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.
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.
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