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Save this Marriage

Husband Doesn't Help Out

Husband Doesn't Help Out

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Question:

I and my husband both work full time outside of my home. We have three children, all school-age. We both come home from work at a similar time, but I find when I come home from work, I'm the one who cooks dinner, sets the table and cleans up after, in addition to taking care of all the laundry and many other household chores. The only household job that my husband readily takes responsibility for is the garbage, and changing light bulbs! I'm very unhappy with this division of labor and feeling exhausted from my jobs inside and outside of the home. How can I get my husband to help out more?

Overworked

Dear Overworked,

You resent that when you come home from "work," it's to start a second job. Whereas, when your husband comes home, he relaxes and plays. You feel it's not fair – and you're right.

Maintaining a family requires much effort and each partner—husband and wife—must make equal contributions. An equal contribution does not mean each must do the same thing. It means that the total effort should be approximately equal. Thus, hard and fast rules as to who does what and how much cannot be made. It's the "total" effort at the end of the day that counts. And if it is not balanced—there will be resentment.

From your question, I understand that outside work is equal, but the housework is not. Your resentment is justified and must be corrected. If it is not, it can cause conflict and spread to otherwise healthy areas of your relationship. You are smart wanting to address this injustice.

Here are four steps on how to communicate to your husband your feelings:

1. Request a meeting. Tell your husband you have something important to discuss with him and request a time to talk. Select a time when you won't be interrupted by the phone or the children. Tell him you won't need more than ten or twenty minutes. If it goes beyond this amount of time it will likely lead to an argument. If you need more time, then request a second meeting.
Resistance. If your husband won't agree to talk, or agrees and then doesn't follow through, tell him in just a few sentences something like this: "Tom (replace with the correct name), I resent your insensitivity to my feelings. I want to talk and you are ignoring me. I feel distant from you and the longer this goes on the more apart we will become. I hope we can avoid this." Hopeful he will get the message and sit down and "talk."

2. Calmly describe your feelings. If you are angry—don't talk. Request another time. Why? Because if you are angry, your husband will only react to the "anger" and not the legitimacy of your point. He will not hear your request for "fairness." Your anger can trigger return anger from him. Your will end up arguing and accomplishing nothing. Without anger, express your feelings by talking about yourself. For example: "I feel it is not fair that I do most of the housework; I resent that while I am cleaning the kitchen and bathing the kids you are reading or talking to friends on the phone." Make sure you stay on topic. Avoid discussing other areas of discontent.
Resistance. If you find your husband becoming defensive, arguing or explaining himself, tell him to listen for a couple of minutes without interruption, and then it will be his turn to talk to you.

3. Tell your husband what you want. Now is your time to be assertive and say what you want. Avoid saying what you don't want. Stating what you want is always more powerful than saying what you don't want. Saying what you want is clear, decisive, and unambiguous.
Resistance. If your husband will not accept your feelings or denies your request for equality, tell him: "Tom, if you ignore my needs and feelings, I am going to feel distant from you. This is not how we want our marriage to be. I think we can do better."

4. Negotiate a plan. Assuming your husband is with you at this point, together make a "plan of action" that expresses your agreement to share equally the housework. Write it down so there is no misunderstanding.
Resistance. If you sense your husband is not sincere in his commitment to cooperate, suggest a follow-up time to discuss the implementation of your "plan of action." This will inform your husband that you are serious and that you intend to hold him accountable.

I sincerely hope your efforts will achieve the success you are seeking. If you run into a snag, likely you are having a problem with one of the above four steps. Reread it and try again at another time. Don't give up or get angry. If all your efforts lead to disappointment, get help from a trusted and competent advisor.

Wishing you and your family the best.

Rabbi Avrohom Kass, M.A., R.S.W., R.M.F.T.


Rabbi Avrohom Kass, M.A., R.S.W., R.M.F.T., is a registered Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He has authored 18 educational books and he has a busy counseling practice in Toronto, Canada. For more information visit his personal web site or his Family Services site.
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Discussion (7)
April 28, 2008
to francois
Thank you for responding to those comments the way you did. A proper, reasoned response was needed, and I for one, was truly unable to fill that need.

I said previously that paying a third party keeps me unresentful. Part of the reason for my lack of resentment is that that friend husband and I keep some money separate. The wages for the housekeeper come from his funds, not mine. I do the work, he pays someone to do his share for him.
Sarah Masha
w. bloomfield, mi/usa
April 25, 2008
Re: What about the Jewish home?
a) The ketubah makes no mention whatsoever about the woman's responsibilities to the house or husband. To the contrary, the ketubah details the husband's responsibilities to his wife. To see the full text of the ketubah with English translation go to www.chabad.org/532557.

b) The "tradition" you mention -- whether worthy or not -- was not necessarily a Jewish one, but was universal. In today's time, however, most families cannot make ends meet on one salary alone, and as such the "tradition" has adapted to changing needs. It would be foolish to think that as the woman's role has evolved and taken on additional responsibility, that the man's role should remain the same.
Francois
Tolouse, France
April 22, 2008
What about the Jewish Home?
I understood that according to the Ketuba and tradition, it is the woman's job to keep the home and take care of the children. I think think is so regardless of whether or not the woman works. This may seen "unfair" but in Judaism the division of labor is clear--men make parnassa, women take care of the home. If a woman works, she should either take the responsiblity for doing the housework herself or hiring (if she has a job) someone else to clean.

I was taught that if a woman is unhappy about having "two jobs" she simply should not work or use money from that job to hire help. She is still the akeres habayis whether she stays home or not
Anonymous
March 26, 2008
Before Getting Married
Even though this particular advice is not for those already married I feel it is imperative to mention that this type of discussion should take place before a man and a woman are married.
I have always wanted a partner not a master. If I get serious with someone this is something we discuss.
Anonymous
florida
March 4, 2008
One of the crucial things to keep in mind is the character of the parties involved. We dont know what kind of relationship this couple has. Sometimes, men feel that house work, on top of a regular job, is the duty of a woman and are unwilling to budge. This does not make him a bad husband. It just means she should try to approach this in a way that she knows will make her husband listen. How you may ask?
With words of encouragement and love..She should tell him that she appreciates everything he has done for the family and for her (even if she may feel that he is not doing enough). She needs to touch upon his positive traits and contributions to the family and the home before she gets into the mechanics of what she wants him to do. Men respond better when there is positive reinforcement and gentle encouragement rather than an aggressive stance. If he does not want to help, then she should ask him for suggestions. She can then build her own ideas on top of his as if it came from him.
Anonymous
Fresh Meadows, NY
March 3, 2008
I suggest that a third path might be available. Yes, these tasks need to be done, and not all by one person.
In the discussion the topic of perhaps hiring someone to do some of the work should be on the table. My husband does very little (no) housework, and I do about half. A housekeeper twice a week keeps me sane, and unresentful, even though my husband still doesn't clean anything.

I have also experienced and have seen something the lady may have to think about. Your husband will not do things your way. If the floor is clean (well, cleaner than it was) who cares if he mopped the way you wanted it done? If it is clean enough that is satisfactory. My suggestion is also to let him do more child care. Let him be a Dad. My husband won't clean, but child care was irresistible! (Child is 19 now.) Again, don't "manage" it. They will form their own relationships, and those relationships will be stronger without you getting in the way.

This problem is not impossible.
Sarah Masha
W Bloomfield, MI USA
March 2, 2008
Equal Effort
I think you overlook several possibilities that "overworked" needs to look at before she takes you recommended course of action:

1. Is there possibly a health issue (probably undiagnosed) which makes him tired and less willing to take on household chores?

2. They come home at the same time, but when does he leave? If she gets to sleep an extra hour in the morning (or even less), it could make a huge difference.

3. What is the stress level at both jobs? Some jobs are far more stressful than others.

4. What about childcare? Everything from staying home when the children are sick, dealing with teachers, to homework, story time and just "being there".

Even if it turns out that all of these items don't pertain here, it is important that she gives them serious thought. If they do pertain, then not doing so is a recipe for disaster.
Anonymous
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Rabbi Avrohom Kass, M.A., R.S.W., R.M.F.T., is a registered Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He has authored 18 educational books and he has a busy counseling practice in Toronto, Canada. For more information visit his personal web site or his Chabad Family Services site.
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