How Can I Get My Husband to Do More Household Chores?

I have been married for two years. He is 33, I am 31. No kids yet. How can I get my husband to take on more responsibility? We have pretty traditional gender roles in our marriage, which means I do 95% of the cooking, probably 75% of the cleaning, and all of the shopping for groceries and household needs. He spends time in his shop building things, sometimes for the house but sometimes just for pleasure, and he abhors cooking, cleaning, and shopping (what a surprise, right?!?). He's a wonderful husband in a lot of ways and tells me how much he appreciates all I do, and he takes me out often to give me a break from cooking, but what I really want is for him to be more active in the day-to-day things that make our home a home. He knows that, but hasn't changed or made any effort to change. What's it going to take? I'm not going anywhere, but I want more equality. —Overburdened
Dear Overburdened,

In marriage, many things shape the way responsibilities get divided. Sometimes it’s based on circumstances—who is working outside the home, for example. Sometimes it’s conscious, and unconscious, expectations about how the workload is supposed to be shared—often based on what we experienced as children. For children who grew up in home where the dad worked outside the home and the mom worked in the home taking care of the cooking, cleaning, and child care, it can be easy to imagine that’s what life will be like in their own relationships. I don’t know if you or your husband had those experiences as children, nor do I know what kinds of conversations you had before you got married about division of responsibilities, but all of those issues may play a part in what’s going on now.

You state that your husband is wonderful in many ways, appreciates what you do, and takes you out to give you a break. That’s great! If, however, that’s not what you really want or need, it probably doesn’t feel like much of a break. This can be frustrating for both of you, mainly because he may feel like he’s doing his part and you feel like your needs aren’t met. I’m glad you are looking at addressing this now before these concerns grow into major resentments.

I was struck by how eloquently you state what you want: You want him to be more active in the day-to-day things that make your home a home. My hunch is that this is a multilayered need and worth looking at more specifically.

  • Do you want him to be more active so that you aren’t overloaded?
  • Are you looking for him to demonstrate his commitment to you and your relationship in a way that feels meaningful to you?
  • Do you want him to do more of the things he doesn’t enjoy as a way of showing that he cares?

If you want him to just do the dishes, that’s one thing. If you want him to WANT to do the dishes, that’s something else. Looking more closely at what it is you are really asking for is an important first step.

Equality can be a challenging concept in relationships. Imagine you are both in a rowboat trying to get to shore. If you focus on each rowing an equal amount, you might not make it. If you focus on each doing what you can—even if that means one of you rows a bit more from time to time—you are much more likely to reach the shore intact. You do not want to feel like you are doing all the rowing by yourself, of course, but rather like you are in it together, and each doing what you can (even if the work isn’t evenly distributed) fosters stronger connections.

I encourage you to have conversations with your husband about how you each envision your life together over the long haul. Maybe there are things he is doing that he’d rather not be totally responsible for. Look at the big picture and talk about the kind of partners you want to be for each other and the kind of life and home you want to have. Talk about the needs you each have and how those needs can best be met. Once you have a shared understanding and vision of what you both want, then you can look at the logistics of how that plays out in terms of household responsibilities (dishes, cooking, cleaning, etc.). If you get stuck along the way, working with a couples therapist can be a good way to talk through some of these concerns.

Best of luck,
Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
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  • Valerie H

    Valerie H

    May 23rd, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Old habits die HARD!! It is time to teach that fella a few new tricks now because you may say this isn’t going to drive you away right now, but in the long run it is going to get pretty tiresome.

  • Blake

    Blake

    May 24th, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    He is likely only doing what he saw in his own home growing up and this is going to be hard to change for him; but if he loves you then I thin that a good talking to will be just what the docor ordered and if he knows your concerns then he should be open and willing to try to make some changes for you.

    But don’t think that leaving this unsaid will be the impetus for change, because we are kind of clueless as to what you guys want sometimes so you might have to spell it out for us. Don’t expect him to read your mind. He might not have any idea that this is how you feel and that you would love more from him on the homefront

  • rocky

    rocky

    May 24th, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    How can you blame him when this is what he has always done? You let him get away with this probably for the whole relationship and now you want to change the game on him. How is this fair to him? This is the relationship that the two of you have always had and so like it or not he has become accustomed to this and I don’t think that this is going to go over too well. If he has always done this and you have been the one to do things around the house then why start complaining about it now? This should have been discussed before the walk down the aisle. It is one thing if he has just started slacking off but it sounds like this is the dynamic that the two of you have always had and it might be tough to try something different now that thos habits have been established.

  • Jesse

    Jesse

    May 26th, 2014 at 5:08 AM

    If he is fully invested in the marriage then why wouldn’t he choose to do more around the house? It’s not like you should feel like you have to beg him

  • yuri

    yuri

    May 27th, 2014 at 4:23 AM

    bribery, plain and simple

  • cam

    cam

    May 28th, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    Give him an incentive and do not tell him how to do the chore over his shoulder that pisses people off man or women to have some one do that to you is seriously annoying and makes them, not want to do,it even more

  • Sela

    Sela

    May 29th, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Like I tell my husband… I would love to do only the things that bring me joy at home too, like gardening or reading, but that is not the reality of having a home together and caring for it.
    Having a home ios about making it nice and keeping it clean, and he needs to pitch in just as much as you do.
    So he may do the inside work while oyu do the yard work, or vice versa, and then when everything on both lists are done then you can do the things that you want to do. But at my house the things that have to be dones always have to come before the things that we simply just want to do.

  • Charlotte

    Charlotte

    May 30th, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    ummm marry a woman? ;)

  • Linda

    Linda

    May 12th, 2015 at 2:05 AM

    I do chores together with my fiance as a team and our relationship is stronger than ever.

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