Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dismaying Story #1: The Myth of the Helpless Husband

Dear Andrew,

My husband is living, breathing proof that some men are just not cut out to do housework. He is always willing to help but trust me, it’s rarely worth it. Whatever he cooks ends up black or waterlogged. If he helps to get the kids ready for school in the morning, he gets frustrated and yells and I have to soothe the kids so they don’t go out the door in tears. I try not to be too picky about how he does things but honestly, he can’t even wring out a dishcloth well enough to wipe a counter without leaving pools of water behind. Whenever he helps I end up doing just as much work and sometimes more. The irritation is worse than doing it myself, so why should I get him involved?

Signed: Resigned to the Drudgery

Dear Resigned,

Many guys can become skilled in the domestic arts but for some reason your man cannot. That must mean he is deficient in some way; he must have a disability that prevents him from learning how to perform certain tasks, or at least from learning to perform them well. Not only that, his disability is very specific. He can keep his files organized at work but he can’t learn where things go in your kitchen. Removing road tar from the fender of his car is no problem but baked-on lasagna defeats him every time. He can’t organize the guest list for your son’s birthday party but lining up three other guys for golf is a piece of cake. Maybe this is a clue; his disability just happens to coincide with the division between the activities he cares about most and the work he considers to be your responsibility.

How incredibly convenient for him.

Your husband has earned a get-out-of-housework card by sabotaging his own work. Is he capable of doing better? Please. I showed my 13-year-old daughter how to wring out a cloth and she can do it with no trouble. This has nothing to do with ability. The difference is that my daughter wants to be good at housework and your husband is content not to be. Learning household skills requires motivation, knowledge and practice, the same as with any other challenge.

Sincerely, Andrew

Do you have a Helpless Husband? Have you found a way to supply him with the proper motivation? Send in your Dismaying Story today by clicking here.


  1. Ah...selective helplessness...I did an entire stand up comedy routine once based on men who could go into the wilderness and live off the land for weeks with little more than nail clippers but the same men left alone at home with meat trapped in a zip lock bag could starve to death. Let's not get started on men and gift wrapping....

  2. There was an entire Everybody Loves Raymond episode about how Ray feigned an inability to do child care/housework activities. How the f did Debra put up with that BS? My DH is wonderful with the kids and taking care of the kitchen, cooking, cleaning... because he WANTS to be. He likes to eat good food, so he developed his ability to cook (as have I over the years--we married at age 20). Yes, he gets frustrated with taking care of the girls and complained about not knowing where all their toys go when helping them clean their rooms, but guess what? I told him it doesn't really matter and he reorganized the youngest room with her and it was better than I ever had it! Your DH should care more!

  3. I had the same problem (along with pretty severe verbal abuse) for 20 years with my ex. When I finally had enough and he actually realized that I was planning my escape he actually admitted to me that he had been doing it on purpose! If he ruined my clothes in the laundry, for example, he figured he wouldn't be asked again to help in that capacity. It was just another form of manipulation.