One of the major friction points for young couples is managing the domestic duties to the satisfaction of both partners: cleaning, cooking, looking after the kids, gardening etc… Often these differences in expectations of domestic duties lead to fighting, resentment, loss of respect and disconnect.
One of my girlfriends says she can’t go out in the evening because her husband claims he can’t put their three and a half year old son to bed.
Another girlfriend, with a one year old daughter, says that her husband just doesn’t seem to see the mess in the house. He cares and is willing to help but only if asked very explicitly. He then positions it as “helping” her, opposed to doing his share of the domestic. It drives her crazy.
One of the ladies on Facebook vented the other day; “I asked my husband to baby sit our 16 month old daughter because I wanted to go out and cheer Brazil in their latest soccer game. My husband agreed, as long as I bathed and fed the baby dinner at 4 p.m. before I left. He says he can’t manage these activities.” Obviously she didn’t go…
The list can go on and on…
It seems that some men take a longer time step up to their new responsibilities as equal household owners and fathers. Some seems to be stuck in their bachelor days, unwilling to give up their carefree lifestyle.
Becoming a spouse and a parent comes with many new responsibilities. Spouses can come from different background, with different family traditions and belief systems about what’s important, appropriate and required. Often times we may not even consider these ‘differences’ important or think about them until the daily interactions of living together make them evident. I call it an adjustment phase where the couple stops copying their family home and create a household of their own.
So how to navigate this phase successfully?
Without creating too much fighting, resentment and without the feeling that you are becoming a housemaid, in addition to holding a full-time job and being a mum?
To be honest, I struggled with this one myself for many years. In the past it really poisoned our marriage. But on our way to learning relationship tools I learned a few distinctions that helped me. I am happy to be able to share few of them with you. I will use the male gender to describe a person who is slacking at home, but in many families, women can be equally as guilty.
I really don’t see the mess. I know it is hard to believe it when he says that, however we all have different standards. Let’s assume he is being honest with you, he thinks the place is pretty tidy. By making an attempt to see the situation from his point of view you express you respect to him instead of calling him a selfish, lazy liar.
You could say with “Honey, I know that we have different standards for keeping the place tidy, but I can’t relax until the kitchen is tidy and I really want to cuddle with you on the couch, could you please help me cleaning the kitchen?”
“Helping” your spouse
“He thinks he is helping me with the cleaning and the baby”. This one is infuriating to many women. He thinks that he is HELPING ME!? He doesn’t get that somebody has to clean the toilet, wash the dishes and clean the baby chair and it can’t always be me. The idea of a partnership in household duties can often be unclear and we can often fall into previous generational roles without being aware.
The reality is that the toilet is not going to appreciate your husband for cleaning it, neither will the dishes or the baby chair. Men are driven by significance and respect, they love making a difference. The baby is probably going to fuss during the nappy change, so not much appreciation there either.
Your man is thinking I better invest my time in things that can make a real difference in my family’s life. Work usually falls into this category.
Helping you and getting your respect and appreciation for his effort is something he can be proud of. You call it cleaning the house, he calls it helping you. The reality is that as long as the job is done who cares what you call it. Don’t let the differences of language become a barrier to a harmonious relationship. Remember to express your appreciation for your husband’s help. This is important to encourage continuous help, “I don’t know how could I manage without you! You are awesome!” This appreciation will in turn come back to you.
Say “Thank you”
He says, “You never appreciate my help, you always criticise the way I do things and you’re never happy. I can’t win.”
She says, “Why do I need to say thank you for taking the garbage out? I would never imagine asking you to thank me for doing the laundry!”
But wouldn’t it be nice if he did say “Thank you”? Express the same appreciation to your partner that you would like expressed to you.
Picture the following situation; you are in the shopping centre with a cart full of food and two children hanging from both sides of the cart. A stranger holds the elevator for you to make sure you don’t leave any screaming children behind. A simple act of kindness. Would you thank the stranger? You wouldn’t hesitate.
Treat you husband with the same kindness. Every time he helps YOU there is one less thing for you to do and more time to relax. So in reality you are grateful for his help. Say “Thank you darling for taking the garbage out”. Show your gratitude with a smile and even a little kiss.
Great men are not born, they are trained by patient, loving and supporting women who help them realise their greatness. Encourage your man’s kind and random acts of help with positive reinforcement; a smile, hug, kiss, or thank you so he starts linking pleasure and success to HELPING YOU.
Be patient and loving to yourself. Guiding the spouse takes time. Meanwhile to keep your crankiness level down make sure you do something fun and pleasurable for you every few days. A massage, yoga class, or coffee with a girl friend? Something as simple as a walk by yourself can feel good.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn new and more fulfilling ways to interact with your partner don’t hesitate to contact me.