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How to get your husband to help with housework

Feel like you’re the only one doing things around the house? Check out these tips on how to end the chore wars and get help with housework.

A couple doing the housework together with the text overlay saying, How to get your husband to help with the housework.

There’s a classic scene from the 2006 movie, The Breakup.

Jennifer Aniston’s character has just finished saying goodbye to the last guest, and is heading into the kitchen to do the dishes, after a day spent working, cleaning the house, and cooking the meal.

Meanwhile, her partner has kicked back on the sofa and is playing a video game.

She gets angry he’s not prepared to help her, and when he finally, grudgingly, says he will, she retorts that actually, that’s not what she wants.

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What she wants is for him “to want to do the dishes.”

He replies, “Why would I want to do the dishes?”

(Check out the full scene below).

And the reality is that not many people do want to do the dishes. Or to wash the laundry. Or to cook dinner.

But most of us do want clean cutlery, clothes that don’t smell, and food in our bellies.

And for some reason, it seems the weight of these tasks often falls more heavily on women, to the tune of almost an extra hour a day (Check out these statistics from the United States Department of Labor you want the breakdown on how that time is spent).

I don’t know why this is.

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I don’t think researchers know 100% either.

But I only have to look at the articles I read to know that women seem to care about these things more. I don’t see many homemaking and home organizing sites run by men.

In addition, I’ve lived with a few men, and I can tell you that none of them ever said anything like, “That skirting looks dirty- I think I’ll clean it this weekend,” or, “It’s spring time, so time to make that spring-cleaning checklist.”

I did ask my husband the other day as to why he thought that was, and he said to me that he just doesn’t see it as important. He’s more concerned with how the house looks from the outside- if the garden is neat or the lawn is mowed.

This is a reason that fits into the motivational hypothesis. Other reasons may be epistemic (they just don’t see what needs to be done the same way we do) or structural (they want to help, but factors outside their control don’t allow them to) (source).

And that’s all well and good- until it isn’t.

Until you’re tired, grumpy, stressed, or all of the above and you’re sick of the fact that both of you work all day and yet everything seems to come down to you.

You might also like: Is tiredness affecting your marriage?

How to get help with housework

Husband and wife washing the dishes together as per their couples chore chart.

Check your assumptions

Is he really doing less?

It used to drive me crazy that I was always waiting on my husband in the mornings (we work and commute together).

Then he went away for a couple of days and I had to do all the morning tasks he does: unload the dishwasher, make coffee, make lunches, pack bags, feed the animals…

Suddenly I realized how much he was doing in the morning compared to my contribution of making the bed.

Are you sure you know exactly what housework your husband is doing? How does it compare to what’s you are doing??

Let go of some of your expectations

I heard once the saying that “expectation is premeditated disappointment” and does this resonate in this scenario or what.

Your husband loves you and doesn’t actually want you to feel like a slave in your own home, so give up the idea that him leaving stuff up to you has some great meaning.

Also give up any resentment that you are the one putting in the mental work related to housework.

Accept it, and think about what you can change instead. Same thing with the word help.

Asking for help with housework doesn’t mean everyone thinks it should be your job. It just means it’s bothering you and you’re choosing to take action.

Make everything transparent

If you’ve done this and there’s still a problem, it’s time to make everything transparent.

Make a list of the tasks you’re talking about. For example, cooking tea, doing dishes, laundry and other daily tasks, as well as those weekly tasks like dusting and vacuuming.

Make sure you also put on the lists things he might do as well. For example, mowing the lawn or cleaning the car (tasks I have never done in all the years my husband and I have been together).

Discuss how you will split the tasks

Now pick a time to sit down with your husband and discuss how you are going to create a fair division of household chores.

Assuming he says yes, there are various ways you can do this.

You can select personal preference (one of you might like cooking, the other might like ironing), or tasks that fit into your day better (maybe you get home before him so it’s easier to start dinner, whereas he gets up earlier, so he can unload the dishwasher).

Make sure you think about how long each task takes and the regularity with which it has to be completed, so you end up with an even distribution.

In this conversation, also allocate times for tasks to be done in your week.

For example, if you are going to give the house the weekly cleaning, you might decide together that you’ll do this on Saturday morning, when he is mowing the lawn.

Once you have worked these things out, consider whether it would help to have these written down and in a public place, such as on your fridge or somewhere else.

You could even design a chore chart for couples. Hey, if it works for kids!

Do not interfere

Now, of course, that’s not the end of it, because, despite the best of intentions, things might happen to derail your system. The biggest one of those is your interference.

If it is your husband’s job to put away the laundry, then do not go and check to see how he has done it, refold it, and make any comments about how he got it wrong. There is no right or wrong; there is only your way and his way.

Your way may have been the way so far, because back when a decision had to be made you had an opinion about it and he didn’t.

I’m thinking about towel folding here. I like to fold the towels a particular way. When my husband first moved in with me, I wanted him to use my method, which he did, because it wasn’t something he felt strongly about.

But if you really want the mental load to be less, you have to distance yourself from his tasks and how he executes them. Don’t even have them on your list anymore. Let it go and don’t fix anything. He will never get better without practice.

At the same time, there are things he may need your help with to start. Be patient and encouraging, even if you feel anything but.

When he has done something, then express your appreciation. Not in a super patronizing way, but in a, “Dinner was delicious tonight- thank you,” or, “Thanks for putting that laundry away.”

Appreciation is a great motivator.

What to do if your husband refuses to help with housework

A woman handing her husband the washing for him to do as part of their division of household chores.

But what if the problem is that he wouldn’t agree to share the chores? Or maybe he said he would, but a month’s gone by and the toilet has colonized a new bacteria?

You might also like: Struggling marriage? Quotes to inspire and encourage.

Work to rule

To be honest, if he won’t agree to share, and it’s not because he really doesn’t have time, then you may not be in the healthiest relationship.

Couples that care for each other want to help and support each other, not be selfish assholes.

You could go back to the list you made and put what you’re currently doing on one side and what he’s doing on the other.

Ask him if he thinks that is fair.

If he does, you’re doing to have to talk about why.

If the answer is not something you can live with, you need to say, “Okay, but I can’t keep doing all of these, so I’m going to stop doing XXXX.”

And then you actually need to stop doing it.

Maybe you were doing all the ironing, so you stop doing his stuff and just sort yourself out. Or you leave his washing for him to deal with. Not to be mean, but because this is what you can cope with.

You need to set some boundaries, and possibly consider if couple’s therapy is in your future.

You might also like: Marriage counseling tips: An intro to marriage therapy.

Reassess

If he initially agreed, but consistently doesn’t do his chores, you could do one of several things.

Maybe it’s not happening because he is rightly or wrongly assuming other things are more important.

So you could go back to the list and rejig who is doing what, so what he doesn’t do has a natural consequence.

For example, he takes over cooking half the meals, and if he doesn’t, you don’t step in and bail him out.

It is a lot easier not to dust than not to cook when you are both starving.

You could also look at Gretchen Rubin’s 4 tendencies to see what type your husband is and leverage that to assist you.

For example, my husband suddenly upped his game after he read a well-publicized article about how women ate more likely to be unfaithful if they don’t get help with chores.

I would never dream of cheating, but it’s the kind of thing that might motivate a Questioner.

Be flexible

And finally, if he’s occasionally slipping up, remember to be flexible.

Everyone has rough days and part of being in a long-term relationship is to accept the ebbs and flows that both of you will experience.

Having been divorced more than once, I’ve been in the position where I’ve had to do everything on my own, and I can tell you that chances are your man does a lot more than you realize.

Take a breath, think what you’re grateful for, and remember the end goal is a happy home life, not a winning scorecard.

To sum up…

Couple high fiving in the kitchen after doing their housework together.

As a working woman, it’s super hard to come home from a busy day and feel like you’re starting what’s often called the second shift.

Remember that you and your husband are a team.

Check your assumptions are real. Accept you are the one to deal with this because it’s bothering you more, and make things explicit- get them out there on paper.

Once you’ve done the division of household chores, it’s time to get his jobs out of your mind. But remember, change takes time, so don’t expect things to be perfect straight away. Anticipate it, so you’re not disappointed. And good luck!

Want greater connection in your relationship?

Then you'll want this freebie.

It's called The KISS Connection and it's a FREE 4-step everyday practice that will bring back that loving feeling.

Hit the pink button to grab your free copy today.

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Yabut

Friday 15th of March 2019

My problem, since my hubby recently retired, is that if I'm not fast enough, he does all my chores. He's not one to sit around, and I know he's trying to be helpful, but really, it makes me feel guilty.

Katie

Friday 15th of March 2019

Yabut, I bet you have worked super hard over the years - and so if he wants to help, I think I would be enjoying his help!

Nicole Mouchka

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

This all makes a lot of sense. I know I don't give my husband enough credit and he has said before that he doesn't load the dishwasher because I go in behind him and rearrange. I'm going to try harder to adjust my expectations and be happy for what he does do. And let him do it his way! I realize that he can't read my mind and sometimes when I'm fuming, he has no clue. Thanks for sharing!

Katie

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

It is super hard to not redo their jobs... but you must try your best not to otherwise you yourself are making yourself responsible for everything.

Jamie

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

I love everything about this post. Men are often villianized, when (at least in my household), I am often shocked at how much my husband actually does. I love that you're emphasizing that there is no right way and wrong way, only his way and her way.

Great article!

Katie

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

Oh yay, I am super glad you got the article exactly as it was intended!

Cameron - Diary of a Southern Millennial

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

While every relationship dynamic is different, I think partners should be sharing household duties. If you're getting a response like "But why would I want to do the dishes?" from your husband when you ask him to do the dishes, then you need to have a serious talk because a lot more is going on than him just not wanting to help you. While I love my fiance, we're both adults and we both work full time. It's not fair for only one of us to be stuck doing everything. It's not that I'm lucky that I have a man that actually helps out around the house, it's that I've already set the expectation that he does his fair share around the house. They don't inherently help you around the house, you have to work that out on your own!

Katie

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

I agree! Thanks for your comment.

Samantha

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

These are great tips! I feel so fortunate to have a husband that helps me with whatever I need.

Katie

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

That is lucky. Thanks for the comment!

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