Monday, August 07, 2006

Dismaying Story #26: Too Much Water Under the Bridge?

This is the second of two posts today, both of which are part of a continuing series entitled The Hunt for the Vacuum Cleaner Gene. This series uncovers the many excuses we use to perpetuate some old-fashioned stereotypes. Many people believe it is normal and inevitable for women to be responsible for the bulk of the housework and parenting within their household. This series includes motivational posts that argue "why" these beliefs are largely unfounded, as well as instructional posts that move on to discuss "how to" effect change in your household. Both of today’s entries are "why" topics.

Dear Andrew,

I’ve been married for almost twenty years and my husband has hardly made a bed or cooked a meal the entire time. Okay, maybe things would have turned out differently if I had put my foot down when we were first married but I know it’s too late now. He’s too set in his ways. It makes no sense to raise a big squawk when nothing will change anyway.

Signed, Too Late to Change

Dear Never Too Late,

I understand your concern; changing long-standing relationship behavior patterns can seem like a tremendous challenge. Your housework habits are deeply ingrained, as are your husband’s. He may be fully convinced by now that your workload split is based on valid reasons and should always remain the same.

Don’t you believe it. Just because a deal has been in place for a long time doesn’t make it a good idea. For example, slavery and dictators have been around for thousands of years but most people today recognize them as flawed concepts. If you’ve been doing more than your share of the family work for some time, it doesn’t logically follow that you always should.

That raw deal you accepted earlier in your relationship is still as unfair today as it was back then, which means all the same reasons for abolishing it are still around. Has it caused tension in your household? Do you sometimes feel resentment towards your husband over it? Many overworked wives do, and I’ve never met a couple whose relationship was strengthened by resentment.

I just don’t buy the argument that couples reach some magic point in their relationship when it becomes too late to make improvements. Does that happen after twenty years of marriage? After ten years? Or two? Maybe it’s when one of you becomes convinced this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of forever. If that were the case then the direction for many marriages would be cast in stone from day one, because many of us develop preconceptions during childhood by watching how our parents share housework.

Any personal relationship, including your marriage, can begin moving in a new direction at any time because of one simple fact; you constitute half of the relationship. Change your own behavior and you affect the dynamics between the two of you. The trick, of course, is to understand what you should do so your husband is most likely to respond favorably. Stay tuned, because that’s where this series is headed.

All the best!

Don't leave now, Faithful Reader -- you can find today's other post in Dismaying Stories #24 and #25: My Husband Loves Me, This I Know...

If you haven't already done so, don't forget to submit your entry for Saturday's Ask the Faithful Readers question. This coming Friday I will pick my favorite response and feature it in a post with a link to the winner's blog.

As always, feel free to send in an email with any relationship questions you might have or leave a comment using the link below.


  1. Sorry to disappoint you (all) men, but there is no such gene in the female DNA that makes it enjoyable or even desired to vacuum.

    There is a gene, however, that magnifies dirt and makes it look overwhelming. Hence women's inability to wind down and stop cleaning.

    Darwin was right - you grow and adapt with your surrundings. Man, I hate that!

  2. "Any personal relationship, including your marriage, can begin moving in a new direction at any time because of one simple fact; you constitute half of the relationship. Change your own behavior and you affect the dynamics between the two of you."
    I loved it when you said this, so very inspirational! Should be a reminder to us all. That all we have to do to change is to go ahead and change. We don't need someone else to do that!

    On another note, I am a housewife and I like to clean, I am very conservative as I believe the woman should be at home raising the children and should have the house clean when her husband gets home. I realize there are circumstances which prohibit the wife or mother from being home at times and in this case when the woman is working I feel the man should definitely help share the cleaning.

    If the woman is home though, and I don't care how many kids she has running around she should keep her house clean!

  3. I see where I have been going wrong.
    I need a partner to find some excuses LOL
    I relationship is 50/50 and that goes for housework.
    There re some things one partner is better at and I could see and understand a trade off with some duties.
    I guess it comes down to respect and how much you respect your partner.
    My father is almost 80 and twice a week he vacumes and cooks daily which includes baking once a week.
    I am the same way but my brother, well I don';t know where he comes from because he has to be catered by everyone including his wife who I should ask if she wipes his ass when her goes to the washroom.
    I think if you let it become a habit for a long period of time then it would be difficult to get your partner to help.
    I say partner because housework has been shifting with women becoming more and more involved into the outside work force are becoming just as bad.
    The saying is you can't teach an old dog new tricks, well it's just as hard to break it of old habits.
    Tell her not to clean what is his and let his stuff rot.
    See how fast he looks for the vacuum.
    I bet most of us just can't wait for that self cleaning house

    Have a nice day

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. A note of explanation to Faithful Readers: The deleted comment is not me censoring someone's opinion. It contained a friend's personal phone number, which I didn't think was a great thing to post publicly. :o)

  6. Thanks for reading my blog. I've actually been thinking about a specific question after reading a good book, and I'd be interested in your take on it, although I already have an opinion, here's the post on my blog. Especially question 3. If you're interested on posting on the theme please do :)

  7. Love the picture of the guy with the vacuum. He looks like my brother who has never actually touched a vacuum.

    Love your blog! You'll be a regular read for me. I'll add you to my blog roll soon as I get off my lazy streak...

  8. You should've watched tonight's "Wife Swap." It dealt with this exact same issue.

  9. When my husband and I were talking over all the things we thought might come up over the course of a marriage, it went something like this..(Me)"I don't like to unload the dishwasher." (Him)"That's ok, I love you and I'll unload the dishwasher."(Me)"I don't like to paint."(Him)"That's ok, I love you, and I'll do all of the painting."(Me)"I don't like to vacuum."(Him)"Thats ok, I love you and I'll do the vacuuming."(Me)"I really, really hate doing laundry."(Him)"We've got a problem." I unload the dishwasher and vacuum and HELP paint, and pretty much cook all of the meals (self preservation), but I never, never, never do the laundry. No washing, drying, folding, hanging, ironing, or putting it away. That's love and compromise.

  10. Andrew, thanks so much for the comment you left on my blog. Your series of Dismaying Stories is very appropriate!

  11. I would just not do the things you truly don't like to do. It will come up as a topic and perhaps you will can work out a compromise.

    Both my brothers and father are neat freaks - all their women never learned to keep a darn thing clean. It has to be the upbringing.

  12. Did you get my comment? It said your site was too busy- not a bad thing eh!?

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