Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Won't Help at all Around the House

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license:
A reader wrote in recently quoting on of my posts:

“We tend to clean the house when we see what needs doing. Men don’t work the same way. So if you ask him for a specific task, he’s more likely to do it.”

She then added, What about when you give him something specific (like “take out the trash” or “unload the dishes”) and it doesn’t get done until it gets out of hand (and then you end up doing it because you can’t stand stepping over the trash anymore, or having the dishes pile up in the sink)?

I think this is a connundrum many women have, and I’d love if we could discuss how to help! Now one warning: Often when I throw out questions like this, someone will say, “you need to recognize how much he DOES do, how hard he works outside the home, or how much yard work he does, etc. etc.” I completely agree. Many men do a ton of work that isn’t housework, and do contribute a ton of hours to the household.

But let’s assume for a minute that she does, too. And what she is saying is, “I don’t want the house to be 100% my responsibility. I think a person can clean up after themselves, or can contribute a little bit when we all live in the same house.”

Then what?  Any thoughts?


  1. I really don’t know what to say. It’s the opposite situation in our house. My wife has a much higher clutter tolerance than I do.
    I’m not saying there’s dirty dishes anywhere or dirty clothes anywhere. However, she tends to just forget to put things away that she just used or turn lights off when she’s done doing something. By the way, we have four children so there’s always clothes, books, toys etc cluttering the livingroom. I can’t say I’m thrilled with it but I’ve learned to accept it. I just put away the cookbooks, containers, dishes etc. If something is terribly dirty like a toilet or window or counter or sink etc, she’ll rarely notice.
    I suspect what you’re looking for is involvement in tasks, not an even split. This shows up in either of asking the other to ‘pour the milk’ or ‘put bread on the plates’. We need to ask each other to do it. That’s fine. It would be nice if we could read each others’ minds and know what we want done but that will never happen. If your husband really feels that you are 100% responsible for all of the housework, that’s something you have to talk to him about.
    This next bit isn’t in response to that, but I would take any studies that show one partner does all or most of the housework with a big grain of salt. Having read up on this and seen other more comprehensive studies show frequently the man ends up with less free time on his hands in spite of not doing exactly 50% of what’s considered housework. The more comprehensive studies looked beyond the regular housework at repairs, projects etc which aren’t regular but still quite time-consuming. Too often studies are done with the goal of vindicating feelings, not figuring out what is actually happening.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Eric I can’t speak for studies or even other people, but repairs, projects, even yardwork etc is something I include as part of the housework and (at least amongst my friends) many women do too.

      In the house I grew up in, my mum did all repairs and projects, and before my slightly younger brother and I were teenagers, my mum also did all the yardwork. Once we became teenagers we did the yardwork as (very lowly) paid chores. Once we moved out and my little brother and sister were too cheap/lazy to do it, and my dad … well basically too lazy…. they started paying teenage family friends to do it. And no one can jump to my dad’s defense about being too busy working… he hasn’t worked full time since I was 12 (the year he turned 40) and hasn’t worked at all since before he turned 50. Not through health problems but because he is quite happy living off welfare and can’t be bothered getting a job. He has found a loophole in welfare with studying part time and never finishing his course (changing majors every year) so he can keep getting welfare until he hits retirement age in 4 years and can claim an old age pension. Which is really sad – because he also constantly grumbles about doing the tiniest bit of housework too. All he does is go to university around 12 hours a week, less than 30 weeks a year.

      But anyway, got a little distracted. Most of the married women I know are very handy around the house. Most have lived alone before getting married, and some are widows/divorcees who spent years as single mums, and all of them are used to repairs and yardwork being part of “housework” so any %-split of the “housework” includes those repairs and yardwork so their husbands don’t have those excuses for their time being consumed. Also, many of them do paid work – some of them do more paid work than their husbands – and do all of the looking after the children as well.

      I’m not trying to cause a gender fight – I know a lot of families where the woman is mega lazy too so I’m not saying men are bad and women are good. What I am saying is there are a LOT of households where the overall share of the work (paid, house and yard) is not even close to even and it would be great if all women and all men worked harder to even the load of their partners.

      I know how you feel about your wife not noticing things… my husband doesn’t notice til things get totally filthy – and then when he suddenly does notice, he wants them totally spotless :(

  2. ButterflyWings says:

    This is one I struggle with because I have many health issues I simply can’t do all the housework. I couldn’t do it before I was married when I only had myself and my daughter to look after and often had to pay someone to come and help or was saved by sheer miracles (eg when my house was at it’s worst, I got notice to move out because the house was being knocked down and the landlord said not to bother cleaning it at all).

    Now with a third person in the house and a daughter with autism who has no idea how to clean up even after herself no matter how much I try to teach her, I can’t do it – and I can’t pay anyone to help us do it because 1. we have no money and 2. my husband always insists that “things aren’t that bad, we should be able to do it ourselves and if you’re too exhausted or in too much pain, I’ll do it”. But he doesn’t!

    I’ve been very well unwell for over a week now and there is four laundry hampers FULL of dirty clothes because without me doing it, it doesn’t get done. My husband will sometimes wash up his own plate and glass after a meal, but other than the load of dishes I did a few days ago and washing saucepans as I need to use them to cook, nothing else has been washed up. The rubbish hasn’t been taken out in a week (and he knows I can’t do that). I’m at my wits end. I”m already feeling depressed from the combination of a bad episode of my fibromyalgia playing up, and the sudden cold weather (southern hemisphere so we’re going into winter) is making my arthritis and other pain problems really bad (and he’s too cheap to let me run the heater even though I’ve tried explaining I get severe cramps in my injured leg and back and if it gets any worse I’ll have to go to hospital).

    He knew I had health problems when we got married last year, and he knew that moving us 800 miles south this year would mean winters would set off my health problems even worse and he has kept promising he’ll help but seems to do even less the more time goes on. I do appreciate he works hard in his job (mentally not physically) and supports my daughter and I when my exhusband is such a deadbeat that he only pays literally a few dollars a month in child support but I desperately need his help around the house.

    What makes me the most frustrated is the one job of housework I struggle with most is washing the dishes. I can’t stand in one spot for more than 2-3 minutes because of leg and back injuries, finding a high chair and sitting is even worse because it sets off my back injury (actually just standing over the sink involves leaning and sets off my back injury bad enough), and because I have a wrist and hand that is smashed up inside and waiting on surgery, simple things like holding dishes is agony (and I keep dropping them) and scrubbing them is impossible so anything that needs scrubbing I can’t do at all (no strength in my wrists), and swapping hands isn’t possible because I am yet to find a one handed way to do the dishes, and even if I could, both hands are riddled with carpal tunnel, guyans tunnel, an inflammatory condition that is causing both of those and other issues, and arthritis which is getting severe as the weather gets colder. Before I got married, I had an electric dishwasher – it was the only way I could do the dishes – but my husband won’t let me set it up in our kitchen. Just says he’ll do the dishes. So the dishwasher sits outside in the rain and frost (and soon enough snow too) and our dishes just pile up to the point where I’m having panic attacks. He was doing the dishes about once every week or two, but he just got more and more and more resentful and now he doesn’t do them at all.

    I have tried to do them, but it involves taking high doses of strong painkillers with awful side effects – before starting and for several days after. My painkillers are expensive and doing so much damage to my body – and to take them when simply setting up our electronic dishwasher would solve the problem just seems so wasteful – not to mention they only dull the pain, they don’t stop it.

    I do understand why he gets resentful about being the one to do the majority of the dishes, but there is a solution that solves it easily that means neither of us has to wash up – install my electric dishwasher. But he just repeatedly keeps insisting he’ll do the dishes – and rarely does, and when he does do them he gets so resentful. He is getting more and more resentful as time passes – I never hid my health problems from him before we got married – in fact I did the opposite – I showed him the absolute worst they could be so if he wanted to run away, he could before we got married. But now we are married and things are getting worse.

    • I’m sorry Butterfly Wings that you feel the way you do. I couldn’t help but reply to your comment. I am studying to be a naturopath and it seems that your conditions may be caused because your body is too acidic. I recommend you see a naturopath, I know it can cost a bit but I suspect that they will be able to help your condition improve. I am sorry if this reply is not wanted but I have a passion for helping people and I feel so saddened when I hear of people being unwell. God bless you my sister.

      • ButterflyWings says:

        Thanks Loubie. I have auto immune problems… a naturopath may help. It’s in my “to do when we have money” list. Same with going back to a chiropractor and seeing the medical specialists I need to see.

        I’m pretty sure though a naturopath can’t help with my long term injuries which is a big part of the problem. Although if you think it could, I’d love to know.

  3. I don’t know what to say to that because my husband never did anything around the house. He went to work and came home and watched TV or played video games and expected everyone else to do all the house work. In fact he told me he thought it was mine and our twelve year old daughters responsibility to keep the house in order. I let him get away with it for many years and he has now decided after fifteen years of marriage to move out.

  4. I had this problem a lot at the beginning of my marriage. I worked full time and my husband went to school full time. He was home much more than I was. I hated leaving a clean house and coming home to a messy house. We tried a lot of things and finally came up with a honey-do list. I made a list of things that needed to be done and put it on the fridge. When he had time he would do things and cross them off. This way he knew what to do, and I didn’t have to nag.
    It’s years later and we don’t have that list anymore, he knows that anytime he has a chance he can clean up stuff, vacuum, do dishes or clean a bathroom, and I can keep the rest done. It’s all about finding what works for you.

  5. My husband is pretty good about helping me out. He works full time and does all the laundry. Mainly cause my knees are too site to walk up and down two flights each way. If I ask for help he never minds. I try not too cause he works so hard all week. I try to keep a nice clean home and create healthy sustainable foods. But there are times I can’t keep up. And often I don’t have to ask him.

  6. I used to feel that I was the only one cleaning and that my husband did nothing.The Lord has been changing my heart about this matter. His daily job now is to turn on the dishwasher after the dishes are done (we have one that is portable, not a built in and it a pain because you have to hook it up to the sink) We have many days that dishes don’t get done and we are washing coffee cups by hand in the morning, but he does turn it on eventually. As long as all the dishes are out of the sink, I am ok with that. I stopped nagging about other things and just ask him to do one thing at a time and once he finishes that I give him another job. If I ask him to mop the floor and it takes him a week to do it, I have decided just to let him do that instead of worrying about it. I don’t nag, but I do tell him when I feel that it is getting out of hand or if I am being inconvenienced. I don’t ask him to do things that need to be done daily other than the dishes. He gives the kids a lot of jobs to do which used to bother me because I wanted HIM to help out, but the Lord showed me that my dh is the leader of our home so let him lead. The chores get done and the kids are learning responsibility.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Can anyone make suggestions on how to get a hubby to help without resentment around the house when you literally cannot do it yourself due to illhealth, and everything is so disastrous that it’s a serious health hazard?

      The frustrating thing is the mess isn’t a hazard to my husband…. if he trips on things, it’s no big deal. But I have so many injuries and arthritis that a small trip can put me in hospital. I’m waiting on surgery to my knee and wrist and may also have to get surgery on my ankle, back and other knee. I can’t take the mess anymore. I’m having panic attacks nearly every day out of fear of being seriously hurt tripping on things. Not to mention the dirty dishes and clothes everywhere are a hygiene hazard.

      I have no idea what to do. I’m doing all I can but it feels like I’m drowning.

  7. We have a version of this problem at our house, too, though not quite as extreme it seems. My husband will talk the talk of sharing tasks, but rarely walks the walk (he will do a few things SOMETIMES). I don’t have an overall solution, but I took one step that really helped me feel like I had some control. My husband would rarely put his clothes in the hamper. I felt like such a maid, doing his dishes, his laundry, his cleaning, etc., etc., while he played computer games and watched movies. After so many talks, I finally very calmly told him one day that I would no longer pick up his laundry. If he got it in the hamper, I would wash it, but it was his job to get it in the hamper. He didn’t start putting his clothes in the hamper, but I had set a limit I felt good about (whereas, I would never have felt good about putting dirty dishes on his side of the bed), and I felt a little more self-respect.

    I also started saying no to more of his requests for help (which were plenty). If I was too busy taking care of the house and our child, I would gently say I didn’t have time. If I did have time, I would help, but I became more liberal with “No.” He didn’t like it and didn’t feel supported. He also didn’t change his unhelpful behaviors. But again, I felt more self-respect and less like a maid.

    It seems a conversation about the dynamic is essential. Does he see the discrepancy? Does he care? Does he expect his full time job to be enough? If he’s at least got the idea to share the tasks, there may be reasons for the actions not following suit. For my husband, there was a lot of depression and anxiety. I have tried and tried to pray for charity, for the ability to forgive, to know how to be supportive, to know when to say things and when to keep quiet. I have not always done so well at that, but my love has increased, and my forgiveness, too. More recently, some health problems have compelled him to turn to the Lord and deal with his emotions, and he is finally showing more investment in our marriage and family.

    The truth is, we can’t make our spouses change. But I think setting some limits and taking better care of myself helped me immensely (I did therapy for two years, too), and turning to the Lord for strength, love, and forgiveness were essential. Also, praying that the Lord would work with him and that I would trust the Lord through the process, whatever it entailed, seemed very important.

  8. happywife says:

    I know this is going to induce some eye rolls, but here’s what I suggest. Determine for 30 days to not say a word about undone chores. If the trash is full, and he doesn’t respond to a gently spoken request, then take it yourself, etc. Instead, spend the next 30 days enthusiastically initiating lovemaking every 2-3 days. No guarantees, but you might start to see hubby cheerfully pitch in more around the house.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      HAHAHA I WISH! My husband sees “lovemaking” nearly as big a chore as taking the rubbish out. It’s the other way around – if I could find a way to magically have all the housework done I might get sex twice a week instead of once a week – maybe some weeks.

      • happywife says:

        Yes, I realized in writing that out that there are husbands who are as lazy and uninterested about lovemaking as taking our the trash, so I wasn’t claiming sex as a cure-all. But, for the wife who has turned her focus toward mothering him rather than being his lover, she needs to think about that.
        I’m sorry for your situation. It breaks my heart to see women not being cherished by their husbands. I’ll say a quick prayer for you today. Bless you.

        • ButterflyWings says:

          I didn’t mean to imply he doesn’t cherish me. He does in his own way. He just thinks sex once a week is plenty and twice a week is excessive (and the counsellor we’ve been seeing has only cemented that idea in his head).

          He’s not trying to be lazy, he’s just totally disorganised. I think too that he’s depressed. Actually I KNOW he’s depressed and he knows it but he’s a lot more depressed than he’ll admit to himself but won’t do anything about it which drives me nuts.

          • happywife says:

            eek, time to find a new counselor! My husband suffers depression as well, and fortunately he was willing to seek help and get on medication. He sill has issues, but what a difference medication has made.

          • happywife says:

            so sorry Butterflywings. My heart goes out to you. Pray, pray pray. God can work in mysterious ways.

          • ButterflyWings says:

            Thanks happywife. For now, (as well as praying) I’m trying to find an affordable counsellor, as well as encouraging my husband to find a mentor within the church. I’m looking for one too, just it’s a little harder as I’m new to this church and he’s been attending it for three years. I’m hoping with a little more time I’ll find a lovely older woman who is happy to be a mentor. For now though, I’m building relationships with the pastor’s wife and our bible study leader’s wife who are both my age and are very kind and understanding.

  9. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    Hubby does all the outside work, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, trimming the hedges, shoveling the snow in the winter so I do all the inside stuff. I think that’s a fair trade off! Hubby does do his own laundry, and his mothers(who lives with us at 89 yrs old) too. I do mine and our son’s.

    I wouldn’t want to shovel snow. and my allergies don’t allow for gardening or pulling weeds.

  10. My husband and I have found a balance that works for us. I have learned that my husband isn’t a carbon copy of me, so he’s not always going to do everything the exact same way I would or when I would like it done. Generally, my husband is really good about helping out with housework even when I don’t ask. In return, I help him without him asking me for help on other things that he’ll usually take care of — such as shoveling.

    If I do need to ask for help with something, I always make sure to say “please” when asking him to help me with something and “thank you” when we’re finished. Surprisingly, saying these simple words — and actually meaning them — truly does make a difference. Also, I don’t give my husband daily “jobs” or “chores” that need to be done. When I did that early on in our relationship, he felt as though I was trying to be his mother, so I stopped.

    As in all aspects of marriage, communication is key in this area!

    • I agee with you about saying “Please.” I also find my husband is more than willing when I phrase my request for help to let him know he is helping me out. When I say something like I expect him to do it or like it’s only his job, he is less willing, but when I say, “Can you please help me with …?” he jumps to be my rescuer. :-)
      Angela recently posted…With all my heart?My Profile

  11. Anonymous says:

    If there is one thing the Bible and the world teaches us it is:
    1) there are plenty of sinful and selfish MEN & WOMEN in the world
    2) Men & women are very much different and have very different needs
    3)Even when a man or woman is not selfish in general if their needs aren’t being meet frequently they will react in some way…and this is where communication comes in.

    There are two ways to tackle everything, spiritually and practically. First, you need to find out if he believes he is responsible for this…even in Christian circles you’ll find mixed results. I in fact do believe if the husband works and the wife is a stay at home wife the inside of the home (NOT the outside)is her responsbility. That said, I help out because I know my wife is giving me her all and I want her to treat me better than what is expected also so she also gets my all and I go above and beyond. Second, pray. Third, make sure she is meeting his needs. This obviously is not a clean house, but is there a possiblity he has one or two things she is ignoring that are just as important to him or even more important. You can laugh at happy wife all you want but I want two things out of marriage, sex (3+ times a week) and to be treated like the head of the house. Given those two things I will go to the end of the world to make my wife happy with almost no exception. So that’s #3. If things don’t turn around after that pray more. If you are the most important thing to him & he feels like that then he won’t want to hurt you unless he is a lout as Sheila says. Never discount that…sounds like a great many of you married them. Lastly, hire a housekeeper and realize in this area you may be in for years of struggle before/if he realizes he is indeed hurting you…sad but many times this isn’t as easy as 1,2,3….

    • I wrote earlier about a honey do list and wanted to clarify. My version is just a list of things that generally need to be done. It rarely was specific on a day to day basis- that wouldn’t work for us. Part of why it works for us is my husband grew up in a dirty house and didn’t recognize what needed to be done.

    • Let me explain better. My husband is unquestionably the leader of our family. I choose to submit to him because I trust him implicitly. I am able to completely trust him because he never acts out of ego. He is motivated by love for me and our children, not out of a need to be treated with respect. We have been married 25 years and not once has he referred to himself as the head of the household, the leader, or insisted that I submit to his authority. He is so quietly and completely competent, strong, loving and trustworthy that all that goes without saying. He earns so much respect, at home and at work, just by being who he is.

      • It’s like that with my husband now, too. He never asserts power over me, but I do respect his opinions on things because he wants the best for me and the best for us. Also, I attempt to follow his wisdom on things, and to act out of respect for him, because he is very wise and is a great balance to me because I very often (ok, usually) have a tendency to speak and act without thinking first. I’m working on that, but it’s difficult because I’ve been that way since I was a kid. He knows exactly when I’m about to say something that I haven’t thought through, before it even comes out, so he stops me and says, “Is this really something you need to be saying right now?” And that helps me to stop and think about it first. I love that about him.

      • Anonymous says:

        (editor’s note: This comment has been deleted because it is attempting to revive an argument that I have already deleted. As I stated in my comment, I am happy to have people give PRACTICAL answers to the Reader Question, but I am not willing for this blog to devolve into an argument, and that is what this thread was becoming).

  12. I think it depends on the situation. If both husband and wife work outside the home, obviously the husband has to do some of the housework. My husband does the yard work, which is May through the end of September where we live. The inside housework is all year round. We both work on our special projects. My feeling is we both live in this house and eat the food and wear clothing and work outside the home, so I feel we are equally responsible in theory for the housework. In practice, I probably do more than my fair share because I do all the food shopping, preparing, cooking and most of the kitchen clean up and I do about 95% of the laundry. I don’t think you can really expect things to be fair within a marriage and still have a happy one. Over the years we have found a combination that works for us.

    When we were first married I worked 65 hours a week and he worked as much or maybe more. He expected me to do everything around the house. I hired a housekeeper to come in and clean once a week. That worked, too.

  13. My husband and I have different standards of clean. When we married and I moved in I worked hard to get things uncluttered and clean. Messes cause me stress, but they don’t bother my love. I sat down and calmly told him that the clutter and mess were causing me stress and that I felt unappreciated. I told him he could make me feel more loved by just cleaning up after himself, and I would do the rest. He slowly started picking up the habits, and I praised and thank him for every little thing. Now he does plenty and thanks me for every little thing. We both work at it and both feel loved and appreciated. Once we had a clean house for a while, he realized how much more he enjoys being in a clean home, too. As far as the list… I always have lists for things, so I make a list of chores I would like to get to that week. Often he will have some time and do them for me. I would not recommend a honey do list bc no one likes to feel like a child with chores, but a list that you can both do when you have time might work.

  14. I have to say, both my guy and I are equally bad at cleaning. There are things that we do well, but I think we both get overwhelmed easily, so when there’s something big (for example, he just cleaned out the storage unit that has housed most of his past for the last several years, so now he has tons of stuff in the tiny apartment that he needs to go through), neither one of us knows where to start or how to go about it! Laundry, vacuuming and sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning things like the counters and toilet, those sorts of things are easy. But, the thing is that he has spent a lot of the past few years living by himself while very depressed, so things always got really bad. In which case I wasn’t much help either because I was overwhelmed too.

    I keep trying to start doing flylady, and I do well for awhile, then something happens and I’m overwhelmed again. I have no idea how the apartment is going to get even remotely acceptable after all of the things from the storage unit were unloaded. I mean, we had to do it, because we can’t keep paying for a storage unit with the new car payment, and we couldn’t throw all of it away. Some of it, but not all of it. And I don’t know what in the world to do with it because it’s all his stuff. I don’t even know what to do with my stuff most of the time – I have finally started donating tons and tons of clothes just to simplify!

  15. I realise that this was posted in a secular publication but I cannot divest the Bible from everyday life. If both spouses are trying (I know both will fail) to live as a Christian couple then most of the problems will be solved. My wife has health issues which make some housework impossible for her. She is God’s gift to me and I am trying to love her in a Christlike manner so I do what is necessary to keep the house in order. No big deal. After all she is the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I recall that our vows included ‘for better or worse’. I said to her mother as we went off on our honeymoon, “I’ll look after her now”. My dear mother-in-law died many years ago but that promise is still as valid today as the day I spoke the words to her.

  16. This is so perfect for me. I feel like I’m in the exact same situation! Just this morning, I felt ready to leave my husband because I just can’t take his irresponsibility. I can’t imagine adding the responsibility of having a child, because I know I would end up taking full responsibility. Our landlord nearly kicked us out of our apartment because he saw the mess in our apartment while installing a new window. I can’t take it anymore. I actually work outside the home more than he does, but he never does chores. We have tried many different things, including chore lists, gentle reminders, me leaving his chores undone for weeks despite how much it bothers me, and we’ve been seeing marital counselors for about a year. This isn’t our only problem, either. He often talks about goals, but never follows through. He hasn’t been doing the assignments given by our current counselor. I am so fed up, and I am sick of feeling like his maid/mother. I moved out for about a month and a half at the beginning of the year because of all this, and I feel like this is our second chance. Still, he hasn’t changed at all. I know it’s not because he doesn’t love me or doesn’t value our marriage, but he is so addicted to video games and MTG and tv that he has trouble prioritizing. He doesn’t even admit that he’s addicted to these games, even though he will play them all day or all night, sometimes giving himself a migraine that forces him to miss work. I am so frustrated, and starting to believe that there is nothing I can do. We can’t change our husbands, but we can choose to be married to someone who puts our marriage as a top priority. I see household chores as very important to a marriage, because it makes the home more organized, less stressful, and when chores are done in a timely manner then everyone has time to spend time together.

    • Becca J. says:

      As I read your post, I thought – did I write this and forget?!
      But the timeline is a few months off from what I’ve been going through in my marriage.

      I am currently pregnant and we are doing a “theraputic separation” as described by our Christian counselor. We were on the verge of divorce (my husband wants out period. I believe God has called us to honor our vows despite frustrations…better or worse – we’re just in the worse part for the last year +!).

      I physically should not be mowing the lawn (we have steep hills) or lifting heavy things…and even though we’re separated and he doesn’t live in our house with our son and me, part of the agreement of the separation is that we do family dinners 3x a week so he is there about half the time (outside of work). And yet, I am finding myself feeling like a mom/maid more and more!

      I have been seeing a counselor for personal things and learning boundaries in addition to attending sessions with my husband with a marriage counselor.
      Here is what I’ve been learning: I cannot change my husband. I am not responsible to TEACH him things.
      I’m living in the house and it bugs me beyond belief that 1. he isn’t helping out AT ALL and 2. I’m STILL picking up after him!
      I am responsible for ME. For my feelings and my thoughts (“take every thought captive”).
      So I pick up the areas of the house where I need to enough so I can relax and live more peacefully and I have a box in our office that is for things I find of his that are lying around. That way, I can close the door to that room (I don’t spend a lot of time in there at all) and I can get “his mess” out of sight and out of mind enough for me to be able to relax.
      As for the lawn & other “bigger” jobs that I can’t do right now (weight limit of 15lbs lifting because of issues during pregnancy), I have reached out to my church and my family that lives close by. When my brother or a kid from the youth group has a spare afternoon, they come over and my lawn gets mowed once a week. I don’t have a lot of money so I bake them cookies or make them something as a “thanks”
      I can’t promise your husband will change. You need to trust that God is working on his heart and pray that God also works on your heart to be open to the godly changes and be ready to encourage your husband when they start showing up – even in the slightest.

      God bless!

  17. Going back to the original question and the parameters/assumptions you (Sheila) stated…

    What wasn’t clear to me was whether the husband in question really has no intention of helping around the house or whether he just doesn’t see what needs to be done. Believe me, I’m married to the second type! He really doesn’t see it, and I’m not sure he can learn to. He grew up in chaos and was never taught how to keep anything orderly. On the upside, he is usually willing to help out and doesn’t mind an occasional honey-do list, if presented nicely 😀

    Honestly, though, he’s probably never going to notice dishes in the sink, stinky garbage, piles of laundry, etc. and take care of any of that without being prompted. It just isn’t in his wiring. I have to ask him specifically each time I would like his help, and generally indicate that the help is needed now or give a short time frame.

    I’ll tell you what, though, it has been a huge motivation to me in training our three sons. I’m not trying to feminize them, and make them little Suzy Homemakers, by a long shot. But they’re likely to live on their own at some point in the not-too-distant future, and there are basic skills they need to have – how to do simple cooking, how to wash and fold laundry, how to clean a bathroom, etc. I don’t think I’ve gone overboard (!) but I’m trying to develop in them an appreciation for an orderly home, and the skills to make it happen.

    Frankly, my husband works (for pay), and I don’t. I view the homefront as primarily my responsibility, as well as a training ground for the boys. If I worked outside the home, that balance would undoubtedly shift.

    Good luck 😀
    Julie recently posted…Scatterday and SundayMy Profile

  18. Reading. Oundaries in marriage might help,

  19. When my husband and I first got married, we discussed household chores….Because I had to move to be with him…I had no job…we discussed that because he worked and I didn’t…that the household chores were my responsibility…and I was perfectly fine with that…it’s an even trade in my mind…But once I started working full-time, the household chores were done by both of us…and that included getting up in the middle of the night for fussy babies too….We would just alternate nights, so that one of us would get a full night’s sleep every other night….This has worked for us in the 11 years of marriage….we both work, we both make the mess…and so do our 2 children (make the mess, that is :) ), so we all are responsible for cleaning and we all chip in with yard work. I think that because we discussed this thoroughly when we first were married, and we let each other know what our expectations were, and came to an agreement, it just works for us and we have our little routine….Routine is probably a big reason why this works too…

  20. I’ve been married 24 years and counting. Initially I would say I felt the way the letter writer felt especially in the middle years. Here’s what I know now – he’s not being mean and doesn’t want to help; he just doesn’t know how to help because housework is not on his radar like it is on mine. So I’ve learned to just say what I need nicely and let it go, because I know he cares. That’s it – his priorities are different than mine. (That’s my short succinct answer)
    nylse recently posted…Why I Like 42 or The Power of LoveMy Profile

  21. For the generally clueless hubby (not an unwilling hubby):

    Hubby and I have different ideas of how things should get cleaned or when and those sorts of general disagreements. We actually talked about it once, he asked ‘why do you wipe things down so much? Why not just clean when it gets dirty?” When I told him, “I wipe stuff down so that I never really have to clean.” it made sense to him. Add to that that I notice dirt and such things more often, I get frustrated more often in that area. On the other hand, I tend to leave cabinets open and lunch stuff (or snack stuff) out while I eat and both those things bug him. I”m working on it.

    We figured out that I needed to ask with a time frame. Asking ‘please take the trash out’ is good, but when? I’m thinking next 5 minutes, he’s thinking later tonight. So, that was one thing I learned — put a time frame on my requests. And be honest about it! Don’t ask for something done by tomorrow afternoon if you really want it done in the next 5 minutes.

    and I’m still learning how to actually ask for help. Just the other evening, I was wishing he would notice and help me out with this that and the other. He was hoping I would verbalize my request.

    And when he does something that truly helps me (and much of what he does does help me), I say so. “I really appreciated the way you just finished up the dishes tonight. That really helped me out.” Gotta be honest here, no empty flattery!

    And the to-do list? Hubby isn’t so into my flower laden confident mom planner, but on days when there are several tasks that need be done, a list on a post-it is nice so that noone feels overwhelmed.

    Yeah, I still wish he would mow more often, and that he would wash the car more often. But, honestly, when push comes to shove, those things don’t matter so much. Vacuuming the carpet does matter more, so I’m willing to ask for that more often. I’m slowly learning about these priorities.

    Hope this helps someone or gives them some ideas.
    Rachael recently posted…Bluebonnet picturesMy Profile

  22. Assuming that the husband referenced in the original question really does choose to do nothing around the house, there are some tasks that the wife could stop doing for the husband with minimal impact on her. His laundry is the first chore that comes to mind. If washing his own laundry is his responsibility, then he will feel the impact of not keeping up with it (yet it doesn’t impact the wife as dishes piling up in the sink might). Perhaps start with things like that. If the husband is willing, books like “His Needs, Her Needs” and “Love and Respect” could be insightful.

    (comment has been edited)

    • ButterflyWings says:

      I wouldn’t deliberately do this to my hubby because the laundry is one of the few chores that I can manage (with a little help from my daughter carrying the baskets on the bad days), but I accidently have done this twice when really sick. Most recently, he just started wearing his remaining clothes for days on end and skipping showering – it didn’t bother him but made me feel even sicker from the smell. And the previous time his solution was just to wash his own clothes even though throwing in the whole basket of clothes (into the washing machine and then into the dryer) would have literally taken no more than an extra 10-15 seconds – actually it would have saved himt ime as he wouldn’t have had to sort out his things from mine. Not to mention doing two half loads costs as much two full loads and doing it altogether would have meant only needing to pay for one load.

      I can’t understand that… I do everyone’s laundry 99% of the time. But when I’m sick and he has absolutely no clean clothes left and has to do a single load of washing, he can’t throw some of my things and my daughter’s things in too?

      He said he didn’t think of it, and I honestly believe him. (He has aspergers) But I can’t understand why it’s not something a person would think of. Why is it so hard to think “My wife is too sick to do my laundry, I have to put a load on, so I’ll put everything in including her things instead of sorting through them and just doing half a load with mine”.

      We’re going through marriage counselling because we’re having a lot of problems because he’s doing a lot of very selfish things because he just honestly never stops to think of me (or our daughter) – never stops to think of how his actions affect us, even about very serious things. It’s not deliberate – it does have to do with his aspergers – but he refuses to acknowledge it is aspergers and refuses to go see someone specifically for it.

      • Asperger’s is really difficult. I’m glad you’re seeing counseling. What I have found with Asperger’s is that setting up very rigid routines and expectations work better. You can’t EXPECT him to act thoughtfully because he’s not wired that way. So you must spell it out exactly, even if that feels like you’re treating him like a child, or it makes you angry because he should know better. Think of it like he’s blind; if someone’s blind, you set the house up so that they don’t trip over things. You’re deliberate. He has a disability, too, it’s just an invisible one, and you have to set things up so that he doesn’t fall. Talk to him about what specifically would help him remember little things, rather than expecting him to know.

        I don’t mean to make light of it; I know it’s hard. But that’s just where he’s at.

        • ButterflyWings says:

          I think what frustrates me most is he’s not like any other person I know with aspergers. Our daughter (my daughter from my first marriage) has aspergers so I’m used to having to have routines for her. And my sister has been dating a man with aspergers for nearly a decade and he’s a close friend. One of my brothers and my father we’re pretty sure have aspergers (just never been formally diagnosed) and on my daughter’s bio-father’s side, her cousin has it and a few others. Because of the type of friends I have a lot of (IT guys/girls and sci fi geeks) quite a number of my friends have been formally diagnosed and even more probably have it. I’m also trained as a psychologist and now work as a nurse so deal with it a lot in my professional life.

          What has me stumped is my husband is not like the “typical” aspie. I mean, aspies are as unique as much as any human is unique, but unlike my daughter, my sister’s boyf and others in my life, he gets very hurt and offended by having things put bluntly – even when (by his own admission) it’s the only was he’ll listen. His mother and I have been becoming closer – we talk a lot and she gives me tips on things that helped her with him as a child to help me with my daughter and tips on how to sort things out with him when we’re having difficulties.

          I think the most frustrating part is in many ways, his aspergers is “worse” than my daughters. Not because it started off worse, but because kids these days receive so much early intervention and therapy, whereas people my age are lucky to even have a diagnosis. My daughter has had a lot of therapy and intervention work done with her.

          I’m trying to find a counsellor that specialises in aspergers because even though our counsellor is a christian, I think in some ways she’s made things worse (definitely in one particular way). I think it a mistake originally to ask if we could see a female counsellor (I suffer from PTSD, partially due to being abused by a male counsellor a decae ago). Being female, all the usual “touchy feely” stuff doesn’t seem to work with aspergers. We would be better off with a man who is more blunt and direct. Problem is we live in a very small city (it technically should be a town not a city) and counsellors are very very expensive here

          • He sounds a lot like my FIL who has Aspergers. It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with (even for me and I don’t live with him or deal with him every day!) I pray for patience and try to back off when it’s too much. Good luck, I know that can be so stressful.

          • ButterflyWings says:

            Yeah. He does my head in sometimes, But I love him and it’s part of who he is, and I love him for who he is.

  23. Yeah, I wish this was a simple problem to solve! When we first got married, my husband did a ton of housework. When the baby came, it was no different. We moved recently and he came to the new town first with my daughter and I trailing by a few months. When we got to the new town, it’s like he’s forgotten how to do anything around the house and now we rent, so he’s been absolved of yardwork and house repairs.

    We both work full time for the same company, so it’s not like the housework can or should be all for me. I have asked him to do specific chores. Nothing changes. I broke my toe Friday so I’m trying to stay off my foot and now the house is a complete disaster. He gets it to a point, because he asked what he should do yesterday and the chores I gave him were not necessary by the end of the day so he declared he would clean the kitchen. Dishes are still in the sink. Trash is on the counters. We have toddler artwork laying in the floor.

    I’m thinking of instituting a chore chart. No joke. When we went through premarital counseling, the preacher we were working with suggested that we outline the chores for the week into three categories. One category is mine, one is my husband’s, and one is both. I had to decide what chores I could give Brian that I didn’t want to oversee or control. If someone hated a particular task, we negotiated to see if the other person would carry it in their category. If not, it became a shared (hated) responsibility. We carried that chart around with us until this last move, even though we didn’t reference it much any more. But he had been on board with it at one time, so I think we can get back there again.
    Kirsten recently posted…Confessions…My Profile

  24. I deleted about 30 comments on this thread because I did not feel the way it was going was helpful. It wasn’t relevant to the original question, and I had quite a few readers email me about how they don’t like the “fights” in the comments section, and I agree.

    I’m going to institute a new policy, I think: you can make your point once, but no protracted arguments. They aren’t helpful, especially if someone has come to this post wanting to see suggestions for the READER QUESTION.

    In this case, the comments got off base because they were talking about how because the man is the leader of the house, the wife cannot make demands on him. And then there was an argument (which I also participated in) about what submission means.

    That’s not the point of this question.

    So if you have a PRACTICAL suggestion for this question, please leave it. There have been some wonderful ones so far! But I do not want my blog to become a place where people fight in the comments, and I’ve already had that with several commenters so far–as someone wrote to me on FB, “It’s like some commenters take a point and run with it, and won’t let go, and don’t even look at what the original post is about.”

    I want to be a safe place for people who have problems, not a place where if someone leaves a comment they will be told they aren’t biblical. This isn’t the place for that. My policy is, as long as someone does not violate the Apostle’s Creed, they will not be called unbiblical here. I want this to be a safe place. There is room for people who believe in authoritarian marriages and room for people who believe in equal partnerships. There is room for people who are SAHMs, and room for those who work outside the home. There is room for those who homeschool and those who send their kids to Christian schools and those who send their kids to public schools. There is even–gasp!–room for those who are remarried, as well as those who are on their first marriage.

    We all come from different places, and different circumstances, but most who are here have chosen to serve God. We just don’t do it the same way. And that truly is okay.

    Obviously I have my preferences and opinions just like everybody else, but to me these are incidental. I want to be a place that calls people to a higher marriage–a more intimate marriage. So many people need that message, and I welcome people here who do NOT agree with me on everything, because I want them to hear the message, too. I want to major on the majors (Apostle’s Creed), and minor on the minors (everything else).

    I hope you all understand.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Totally. Christians are a varied bunch and I personally believe even if someone does have a few unbiblical beliefs, it doesn’t mean they are not a christian. I think when we face God when our time comes, we’ll probably all be called out for some things that we got wrong about the bible. No human is perfect or has perfect understand of anything. All we can do is try our hardest to live by what we believe the bible is saying, and live in peace with our fellow humans as best we can.

    • I agree. I’ve grown weary of arguments online. I have to stand up for certain things (like awareness of mental illness), but otherwise it’s pointless.

  25. My best friend had this problem with her husband. He was an only child and his mother did EVERYTHING for he and his father, including taking out the trash. So in her case, I feel she knew how he was when she married and therefore had two choices, deal with it or be prepared for a long road in hopes of coming to a meeting of the minds one day.

    In the situation above I think that she should look into his past, if she hasn’t already. Find out what was normal for him and why and then start their trek down this long road where they will hopefully meet one day with an understanding of each other’s needs. I think every marriage has “long road” issues. Some more than others and some rockier than others. Its the commitment or lack thereof to the “trek” that makes the outcome unsure.
    Stephanie recently posted…10 Reasons I Love My HusbandMy Profile

  26. I ask my husband nicely he can tell I’m busy taking care of the baby or feeding him and I only ask for simple things like can you put the laundry in the dryer or take the trash out or stuff like that and when I give him a smile and say can you please do me a favor can you put the laundry in the dryer for me he goes uuughhh can’t you just ask the oldest to do it than a few minutes later after acting like he’s falling asleep on the couch he gets up goes to the bathroom to pee and goes to bed I mean wtf I’m so upset but I would rather not start a fight over it so I just do everything so there’s no fights but I’m seriously getting sick of it what do I do?

  27. I wasn’t about to read all the comments left here after realizing that most were the same problem over and over again, and that mine is likely not much different. I am older, have no children at home, have a couple cats, and a man. I have to say that we both work full time and are heading into retirement. It’s a very scary thought to be at home every day with someone who has to be asked to take out the garbage and I’m thankful that I have lots of hobbies to persue. For the last 16 years I have done 90% of the home chores and maintenance. I am grateful for his ability to fix a major problem, like a leaky faucet, or a broken pool filter, etc. but there are times when I long for more help with the tedious day to day tasks like laundry, dishes, toilet cleaning, etc. As I said, we both work full time jobs, we both have only 2 days off per week. My man is a miser. He won’t pay someone to help out, and he waits until a crisis arises to fix a problem. He pays the big stuff, mortgage, insurance, the cable bill and I pay the rest. He occasionally springs for groceries, especially when he runs out of junk, food knowing I won’t buy it. He gets up at 5am and falls asleep on the sofa by 9pm. I get up at 7am and climb in bed at 11pm after working around the house till 10am, spending a grueling day at work, then often cooking and cleaning up, sometimes I leave a note for him to do a specific task, like putting a couple chlorine tabs in the pool skimmer, or scooping the litter box, and he will normally do it. But, should I have to do that? My question here is: How did this evolve in the male of the species and how can we change this evolutionary flaw?

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