Thursday, September 30, 2010

Husband Issues?

The Question:

So far I've only seen questions relating to kids, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to tackle one about husbands?

My problem is I feel like I'm constantly cleaning up after my husband. He cooks and leaves a mess on the stove that I have to clean off. He leaves dishes all over the house. When he cooks, he also leaves wrappers on the counters. I try not to mind, because he's working full time and going to school, but at the same time, couldn't he at least rinse his plates? The other day I woke up and there was spaghetti sauce all over the stove. I mean, ALL over. when he woke up (he works graves) I asked him if he'd clean it up. He said, "I knew that would be the first thing you said to me today." (If you knew it was coming, why didn't you wipe it off?!) And then he never cleaned it.

I've talked with him about using paper plates, and he is SO opposed to them, but won't tell me why. I understand if you're eating a steak, you don't want to have to cut up your plate. But if you're microwaving a quesadilla, shouldn't it be worth it to eat off a paper plate so your wife doesn't have to scrape off the melted cheese?

Also, I feel like the only thing I regularly ask him to do is take out the garbage. It really is too heavy for me most of the time. Before I was married, I had a tiny garbage can that would fit under the sink, so it had to be taken out every day and never got heavy or stinky. As soon as we got married, he started campaigning for a bigger can, and I told him he could get it if he'd be the one taking out the trash. So I ask him VERY nicely, and he says he'll do it, then doesn't. And I'm not even asking him to make a special trip! I always say, "Baby, when you leave, would you take the trash out with you?" He says yes, then leaves without it. I remind him, and he says sure thing, then leaves again. This will go for several days before he gets frustrated with me asking and finally takes it out. I partly feel like I want to make a point and he SAID he'll take it out, so he SHOULD! But also, sometimes when I finally cave and do it myself, he says, "I said I'd take it out!"

So how do I talk to him about this without it turning into a big argument? I don't want to feel like a nag, but that's the only way to get things done. I feel so disrespected, and like he's taking advantage of me, even though I know that's not what it's about.

Please Help!

The Answer:

Dear Friend,

It sounds like maybe you and your husband are at a stand-off.  You're in a pattern that builds resentment and separation.   If you really want to strengthen your marriage and feel loved and cared for by your husband, you have the ability to turn things around.  But you are going to have to stop keeping score, stop looking for evidence of his neglect and stop making requests and then waiting for him to fail you again.   You need to step back and look at what he is giving you--working full time and going to school so he can take good care of you.

I'm a little old-fashioned, I know.  I'm still back there in the age where a man's role was to provide and a woman's role was to create a warm loving home for him to return to every night--rather than a frown and a pile of chores.   I think you should do all you can to support him with this difficult schedule.   Make it your goal to be the woman he can't wait to see and hates to leave.   Make it so that he loves and appreciates you so much that he wants to take your garbage out.  I know, I know.  It's his garbage just as much as it is yours.  But men like to feel like they're doing something for you and that you love them for it--not like naughty little children that you have to keep in line.   Express appreciation continually for the sacrifices he's making for you.  Doing this will invite him to lower his defenses and begin to appreciate you in return.

Of course, this will only work if it is deeply sincere.  Make up your mind that you are going to serve him without resentment.   It only takes a few seconds to wash a plate.  Don't make a big show of it.  When you feel like complaining, give him a smile and a big hug and tell him it's the least you can do considering all that he does for you.  I can almost guarantee that as he feels this love and support from you, you will not have to take out the garbage.  He'll see you doing it and say, "Hey little lady, I'll get that for you."  And you'll say, "Thanks."  And he'll just think you're the best thing ever made.  Your marriage will flourish.

Pray each day to know how to better serve and care for your husband and you will receive ideas and a softening of heart.  The love you have for each other is right at the bedrock of your successful home.  It's worth any effort.

With love,



  1. I try to remember that, "You tend to find what you're looking for." Jane is right, keeping score will just make things worse and keep you in the wrong state of mind. But I know how you feel. I have to throw the empty popcorn bag into the trash every night. He leaves it sitting on the counter inches away from the trash can. Grrr...

    Have you ever read the book, 5 Love Languages? I read it a few months ago and it BLEW MY MIND. I see a 180 degree difference in my marriage, now that I know how he feels "loved" and I am able to articulately describe the ways that he can make me feel "loved." I highly highly highly recommend it.

    We can't control our husbands, but we can control how we feel about our husbands. Good luck.

  2. The serving without expectations is an absolute truth to nurturing true love and happiness in marriage.

  3. Great advice! Really. Listen to "Marriage For Eternity" by Dr. John L. Lund. His research is what the 5 Love Languages book is based off of. Very entertaining and informative, fun to listen to and the principles in it completely changed our marriage.

  4. I really love this advice because it is easy to count the score in this case when the tasks you have to do are DAILY and VISIBLE and his sacrifice will pay off in the long run, but doesn't seem so much like chores or like he's helping out. Try to think of yourselves as a team, and see the points he's scoring and the ones you are, then, as Jane said, just become a better team player, the best you can, without being resentful or showy about the work you do. Good luck!

  5. Read doctor Laura's book "The Care and Feeding of Husbands"- the whole thing is about this very problem.

    It is a fantastic book, I learned a ton about my hubby and why he does the things he does and how to change my relationship with him.

  6. I am a witness to this! Thanks to good examples, my faith, Dr. Laura, etc, I began to really sincerely serve my husband. It has changed my whole perspective on marriage (I was kind of a selfish "women aren't here to serve their husbands" kind of person), and though we're only five years in, we have an awesome marriage.

  7. A couple people recommended the 5 Love Languages book and "The Proper Care and feeding of Husbands". One more book to add to that list that is awesome is "Keys to the Kingdom" by Alison Armstrong.

  8. Sounds like everyone is posting their favorite books on this topic, and I have another to add :) "The Anatomy of Peace" written by the Arbinger Institute is amazing. It helps you put relationships in the right perspective to fully enjoy them. I highly recommend it.

  9. Instead of buying a new book I just bought a dry erase marker and started leaving notes to him in our bathroom on the mirror. It is a great way to show appreciation for all he is doing. And it was only 1.89 at Walmart! (for two)

  10. The Surrendered's a must read...goes along with The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. It's FANTASTIC. Read a couple chapters of this book and you won't have these questions anymore, I promise. Anytime I start to get resentful, I really do sit down and read this puts me to shame! It's all about giving service and the blessings and rewards come... ;)

  11. My husband and I call this a "white towel" issue. When we were married we received two sets of white towels. One set was thick and fluffy, the other more silky and smooth. For about a year my husband and I would bicker about who had given us the "nice" towels and where they bought them. One day as we stepped out of the shower we both grabbed a towel (one of each set of course) and said to the other, "See - this is the nice towel and it was from so and so!" It turns out we had failed to ask the most important and basic question: Which is the towel the other person thinks is the better towel? Instead of assuming we already had the answer.

    Communication, communication, communication. My answer is slightly different than Jane's or those in the comments. But it leads to the same place. It seems like the garbage thing really bothers you - as well as the mess in the kitchen. First the garbage. Here is what you said, "Baby, when you leave, would you take the trash out with you?" Here is what HE hears, "Baby, sometime when you are on your way out the door (this week) would you take out the trash?" See how it is different? YOU understand you mean NOW - he feels like he has all week and multiple opportunities to do so. My husband and I have gone through lots of these communication bloopers. He still leaves everything out on the counter every time he makes himself something to eat (sigh) BUT his laundry does make it to the basket where as it used to hang around on the floor in front of the basket (really? like 2 more inches and it would be IN the basket).
    So the end of my advice is like the others - be willing to over look faults and search for compassion. Sit down and talk about how you feel using specific examples (in a soft spoken, quite, never in the moment time, NEVER accusing manner) and he will probably tell you his side of things. This way compassion is being created for the other person, instead of contention and pride. You can even agree to have a phrase that you say to the other when you are feeling walked over or for him, nagged or overwhelmed. Good luck. Keep at it.

  12. What a beautiful response Jane! I truly believe that a happy marriage is all about charity--pure LOVE of Christ. I was given some marriage advice at one of my bridal showers that stuck with me. "If you want to live happily ever after then you must see your husband as Prince Charming and treat him acordingly." There is magic in focusing on your husbands good qualities and refusing to dwell on his shortcomings. I also know that prayer is a powerful tool in being succuessful in marriage--your most important relationship in this life. Thank you for this sweet blog! I love it!

  13. This is a really interesting answer. I'm not trying to play devil's advocate, but having seen a marriage up close where one spouse (the wife) is an absolute angel and the other spouse (the husband) walks all over her, I wonder -- what do you do when you've followed this advice and the husband still doesn't change?

    I just don't see how this wife could do much more in the way of service and love, yet her husband is still a jerk to her and her kids. He's not real active in Church, he doesn't attend anything important to his kids, doesn't go on trips with his family or even spend time with them and really doesn't do much to ever acknowledge the wonderful contributions made by his wife. It's been this way -- really tough -- for probably a decade and if anything it's getting worse.

    While I agree that love and service and charity and especially your advice about prayer is wonderful, I just wonder how my friend goes forward when she's pulling all the weight of her marriage and family alone. My heart hurts for my friend and while I know God loves her and sees her valiant efforts, her marriage is far from ideal.

  14. Fichtner, I had a similar argument with my husband last week. I'm going to be induced with our second child tomorrow, and we started talking about what was going to happen after the baby came. He's taking a week off work to help out with everything, and I got pretty upset when he said the house would just get messy, because I felt during that week he'd at least be able to maintain the house. After about 20 minutes of both of us getting more and more angry, we realized that while I was thinking about just that week, He was talking about the several months after the baby where I'll be too tired to really clean up.

    It's definitely important to make sure you both understand what the other person is asking for. I'd also recommend explaining to him what you need to feel loved. Sounds like he just doesn't know how to express love in a way that is meaningful to you. Try reading the book Kylie recommended.

  15. I Echo Fichner that communication is the key. I would say my marriage thrives on the fact that we can positively communicate with one another. If I were having this problem I would casually sit down with my husband and let him know that I love him and appreciate what he does too much to allow something like the garbage to cause conflict between us. Then I would express that I feel that keeping the house clean and smelling nice is one of my contributions and stinky trash bothers me. I would then ask if he would mind helping me think of a solution that works for both of us. Maybe a solution could be going back to a smaller trash can that you can empty when needed into a larger trash can that sits outside the back door. He then can empty that when he wants and it doesn't affect you as much. Remember that you want to make sure your words don't make the other person defensive. I would also like to say there is wisdom in Jane's advice to lovingly serve your spouse. Doing this can only build greater love, but don't be afraid to positively communicate your needs or problems. My husband and I find that the greastest confusion comes when one of us make assumptions about what the other is thinking or feeling. Good luck.

  16. I have seen this happen in my own marriage. A few years ago I felt a little like you do.

    I don't want to over simplify, because it can feel frustrating, but as I prayed for help in this area, I saw a dramatic change. He didn't change, I did. My heart softened, and now, guess what? He does more housework than ever before, without being asked. It's really a miracle.

    I agree that keeping score is a sure way to frustration in marriage. It's impossible since you're not comparing apples to apples. Some days we work harder, some days they do, it's just part of the deal.

    Pray to see him as the Lord sees him, and pray to feel gratitude for all he does, even on those days that you're up all night with a baby, and he gets to go out to lunch with his co-workers. :) It all comes out in the wash (even if you're the one doing the laundry). ;)

  17. The other day I asked my five year old to do a really simple favor for me and instead of doing it he whined and whined and I said what every mother says, "if you just would have done it instead of whined you could be done right now!"

    Lately I've been hearing that phrase turned around inside my head pointing at myself. How many things in my life would I rather whine about than just do and be done with.
    The garbage used to really bug me to, until I had this kind of realization where I said to myself, "Seriously, Brooke, you can't do it yourself? You can't figure out some way to deal with it? Do you really enjoy being either a victim or a martyr? You're a smart and healthy woman, let's deal with the problem and stop whining and festering."
    Contrary to what my inner whiny voice tells me when confronted with something I don't want to do, when I just DO it, I have more energy, not less.

  18. handsfullmom, I think you ask a really important question. I don't think any women should be a door mat to her husband. Serving our husbands doesn't mean we allow them to treat us poorly. If a man persists in treating his wife cruelly with little regard and compassion then its time to look at alternatives. I think your friend has to determine how much she is willing to take. She should also be clear and up front about how she expects her husband to treat her. Allowing that kind of behavior to continue is just wrong.

  19. Swedemom makes a good point. Charity, love and service are essential to a marriage. But at what point does the wife become a "doormat." For myself, my husband certainly doesn't do all the things I wish he did. But if I was to sit and make a list, the things he DOES do for me and our family far outweighs the little things he DOESN'T do. When that list becomes really imbalanced, and the husband isn't doing much at all to help/love his wife and family, then I think that is the point that something has to be done to either save or end the marriage. But it is such a personal decision. What we might see as a cut and dry "he is a loser, get out of there" situation might not really be what it seems. And contrary, what may look like a perfect marriage, might not be what it seems either.

  20. This may be an old posting but I just saw it and I think I’ll chime in with an article and some thoughts. This article addresses the question pretty well and is quicker to read than a book for the busy:

    Yeah, she makes unhelpful comparisons at times, but does gives good advice on how to give up the nagging while still encouraging husbands to help out with housework, and to do so in a loving adoring way. (Assuming of course, that the husband in question is overall a good father/ husband/ man and not an abusive cad.)

    So my thoughts are:

    1. Quit the nagging. Nagging is not loving, it’s annoying for you and him.

    2. Make sure your communication is top notch. As others have said, communication is key to a good marriage.

    3. Be loving, thankful and adoring especially at key moments like when he wakes up, when he gets home and when he is heading out the door. That way, he loves waking up to you, loves coming home to you and when he leaves, he can’t wait to come back.

    4. Ignore the bad, reward the good. "Honey, (wrap arms around his neck) thank you for rinsing your plate (kiss kiss). I appreciate that so much (kiss) especially with busy schedule (kiss). I'm a lucky woman." He doesn't rinse his plate, no reward, no punishment- just ignore it. Still be a loving adoring, grateful wife, but he just doesn't get that extra bit you would have given him had he rinsed his plate.

    5. Adjust the environment. Make it easy for you to do your work, and hard for him to ignore his duty. For example, take the trash. Just switch it back to a smaller bag that you can take outside every day, don’t mention it to him, just do it – adjust the environment so he doesn’t look bad by not helping out, and you don’t feel the need to nag. If and when he asks about it, explain it to him in a very loving way. You’re not bitter about it, just recognizing that he is busy with a full time job and studies, you want to help him out and the smaller can makes it easier for you to do so.

    6. Accept that some things won’t change and be ok with that. If you get two out of five things to change, and a third controlled for by adjusting the environment – hey that’s not bad! Appreciate what you have and when in doubt or frustrated, remember why you do love him.

    The goal is to have a happy, resentment free marriage. It is possible to do that without being a Stepford wife style doormat.

  21. I agree with the first comment by Kylie, about the book Five Love languages. It addresses this issue in the book, and I think it will provide you some help, and motivate you with patience.

  22. I know I'm a little late with my post, but I've been pondering your response for about a month now, and I wanted to write something.
    At first, I agreed with your response whole-heartedly. My husband and I tend to have these same issues, and I thought about what you said and how applying your answer in our home would help our marriage.
    But, after much consideration, here is my *one* issue with your answer. I feel like I've walked in this woman's shoes. She came to you because she was frustrated. I share these frustrations. I feel like my husband shows a lack of respect for me when he leaves a mess everywhere he goes. I understand that he works hard outside the home. But, I work hard INSIDE the home. Isn't our job to help each other? Why is it okay for him to make MY job harder? I'm not asking him to do everything... just not make the mess worse. I clean up after an infant and a toddler all day long. He is a 31 year old man who is quite capable of cleaning his own messes, but instead he leaves them for me to clean. Our issue is eggs. Every morning, he makes himself some eggs. He'll crack one full egg, and then the whites of three others. The shells and yolks end up in our sink. And within an hour, the yolk is dried and caked on my sink. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. How hard would it be for him to rinse the egg down the drain and run the disposal? Not hard at all. Yet, it is much more challenging for me to come in (when I'm done feeding, diaper and clothing 2 children) and SCRUB dried egg off. I feel a lack of respect when he does things like this that make my job as a mother/homemaker hard.
    I appreciate all he does. I tell him regularly. And, I understand that my job is to run/maintain our home. But, sometimes I feel like he takes his 'outside' job as a free pass to not lift a finger when he comes home. As a mother, my job is 24/7. He goes to work, but then he gets to leave and come home.
    Sorry. I just had to leave a bit of my two cents. :)


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