It feels like no matter what I do things just are never all that calm. When working part-time and going to school, or when we had kids and I stayed home, he was still not satisfied.
Now that I'm working full-time it's still the same.
He seems to expect me to take care of the home front no matter what the situation.
I don't mind taking care of the house, but I believe it is a family chore not just the woman's.
I feel like I'm just a maid that is poorly waged.
The few things I've asked him to do he plays up like it's a huge chore!
We talked this whole situation out before marriage, and it seems that he's reneging on the decision we made to work on the domestic front together.
I'm not sure whether his reaction is because he came from a household where his mother took care of the house; but even so, I do not want this to continue in my home.
It might seem minor to others, but to me it is a big deal! If you could please help I'd be glad to receive ideas.
Same Old Problem
The central issue here is not just about homemaking, but rather it's about your husband's attitude and the manner in which he relates to you.
A primary question for you is -- are you willing to continue to tolerate your husband's constant dissatisfaction with you, and if not, what can you do to change things?
The mere fact that you may be reaching your "limit" of tolerance is a good sign. By setting limits you are making a clear statement to your husband that some of his behaviors are not acceptable. In essence, you are telling him that you are a person with feelings and needs and he must understand that.
Nevertheless, you both are to be commended for trying to make a pre-marital agreement as to how the domestic responsibilities would be divided. Unfortunately due to the demands of home and work these initial marital agreements are often compromised or forgotten.
Almost all couples tend to settle into routines, (i.e. she cleans, he handles the finances or she's aware of the kids needs and he's aware of the needs of the house), which, before you know, turn from being temporary solutions into rigid roles.
Furthermore, you are probably correct in suspecting that your husband wants you to act like his mother and fulfill many, if not all of the domestic responsibilities. These expectations we bring in from our family tend to override any pre-marital agreements that you might have subsequently made.
It is quite natural for many couples to suddenly find themselves behaving similarly to their parents despite well-intentioned premarital convictions to the contrary. Our parent's attitudes and behaviors are often times "subtly programmed" into us as we were growing up.
Often because of the increased stress and demands for our attentions from our children, jobs, etc., we will inadvertently revert to these "pre-programmed" mommy / daddy behavioral "routines".
Please do not misunderstand, I am not trying to excuse your husband from responsibility for his attitudes and behaviors, but rather to reinforce your own interpretation about what has likely contributed to him being this way.
My advice to you is that you try to engage your husband in a serious dialogue about your marriage. Tell him how you are feeling, and what you fear will be the consequences for you and he should this current situation remain or deteriorate. Without blaming make sure he understands your desire to renegotiate your shared responsibilities.
Since you already had a basic "marital division of labor agreement" you ought to be able to use this as a basis for distributing household responsibilities more equitably.
Some good examples would be:
- Ask your husband what things he'd be willing to do: i.e. taking out the garbage, grocery shopping, walking the dog, cleaning the supper dishes.
- If your children are still living at home, and they are over the age of 8, assign each of them regular household responsibilities.
- Ask your husband and family to dedicate 2 days a month as "Mommy Days", where the rest of the family picks up the slack.
- Keep a log to show your husband how you spent your time domestically; you may even wish to assign some monetary values to it to increase the worth of what you do in your husband's eyes.
- What about getting some domestic help, one to two times per week, to assist with the "major cleaning"?
If you are unable to reach an agreement, then let this be a signal that you're both still harboring anger, resentment, and distrust for "past injustices and indecencies and that these may first need to be resolved. If so, I would recommend marital therapy to resolve the impasse between the two of you.
We at WholeFamily, wish you good luck and patience in your attempt to resolve this matter. Again, I want to commend you for standing up for yourself. This is the first step toward achieving a real resolution of your conflict.
Marc H. Garson MSW