Getting a husband to help around the house is like pulling teeth. It’s nearly impossible — no matter how much we nag or plead. Asking for help typically results in a fight with both of you feeling bad.
Somehow, he expects you to work a full-time job, raise kids, take care of the home, and make sure the relationship is functioning.
Who are we? Wonderwoman?
I barely have enough time to pull my pants down and use the bathroom before my kid is banging on the door wondering where I am. As wives, we have a lot on our plates. It seems reasonable to ask for a little bit of help.
Is that REALLY too much to ask for?
Why doesn’t he understand? The simple reason: he thinks he already helps enough around the house.
But what he thinks is helping is helping, is a lot different than my definition. For example, my husband qualifies a lot of things as helping.
- Kicking toys on the ground to make a clear path. Instead of putting them away.
- Puts toilet paper on the counter for me to change, instead of putting the new roll on the holder.
- Rinses his plate, but can’t take the twenty seconds it takes to put the plate in the dishwasher.
- Brushes crumbs off the table and onto the floor. Husband, you know I now have to sweep the floor, right?
It seems like whenever we ask for help, he does a half-hearted job. It’s more of a chore to get him to help around the house than just doing the chore. But why don’t husbands want to help around the house? I mean, doesn’t he love us enough?
I’m going to tell you. It has nothing to do with his love for you. I learned a little secret. I learned a method that makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t require any nagging or pleading.
But it I am going to challenge the way you think about getting him to help around the house. It will require a re-frame in your mind and your vocabulary. You will have to throw out certain words and replace them with new ones.
It starts with redefining whose job it is to do what.
Get Rid of the Word Help From Your Vocabulary
Get rid of help? Yes. It’s a ridiculous word.
The word help implies that a task is yours and you need assistance in getting it done. When you ask for help it only reaffirms the idea that a certain job, like taking care of the kids, is yours. When you ask for help with the laundry, you are telling your husband, “I know this is my job, but can you do it part of this for me?”
Ask for too much help, your husband grows resentful. He will feel like you are asking him to do jobs that are yours. This is what happens when you use the word help.
Most husbands never ask for help on the jobs they are expected to do. For example, my husband has never asked me to do the finances, he has never asked me to help with the yard work, and he never asks me to complete a construction job around the house.
If you think your husband should help, then you’re doomed because he never will.
You can’t expect your husband to help, but you can manage whose job it is to do what. Most husbands gladly complete the jobs that are considered theirs.
Re-Assign Job Roles
Four months before my husband and I got married, we had to do premarital counseling. About three weeks into our counseling, we had to take an individual quiz about who we expected to do what jobs around the house.
For example, we had questions like, whose job will it be to do the finances? Any answer that we disagreed on, we had to talk about and come to an agreement on whose job it would be.
After taking 60 questions, we both agreed that 50 out of 60 would be my job to handle.
I look back on this and laugh, but I think most marriages are like this. For some reason — I think mostly cultural — we are expected to do a majority of the housework and take care of the kids, even if we work full-time like most of us do.
But we aren’t blameless. A lot of us reinforce the cultural belief. Every party I go to, it is always a running joke about how lazy husbands are.
If you want your husband to do more work around the house, then you have to re-assign job roles. Want him to do dishes? Make it his job. Want him to put the kids down? Make it his job.
For example, I don’t ask my husband to take care of the kid after a long day of work, but it is his job to make sure they get to bed at night.
When you are thinking about re-assigning job roles, you need to make sure they are realistic. Unfortunately, I have met a lot of wives who just want to push as much responsibility off on their husbands for very selfish reasons.
Before you approach your husband, ask yourself, is the task that I want him to start doing fair and realistic? A majority of the time, the answer is yes, since most of us are doing 95% of the work.
But it is also unreasonable to expect your husband to take the kids the moment he gets home. There needs to be a decompression zone. Retailers use this all of the time. When you walk into a store there is a large empty space. This allows you to collect your thoughts and figure out where to go.
When you hand your child to your husband when he walks in the door, he shuts down. It overwhelms him. It’s like walking into a store and immediately being overcome with a ton of items to purchase. It’s overwhelming.
So, how do you do you re-assign job roles once you determine it is fair and reasonable?
Have A Conversation
This can be hard for a lot of women. I know I have struggled a lot with this in my marriage. I watched my mother take on too much. I feel like I can’t talk to my husband — even though I can — about my workload.
A lot of the time, I use to become resentful when I felt like I had too much work going on. The first step in getting your husband to do more work around the house is by talking to him. My friend, Sheila, has an excellent article on conversation starters.
There is a realistic way to talk to him and a terrible way. Most wives pick the terrible way to talk with him. It involves nagging him and trying to manipulate him. They try to bargain with things like sex.
They say, “If you don’t do the dishes, I’m not going to have sex with you.” This tells your husband that you care more about having the dishes done than you do having sex. It makes him feel unloved.
Your conversation must be benefit driven for him.
Focus on the Benefits
When you have your conversation and ask him to take on more responsibility, you need to drive home a major benefit — one that he cares deeply about. You have to help him see the benefit that will happen when he takes over the job.
For example, I haved used this exact phrases many times, “Honey, I have been thinking. I want to be able to have more energy and excited about sex, so what do you think about the dishes after dinner becoming your job?”
This isn’t about being manipulative. A majority of men will be sold on a statement like this. What husband doesn’t say he wants more sex?
Never make the statement about you. Don’t say something like, “I am just so busy. I want you to do the dishes.” Regardless of whether or not it’s true, most husbands will not respond to this.
Here are some benefits that I and other wives have used to get their husband to take on more responsibility around the house:
- Personal Care: Things like working out, educating yourself, and working on a career are all good examples. I like to use working out. I will tell my husband, “I want to be able to workout longer, so I can remain attractive for you. I want all the husbands to be jealous of you. But I to do that, I need you to start doing… What do you think?” Hook line and sinker. Works every time.
- The Kids: We have foster kids and my husband wants the best for them. So any time I can make it about the kids I do. For example, I will tell him I want to spend more time helping them do their homework. He can help with their homework or he can start doing… which would he prefer?
- Sex: No need for explanation. I think every woman knows this.
- Food: My husband cares about his health and having home cooked meals. So I will use this one every so often.
Make it benefit driven and it will be hard for him to say no. But once he says yes, your work isn’t over.
Decrease Your Expectations
A lot of husbands are aware of the disparity that exists. But we keep them lazy because we act as “gate keepers”. We criticize when things aren’t done the way we would do them. He tries to help, but we chastise him.
For example, if he agrees to load the dishwasher, many women then comment on how terrible the dishwasher was loaded. Most husbands won’t do tasks the way you do them because he doesn’t really care.
It’s like him asking you to do a job that is his. I know if Alex asked me to do the finances I wouldn’t come close to how he does it. He runs everything in a complex excel sheet. If it was me I would just make sure there was enough money in the checking account and call it good.
Do you think you would do as good of a job as him on the lawn? A construction job? Probably not. Because you never learned.
Most husbands never learn how to load a dishwasher properly. They never learn how to make their bed or clean a bathroom. Expect less from them when it comes to the quality of the work they do.
I have used this method to get my husband take on a lot of jobs. For example, when I first got married, I agreed to do the cooking. Around our second year of marriage, I got super busy working and going to school full-time. We had a conversation about it and he happily agreed to take over the cooking.
You will need to revisit this method every so often because life changes. The house gets bigger, the family size increases, and work gets in the way. So, housework should always be seen as dynamic rather than static.
Even if you have done everything right, sometimes your husband will say no.
How to Handle the No
If your husband says no, he isn’t rejecting the responsibility but the job. Ask him if there is a task he is willing to do.
For example, if he says no to putting the kids down, ask, “If there was one task that you could start doing and allow me to [list benefit], what would you do?”
He will likely say something like, “Well… I guess I could bathe the kids before bed. Or I could help get them ready in the morning.”
Sometimes though, you just need to delete tasks. Too many wives and moms make their lives busy. They try to pack their schedule with chores and taking the kids to soccer practice.
Slow down. Get rid of chores.
Early in our marriage, we decided to live in a small home so there wouldn’t be so much to clean. We also limited the amount of toys our kids would have because we didn’t want to spend a lot of time picking up toys.
Some chores can be delayed. If you clean the bathroom every week, consider doing it every other week. There is always a chore that can be cut out. Or better, hire someone else to do it.
We recently hired a cleaner because both my husband and I hate cleaning. I get to spend more time on work, taking care of myself, cooking, and more.
This might be a hard thing to do for a lot of you. I was there. I had that perfectionist mindset. I looked at my ability to keep my house clean as a reflection of how well put together my life was. If the house was dirty, then I felt it meant my life was out of control.
Half the battle to making marriage work comes from managing expectations. When you have more tasks than you can handle, don’t ask your husband to help, re-assign roles. Or if it’s an unnecessary task, then cut it out.
There is a large disparity in most marriages. We do most of the house work, take care of the kids, and work full-time jobs. It is possible to get your husband to do more work without nagging.
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I would love to hear from you. What does your husband do that he thinks is helping? What task or role would you like your husband to take on?