Dear D: How Do I Get My Man To Help Around The House?

Dear D,
I’m really struggling with finding a happy balance between accountability and flexibility with my husband.  If he says he’s going to do something (read instead of watch TV, go to the gym, take out the garbage) and then doesn’t do it, I often find myself upset because he didn’t do what he said he was going to do.  Sometime I realize it’s no big deal or it can wait, but other times I’m just really frustrated that he’s all talk and no follow through. How do I know when to be gently encouraging or when to just let it go?



Hi lady!

There is a book I love called: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman.

He has a quote that I refer to often: “When choosing a long-term partner…you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years. Marriages are successful to the degree that the problems you choose are ones that you can cope with.”

I share that with you because some of the items you wrote about may never change.
(ouch) And quite frankly, they aren’t worth investing too much energy in because no matter what you do, these are inherent qualities in him – and you cannot change him. Some things, my friend, you have married into.

But let’s chat about that.

There is a difference between: read instead of watch TV, go to the gym + a request to take out the garbage.

Now, truth be told my boyfriend, LOVES to watch TV.   And when I say LOVES I mean, it might be his favorite past-time.

That and going to the movies.  He can spend hours, happily tucked in his comfy chair watching zombie, alien, and action flicks.  If there is an episode of Tosh O or The Big Bang Theory he’s glued to his chair for the next hour.

I’ve made a conscious decision to not let this bother me.

I don’t let it bother me because he quickly shuts it off when we are headed out to do something together +  his TV watching has never felt more important than our relationship.  If I have something to say to him I will wait till a commercial, then say, “Hon, can I talk to you for a second? would you mind muting the TV?”  I will then get his full attention.

He doesn’t really want to read.

I love to read. I have 42 books – all halfway read, corners tucked, notes in the margins and underlined.
I think it’s delicious.
He doesn’t and – quite frankly- why should I care if he likes to read as much as I do?

Has your hubby always enjoyed watching  TV?
Has he been doing it since he was 8 years old?
Does it make him happy?
Does it give you time to sneak into another room + read quietly by yourself for an hour?
Or catch a yoga class or meet your girlfriends?

If so, let him watch TV.
Let reading be your thing + he can enjoy his zombies or sports as he sees fit.

Same thing with the gym.
What has his history been with working out?
Human behavior is fairly consistent.
What he’s been doing for the last 30 years is what he will continue to do.
If he says he’s going to go and then doesn’t that’s on him.

I know as his honey you want him to be healthy.
I get it.
But what I have realized is that no matter how much I bug my partner or not about working out he goes when he wants to.

I do notice that when he sees me going + not nagging him he goes more.  😉

SO, my point is–is that when it comes to ways he spends his personal time, I would do yourself a huge favor and relinquish responsibility for the management of it.  If it’s not interfering with “couple time” + you feel his love, admiration and respect for you – let him watch TV + set his own workout schedule.

Do not try to get him to “promise” to do things with his personal time that are outside his nature.

But!  You do have cause to raise an eyebrow + express your concern when it has to deal with couple responsibilities around the home, with finances, care for children or your sex life.

So let’s chat about taking the garbage out.

If he says he is going to do this then he should.
You share a space + that environment needs to be maintained.

If you haven’t in the past, it might be helpful to sit down together (when his favorite TV show is not on) and decide what household responsibilities you will each be in charge of and when, in general, they need to be completed by.

Everyone has their favorite + not so favorite chores.

I really enjoy doing the laundry.
Washing it.  Folding it.  Putting it away.

I can’t stand doing the dishes but he doesn’t mind – so this is his chore.

:: Find out what your hubby likes to do.

:: Explain to him that you are going to be more laid back about how he spends his personal time but that you would really like a commitment from him in regards to your shared chores around the house.

:: Explain to him that when he doesn’t take the garbage out when he says he will  it frustrates you because you don’t feel he is being a fair “teammate.” (Team mate talk always resonates well with men)

:: Tell him you really love him + want to spend your time feeling good about your partnership rather than feeling dismissed.

:: And add HUMOR.  All negotiations are better with a dash of humor.  Shaming, blaming + name-calling are never a good idea.

:: And don’t take the garbage out for him.  If he’s late. He’s late. Leave it there. I know it bugs you but if it’s his job let him get to it.

So split these behaviors into 2 categories: Personal time + Shared responsibility tasks.

Practice letting him spend his personal time as he likes + constructing a more concrete plan around household tasks.  He might feel more inspired to take the garbage out on time when he is feeling less pressure about reading or going to the gym.


© 2012 Danielle Dowling

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