April 30, 2012 6:35 PM Subscribe
I'm confused about how to equitably split up housework. I am messier than my spouse, and to him this means I should do all the housework. Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My husband, before I married him, was basically the ultimate bachelor. He never, ever cooked -- not even to microwave frozen dinners. He ate out for every meal, or got take out and ate it out of cardboard containers with disposable utensils which he then threw away. He didn't own a single dish, utensil or cup and went to the convenience store to buy bottled water if he got thirsty. Before living on his own he lived with his mother who did all the cooking and cleaning.
The problem is that since we have married my husband perceives himself to not ever generate housework. I am not sure if this is a true representation or if he's sort of idealizing his bachelor days, but he seems to feel that if it weren't for me living with him, he would (almost) never have to clean. And, accordingly, that I as the primary mess-maker should assume all of the cleaning duties.
I cook about six dinners a week and prepare him lunches every weekday that I send with him to work, so it's true that I generate most of the dishes and kitchen messes. I have long hair and sometimes hair clips fall out randomly and end up places they shouldn't be, and my hair is much more visible around the apartment than his is. We have a cat, which we adopted after we married (he encouraged me to adopt it), but all cat messes are 'my' messes and he never cleans up after the animal. It's true that I wanted a cat more than he did, but he is the one who brought up adopting a cat. I know he would not have a cat if he was single, though.
I am, without question, messier than he is. But I still feel confused about how to split up the housework. It's true that I generate more messes than he does, but I feel sort of bitter that this has (in his mind) condemned me to do all the housework for the rest of our lives. When we first married we both worked full time, and I did all the cooking and housework. Now I'm in grad school part time with a part time job and I do all the cooking and housework. I am okay with this arrangement right now since I am not working full time, but I don't want it to become ingrained so that I am still doing all the chores after I am working again.
He will clean, but he gets very angry about how much messier I am when he does, and it always devolves into an argument. I don't even want to ask him to help most of the time because I know it will turn into a huge argument about how I am a slob. I don't think I'm egregiously slobby; I'm a bit untidy but in my last relationship I was the 'cleaner one' by leaps and bounds. Plus I also feel like his former sterile way of living is sort of unrealistic to expect for an adult human being who uses their kitchen at all or does more at home than just sleep. He likes my cooking and we agree that I should cook because we're fairly broke and trying to save money. Eating every single meal out, or frozen dinners, is not really possible right now.
I really need some help getting perspective on this arrangement. I don't feel like it's something that will work out long term, but I'm not sure really how to change things so that we're both happy(er). I get that it's frustrating to be responsible for someone else's messes, but I also feel angry that this translates into me doing all the housework for the rest of our lives. Thinking back on this, I now know that I've never really managed to healthily deal with this problem in any cohabiting relationship that I've been in. When I was the cleaner one in past relationships, I did all the cleaning because I felt that it was unfair to hold my SO to my arbitrary desired cleanliness level. And now that I'm messy one I still do all the cleaning because it's not fair to make my husband clean up after me.
I could use some advice from couples who have a cleanliness disparity and how they dealt with that. I did read through previous questions but a lot of them seemed like they were from the perspective of the clean spouse trying to get the messy spouse to chip in.