Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash
Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash

Household Chores

Question

I wish my husband would realize there's more to cleaning than just picking up things. I feel bad complaining, and he gets mad easily when I try to communicate with him. What can I do?

Answer

It sounds like you have some understandable frustration with how you and your husband deal with the household responsibilities. You are really facing two issues. The first is who is going to do what around the house. The second and more important one is how to communicate about issues where your perspectives differ.

We’ve worked with some men who in a similar situation expressed the fear that enough will never be enough; they are hurt when what they do isn’t acknowledged and they are frustrated by their perceived inability to get it right. One approach that I have found helpful is to catch my spouse getting it right. Compliment him when he goes beyond what he’s done in the past. Don’t just compliment him. Let him know how it is helpful for you.

I encourage you as the one with the complaint to be open to looking at this situation with new and fresh lenses. Begin by realizing that your cleaning desires may be just that, your cleaning desires. Your husband may not have the needs you do to have everything cleaned and scrubbed up so he may not be as invested in helping you meet what is a need for you but not for him.

In our experience, couples spend little time communicating effectively about their issues. Let your husband know that this is a significant frustration for you and that you’d like to take some time to listen to each other, understand each other, and come up with one thing that each of you are willing to do differently. Ask him when would be a good time and then sit down to figure out how this whole cleaning issue could look different. Define what hasn’t worked and then both of you discuss what might work.

It might be possible that your husband is willing to partner with you but not at the level of your expectations. Try to come up with a way where some of your needs are met and some of his needs are met and agree on a plan. Agree to come back in two weeks and evaluate whether the plan is working. If it is, then great, if it isn’t then instead of getting angry or frustrated, take the time to tweak the plan. We have to function this way at our jobs every day. Why not take the time at home to be honorable with each other? You might just get a whole lot more done.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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