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MatChup's avatar

What's the best way to approach your spouse to do her part in the house?

Asked by MatChup (204 points ) February 17th, 2011

This is a real case of a spouse who wants her husband not only to be the sole provider, but also to come home after work and do the chores in the house. She complains of aches that don’t allow her to do the chores herself. However, when it comes to going out and having fun she has no complains, no aches. Although she takes care of her two young kids, I would imagine she should do more than that. She is a kinda lay back kind of gal that even drags her feet as she walks. Both of them are good friends of mine and I just don’t have any suggestions for my friend on how to approach his spouse. He’s growing tired of this situation. Counseling hasn’t helped. What would you recommend is the best way to change that kind of attitude?

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27 Answers

janedelila's avatar

I say stop doing it. Feed the kids maybe, make sure they are safe, but let the joint dirty up some. When (if?) she complains, explain.

Bellatrix's avatar

I agree with Janedella, if he does the work, he is enabling her behaviour. It really is up to him to sort this out and I would be very careful about getting too involved (not that I am saying you are). Also, is he telling you this or have you observed it? Sometimes things are not all that they seem.

GTL222's avatar

agree with @janedelila let the place get dirty, dont pick u anything make her do something around the house, just make sure kids are feed,cleaned up… let her do the rest.

MatChup's avatar

yeah, when the work piles up, doesn’t get done and just keeps piling: dishes, laundry, cleaning on and on. Pretty soon he doesn’t have clothes to put on to go to work, there is food in the pantry, in the fridge but nothing is cooked, so the kids haven’t eaten all day, naturally when he gets home, he has to do cook since she doesn’t do it

Bellatrix's avatar

A question, is she depressed? Is there an underlying problem here that may not have been diagnosed?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, don’t do it for her but…....what if she really doesn’t care if the place is a pig pen?

MatChup's avatar

obviously she doesn’t care about the place being dirty and such. In regards to her being depressed, it doesn’t seem so because we sometimes have meetings with other people in social gatherings and she expresses herself very well. One thing I must admit is that she is slow in everything even when she speaks. He waits til the weekend to see if his spouse will do the laundry or the dishes, but most of times nothing gets done unless he really pounds on her to get off her butt

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I guess it’s water under the bridge now. He should have taken her pre-disposition into consideration before he had kids with her.

Bellatrix's avatar

That she communicates well does not mean she isn’t depressed. If I was her husband, I would be making sure she sees a doctor. She is at home with children all day on her own. I don’t know how old the children are but I would not rule out depression.

blueiiznh's avatar

You need to sit down and tell her how you feel number one.
Find some or suggest some middleground that will work or at least set something in motion.
In a household and family, everyone has to pull their weight. Forget the income thing and ocus on these tasks. One person can only do so much and the stress of trying to do it all is not healthy for you. What happens when you work yourself into a medical condition?
List the common every day or week or month tasks. Take turns at picking ones that each belly up to the bar to do. Do not enable her by doing the things that she should be doing.
Commitment is key to any relationship as well as getting these kind of things done.
There may be an underlying issue, but you still need to set something in motion and stop enabling it.
Laid back or not, she needs to take some responsibility as it sounds like it is not working.
Is there a large gap in family of origin?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

For a person who’s depressed over something in the relationship, getting out with other people could be the quick fix and that’s when you see her up side- at home could be very different. If she’s overwhelmed by the kids and isn’t up to engaging them then retreating into herself and away from chores might be her way of trying to protect herself. That she lets the husband pick up the slack could mean she’s beat down or doesn’t see something in the relationship changing for the better so she retreats in other ways. I’ll bet there’s more than a dirty house at issue.

Supacase's avatar

Hate to admit it, but this could easily be about me. My house is clean, as in no dirty dishes lying around or filthy countertops, but it is not tidy and I despise laundry – it is a never ending pain in the ass. So, how did I get like this? We are also in counseling, btw, and this is a frequently discussed issue.

I’m bored. I love my daughter and I love being able to stay home with her, but… housework is monotonous, boring, depressing, and you are never finished. Motivation begins to wane.

I would NOT suggest leaving it all undone to pile up. It becomes completely overwhelming and this is when I, personally, retreat to bed to sleep through the depression and guilt. Making someone feel like shit is not usually the best way to get them to do what you want.

My suggestion would be to have someone watch the kids for the day. Ask her to help him get things cleaned up – with no resentment or anger; this needs to be a positive experience. Once everything is sparkling clean, a weight will be lifted and I would bet she will find keeping it clean is a lot easier and less over daunting than getting it clean.

Give her that chance. If she lets it get bad again, I really would check out the depression angle. Or, he may simply have to accept that she is lazy and never going to change.

YARNLADY's avatar

You may be out of luck. People don’t change unless they want to, and no one can make them.

Your description sounds exactly like my son’s family, right down to the number of kids. Sonny was telling me last week that he asked her to get off the computer and help pick up and she flat out said “No”.

He once told me she wasn’t brought up in a nice family like ours and just need to learn how to behave. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

He called in a social worker to try to get some help, but the social worker said if “they” don’t get the house cleaned up, she would call CPS.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Here’s a suggestion for people not depressed but also not motivated- pay to have someone come in and clean the house. It’s a marvelous treat now and then and makes upkeep less ominous.

Pattijo's avatar

She sounds like she’s settled and has lost her motivation , her husband needs to find out what is bothering her , because it has to be something .
When I slow down or don’t clean house , I can feel a depression coming on and find my energy is really low .
Maybe she needs meds or vitamins or maybe she simply doesn’t care

Blondesjon's avatar

I find that my hand says all that needs to be said.

seriously. i put a little wig and make up on it and do my best senor wences. choo clean too, salright? salright.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Neizvestnaya That is a very good idea. I used to have a regular housekeeper when I was part of the work force.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well….have her start a Daycare in her home. That way the state will be checking up on her once a month. Does wonders for keeping a house clean!

Seriously…maybe she could use some tips, like, clean up what-ever ASAP as it happens…...gave the kids a bath, their clothes all over the floor? After you dry them off, get them in their Jammies, pick up the clothes and toss them in the hamper.

dreamer31's avatar

@blueiiznh you must be a very patient, kind person to have such good communication skills. That is not common.
@Neizvestnaya very good point.
@Supacase been there too!
I would write my own comment but you guys said it first.

john65pennington's avatar

You stated, “her kids”. Is this a second marriage for her?

If so, I wonder if her first husband became tired of the laziness, just like him?

A marriage is as close to 50–50 sharing, as possible. If I am failing in a chore that is mine, my wife lets me know right quick.

Do her parents have a history of laziness? This come from somewhere.

A divorce could not be out of the question for him, in this situation.

I see trouble ahead for him. The more he does for her, the more she expects from him.

Make a list of who does what chores. If she still fails in her part, seek an attorney.

MatChup's avatar

One thing I found out tonight is that she was having some real issues with pain due to wheat gluten. Since she started eliminating that from her diet she has gotten better, but still her attitude hasn’t changed for the most part. One thing my friend made just a couple of days ago was to buy her a new van she can use to carry the kids and have plenty of space to chill in it while waiting between her kids’ classes. Apparently since she got this gift, she has improved somehow. So it seems that at least for now, she is doing her part a bit more. Still lacks full support though. However, it seems that based on what my friend told me after a while she would get bored with it and go back to her old ways.
@Dutchess_III, I would think is practically impossible to completely know somebody, since we as people may have changes in our lives that may not necessarily reflect who we are early in life. As for me, when I was younger, I was quite aggressive in nature; now that I have grown up, I am much more mellow and understanding of others.
@blueiiznh, you mentioned: “Commitment is key to any relationship as well as getting these kind of things done” … this is the biggest reason my friend hasn’t even thought about leaving his spouse; I have encouraged him to continue steadfast in his commitment he made when he tied the knot. You asked if there is a large gap in family of origin ….. Can you elaborate more? I don’t quite grasp what you are asking here.
@Neizvestnaya, you write: “. If she’s overwhelmed by the kids and isn’t up to engaging them then retreating into herself and away from chores might be her way of trying to protect herself.” This is what I’ve been thinking about is going on, so it seems that she wasn’t prepared to have a family and perhaps the way she was brought up as a child and adolescent didn’t prepared her for the life she is in right now. “I’ll bet there’s more than a dirty house at issue.” What kind of issues do you think could be going on? I am clueless here.
@Supacase , “… housework is monotonous, boring, depressing, and you are never finished. Motivation begins to wane” Now, you just spit what is happening here, what would you recommend is the best solution so this doesn’t happen? and her motivation for the commitment she made to him when they got wed doesn’t wane out? If it was up to him, he would rather her find a job but since the kids are 5 and 7 he prefers she stays home and take her kids to school and look after them once she picks them up from school …. “Ask her to help him get things cleaned up – with no resentment or anger; this needs to be a positive experience” very interesting point, yeah!, when he ends up doing the chores he does it with resentment since he comes home mentally tired and just want to play with his kids. “He may simply have to accept that she is lazy and never going to change” he has accepted that somehow by telling me he is living with a presumed handicap wife.
@YARNLADY, yeah!! Wake up call, huh!! Hmmmm, so you’re saying he’s way too late.
@Dutchess_III, “….have her start a Daycare in her home” Although this sounds like a great idea for him, if she finds out the real reason he will be in for big trouble …. Wouldn’t you think so. But yeah, you’re right. He has invited their friends over for some special occasions and she has really worked hard to clean that house and has left it immaculate clean. Obviously she was motivated, but these parties don’t happen often.
@john65pennington, sorry for the misunderstanding, they are their kids. He doesn’t really want to go to extremes and wants to find a suitable win-win solution. Divorce is out of the question.
Thanks a lot for all of your suggestions and inquires. This is a great support for my friend and also it gives me great insight for my future when I decide to tie the knot.

ucme's avatar

In this scenario it’s best to defuse the whole powder keg. Personally, i’d hire a puerto rican dwarf friend of the family, Juan Toclean to handle all the domestic chores. He’d soon make short work of those duties i’m sure. Problemo solv-ed :¬)

blueiiznh's avatar

@MatChup I am glad they are making headway in a positive supportive way. Here are a few articles about Family of Origin
The effect on your relationship
@dreamer31 patient, yes. Communication is key in any relationship. Good communication will help it be successful.

Earthgirl's avatar

Matchup First, I’d like to say I feel for your friend. It seems like he is doing everything he can to make the relationship work. I have a few questions though. How long have they been married? Was she always like this or has she changed since their children were born? Was having children a decision and planned on their part or was it just something that happened because “that’s what people do” when they get married? Did she work before they got married and did she enjoy her work? How intelligent and educated is she? Do you think she is still in love with him?
When I read this comment of yours it got me to thinking. And believe me, I’m not trying to take sides here, I am just trying to get at what might be her issue of non-motivation

“If it was up to him, he would rather her find a job but since the kids are 5 and 7 he prefers she stays home and take her kids to school and look after them once she picks them up from school ”
What he prefers in this case seems like he is making the decision for her.
I also don’t understand why she is waiting , chilling out in her new van while her kids are “between classes”.
Her low energy level disappears when she has something to look forward to like visits from friends and so on. That makes me think that it’s not clinical depression but just a depression born of not being happy with or fulfilled in her life as wife and mother. My guess is that she wants more out of life and feels trapped in her current role. She needs to be honest with your friend about what it is, if anything, that she feels like she is missing. Of course he deserves better too and she needs to think of his happiness or this marriage will never work.

MatChup's avatar

@Earthgirl, How long have they been married? Don’t know the exact number
Was she always like this or has she changed since their children were born?
She’s definitely changed since the children were born. She used to have her own job before they got married. I am not clear on what was her job about. I’ll look into it and I’ll keep u informed.
Was having children a decision and planned on their part or was it just something that happened because “that’s what people do” when they get married?
Having children was something they talked about prior to
Did she work before they got married and did she enjoy her work?
I would have to inquire in a subtle way in regards whether she enjoyed her work or what.
How intelligent and educated is she? Not very well educated
Do you think she is still in love with him?
It seems she is, but I have a funny feeling about her lethargic attitude. Seems she is bored with her life as it is.

I also don’t understand why she is waiting, chilling out in her new van while her kids are “between classes”.

She’s chilling bcos she doesn’t want to go back home and do the chores then go back to pick up the kids from school. So now she figures she can save the stress of driving back and forth.

Her low energy level disappears when she has something to look forward to like visits from friends and so on. That makes me think that it’s not clinical depression but just a depression born of not being happy with or fulfilled in her life as wife and mother.
She wished she could be away of her kids for a few hours a day so she could enjoy her day sort of speak. So it seems she is tired of dealing with her kids all day and may feel trapped.
Of course he deserves better too and she needs to think of his happiness or this marriage will never work.
I haven’t asked my friend as to what is holding him on, don’t have the guts to inquire about it.
One thing he told me though is that he feels he’s married to a handicap wife.

Earthgirl's avatar

MatChup Thanks for trying to answer all my questions. It’s really hard to judge something like this from the outside with not very much information. It does seem like she is feeling dissatisfied at the least, and possibly trapped. She isn’t being very proactive about getting the situation solved though. I think she needs to look inside of herself and figure out what her goals in life are. I don’t think the marriage has to be doomed to failure. Maybe the counseling they got wasn’t very good. I’m curious as to how deep the counselor dug for reasons for her behavior and whether or not your friend’s wife was honest with her responses.

If they give counseling another shot with a new and better therapist and it still doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, your friend may have to lay it on the line. I don’t know if he is still in love with her, but he seems willing to try and commited to their relationship. I would hope they could work things out. They need to talk to each other. No one can figure this out for them. They have two children together and for their sake they should try to make this partnership work. Both people have to have a voice in decision making. By “laying it on the line” I don’t mean that your friend should call the shots. I just mean that he has to make her realize that he doesn’t think this can continue the way it is. And he needs to consider her wants and needs. I think if she sees that he cares about her being fulfilled and yet cannot continue to bear an unfair share of the work, it will make a difference. Compromise is important. Both sides need to give.

MatChup's avatar

@Earthgirl, thanks for your answer! You are right “No one can figure this out for them” By posting this question in this site, I was just trying to find out if any of you had had this type of experience in the past so that I can help my friend in his private life. In order to get professional help this is not the place to find the right process and strategy; for that is of course better to keep looking for a qualified counselor. Forums like these: 1) assist though in sharing with one another for learning experiences of others that will enable a better start rather than running around and trying different things that have just turned out to be a waste of time in the past. 2) provide useful resources others have found profitable for attacking certain issues; 3) can save us a whole lot of time by going directly to the source where issues can be solved; 4) best of all allow a whole community to pour their souls in and give their honest opinions unconditionally without expecting anything in return. After all, where else other than these kind of forums can you find instant answers to your concerns?

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