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If your husband doesn’t help around the house, use this 5-stage approach

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Many women get incredibly frustrated when their husbands don’t do their fair share around the house.

Not only do women take on far more unpaid emotional labor than most men, but they generally have to take on the bulk of domestic chores as well.

Why does this happen? In our modern era of gender equality (or at least we hope it’s equal at this point), why is there still such an imbalance when it comes to chores and work around the house?

Aside from the advice in this article, you’d almost certainly benefit from one or two sessions with a relationship counselor. Getting expert input from a neutral source along with tips and strategies that are tailored to your unique circumstances is often the quickest way to put these problems behind you. To connect with a certified relationship counselor in your area (or one who works remotely), simply fill out this form.

It’s Difficult To Break Ingrained Habits

For thousands of years, domestic chores were considered “women’s work.” Men worked outside of the house, so hearth and home were the wife’s domain. She was generally responsible for cooking, cleaning, and the bulk of child rearing.

This dynamic exists around the world, and still holds sway in many places. Remember that women working outside the home has only become commonplace in the past 50 years.

Furthermore, depending on cultural upbringing, many families still have a partnership in which the woman is the default housekeeper.

If your husband was raised in a family where his mother took care of the domestic duties, that could go a long way to explain why he sits back and lets you take care of the housework.

After all, if he wasn’t raised with household chores and responsibilities on his plate, he probably just thinks that these things take care of themselves. This may be especially true if he’s living with a woman other than his mother for the first time.

He may simply place you in the mother/housekeeper role because that’s all he’s ever known.

He Likely Doesn’t Realize What He’s Doing (Or Not Doing)

Think about that last point for a moment.

If someone has been raised with a particular familial structure, and only ever witnessed that dynamic firsthand, it would be very difficult for them to conceive of anything but their own life experience.

You might relate this to a person who has been raised in a particularly religious household, where they’ve had no exposure to anyone of any other faith. They wouldn’t have learned of other faiths, nor had any idea that there are other religions out there. As a result, their minds are blown when they discover that people in other places believe differently than they do.

It kind of makes them short circuit a little bit because they have to consciously rewire everything they’ve ever known, everything they’ve ever been taught.

Now, relate that to a man who was raised in a home where mama did all the cooking and cleaning. Her husband and son(s) may never have participated in meal preparation: they just sat down to dinner when it was ready.

Laundry was thrown into a hamper, and appeared clean and folded in their closets. Carpets were always clean, beds were always made. Even if one of the men in the family offered to help, they may have been ushered out into the living room with coffee and a biscuit while mama kept the kitchen sparkling the way she liked it.

You may be feeling incredibly frustrated about this situation, but try to stay grounded and rational about it. 

It’s easy to get upset or passive-aggressive, but those approaches rarely help anything.

Instead, be proactive and rational. Nagging and whining will only shut your husband down, whereas a rational problem + solution approach is far more likely to result in real change.

So let’s move on to some of the ways you can change the household dynamic to something more equal.

1. Make A List

A lot of men do really well with visual cues rather than abstract concepts, so make a list.

Split a page of plain lined paper down the middle. In the first column, write down all the chores that need to be done at home, and I mean all of them. Meal prep, dish washing, laundry, bed making… you name it.

In the second column, write the name of the person who takes care of those chores more often than not.

Then sit down with your husband/partner and show them just how much each of you has been doing, and explain why there needs to be more of a balance.

Prepare yourself to meet instant resistance and defensiveness. From his perspective, he might be doing a lot, since he likely does far more housework than his father ever did. To him, he’s being proactive and a huge help around the house.

Try to be patient with him during this process, and explain your stance without being aggressive or over-emotional about it. If you’ve ever been in a management position at work, approach this conversation as you would with a colleague.

After all, the two of you are life partners, right? So approach this as a partnership of equals, with respect and efficiency.

2. Help Change His Perspective

Men who have grown up in the aforementioned type of household might be very proud of themselves for “helping out” with the housework.

They see it as the woman’s job, and that they’re being proactive, wonderful partners by doing what they feel is helping her with her workload.

You’ll come across something similar in reference to child care/rearing. Men might proudly talk about how they’re “babysitting” the kids that night because mom is out with her friends.

No, that isn’t babysitting; it’s parenting. It isn’t the mother’s job to take care of the kids on her own, so the other parent is stepping up and doing his share, not gallantly shouldering some of mom’s responsibility here.

The same goes for housework. If a person lives in a house, then it’s their responsibility to help care for it. Do they wear clothes? Then they need to wash them. Do they eat? Then they can do their fair share of the cooking and dishwashing.

It’s up to the two of you how you want to distribute household responsibilities, as long as you both end up taking care of things.

For example, one household might have delineated roles, in which the wife does most of the cooking, laundry, and vacuuming, while the husband takes care of the dishes, dusting, and garbage.

Those are established chores that need to be taken care of, and if they aren’t, then there’s a specific adult responsible for them who’s slacking off.

This is easier than just a free-for-all in which things get done “whenever”… mainly because they’ll inevitably get done by the person who’s been taking care of them forever.

Really drive home the fact that since both of you are living in this place, you both need to take care of it. Together.

3. Decide On A Fair Split Of Duties

When it comes to delineating different domestic chores and rules, it’s important to take all work aspects into consideration.

For example, if both of you work outside the house, but one works full-time and the other works part-time, then it makes sense for the part-time worker to take on more domestic chores.

If you’d like to keep things from getting stale, create a chore wheel, and spin it every weekend. This will create different chore schedules on a weekly basis, so one person isn’t stuck on vacuum or dishwashing duty forever.

Then, if any of the chores haven’t been taken care of, it’s very clear who hasn’t been pulling their weight.

It’s also important to remember that some chores take much more time and effort than others: not just because of frequency, but because of physical/mental labor.

For example, if only one person does all the cooking, this is an enormous task that needs to be done.

4. Get Extreme: Go On Strike

In a worst-case scenario, if you’ve already tried approaches like a chore wheel and/or assigned tasks and your husband is still slacking off, a stronger response might be necessary.

He might not realize just how much effort goes into making a household run smoothly. As such, he doesn’t understand what will happen if you stop picking up the slack that he keeps dropping.

So go on strike.

Only pick up after yourself, cook for yourself, do your own laundry.

If he freaks out because he doesn’t have any clean underwear or work shirts, point to the basket full of dirty laundry and insist that he wash them himself.

Does he complain that there’s nothing to eat, because he doesn’t know how to cook? Sorry, the “I don’t know how to cook” excuse doesn’t fly for anyone over the age of 20. Heck, there are enough recipes and YouTube tutorials out there for anyone to make a half decent meal.

There’s no shampoo or soap in the shower? Better go buy some. He’ll learn to be more aware of when toilet paper needs to be replaced as well.

Yes, there is a risk that these kinds of extreme measures may take a toll on your relationship. Hopefully you never have to resort to these, and your husband will step up and do his share without you going in full-on strike mode.

If, however, you do have to resort to this, then it may be worth the risk. His response to this situation may very well determine the course of the rest of your marriage:

Either he’ll realize just how much you have to do on a constant basis and step up, or he’ll pitch a fit at having to do his fair share, and want out. If it’s the former, then yay! You have an awesome, equal partner who loves and respects you enough to be an active member of the household.

If not, then at least you know now, and might spare yourself a lifetime of slavery, tending to someone else’s needs and whims day and night.

Important caveat: if your husband is abusive in any physical or emotional way, going on strike is not a good idea. It may lead to aggression or retaliation which might put your safety or well-being at risk. If this is the case, our article on leaving a toxic relationship might be one you want to read.

5. If You Have Children, Teach Them Differently

The best way to avoid the kind of resistance to housework and such that we discussed here is to nip those expectations in the bud. Namely, don’t raise your kids the same way that you (or your husband) were raised.

Get them started on chores very early. Show them that everyone takes part in all aspects of home and family maintenance, so they learn that as part of the family, they’re part of everything involved.

Your toddler might not be able to wash dishes, but they’ll happily help you add ingredients into mixing bowls (especially if they get to lick the spoon later). Is your pre-teen sullen at the idea of having to do any tidying? Give them incentives like greater allowance so they learn the value of their time and effort.

If kids grow up with the idea of personal household contribution as the norm, they’ll be much more prepared for independent adulthood once they’re out of the house.

And in turn, their partners won’t be anguished and frustrated by having to be mom2.0 either.

All Of This Applies To Any Gender Partnerships

One final, and very important note: although this article centers around the idea of a husband who doesn’t do his fair share around the house, this situation certainly isn’t limited to male partners.

There are plenty of situations in which a wife (or other partner) doesn’t do her fair share of the housework, and seems to expect others to take care of that for her. If this is the case, then the exact same approaches listed here will apply to her.

This may also be the case for older children in mixed relationships/partnerships. If you’ve married someone who already has kids from a previous marriage, you’ll likely encounter a similar kind of resistance to the one mentioned earlier.

You’ll get a whole lot of push-back and resistance – not to mention sullen behavior and mouthing off – if you try to get the kids to take on any household responsibilities. That will be worse if your husband/partner expects you to take on all the chores and is horrified by the idea of making his kids work around the house. If he never had to, why should they?

This is very difficult territory to negotiate. Yes, it’ll take patience and reasoning, but also a firm hand.

Still not sure what to do about your husband’s unwillingness to help around the house or with other duties? One or two sessions with a relationship counselor could help you tackle this precise issue so that you can move on and enjoy a happier and more fulfilling relationship. To connect with a certified relationship counselor in your area (or one who works remotely), simply fill out this form.

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