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Archive for February, 2012

A real life story about cooperating in a relationship.

Betty and Stan, both in their mid-fifties have been married for eighteen years. Their children are raised. Betty works at her job about 45 hours a week. Stan works about 30 hours a week. Betty also does about 95% of the housework.

Last week after much discussion about the inequity of their relationship, Betty and Stan agreed that the two of them were going to dig in and get their house in shape. Stan would do the dusting and vacuuming, help fold laundry, grocery shop, and grill dinner. Betty would primarily work on the kitchen, the refrigerator, the floor. She would clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, pay bills, and balance the checkbook.

Within a half hour of starting to work, a friend of theirs stopped by and asked them to go to a big garage sale across town. Betty said she’d love to but they had agreed to get their place in shape. Stan looked at Betty and said, “You don’t mind if I go, do you?”

Betty responded by giving Stan a dirty look.

Stan challenged Betty and said, “What’s wrong now?” In order not to argue in front of Stan’s friend, Betty shrugged and the guys left.

Later in the day when Stan returned, the two of them talked. Betty said, “I’m giving notice. The maid is quitting. I am not taking all the responsibility in this house.”

She gave Stan a list of chores and suggested that he pick the ones he would be willing to do each week. She would do the remainder. Stan took the list, dramatically tucked it in his pocket, and said he’d do it all. Betty explained that she didn’t want him to do it all. But to no avail. He insisted he would do all the chores.

When Betty talked to me she wanted to know what she should do. I told her to take Stan up on his offer for several months. When he stopped doing the chores, next week or next month, she could re-open the subject of splitting the chores.

She said she was worried that if he did all the chores she would lose her value. Stan wouldn’t see her as important.

I said I didn’t know many men who stayed in a relationship because the wife was a good maid. But men did stay in relationships because of history, because they have children together, because of finances, for companionship, sex, and love. The other thing, if Betty continues to rescue Stan by doing almost everything, he will have little appreciation for what she does. She will continue to feel dissatisfied with the marriage and probably act accordingly.

Stan and Betty are not alone in their struggle over who does what around the house. It is estimated that husbands have 15 to 20 more hours of leisure time each week than their working wives. Further, in most families, husbands do 20% of the household chores and child care while women do 80% of the chores and child care. This disparity serves neither gender. The wife feels like a victim, sees her husband as a villain, and eventually closes off emotionally. Or, she turns into a very critical mate. The number two reason women divorce is because of a husband’s unwillingness to share chores.

To not only preserve your marriage but to have a healthy one, visit the issue of chores and child care. Divide them up on paper if necessary to make them equitable. If you have an uncooperative mate, do only those chores that must absolutely be done. Try hard not to focus on those that remain undone. It is not a woman’s job because she is a woman to take care of the house. It is the job of each person who lives in the house.

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You can’t change your genetic makeup, but you can change your weight.
“Much in life cannot be altered;one’s pants size doesn’t fall within this category.”

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Husband’s bad behaviors invites wife to turn off emotionally and sexually.

Jim came to my office because his wife has left him after 37 years of marriage. He wants her back. She does not have anyone else. She simply is fed up with him.

As we talked, I got him to help me make a list of behaviors that probably drove his wife away.

Worked too much. About 60 hours a week for years.

Unwilling to take vacations because of his job.

Drank too much in the early years of their marriage.

Got too angry when drinking. Never hit her but was verbally abusive.

Continues to get too angry when he doesn’t like what’s going on.

Gives her the silent treatment.

Gives her nice gifts, but they are things he likes. For example, a leaf blower, a big screen television, a new computer.

Didn’t take much responsibility with the children or housework because he was always at work.

Rarely helped make social plans.

Failed to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

Never acted like he appreciated her salary and how she contributed to the household.

Didn’t show much kindness or love.

Showed affection only in bed.

Was too demanding when it came to sex.

Watched too much television.

Jim is now putting in fewer hours at work. He’s watching very little television. He’s doing housework and now understands how much there is to do. He’s willing to learn how to be emotionally supportive. He’s working to keep his anger in check. He’s sorry and in a great deal of pain. He hopes she will come back.

If he continues to say he’s sorry and clean up his behavior,¬†perhaps she will come back. It’s unfortunate that sometimes people have to leave their mate to get their point across.

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Change your living environment and feel more in control of your life.

Jane asked me to help with her kitchen. She has too much stuff: Glasses, dishes, plastic containers,potholders, strainers, and cookbooks. Her counter space is taken over by a microwave, a bread machine, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, a radio, and a small television set. Her window sills are filled with figurines and plants. Her walls are covered with baskets of all sorts and sizes. Her kitchen pantry bulges with paper bags, boxes of cereal and half-used opened packages of food, baking dishes, pie plates, cookie sheets, strainers, and small appliances. No wonder she feels overwhelmed and depressed when she goes into her kitchen.

When she moaned to me that she didn’t know where to begin, I wanted to say, “Get those baskets off the wall and throw those dying plants away.” Instead I asked her where she wanted to start. She said, “Maybe my pantry.” I said, “Good, I’ll help.” Three hours later we were laughing and finishing up her pantry. The next day she called to say she had taken down the baskets, put away the bread machine and offered her collection of Precious Moments to her niece. She was on a roll.

What areas of your house need to be organized? Jot down the areas.

If your basement is a disaster, and many are, what needs to go? Do you really need that old recliner? And what about those old beanbag chairs that keep shedding their fake leather skins, and the coffee table with the broken leg? When your children grow up, they won’t want those things. And you’re never going to use them, right?

How’s the garage? What items need to be discarded? How many years are you going to keep those old ten-speeds and tennis rackets? Will you ever use that tandem bicycle, the four story doll house, and the three old sleds? Are they serving any purpose except making your garage and life more cluttered?

What about your children’s rooms? Perhaps their lives feel more harried and complicated because of all the stuff they have around. How many stuffed animals does your daughter need? Children report having a hard time cleaning their rooms because they don’t know where to go with their toys, games, dolls, books, sports equipment, CDs, and magazines. It’s all too much.

How’s the outside of your house looking? Do you need to do a final leaf-raking? What about those old ladders in the backyard, that extra trash can with the missing lid, and that broken birdbath? Out with them.

 

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