Ask Him To Help

How do you get a man to do his share of the housework? If you are like most women you've faced this question the hard way: in an argument with your husband. Here's a man's take on this troublesome issue.

Man cleaning

It's a rare man who is equally focused on household chores as his wife is. A man will appreciate a clean, orderly house, but he usually won't make the effort to create it.

This doesn't mean that a woman has to do all the housework; it means that she may have to manage many of the household duties (at least for a while), and request her man's participation, while respectfully holding him accountable for what he said he'd do. A woman can rant and rave that men and women should take equal responsibility for housework, but rather than fighting the large-scale household war wouldn't it work better to simply look at what you want done and see how best to communicate and negotiate its completion?

Very few men are raised to be fully responsible for housework, and many men consciously or unconsciously look on housework as "women's work". On the other hand, most men will readily work around the yard, make repairs and complete projects on the weekend or evenings, and it's important that you give your man appreciation for those contributions, too. (In his mind repairs and projects count just as much, or maybe more than housework.)

Most men will take on a few additional chores around the house if they are respectfully asked and not second-guessed and criticized for what they do. They are even more likely to do household chores if they can choose what they do, and do it without being monitored and criticized.

Here's the key: we men want to feel that we are doing housework either because we want to do a task (usually because we are good at), or because we simply want to please our women. Men are much less likely to take on household tasks they prioritize as uninteresting and unimportant. In other words, men are unlikely to do a household task just for the good of the house.

As with most things, housework often comes down to communication. Here are some specific recommendations about how to talk to your man about household chores:

In a respectful, loving way ask for what you want.

Make a clear, specific request about exactly what you want or need. Avoid criticisms and judgments such as, "You never do any housework! You're lazy!" They'll cause a man to feel either ashamed or angered, and neither result will help your cause.

Present the issue as a problem for which you need help.

But, remember: he is not the problem--getting the housework done is the problem. All your man to come up with options and make suggestions.

Leave room for new ideas and a full, honest conversation about housework and related issues.

Stay calm, be open and make yourself listen to him, even if you don't agree with what he says.

Make it personal.

E.g. "Honey, it would mean a lot to me if you would clean up the dishes on the nights I cook. Would you be willing to take that on?" Be friendly, encouraging and affectionate; engage the heart more than the head.

Don't call a special meeting to discuss housework.

]If you call a special meeting, your man is likely to feel it's going to be another "relationship talk", and he will be told what he's doing wrong. He'll put up immediate defenses and tune you out or argue with you. Try talking when you are both engaged in another activity, such as gardening or riding in the car.

Above all, don't belittle or criticize your man for his failings.

Build on all the great things he does, rather than criticizing all he doesn't do.

Don't expect massive changes right away. Men haven't been expected to do much housework over the last several thousand years and we are making a tough transition to the 21st Century's brave new world. Applying these ideas in your household will pave the road for incremental changes and increase your man's participation in housekeeping.

Tags: cleaning duties

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Comments on "How to get a man to do housework"

dscully February 17, 2014 | 7:31 AM

I disagree that we need to be kind to get men to work around the house. I've bargained, cajoled, and cooed at mine for an entire year. He didn't respond until I became absolutely ruthless. Take no prisoners, ladies. You can be nice until the cows come home, but he still won't get off his --- unless you make it hurt.

Gloria February 01, 2014 | 11:21 PM

This is for all the mothers, fathers and future mothers and fathers out there. Do your future daughters and sons-in-laws a favour and teach all your children both male and female how to take care of themselves properly and how to cook, clean, sew, change tyres, oil, etc. you have them in your care for long enough to train them. Teach them to be good caring, considerate, helpful husbands and wives. If you do this you will set them up for wonderful relationships that will last. This is a new era where the only thing that is gender specific is pregnancy and childbirth. Don't think that buying a toy for a child has to be tools for a boy and dishes for a girl. Most of the men I know wouldn't know what to do with a screwdriver and I know a lot of women that do. Lets make a change.

Allison January 16, 2014 | 3:08 PM

Best solution is to eliminate the man. Why hasn't anyone thought of that? Granted, I would guess that there are also women who are unconscious of the unfinished household work surrounding them and women who do not care if there is 1/4" of mold growing in the bathtub.

ange December 30, 2013 | 3:22 AM

I do all the main housework jobs. I am 3 weeks post surgery and risk doing long term serouse harm, yet the MAN of the house just sits n his computer. We have a four year old and wont pick up after him self, even leaving harmful ojects I her reach. he is such a pig that he picks dead skin of his feet and leaves it laying on the floor or the computer desk.

Tilly December 26, 2013 | 5:44 PM

My husband requires a cleaner house than I do, yet he expects me to do all the work to keep it yo his standard. We have 4 children and I work from home (part time at the moment because my prime is so limited). He won't help me because it's "women's work." I'm responsible for all of the cooking, cleaning, bathing and dressing the children, diaper changes (he wants praise if he changes one diaper a week), shopping, finances, laundry, and helping the older children with school work. His responsibilities are working (which he does mostly from home and not full time), taking out the trash (which he doesn't do), taking care of the cars (which he doesn't do), and yard work (which he doesn't do either). I'm so frustrated that he sits around playing video games and sleeps in while I have to be up early to get the children ready and I'm so stressed all of the time trying to get everything done. I wish I had more time to work or even a little bit of time for myself. I don't know how he thinks I can continue on like this forever :(

XYZ December 15, 2013 | 9:03 AM

We need to condition men to do housework as early as possible (from the time they're kids). If we train little boys (as early as the age of 3 or 4) to see housework as something fun, they will carry that attitude with them for the rest of their lives. Women do this all the time. From the time we're little girls, we have countless toys and games that condition us to clean, cook, etc. so for us, we're expected to do housework for the rest of our lives. And let's be honest, nobody actually enjoys housework. It's just something that women are forced and expected to do from the time they're young, and countless toy companies have conditioned us as little girls to see housework as something "fun".

Dottie November 27, 2013 | 8:02 AM

I have to say I agree with pretty much all of the suggestions in this article. I hate the idea that I have to ask him to "help" me as if housekeeping is my job and anything he does is going the extra mile. However, if he doesn't car about how clean the floor is then he needs some feeling of reward for doing chores and if that feeling of reward is knowing that he helped me than I'll take it. The thing that is hard for me is the constant need to be concious of what I can, should and need to ask him to do. It's a bit tiresome to have to manage who does what chores and remember to ask him if he can do x,y and z - in a perfect world he'd be as concious of what needs to be done around the house and just do it. A problem that I usually run into is my husband can't or won't do certain chores so he is relegated to the few that he can (his statement) or will do. That's fine, but what ends up happening is he empties the dishwasher a couple of nights in a row (while I'm doing other chores) an on the third night after I've already spent a couple of hours running errands for the household and what not I come home an am told it's not fair that he always empties the dishwasher and out of respect and fairness it's my turn. I guess it's just a slow process. To the guy who says women never do men's jobs: I always do the leaf blowing and pickup in our yard, it's a crap job. After doing it like four weekends in a row I told my husand he had to please do it. After he was done he came in and said "Now, first I got most but not all of the leaves so don't say anything when you see there's still some in the yard and second that is the worst job ever you are doing to have to do it from now on!"

Dee September 24, 2013 | 11:03 PM

I must be the only woman who has tried these tactics and then some, with absolutely no results. I'm six months pregnant, have 4 other children and literally do 100% of the housework. I go to school full-time online, home-school 3 of our 4 kids, do all of the cooking, cleaning and even minor home repairs that don't necessitate contracted help. He won't even take out the trash. I run all of the errands, take care of the finances and yes, even do the yard work. He work 3 - 4 days a week and usually his shifts are only 6 hours. What can I possibly do to get him to participate? Oh did I mention that I'm the one who taught our kids to ride their bikes, to swim, to throw a baseball? It's like he's still living his own life and we're just here for the ride. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

peakoro August 28, 2013 | 3:38 PM

Why do women routinely ignore the fact that men don't require the amount of cleanliness women do? We men don't mind a little mess. Yet women feel EQUALITY is when all choirs SHE requires(not him) are done equally?

Lily August 05, 2013 | 6:38 AM

I find it hard to get past being off that I even need to sugarcoat the whole thing and treat my man like an infantile. It makes it very hard to look at him as a MAN this way. I want a partner, not a child. Why do we have to walk on eggshells and use all these maneuvers and tricks to make a man do what he should do in the first place?!

laura March 29, 2013 | 5:19 PM

things my man will not do even if you pay him: the dishes, cleaning the cat box, cleaning the bathroom. things my man will do if he's in the mood and has time: grocery shopping, vacuum, laundry (with written instructions). things my man is always willing to do: anything to do with the car, cook.

anonymous March 26, 2013 | 1:16 PM

Why we have to be so understanding with them (men), I am a women who works outside the house and earns twice as much as my husband and on top of it all, I have to be responsible for the housework? I will love if we could split it up 50-50%

Paula February 03, 2013 | 9:41 PM

what to do after one has gone through all the mentioned step, but the guy just won't bring a bloody dish back to the sink?!?!?!

Jay January 04, 2013 | 12:38 AM

I thought this was an excellent article. The point comes down to this… COMMUNICATION. This goes for both men and women, and really applies to any area of relationship deficiency. Women, stop the nagging. You're tired and want help. Got it. But there's a way to ask. If you replace the criticism and hostility with love and encouragement, you'll yield much better results. Don't belittle and disrespect him. You'll only face opposition and resentment. Nobody wins that way. Life is difficult. Both of you are stressed so try not to do anything that will add to it. A husband and wife should support each other to make life easier. Nobody is the boss of the other. Don't talk down to him like a child. Encourage him to be the man you want him to be by being the supportive and loving wife you should be.

Deborah Lippitt June 29, 2012 | 10:13 AM

I can and will change the oil any day ( cheaper to have it done..concidering time etc. )Have replaced the brakes on my car, Have gone to the dump plenty of times. I can wire a house and most definitely get up if I hear a strange noise...You are living in the dark ages....Women feel much more secure having a husband participate in the house work. You are after all in the relationship together and you are making part of the mess, and dirty clothes etc. So what about that? I do all those "outdoor" things still I would my husband to help around the house.

Doug October 10, 2011 | 4:31 AM

I believe Dave has a slight point, Meg does too but she to openly immediate judgmental, which probably mean shes single and this article dosent apply 2 her anyway... but good article non-the less

meg July 26, 2011 | 7:33 AM

sounds like dave's a little bitter...i'm pretty sure he hasn't fought any sabre tooth tigers lately so quit whining.

Dave June 21, 2011 | 4:25 AM

I will await the article about how to get a woman to change the oil, go to the dump, check on that freaky noise in the middle of the night etc. By the way, the reason men have not done too much housework in the last thousand years is they were out fighting with Sabre tooth tigers and more recently, that nasty neighbor everyone has in the area.

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