How Do I Get My Spouse to Help Me? Part I

In my years of counseling couples in marriage therapy, I have heard a lot of different reasons for the tension and anger that can create strife in even the best marriages. One that stands out as a frequent complaint – usually from the wife – is, “I can’t get my husband to help me around the house. What can I do?” 

Unequal division of labor related to children and household chores became a bigger and bigger challenge in the last few decades as wives and mothers entered the outside workforce. It creates resentment and hostility and often leads to conflict. In fact, a couple’s inability to effectively remedy this problem can significantly undermine the quality of intimacy and connection in their marriage. 

In the next three blog posts I will offer what I have found to be some highly effective tips for solving this very common and frustrating dilemma. 

First of all, it’s true that more wives struggle with this issue than husbands, but I have seen men frustrated with it as well. For simplicity I will address the problem from the exasperated wife’s point of view, but if your situation is the opposite, the truths and strategies I will share apply equally. You guys can be successful using the same approach. 

The first step in overcoming the problem of getting your husband to  consistently share in completing the household responsibilities is to STOP ASKING HIM TO “HELP” YOU! 

In order to take this first step you must change the mindset that might be repeatedly setting  you up for failure. Unfortunately, I believe many wives have a faulty mindset when it comes to the role their husbands play in making sure the home is well maintained and managed. Repeatedly asking your husband to “help” around the house reveals that you have the mindset of a Volunteer Coordinator. 

Consider the nature of volunteer work; it is optional, often short-term and occurs at the volunteer’s convenience. The responsibility for completion of the tasks ultimately falls upon the Coordinator because the volunteer is essentially doing you a favor. After the volunteer completes his “voluntary” act he may feel he has fulfilled his obligation. The Coordinator is then responsible to begin again to find someone to perform the same service the next day, week or month. Does this sound like the way you want to get things done at home? Of course not – that would be exhausting! 

So do yourself a favor and dump the Volunteer Coordinator mindset as soon as you can and replace it with a Partnership mindset. 

A Partnership mindset involves the understanding that both spouses have a shared and vested interest in making sure projects, tasks and responsibilities related to the home and family are carried out on a regular and consistent basis. Whether you are a fulltime homemaker or CEO of your own company, a Partnership mindset will enable you to completely change your approach to getting things done around your home. When both partners understand and buy into the Partnership mindset, you will no longer be begging for help every day. 

Of course, when you adopt a Partnership mindset, that is just the first step.  You will need to make some strategic changes in how you communicate with your husband in order to help him see the new vision for your family “organization” and how the two of you can truly operate cooperatively to get it running more smoothly. So next time, we will talk about some new approaches to this old problem. 

Live, Work and Relate Well! 

Dr. Todd

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