Many married couples experience conflict because the husband seems engrossed in his work and has no time for helping around the house. If the wife is working fulltime, this can lead to great anger and resentment on her part.
In his book, The Lazy Husband (St Martin’s Press, 2005), Joshua Coleman describes the causes of this problem as well as ways to overcome it.
How Childhood Influences Marriage
Joshua Coleman states that every marriage is influenced by the partners’ childhood experiences. Subconsciously, people tend to mimic their parents’ marriage or if their home environment was unhealthy, they may vow to act in an opposite manner. Both can be damaging to a marriage.
If a man comes from a background where women are regarded as subservient to men, he may appear lazy around the home. His mother may have served her husband, cared for the children and provided sex on demand. While this model was common in past decades, it does not work well in modern society.
A Husband’s Focus is to Provide for his Wife
Financial security and wealth are of great value to men. They regard these things as a sign of their worth and status and are willing to work long hard hours to achieve them. Part of their drive for financial security is the desire to provide for their wives and children. Unfortunately, they may take this to the extreme and be so worn out from work that they have no energy left to help around the home or attend to their wife’s emotional needs.
Four Types of Lazy Husbands
Joshua Coleman describes four categories of husbands who are often reluctant to help around the home:
- The boy-husband is a man who has never grown up and faced his responsibilities. He is often careless with money, unreliable at work and indecisive. His wife may end up doing all the housework as well as handing the husband’s responsibilities while he plays and goofs around.
- The worried husband may come from a difficult family background where he was forced to grow up too quickly. He worries constantly about finances, security and possible disasters and has little energy left to help around the family home.
- The perfectionist husband can be hard to live with. He has high standards for housekeeping, cooking and childcare but is often reluctant to physically help in these areas. His wife often ends up exhausted and feeling inferior, controlled and dominated.
- The angry husband may control and belittle his wife. His behavior is often hostile, abusive, jealous and intimidating. In this case it is essential to work on the anger problem before asking him to help with housework.
Many husbands fall into one of the above categories to a greater or lesser degree. In extreme cases counseling can be helpful. In others, communication and recognizing the problem can be the first step to solving the difficulties. The important thing is that husband and wife learn to work together to overcome their differences and share the workload at home.
Sharing Household Chores with Men
A study published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Family Issues revealed that men did about 9.5 hours of housework a week compared to more than 21 hours a week among women.
Full-time stay-at-home mothers appear to suffer more than working mothers because they depend financially on their husbands, leaving them with less bargaining power to get their spouses more involved in household chores and parenting.
The good news is that there are ways to get husbands to do more housework. To avoid making the man feel defensive and unappreciated, approach him with affection and gratitude whenever there’s a need to talk about sharing household chores.
Appeal to the Husband’s Sense of Fair Play
If a husband truly cares about his wife, the latter can appeal to his sense of fair play, says Dr. Joshua Coleman, author of The Lazy Husband [Piatkus Books Ltd, 2005]. For instance, the husband works full-time while the wife stays home for the kids. She is exhausted because she does everything herself at home. She can talk about the lack of fairness in the arrangement by saying that while he works eight hours, she works 24 hours a day. He has more time to rest while she virtually has none. If she starts the request with appreciation instead of aggression, he is more likely to do more housework.
Suggest that Housework will Benefit the Husband
A man is more likely to participate in household chores if he can benefit from it. The wife can suggest that if he helps out more, she will have more time to rest. That means she’ll have more energy to do some of the more fun things he’s always wanted to do together as a couple on weekends.
The Wife Clearly States how Unhappy She Is
Some women unhappily accept the situation only to grow resentful of their husbands. “If you’re talking to your husband about your feelings, you may have to make it very, very plain how unhappy you are with the current arrangement,” says Coleman. That means be clear, firm and avoid letting guilt about wanting more from the husband make the request vague and weak.
Allow the Husband to Do Housework His Way
Some women are too critical of the way their husbands do housework. Consequently, the men feel unappreciated and prefer not to be involved. If that’s the case, stop doing that. Instead, allow the husband to do housework his way. It really doesn’t matter if the clothes are folded the different way or if he prefers washing the dishes after he’s watched his favorite TV show. As long as he gets something done, it’s good enough.
Work with the Husband’s Priorities
A wife can get her husband do more housework by working with his priorities. For instance, if the husband is fastidious about the family car’s maintenance, let him handle the maintenance of the car – filling up the fuel tank, vacuuming, cleaning, waxing, servicing, etc. The car is a high priority for him. If the wife simply refuses to the chore, he’ll have no choice but to do it himself.
It’s a challenge for full-time mums to share household chores and parenting with men. To get husbands to do more housework, use affection instead of aggression to bring up the issue. Then, try to appeal to the husband’s sense of fair play, suggest that housework will benefit him, clearly state how unhappy you are with the current arrangement or allow him to do housework his way. It also helps to be clear, firm but not critical when using any of these approaches.