mentioned and started asking for more help and he has stepped in and done so.

    As for your situation, what would happen if you would go ahead and let the girls go while he was at the gym. I am sure everything would be cleaned up anyway, by the sounds of it. I don’t mean to offend but you are their mother and should have a say in decisions as well. I step in and step on toes when my husband starts berating the older children about cleaning. He himself has a lot of growing up to do and says so many childish things that are just plain hurtful and spiteful. Not an adult reprimanding a child if that makes sense. It just escalates the situation and then everything is out of control.

    I hope for the best for you and your girls!

    Reply
  • Jess July 24, 2010, 8:51 am

    My husband and I are struggling with a similar issue. We have only been married for four years this September. We have a very rambunctious three year old boy. He has always been the lazy type. Being raised by his Grandparents who catered to his every whim made him this way. However, I had thought he was growing up and changing which is why I finally decided to marry him. He did do well for about a year or so. Then he went back to his golfing and laying on the couch or online poker. I am a full time employee at a child development center and take our son with me which is exhausting. I also am a full time student online. We fight over this a lot. When he is at home he sits in his chair and flips through the television while I do all of the chores and deal with our wild child who is climbing the walls and our extremely hairy dog that just cannot stay outside according to him.

    I think that our problem in this area has been magnified since he has started a new job where he now works third shift and mostly out of town. I do realize that this is a big change for all of us and is very stressful. However, he fails to realize that while he is out of town all week staying in a hotel I am at home alone with all of our responsibilities to myself. Then when he comes home on the weekends he thinks it is his relax time. Like he hasn’t been relaxing all week in that hotel. I do resent the fact that he feels that he is entitled to do whatever it is he wants to do. I feel like he never takes the time to look at what is going on outside of HIS world. I have tried to explain to him that I am spread way too thin and feel often like I am on the edge and about to crack. He doesn’t seem to care. It’s like he just doesn’t hear what I am saying. I ask him to help me with simple things and I get huffs and puffs and rolling eyes like I am bothering him. I have tried many ways to get him to contribute to our home outside of contributing a mess. He always acts like I am nagging when I ask for help. The things that I don’t do at all, mowing the yard and taking the trash to the dump never get done when they need to be. There are always excuses. The dump is closed and the mower has a flat tire. Far be it from him to get the tire fixed or get a new one. Oh well, I tried. I am getting to the point where I am loosing my patience. I find myself making mean comments and putting him down more and more. I try not to but he makes me so mad. He isn’t going to help either way so why not make him feel how I am feeling. He does do something sometimes. Last week he put the dishes in the dishwasher. Didn’t even turn it on and acted like he deserved a nobel peace prize. When he does go in the laundry room he just throws the dry ones on the bed without folding them. I am so aggrivated. What can I do to get him to see what is really going on?

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  • Loka October 16, 2010, 11:43 am

    I am in agreement that I should not have to ask my husband to help with housework. I also think a reward for helping is completely inappropriate. Asking for help implies that it’s MY job that I need “help” with…well this is OUR house, OUR job! I don’t get rewarded for scrubbing toilets and bathrooms, mopping floors, washing and folding the laundry, changing sheets and towels, doing the grocery shopping, paying all the bills, taking care of and walking the dog, nor cooking.

    Our most recent fight was this…My husband still has a business in Mexico , which every few weeks he commutes to for about 5 days at a time. I have my own company as well and do a lot of freelance on the side…my schedule is full just like his. A couple of weeks ago I was out in the yard taking a call (bad cell service inside), and I was bitten by something. After about 9 hours of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction: fever, hives, swollen lips, eyelids, neck, etc) I ended up in the emergency room getting epinephrine injections at about 11pm prior to a 5 am work day the following morning. My husband was out of town. Since he has been back, I have asked him several times if he would please mow the lawn and fumigate. (Sometimes the back yard goes about 3 months or more with no care. We have a 130-pound dog who relieves herself back there). My mom is a nurse and has followed up with me several times, commenting to make sure that it gets done but that I NOT DO IT…because it is a very dangerous allergy to have. Our backyard is swarming with pests…we live in South Texas and are across the street from a wooded area…there are centipedes, scorpions, fire ants, snakes…you name it and it’s there. I am losing sleep over the fact that I might get bitten by something again and go through the same thing. Mind you, when I ask him to do it he says yes. With a lot of chores, his answer is “maybe”. Kinda like “maybe I’ll do it if I feel like it or if I have time.” He has also commented to me that I come out and help him do it…to just put tennis shoes on and I will be fine.

    My husband grew up in Mexico where muchachas (maids) are part of the lifestyle. We have been married and living together for 2.5 years now, and enough is enough! His common answer to things is “I don’t know how”….or if I ask him to do something he will say “yes, but get everything ready for me”….like with the fumigation he said “yes I’ll do it but get everything together that I need and I’ll go out there”. WTF? I can walk by him with my arms full of laundry, tripping over dirty pant legs and he doesn’t offer to help me. Should I say “I will do the laundry if you bring all the clothes to the laundry room, separate them, and measure the detergent for me too!”??? Just this past week my husband was out of clean underwear…so he went without underwear!!!! Instead of thinking…ooh let me do a load of laundry, he basically waited for me to do it. I commented this to him and he said “don’t do what you don’t want to do!”. So..basically if he’s without underwear…I do the laundry…and if I’m without underwear…I do the laundry. I feel like his basic strategy is that I will end up doing things, so he just waits it out.

    2 years ago we got a dog (that HE wanted…I was unsure since we travel a lot and are very busy…I thought it might not be the right time). She is a huge dog and requires a lot of maintenance and attention. I’m the one that bathes her, gives her her flea medicine and other stuff, deals with vets appts and boarding, and I walk her. I think my husband has walked her maybe 3 or 4 times on his own since we’ve had her. I go every day or every other day.

    I am to the point of total resentment. I don’t ask for things and they don’t get done…and then I ask for things and they don’t get done. We have gotten in several screaming matches over this and I’m the one left in tears. He says that he does stuff. I tell him that picking up is not the same as cleaning. For example I will make dinner and clean up most of the kitchen before we even eat…the only thing left is what’s on the table…our dirty plates and such. Sometimes I will say “hey I cooked so can you clean up?” So he picks up the dirty dishes, walks over to the sink, and places them in or near the sink. DONE! Same thing when the house is in shambles…he may make a bed or hang up some towels…but he has never once taken sheets off of a bed or put new ones on…has never gone to the linen closet to get clean towels and put the current towels in the hamper. There are so many stories I could tell but it’s basically the same pattern with everything. Most recently he has made the comment that we should hire someone to do the yard and to clean the house. With our current financial situation, this is not plausible. We are still a very young couple, and I think we need to have all of this stuff “learned” before we bring in outside help. I do not want to raise our future kids with a maid and other paid labor. I don’t think it teaches independence and responsibility. I don’t know how to handle this and could really use suggestions. We are currently to the point where we are not even talking…I am very upset and I feel disrespected. “I don’t know how” is not a reason anymore…it’s just an excuse to not have to do things or to make me help do things. If you don’t know how, read the instructions or frikkin Google it! Not THAT hard…he never takes the initiative to do things, and then I do them.

    Reply
  • Les November 27, 2010, 10:49 am

    Thank you for the article. And I’ve enjoyed reading all of the posts.

    I myself am becoming very frustrated with my husband. When we first moved in together the division of household work I felt was fair. Then he started school, so he was working full-time and going to school full-time, at which point we jointly decided I’d have to pick up the slack around the house because he’d be a lot busier. I felt this was fair.

    Now fast forward…. His school has become more demanding and thankfully I have a well paying job that he has been able to quit his job and just focus on school. At the same time I have started a Master’s program myself, so he goes to school full-time and I work full-time and go to school full-time.

    So now I have no free time, I work a lot of hours get home around 7PM. He’s home by 3-4PM and dinner and housework haven’t been touched. I still have to do my schoolwork for the night and I’m tasked with cooking dinner which won’t be ready till 8-9PM now, not to mention all of the housework (laundry, dishes, vacuuming) that still need to be done. So those end up piling up all week and then I marathon housework on the weekends.

    When I ask for help he just whines that he either has homework (which I am noticing he’s using as an excuse more than he actually has homework, because he’s sitting there watching TV), or it’s his day off and he needs time to relax and have a break. When do I get time to relax and have a break? I just feel it’s so unfair.

    I have no free time whatsoever that I no longer even watch TV. I haven’t turned the TV on in about 3 weeks. He complains that I am filling up the DVR with all of my shows I’m not watching. But he has all this time to watch all of his, he must be REALLY busy.

    He says I am stressing him out and that I’m not taking his school seriously. Here I have been working full time supporting him for the last 3 years while he goes to school, which I am fine with because I know him getting his degree and being able to get a better job will be good for us. But I get no support in return. I am going to school too!!! I am going for a Master’s program so I can get promoted up within my company. He is mad that I am even going to school, frequently makes comments that he didn’t want me to go so I can’t use that as an excuse.

    Ughhhhh… Now as I type this I’m just getting angrier and angrier. But I don’t want to be angry. I have noticed that when I ask for help I am very pissy about it. I have really hit my limit. A lot of this I did do to myself, because I wanted to “take care” of him. When things aren’t being done I feel it’s easier to just do it myself than to argue with him about it, thus I’m enabling his behavior.

    Clearly the approach I am taking to get him to help more isn’t working. I do hate that he expects rewards for every little thing he does when I’ve just done 29837492837492374 other things. I do hate that I even have to ask for help. He’s an adult, I’m not his mommy, he should take responsibility and pick up his damn mess. But that attitude isn’t helping me out. I am going to try out the suggestions in this article, and see how it goes. I just hope I have the strength to actually ask for things nicely when I really want to yell and throw things at him.

    Reply
  • pril February 15, 2011, 3:44 pm

    to put it simply what works for us. Is setting our expectations.. Sometimes that in itself is hard. but worth it in the long run..

    Reply
  • Ren December 2, 2011, 9:01 pm

    I’ve been married for two and a half months, and my husband doesn’t do much of anything except the kitchen, which I hate doing. I’ve learned that I have to be careful not to nag him to do it “my way”, or he will get frustrated and not want to do anything. My main chore is the laundry. I thought that was fair at first, but then I realized that there is way more laundry than there are dishes, that laundry is more labor-intensive than dishes, and my days are between 2-4 hours longer than his. I think he may have a blindness to the laundry.

    And the free time thing rings very true for me. He spends over an hour at his parents house a few days each week, but because we only have one car, when he picks me up we just go straight home. When I asked him to go home and do chores instead of waiting to pick me up at his parents’, he just complained that it was too much gas to spend…so we live in a pig sty and i stress out because i, too, have a creative job and I just cant relax in our messy apartment. So he gets to be with family a few days a week and i get to see only him.

    And today I told him I was upset that I can’t even get any girl time with my friends because he insists on making my friends “our friends”–which I wouldn’t mind, if it weren’t for the fact that when he enters the conversation, I can’t even follow it because of subject matter, I become the butt of jokes, it’s awful. I feel so alone and I can’t believe that he got mad at me for wanting to have friends I can relate to.

    still, we’re early on. I’m trying really hard to keep from closing up and not telling him why I’m mad. He did do well today, when he remembered that I’ve been nagging him about a specific chore, and he finally said he’d do it. here’s hoping.

    Reply
  • kyle March 18, 2012, 2:07 pm

    Ok ladies, let me give you a man’s perspective.

    I am in this situation now. and for the past 5 years. I desperately want out, but love my two little kids. Ever since the younger was born it’s been bad. Not the kids, mind you, we both marvel at how wonderful they are. My wife shows no interest in me, she doesn’t talk, she does not start conversations, she does not even respond when I ask…anything. There is no romance ( she won’t allow it). I cannot touch her in anyway with out being either shoved off or pulled away from. She claims its always sexual wit me…but not true, even if i try to get or give a kiss or hug its the same.

    Housework…well I can tell you I am no longer motivated. Yesterday I started laundry, today I was told to “use the quick cycle” with a tone. I did not respond, ( out of frustration) then got griped at for not responding ( hmm she should now know how I feel.)

    So why stay together. Unfortunately, we are not financially viable on our own. I think this is huge. Two. the kids. Yes, I love my kids and I am afraid they will be held hostage by her. We both love being around them, I raised with me all day everyday as babies while I was truly self employed running and growing a multi million dollar business.

    Without going into a lot of detail we are stuck financially, from things that happened to her family and we paid as well as fall out from the current economy.

    In spite of these things it was my opinion that we could still have a nice happy relationship and just tough it out financially until better times. I have always made a good effort on the relationship. I do not feel she makes any at all.

    She does most of the housework. I work full time, manage our full time business as well, because she refuses. She refuses to communicate. I am out of energy to make the effort anymore. I don’t like getting “smacked down” every time attempt to help, when she perceives I am not helping, when I try to be affectionate.

    I am sure her opinion is that “i should not need to be told what chores to do” but frankly I guess I could use the same argument. Doesn’t she plainly see all of the chores I do, that need doing, yet she does not make an effort to do those.

    Men will not remind you (nag) you to do things, men generally just suck it up and do it, and never say a word.

    Might seem like I have a chip on my shoulder, fact is, I love women. I love strong confident women who can take care of themselves. Women who are somewhat aggressive ( in a positive way). Passive aggressive sucks.

    Reply
  • Sonia at Marriage Counselling Toronto April 18, 2012, 7:00 pm

    Great post! Thanks for posting! Sometimes it’s much easier to ask for help rather than folding the laundry and holding in resentment.

    Reply
  • Frances April 20, 2012, 5:57 pm

    OMG I cannot believe so many folks over the course of years have found this post & have commented. I’m so glad to know that this is a very serious issue for others because my wife drives me nuts with her lack of doing chores. Yes folks, it’s not just men who do this crap. Just b/c were both women means diddly… all relationships have issues & clearly this one in universal.

    Today we were both thirsty & I have asthma & need to drink water that is not super cold. We have a Britta water filter for our faucet and fill two 2 gallon jugs w/ water for drinking that is left out on the counter. There was about ten oz. of water left between both jugs and I took it assuming she knew that I needed the warmer water & she could simply fill a jug (it was her turn to do it) or even fill a cup for herself. But no. She asks if she can have some of my water. I said she could have a sip. But she wants me to get a cup and put water from my glass in it. I just look at her like I can’t believe she can’t just get herself some damn water. I mean I’m the one with the asthma that has to wait a number of hours for the cold water (the Britta filter requires cold water use only) to warm up, and she is the one who is leaving for work in an hour. She says she’s in a hurry & has to take a shower & that’s why she can’t take the whole 60 seconds to fill her own cup of water. Finally I grab the water jugs & just fill them myself while she stands there talking to me about this water thing… and I’m like “I thought you were in a hurry.” GRRRRRR! Later she claims she didn’t know that my asthma is bothered by cold drinks. And yet we’ve been together almost six years. I mean really?!

    The other day I used a sticky note to write a cute message about rinsing and recycling the giant yogurt tub she finished off and had left in the kitchen sink for a WEEK & A HALF. And of course I thank her which is fine but I just don’t get how that’s okay to someone. If I don’t remind her to do something I either have to do it myself or live in filth. Usually I just do it myself. And yes she works full time so she is not home as much as me, but I have an autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, and just had a hysterectomy from endometriosis. And I go to school 3/4 time, but prior to this term went full time. And before I was in school full time I was working 32 hrs w/ school 1/2 time. I may be married to a woman, but it usually feels like I’m with a teenage boy on this issue. Even the spare room, which is used as her media room is a hot mess. She literally has clothes on the floor & a fake 6ft Christmas tree that is still up! Why does she want to live that way?

    Other than the housework stuff we have a really wonderful relationship. 90% of our fights have been on this issue & it’s been to the point where I’ve wanted to leave. I think what hard for me is that when we do our fair shares of the chores, it feels like were both investing in our space & making our home a nice love nest to be in. When the house is clean I feel more relaxed and more romantic. I mean who wants to get it on in a bed that hasn’t been changed for three weeks, or with dishes in the kitchen that stink? Anyway, I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  • Mia July 23, 2012, 1:50 pm

    I am so glad I stumbled upon this post. I recently realized that a lot of my resentment toward my husband is because of this issue. We have been married for 8 years and like a lot of people he was great before the kids. Now, 2 kids later he is a slacker. He helps but I feel like he could do a whole lot more. The idea of having to ask him feels like another chore. That is the hardest part: the getting over yourself for having to have to ask.

    Reply
  • Martha July 26, 2012, 5:05 pm

    After reading through the article and your blogs i sympathise with most of you who are struggling with spouses not commiting to sharing household chores. Since i married two years ago, i have found my husband to be a forever helping individual. Three years prior to our marriage and two years after, i can say it has been one hell of an adventure. Even with all our ups and downs, he never cease to amaze me with the enormous assistance of household chores. Probably his ex-army career had brought all of this prompt cleaning? I am his second wife and his two younger kids are living with us, daughter is in primary school while the son is in junior high school. We both work and we enjoy cooking breakfast and dinner together and cleaning up after every meal. Even though we didn’t discuss the rules of household chores, it’s simply put as, if he’s our chef for today’s meal practically means I am washing dishes and vice versa with kids helpin unless thay have tonnes of school tasks to do. Lucky for us – Household Chores is a Family Affair!!!

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  • Dude September 19, 2012, 1:09 pm

    Why is the solution always to get the man to do more chores? Why can’t the wife just do less? why do you all need the house to be museum spotless at all times? Why is it always the husband who has to change? I know I’m not a slob. If a space becomes to messy for me I clean it up, but because my wife is such a clean freak she is constantly nagging me to keep things up to her standards, and if i dont its like i “dont care about her” My question is why do I have to raise my standards? Maybe I genuinely do not care if things are a little messy, maybe I have more important things to concern myself with. When I lived on my own I kept things clean enough, and i could spend my time actually having a life. now all the sudden I have some person telling me I’m deficient all cause I don’t spend all my free time dusting and vacuuming. Maybe it’s you who should change your standards and look at the bigger picture. There is more to life than having a spotless house

    Reply
    • Helena October 10, 2012, 10:04 pm

      Dude,
      Thanks for a great comment! I was wondering all the way why no one understood that… Why not collect all the family together and discuss together what are everyone’s expectations? Part of them would be meals, clean clothes – but there is a lot of issues where not everybody wants to live up to the same standards. Why should the one whose standards are the most demanding be allowed to impose them on others? It may be her/his feeling comfortable depends on a spotless house – but catering for his/her comfort robs the comfort and the time of others. During my student years I had once a flatmate who knew her demands were higher than ours. We divided work according to the majority opinion, she bleached extra when she felt the need, she was happy and non-resentful with results, and so were we. In opposite cases, there was constant anger.
      In any case, goals that have been decided together for mutual benefit would be easier to accept.
      Personally I feel very uncomfortable when invited to visit in a spotless house, knowing the amount of screaming and tears it may have cost. I’d rather visit a naturally messy home where everybody welcomes me happily and without stress. And I live according to this principle, too.
      So, thanks again, Dude!

      Reply
  • Martha October 14, 2012, 9:40 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Dude and Helena. You both said it right! I must admit that I spend much of my time at home cleaning even after my husband has done the dishes and cleaning in the kitchen. On a Monday, going to work would be very stressful since my body has suffered from the stressful cleaning (yet an accomplishing one) over the weekend. I find it comforting to read that there is more to life than a spotless house!!!

    Reply
  • KRJ January 3, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Our youngest child will be 1 at the end of this month. His dad has given him 1 bath in the past year. This is just the tip of my iceberg. I am a partner at a lawfirm, work full time and do it all. I’ve given up on hoping that he will “help” someday with household chores. Unrealistic expectations only lead to disappointment.

    Reply
  • Reiki Toronto February 9, 2013, 11:56 am

    If you feel that you are doing most of the house work and you are starting to build resentment because of it, talk to your spouse sit her or him down and share how you feel and ask for help. If you don’t see a difference after that then that’s a whole other story all together and needs a different approach…

    Reply

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