Help! How Do I Get My Husband to Help More Around the House?

I am totally frustrated and exhausted, and I hope you can help me. I do it all in our household: the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the shuttling the kids between soccer practices and school, the grocery shopping. I even mow the lawn and pay all the bills. I am a stay-at-home wife. My husband is an executive with a local law firm and makes a very good living for us. But because of his job, he works a lot, and because I'm not working he expects me to take care of everything except provide money. He thinks that because he works so much and me not at all, he is exempt from having to contribute in other ways. I just feel like we're not really a team. I am OK with bearing the brunt of the house stuff, that seems fair, but all of it? It feels like my husband is using the fact he's the breadwinner as leverage to get me to do everything else, and I'm starting to resent him for it. I've even started to withhold sex (making excuses) because I don't think what's going on is fair. Am I unreasonable for wanting him to help in some ways? I'm not asking for a 50-50 split, but 100-0 isn't working for me. —Daisy Do-It-All
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Dear Daisy Do-It-All,

Your frustrations are not uncommon in households where one partner works outside the home and one stays at home. Feeling like you do it all, particularly if you feel as if your efforts are not appreciated, can be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing.

That said, unless you and your husband have had ongoing open conversations about division of labor, expectations, and feelings, it is not fair to hold him solely accountable for the state of things. It sounds as if you have let resentment build and are now taking action in passive-aggressive ways. This approach will do nothing to improve the division of labor and will only serve to divide the two of you further.

I recommend that you start with some conversations. You mention your husband’s expectations that you take care of all house-related work—has he expressed these verbally? If so, have you shared how you feel about those expectations? Have there been conversations and negotiations about how the two of you want to build a life together? If he believes that he is meeting his end of an unspoken agreement, expecting him to do more is unreasonable. If, however, you have expressed your dissatisfaction clearly and still there have been no changes, I recommend that you discuss these issues with a couples counselor. An unwillingness to consider change in the face of one partner’s deep dissatisfaction can be a sign of much deeper issues.

True fairness is not about each person getting (or doing) the same amount, but about each getting what he or she needs.

I also suggest that you clarify for yourself what, exactly, you would like from your husband. Are there specific tasks you would like him to take on or to have off of your shoulders (hiring someone to mow the lawn might be a reasonable compromise)? Or do the issues run more to wanting him to acknowledge that your contributions are important and meaningful?

Issues of fairness are difficult in relationships. True fairness is not about each person getting (or doing) the same amount, but about each getting what he or she needs. It sounds as if you aren’t getting what you need, so your arrangement does not feel fair to you. I suggest that, rather than starting with a list of tasks to divide, you begin your conversations with how you each want to feel in your partnership and take it from there.

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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  • Mary W

    Mary W

    September 11th, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Why not 50/50? I mean, daily life is hard and if you are married and both have your own ways of contributing them why shouldn’t housework be divided a little more equally? I know that I am lucky because my husband likes to cook so that is mainly what he does at home but that is not all that he does and he will do more if I ask him to help out. I could not live with antiquated thoughts about who should do what in the home.

  • chassy

    chassy

    September 14th, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    Leave his laundry to collect week after week…
    surely this would clue him in that he needs to be a lot more involved around the house?

  • Tim

    Tim

    September 14th, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    This couple need to read The Five Love Languages pronto.

  • Well Off

    Well Off

    September 14th, 2015 at 6:53 PM

    Some women appreciate it when a man has spent almost nine years in university to land a career that pays for the nice things this woman has. I work almost fifty hours a week as a legal advisor. When I get home, my mind is exhausted and I often have to read literature for work the next day before I sleep. I feel very fortunate I don’t have an obnoxious wife like the one above.

  • leigh

    leigh

    September 16th, 2015 at 11:04 AM

    No matter who you are there has to be a way for the man and the woman to have a balance in their life. One must not feel like they are the only one doing all of the heavy lifting in the relationship. If or when that happens then one person is going to get burned out and they may eventually give up even trying to please their partner anymore.

  • Sierra

    Sierra

    September 17th, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    I would love to hear what you think would happen if you expressed how disappointing that this was and how open he might be to sharing some of the work with you if the two of you were able to sit down and talk openly and honestly about this issue. I know that it is hard to change old habits but it would probably feel so much better for you if you were willing to express some of these things that you are feeling and create some new communication skills along the way I wish you the best!

  • Cris

    Cris

    September 18th, 2015 at 11:36 AM

    classic marital problem and probably always will be! there is always someone in the relationship who feels like they are doing more than the other person.

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