by Marty Friedman
How do you get a man to do his share of the housework? If you are like most women you've faced this question the hard way: in an argument with your husband. Here's a man's take on this troublesome issue.
It's a rare man who is equally focused on household chores as his wife is. A man will appreciate a clean, orderly house, but he usually won't make the effort to create it.
This doesn't mean that a woman has to do all the housework; it means that she may have to manage many of the household duties (at least for a while), and request her man's participation, while respectfully holding him accountable for what he said he'd do. A woman can rant and rave that men and women should take equal responsibility for housework, but rather than fighting the large-scale household war wouldn't it work better to simply look at what you want done and see how best to communicate and negotiate its completion?
Very few men are raised to be fully responsible for housework, and many men consciously or unconsciously look on housework as "women's work." On the other hand, most men will readily work around the yard, make repairs and complete projects on the weekend or evenings, and it's important that you give your man appreciation for those contributions, too. (In his mind repairs and projects count just as much, or maybe more than housework.)
Most men will take on a few additional chores around the house if they are respectfully asked and not second-guessed and criticized for what they do. They are even more likely to do household chores if they can choose what they do, and do it without being monitored and criticized.
Here's the key: we men want to feel that we are doing housework either because we want to do a task (usually because we are good at), or because we simply want to please our women. Men are much less likely to take on household tasks they prioritize as uninteresting and unimportant. In other words, men are unlikely to do a household task just for the good of the house.
As with most things, housework often comes down to communication.
Here are some specific recommendations about how to talk to your man about household chores
• In a respectful, loving way ask for what you want. Make a clear, specific request about exactly what you want or need. Avoid criticisms and judgments such as, "You never do any housework! You're lazy!" They'll cause a man to feel either ashamed or angered, and neither result will help your cause.
• Present the issue as a problem for which you need help. But, remember: he is not the problem-getting the housework done is the problem. All your man to come up with options and make suggestions.
• Even though you've made a request, leave room for new ideas and a full, honest conversation about housework and related issues. Stay calm, be open and make yourself listen to him, even if you don't agree with what he says.
• Make it personal, e.g. "Honey, it would mean a lot to me if you would clean up the dishes on the nights I cook. Would you be willing to take that on?"
• Be friendly, encouraging and affectionate; engage the heart more than the head.
• Don't call a special meeting to discuss housework; in fact, you're better off keeping the whole conversation low-key. If you call a special meeting, your man is likely to feel it's going to be another "relationship talk", and he will be told what he's doing wrong. He'll put up immediate defenses and tune you out or argue with you. Try talking when you are both engaged in another activity, such as gardening or riding in the car.
• Above all, don't belittle or criticize your man for his failings. Build on all the great things he does, rather than criticizing all he doesn't do.
Don't expect massive changes right away. Men haven't been expected to do much housework over the last several thousand years and we are making a tough transition to the 21st Century's brave new world. Applying these ideas in your household will pave the road for incremental changes and increase your man's participation in housekeeping.
Marty Friedman, author of "Straight Talk for Men About Marriage-What Men Need to Know About Marriage (And What Women Need to Know About Men)" taught corporate managers how to create good relationships at work before writing and speaking about men and marriage. He is regularly interviewed on radio and television, and speaks to organizations about communication, men, relationships and marriage.