putting effort in relationships?
April 16, 2010 9:19 AM   Subscribe

husband says i don't make enough effort - i'm at a loss as to what to do! advice sorely needed. it gets long, natch.

Background - both mid 20's, i work in retail management full time, he is unemployed but applying to grad school. healthy social lives, we hang out with friends a few times a week.

Scene - It is my day off (one of two a week, not always on the same days), he is a morning person and wakes up early (8-9ish) and while he used to make me get up too, i am vehemently NOT a morning person so now i generally sleep until 10ish when i wake up naturally. i get up, he goes to shower, i get in too. this is normal morning routine when i am off or working the closing shift. i then go to get myself breakfast (he doesn't normally eat in the AM) and have a seat. he immediately begins cleaning the apartment (one bedroom).

here is when things start to get tricky. i am done eating and am just relaxing a bit on the couch. maybe 5 minutes. i am wearing fleece sweats and a tee. I have been on my feet all day for the last 5 days and am of a mind that i should be able to kick back and relax a bit on my days off. he immediately sets in about how first i never get dressed for him or in general unless i am going to work. i do not think this is the case, if we are leaving the apt to do anything then i get dressed and stay that way for the rest of the day. i thought it was ok to wear comfy clothes on my day off when there are no pressing matter to attend to. i do my fair share of lingerie at the appropriate times etc etc. ok. i go put clothes on.

then, the issue is that i don't help clean ever and if he didn't tell me to do things and get on my case, the apt would be filthy. he cleans almost every day, when i am at work, and if i let something stay a little messy for more than a few hours i'm given grief. i do clean up after him in the kitchen, and on the coffee table, things here and there that i see need to be done. but he doesn't seem to notice this, and when i point out that i am doing it, he says that i'm overreacting or being dramatic. ok. so, i get up and start cleaning things that i can see, i put a load of laundry in, i tidy up here and there. he gets in front of me saying that i'm all mad and pissy and he doesn't want me to do things like that. i explain that i am not, i'm just trying to do what he wants me to do, but this seems to fall on deaf ears. he then sits down and says that we never do anything and that he doesn't want to sit around all day on the computer or in the apt etc etc. i say i can't just jump out of bed and go go go, nor do i want to on my day off. he says he doesn't want to wait "4 hours for me to rev up". i ask what he wants to do then, and the response is i shouldn't wait for him to come up with everything. i explain that i have looked and there is not much to do in the area, and everything requires money, which we are trying to save. we are not the "go for a walk/bikeride" type people. he storms off to bedroom, i resort to metafilter because this similar scenario has happened multiple times.

I believe that the crux of the issue is that i feel that i should be able to kick back and relax on some of my days off, whilst he seems to think that i get enough relaxing after i work all day or something along those lines. or that it's not ok to veg out.

advice on any or the above issues is welcome. i feel like nothing i say is either taken seriously or everything i do is overlooked. i've tried explaining this to him with no avail.
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Human Relations (68 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds to me like he's looking for a way to justify something to himself.

You need to have a nice, rational conversation with him. Express to him that this is an important issue to you. Be prepared to meet him halfway (though it sounds from what you write as though you are already meeting him *more* than halfway).
posted by kaseijin at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go to couples counselling. If this has been going on for a while, it sounds like you need some outside help in solving the problem.
posted by Solomon at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think I'm a little like you. I get tired very easily after work. I let things go around our place. He's never upset with me about it. I used to be more like your husband (just the cleaning stuff, I can't get up early to save my life on the weekends), but then I was tired of being irate about it and didn't want to be someone who starts arguments. So I think he probably has to recognize that starting arguments is not nice and he should stop it. Incidentally, he does a lot more cleaning now that I sort of stopped caring and stopped worrying that much about it.

Maybe you should tell him he's hurting your feelings and you're trying to do your best, and that he should go out and make some friends or plan activities for you guys. I don't know why he's taking it out on you. It's not fair.
posted by anniecat at 9:31 AM on April 16, 2010


Sounds to me like he's frustrated at not having a wife who cares much about him.

I don't know how to say this kindly, but you sound like a big drag. (I got that from YOUR description of YOU, so it's not like I've got some bias here). You're more interested in doing nothing than making an effort to do anything. Why can't you "relax" while doing something fun with him?
posted by sageleaf at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Perhaps it might help if you two sat down together and came up with a definite breakdown of who does what in terms of housework (make a list of what needs doing and how often and divvy it up), and came to an agreement about how often you'll go out and brainstormed things the two of you can do together.
posted by orange swan at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like he's frustrated at not having a wife who cares much about him.

I don't know how to say this kindly, but you sound like a big drag. (I got that from YOUR description of YOU, so it's not like I've got some bias here). You're more interested in doing nothing than making an effort to do anything. Why can't you "relax" while doing something fun with him?


You're being very rude, sageleaf. People relax in different ways and your comment is mean to the OP, who is trying her best and knows herself well enough to know what really relaxes her.
posted by anniecat at 9:34 AM on April 16, 2010 [79 favorites]


I believe that the crux of the issue is that i feel that i should be able to kick back and relax on some of my days off, whilst he seems to think that i get enough relaxing after i work all day or something along those lines. or that it's not ok to veg out.

No, that's his excuse for an emotional outburst, but not the real problem. I'm not sure what the real problem is - together you will have to have some deep, non-defensive conversations to find out what is really bothering him. But if you continue the discussion like it's only about when you get out of bed, you will get nowhere.

He's emotional and lashing out, you're defensive about it, so try to sit down in a calm, good time, and just talk about household chores, expectations for amount of socializing, why he feels he's carrying an unfair burden. All this without either of you being accusing or defensive. He's frustrated and pissy about something, and it might not be easy, but you and he will need to learn to talk through situations like this.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I was unemployed over the summer, I went absolutely stir-crazy. There were only so many jobs I could apply to in a day, only so many times I could vacuum in a week, only so much relaxing I could do before it started becoming boredom, etc. I felt resentful of people who had jobs and I wanted to hang out with people whenever they had time off.

This is just one possible explanation to his behavior...I would imagine he resents your employment and perhaps is feeling stir-crazy stuck inside the house all the time.

However, it also sounds like he is trying to control your behaviors. It's your day off and you should do with it what you want. Maybe he could try to view your days off as his days off, too. I.E. You could do laundry before work, he could clean the kitchen while you're at work. Then, when you have a day off, it's both of yours together. You both relax, or maybe go out and do something fun together. It doesn't have to be expensive: go to happy hour for one beer, go get some frozen yogurt, see a movie at a dollar theatre, etc.

The part that concerns me is that he is trying to control your behavior. I agree with the idea that counseling might be a good idea.
posted by too bad you're not me at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2010 [18 favorites]


you sound like a big drag.

Wow. I have the opposite reaction, wondering how your husband, whom you are supporting, can be such a pain in the ass about you relaxing on your weekend.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:39 AM on April 16, 2010 [66 favorites]


You're being very rude, sageleaf. People relax in different ways and your comment is mean to the OP, who is trying her best and knows herself well enough to know what really relaxes her.

I'll admit to being a bit rude there. However, I don't agree that the OP is trying her best, not even close. The question is "Putting effort in relationships?" and I think she could do a lot better there. Her husband wouldn't be acting this way if he weren't frustrated with her effort.
posted by sageleaf at 9:40 AM on April 16, 2010


I think the unemployed thing is bothering him and feels inadequate and needs to compensate by attacking you for being inadequate. However, I am just one emotion devoid guy according to ex-wife so YMMV.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:40 AM on April 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


I totally disagree with sageleaf. It sounds like you try to pitch in when he asks you to do things differently, and then he still complains or tells you to stop. I think HE sounds like the drag.

Would you be opposed to him going out to do things without you? People relax in different ways. If you like to veg out and he likes to go do things, then you can both get your way by doing separate activities. Obviously if you never hang out that's not much of a relationship, but I think healthy couples can do their own things outside of work time and have it not be a problem. In fact, it adds some freshness to your relationship, because you'll have stories to tell each other that the other person doesn't already know.
posted by vytae at 9:40 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, on the chores thing. Draw up a big poster board and divide them up. That should take some of the back and forth accusations out of the picture. Maybe put him heavier on things that need to be done RIGHT NOW and you on the weekly things (laundry, etc).

I'm on team-loaf here. That is how I relax. My initial reaction is to jump to your defense. However, sounds like he might be spending a lot of time at home. You view your off time as "off time" whereas he views it as "us time". I'd try to set some hard goals on going out (maybe no poster board here) and alternate who picks. There are "going out" ways to veg. Maybe a picnic (laying in the sun), the beach (laying on the sand), the movies, etc.

I'd also make him agree to put in some veg time with you. Who cares if he's showered? Ask him to get back in his PJ's, make him a convert.
posted by syntheticfaith at 9:41 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just another thought: many people have expectations (sometimes that they are not even conscious of), and when those expectations are not met, they get very frustrated. So a process of growing up, and learning to have relationships, is to learn to be conscious of one's expectations, able to evaluate if they are reasonable, and able to express them to others, rather than expecting people to read one's mind.

As a married couple, you can help each other learn and grow in this way, and it will be one of the exciting things in later years, to look back and see how you've helped each other grow and mature.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Has he always been this way, or just since he's been unemployed?

Sounds like he is micromanaging you because he doesn't have anything better to do - a job or school can really provide structure which many people really need. Perhaps there is something related to his field that he can get out and go do without you, so on your days off he doesn't feel so much pressure to make the most of the day that he completely falls apart and arguments occur.
posted by pinky at 9:45 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has your husband ever worked retail? Maybe he should get a part-time job in retail and see how energetic he feels when he gets home.
posted by BibiRose at 9:47 AM on April 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't know how to say this kindly, but you sound like a big drag.

I'd be a big drag too, if I worked in retail management and came home to an unemployed partner who apparently doesn't remember what it's like to have to be on all day long.

As it is, I'm unemployed myself. If I started treating my partner like this? I'd hopefully realize I was being an asshole, which would hopefully make me realize that maybe I should make sure I'm not becoming depressed again. "Hopefully" is key. Sometimes I need someone to tell me these things. Emphatically and repeatedly, on occasion.

The way to say it kindly, in case you are still wondering after reading nearly everyone else so far, is "You should consider couples counseling, or go yourself if he won't."
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:49 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna vote for "going nuts from unemployment/boredom."
posted by rhizome at 9:49 AM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Anecdata:

When I'm pissed about something, I'll angrily clean while working myself up into a lather about whatever it is that I'm pissed about, eventually blowing up at my partner, and usually blowing up about something minor that I'm annoyed about because it's easier to blow up about that instead of whatever it is that I'm actually mad about.

At least, I used to do that before I seriously worked on my communication skills in my relationship. I'm guessing he's bothered about something else, possibly his own jealousy over not having a good, profitable reason to leave the house like you do, or possibly roadblocks in his grad school application process, or possibly something else altogether, and he's using cleaning and your relaxation as a scapegoat for venting his anger.
posted by scarykarrey at 9:53 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


My husband works and I'm unemployed (but looking). I feel the housework is my responsibility because I am not bringing in any income, and I try never to bug him for anything unless I physically can't do it. So yeah, he gets to relax and chill as much as he wants to on the weekend. However, I don't think pointing at the screen and saying "See, someone on the internet agrees with me" is going to go over well.

he gets in front of me saying that i'm all mad and pissy and he doesn't want me to do things like that. i explain that i am not, i'm just trying to do what he wants me to do

It sounds like you're guessing at what he wants and getting it wrong. Ask him directly what he thinks needs to be done. He may not care that the kitchen's a disaster but the pet hair on the doormat may really bother him (I am weird like this too). Make a list of things that need to be done over the weekend and divide them up. Block off "chill out" (separately) time and "together" time. I'm betting that the real problem is not what does or doesn't get done, but his unmet expectations, so if you lay out clearly what he can expect and then stick to your promises, this may resolve itself. As far as activities together, whenever you have an idea of what might be interesting and fun to do with him, write it down, so when you have together time, you're not sitting around wondering what to do, you just pick from the list.

What does he do while you're at work? He could be bored and lacking human contact, so when you're finally available, he wants to go go go. Can he pick up a Saturday morning hobby? My husband goes kayaking in the morning, something I don't care to do, so I get to sleep in, and by the time he comes back I'm showered, fed, and ready to go. Plus he's happy because he got to do something he enjoyed.
posted by desjardins at 9:53 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Woah. Let's back up a step. This is not about (at this point at least) one or the other of you putting in not enough or too much effort. This is about a lack of healthy communication.

I'll start by echoing those who have suggested couples counseling. It sounds to me like you guys really need to figure out a way to both get what you want within the relationship. Before any assessment of who should be putting in what amount of effort where, you guys need to find a way to talk about what you both want and need and what you are comfortable with and how you can get it from each other or outside of your relationship--because it's not fair to either of you to expect all of your needs to be satisfied within the relationship either.

I've gone through something similar, and I came out the other end realizing I had to shift my expectations of what the other person should have been doing for me and with me, and that was tremendously useful for understanding both what the relationship should have provided me as well as what I needed to provide myself. It seems like you folks really need to engage in a similar effort either within counseling or without (which I think is possible but much more difficult, I believe).

It may be the case that your husband needs to spend some time cleaning up every day, but be relaxed about you...relaxing while he's doing it. And it may be the case that you need to do more cleaning when you are comfortable doing it (because there is nothing wrong with chilling out), and push yourself past your comfort level here a little...but it has to be fundamentally acceptable to both of you, it can't feel like a sacrifice (please understand that sacrifice is very different from compromise) and you both half to feel happy once you've arranged something. But the challenge is really figuring out how to communicate to get what you both need, because that's where things seem to fall apart for you.

Good luck!
posted by dubitable at 9:54 AM on April 16, 2010


I will third the "going nuts from unemployment". He has plenty of energy to devote to this cause. If he worked all day, his tune would be different.

Be careful of the phenomenon known as "passive / aggressive cleaning". It is used as a means of expressing superiority and disdain.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:55 AM on April 16, 2010


both half to feel happy --> both have to feel happy

Doh.
posted by dubitable at 9:55 AM on April 16, 2010


I'll go against the grain thus far and say that he sounds awfully controlling to me. Right now you're just a verbal punching bag - what if it eventually escalates into something else? It sounds like he never just chats with you, it seems like he lets little annoyances simmer internally until they bug him so much that he finally lashes out at you. You are certainly entitled to wear whatever you want around the house, but he wants you to dress up for him. He sees you relaxing for a few minutes after breakfast and gets angry because he's been cleaning since the moment he woke up. From what you describe, it sounds like the place is reasonably clean already; he's just more particular about a spit 'n polish appearance (which is fine, if he doesn't bully or berate others to be like him). I'm just getting an idea that he does not want to see you sit and do nothing, to take any time for yourself. He seems to think you're selfish when you do, he feels neglected, so he comes up with all these examples of how you're wasting time ("Instead of sitting around all day like a lump how about doing some laundry? When's the last time you dusted inside the heating registers? If I didn't do it, no one did. You know, that could start a fire some day.) And even though there's nothing wrong with relaxing in your own home on your day off and not immediately tackling every chore awaiting you, he makes you feel bad because you don't. He makes you feel as if you're doing something wrong, and, yeah, he even makes you feel stupid because it didn't occur to you to get dressed immediately after showering in case he wanted to go out or someone came to the door with a delivery or whatever.

As you might have guessed, I lived with a similar personality for a long time. I also urge counseling, but I have a feeling your husband won't agree to go. After all, you're the one with the problems. If that's the case, then please seek solo counseling. Best of luck to you.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:58 AM on April 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


I could have written this. Have you tried having a discussion about your different relaxing styles? The other issue with the tidying goes like this. He sees a mess and expects you to notice what he sees and do something about it. He doesn't say anything to you because he wants the things that matter to him to also matter to you and be top of mind. He doesn't want you to clean after having said something about it. He wants you to be self motivated to clean before he does. It may also help to talk about the fact that the mess bothers him more than it bothers you and maybe some ways to address that.

Honestly, there are probably some other issues going on and it's not really about the cleaning. He may feel like he is not a priority in your life right now. I don't know how long you two have been together but is this a new issue? Did you all of a sudden stop cleaning up and start having different relaxing styles. Why is this an issue now? I could just be projecting though.
posted by mokeydraws at 9:58 AM on April 16, 2010


desjardins is so right: I'm betting that the real problem is not what does or doesn't get done, but his unmet expectations, so if you lay out clearly what he can expect and then stick to your promises, this may resolve itself.

I have found this to be completely true. After several resentful fights with much-cleaner-than-me housemate, we decided to recalibrate our expectations so that we could both relax. It works like this:

(1) We set reasonable written expectations for cleaning and house-chores, including how often they get done and how we rotate them, and then
(2) each of us can fulfill our part of the deal in whatever way we like, so long as we meet the expectations.

So, for instance, if it's my week to mow the lawn, I can do it whenever and however I like -- on Sunday morning, on Thursday night, in 1'x1' squares every three hours, whatever. So long as I get it mowed and bag the clippings no later than Monday, I've fulfilled my responsibility. That means I feel like I have the freedom to plan my life and I'm not going to be hounded into mowing the lawn at 8pm after I've been working for 16 hours; and because he knows it's going to get done and when, he doesn't feel the need to nag me all through the week.

The key to this is that we agree to put in the same amount of effort, but we can do it with whatever method or timing works best for us. If one of us wants to go above and beyond, then awesome -- but that doesn't make the other one obligated do anything more than the expectations. And we are both responsible for keeping our promises about what we're going to do. Over time, this has built up trust again on both sides.

When you set up the expectations, it's really important to make them fair and livable for both of you. That will probably involve very honest communication and compromise from both of you. Upon discussion, you guys may also agree that it's fair to have one person or the other do a larger share of the housework (for instance, because one of you has a full-time job and the other doesn't), or for one person to permanently take charge of one task in exchange for the other taking charge of another task. Set it up however you like -- just make sure that you both think it's fair and livable. If your lives change (for instance, if and when he gets into grad school), you'll need to revise your expectations to match.

I think you can use this kind of pre-agreement for socializing, too. Instead of trying to negotiate about it when you're feeling tired and he's feeling frustrated, can y'all find a non-stressful time to sit down and talk through what you think is fair and livable? I think you'll probably feel more willing to go out if you're not being put on the spot, and he'll be more willing to be patient if he knows there's a date night coming up.
posted by ourobouros at 10:01 AM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


You're being very rude, sageleaf. People relax in different ways and your comment is mean to the OP, who is trying her best and knows herself well enough to know what really relaxes her.

QFE

I admit I'm an introvert but if I were going out to work 5 days a week and going out with friends several times a week there's no way I'd want to do anything at the weekend.

IMO your husband sounds completely unreasonable - you work full time and on your days off he expects you to dress up for him and do housework?! Either on their own is pretty unreasonable (maybe I'm biased but I'm in a similar situation - I work full time and my boyfriend is unemployed. I work, he does the cooking and cleaning) but dressing up to do housework seems really bizarre (unless its a french maid outfit ;) )

If its just that he's bored and not that he's a controlling asshole then you need to tell him to get a job or stop taking his boredom out on you.

He does seem kinda obsessive about the cleaning though, you say he cleans nearly every day? How much mess can 2 people in a 1 bedroom apartment make?! Could lend credence to the 'bored' theory - has he always been like this?
posted by missmagenta at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your husband is stressed and restless with being unemployed and his pending application to grad school, and taking it out on you. He looks at the weekend as an opportunity to go out and have fun with you, you look at it as a chance to finally sit down and relax for a bit. Tell him you need x amount of time in the morning to relax as you've been busy all week and really need to relax, but later in the afternoon at Y pm you will go out and do :given activity:. You are allowed personal time and this is when you're able to take it. If he feels like he's too restless and doesn't want to wait for you to be ready, tell him to go make plans with (Joe Friend) to do something in the meantime... you are married, but not joined at the hip. He also needs a regular hobby or activity outside of the home, stat - search the archives for suggestions.

And you need to try some conflict resolution, try the following: Say you're concerned about how things are going with you and you'd like to have a *calm* discussion with him about it. Just want to make sure you're both understanding eachother. Bring a pen and paper with you to make actual notes together on what you're both saying (stops the short circuiting and cyclization of arguments). Address the main points of arguments you have frequently had lately. He says you don't clean up EVER... together you write out all the things you did do around the house. You never go out and do stuff... well write out what you have been doing. Write out what he would like to see change, what he thinks he wants out of you, and you have to find a compromise together. Remember the "I" statements - I feel, etc. Organizing the issues between you and addressing them individually is a productive way of resolving this conflict. If this doesn't work, therapy is the next step.
posted by lizbunny at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2010


Unemployment: he is doing it wrong.

He needs to get out and get involved in something, so he has human contact and fun on some of your working days. Instead, he is hanging around, bored, cleaning because he can't think of anything else to do, etc. Thus he is hyper-focused on you being home on your day off and can't stand to see you "wasting" it.

A fairly common dynamic for weekends is one day where you hop to it and get out of the house for that ski trip/concert in the park/festival in town or what have you and another day of taking it slow, recharging, and having a nice low key time. Your schedule is not traditional, but I'd suggest finding stuff going on in advance a planning a couple of off days per month with activities.

If this doesn't help and/or he doesn't change once he is in school and/or he is adverse to counseling then it's probably time to ask him to leave.
posted by mikepop at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


My wife and I went through some of this, taking turns being unemployed and itchy. And now my best friend and his fiance are in the same situation, with him being social and out of work, and she working full-time, studying for grad school, and more.

For me and my wife: When I was unemployed, I never did enough, and I felt awful for it. I recognized the fact that I should keep the house spic'n'span, I had all day to make delicious meals, but I still slacked off and I still felt cooped up. When my wife was unemployed, she did more cleaning, but she didn't cook, and and ended up in some of the same idle cycles that I did, and also felt confined. Now my best friend and his fiance: he has some work from time to time, but he stays home a lot, cooks and cleans, but he's really social, and wants to go out with friends.

The idle party needs to fill their own wants, and can't rely on the busy party to be as excited for activity as they are. Maybe your husband needs to get out more and make new friends, or find new activities for his own. Even now that my wife and I both work, some times I feel confined from too many idle hours, so I'll go for a walk or run by myself. At first I felt like I was abandoning my wife, but we've come to realize that we don't have the same sort of needs at all times. I've changed, and so has my wife - we've become more like each-other, but we still are not mirror images of each-other, and I don't want to change my wife unless she wants to change.

Talk with your husband about the value he sees in your work. Thank him for his efforts cleaning the house, and make sure he knows you value that, but see if he might appreciate the fact you work to support both of you. If you feel like you should be doing more around home, set up a chore chart.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:23 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd agree that he may be a little stir crazy, but there's something else to this that we had to work through early in our relationship. Mrs. Advicepig is a very focused person, so when she decides it's time to clean the bathroom, there's nothing else that matters. Unfortunately, I had no idea when time to clean the bathroom would come and we'd both get a little pissy. She would be pissy because I was reading the newspaper. I would be pissy because I wasn't allowed to choose when I should be doing chores. We've since learned to better communicate what we want to do/have done, while allowing both of us to feel like we had input into the process. Now and then, we still get into this cycle, but it quickly deescalates when we realize we're doing it.
posted by advicepig at 10:24 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


General rule...

You can ask someone to do something when they are available..

You cannot tell them WHEN to do it...if you think they will not do it soon enough for you...do it yourself.

You cannot tell them HOW to do it...if you don't like the way they do it..do it yourself.

And...if you do it yourself...you cannot complain that you (always) have to do it yourself.

With that said, if you enjoy being in a partnership, discuss the matter, likely telling your beau that one day you need to veg on the couch; the other you'll get up, help tidy up, and then go out and have some fun with him.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:37 AM on April 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


One of the issues I ran into while living with a work-from-home housemate was that if I left breakfast dishes in the sink, came home after work, ate dinner, and washed up afterwards, I saw the kitches as "clean" for 75% of the time I was home. She, however, saw my stuff in the sink all day long, and that tidy period after dinner was only 20% of her day. Large amounts of resentment and miscommunication ensued.

The third housemate and I swore we'd never live with a work-from-home again, then each went out and married one.
posted by aimedwander at 10:52 AM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just because you're not the "walk/bike ride type of people" doesn't mean you can't go for a walk anyway. Pick a place and go enjoy each other; nature is a bonus. Picnic optional.

Last weekend, my SO and I went to look at the entries in a local birdhouse competition, some made by kids, some by very artistic adults. Free.

Two weekends before that, we went to see the state finals of the student science & engineering fair. That was way more fun than even I expected. Also free.

This weekend, I don't know if we'll have time (we're also volunteering at a pet adoption event on Sunday), but I'd love to go the local university arboretum. They give free tours at 2:00 on Sundays.

You'd be shocked at how many free things there are to do. Presenting your husband with a list (with a smile on your face and true enthusiasm in your voice) should show him that you still do care about him.

Something that my guy *loves* is when I plan a "mystery event", tell him what to wear, and drive him there without telling him in advance what it is (last time, it was the science fair). It doesn't have to take a lot of time.

You should probably work napping and lounging around into your plans, and maybe even find him a meetup group or other activity to do by himself, out of the house, on the mornings of your days off. A small budget for this wouldn't be amiss, and he might end up having a fabulous time.

Your description sounds like you do things non-work-related only when pushed. That, combined with unemployment and general uncertainty, may be making your husband insecure. He needs to feel loved, and you both need to get out of the house, maybe. I can't imagine how tired you must feel, but time with him just enjoying each other will make both of you feel better.
posted by amtho at 10:52 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm more than a little horrified that he's haranguing you about doing housework when he's unemployed and you're working. True, he's applying to graduate school, and that is part of contributing to your household, but it sounds like there is little to no recognition of the fact that your contribution to the household is going to work and making money.

The way I see it, and happily the way my partner sees it, is that once you are in a committed relationship and living together, it is not a matter of who cleans most or who works most or who handles the most social engagements or who puts the most effort in for the future--it is about who contributes most, where all of those things come in at different levels for different people and you do not have to be equal on every single household management task. Besides that, it is really dangerous and toxic to get into a state of mind where you're keeping score, in a relationship.

I heartily support your need to just chill for a few hours, or a whole day, on the weekend. That's normal.

I also agree with what other people have said about your husband being antsy and a little emotional/crazy due to unemployment, and that there's obviously something else bugging him that you really need to talk through.
posted by hought20 at 11:11 AM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


When your husband is complaining about the fact that you are wearing sweats around the house, on your day off, when the two of you do not have plans--this is not really about it being wrong for you to relax or wear comfy clothes. It's about something else.

There are legitimately frustrating things about being home all day when you're unemployed. No doubt your husband is experience those things, and there are ways you can help. Some things I appreciated my husband doing when I was unemployed: complimenting my cooking and housework efforts, spontaneously doing things like cooking dinner for us, saying (literally) "I'm proud of you" when I made progress in job or school-related networking/applications, finding things for us to do as a couple outside of the house.

There were some things my husband could not fix--that just had to feel bad, and it's easy to get stuck in irrational thoughts or feelings (in your husband's case, feeling annoyance that you're relaxing on your day off). It sounds as if your husband has some unemployment-related bad habits (both in his thinking and in the way he's treating you), and he's acting like a jerk as a result.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:22 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]




He's bored and stir-crazy and is taking it out on you.

That said, it sounds like you two have fallen into a schedule in which you don't overlap at all; you wake separately, eat separately, don't go out together or do anything fun together. That's understandable, but it's not good for either of you.

You are going to have to find some activities to do together -- "there is not much to do in the area, and everything requires money, which we are trying to save" is not good enough. Play games, or take up a shared hobby, or go to a class together, or whatever; but you guys need to have some way of interacting instead of just co-existing.

This is going to take work and compromise from both of you. His behavior sounds hamfisted and ineffective, sure, but to be honest so does yours towards him.

i've tried explaining this to him with no avail.

Instead of "explaining it to him," try "talking about it with him." Important difference.
posted by ook at 11:31 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can relate to this. I’ve been in this situation, and it happened early in my marriage. Probably took a couple years to iron out. I’m guessing you haven’t been married very long?

You don’t seem to resent the fact that your husband is home right now. I presume he’s putting in good effort towards his goal of going to grad school and that you support this goal. But if you DON’T -- if there are underlying resentments regarding finances -- that is a whole other can of worms. If you feel you are “supporting his unemployed ass” rather than just doing your bit during one of the normal, expected "lows" that all marriages have, then you will need to communicate the REAL issue to him and that is a whole different AskMe. However, assuming you’re okay with you working and him going to school, then I will say this:

Someone upthread said, “It's your day off and you should do with it what you want.” Well no, not exactly. Not anymore; you’re married now. And marriage requires a lot of give and take. It requires each of you to respect the others’ feelings and make an effort, even when you don’t want to. Not for everything, not all the time, but still: you can’t have a “me me” attitude and expect a happy marriage. I’m not saying you consciously do, but some of the advice upthread is coming from that standpoint. So first of all, throw that out the window. The job, the house, the sex, the long-term goals, all of it is about “you” as a team now, not “you” as an individual. This is a huge shift in mindset and it takes time to adjust to. I know, I was exactly where you are 12 years ago. But it is key to a successful relationship.

i get up and start cleaning things that i can see, i put a load of laundry in, i tidy up here and there. he gets in front of me saying that i'm all mad and pissy and he doesn't want me to do things like that. i explain that i am not, i'm just trying to do what he wants me to do, but this seems to fall on deaf ears.

The frustration that I sense from your husband is that you don’t seem to take any initiative to do the things that would please him. If he complains about the housework, you do it. If he nags you to go change, you do. But you don’t do these things until he gets frustrated about it, and then it’s too late. You’re an adult, you should be able to recognize what needs to be done around the house and divide up the chores fairly.

he then sits down and says that we never do anything and that he doesn't want to sit around all day on the computer or in the apt etc etc. i say i can't just jump out of bed and go go go, nor do i want to on my day off. he says he doesn't want to wait "4 hours for me to rev up".

He’s already frustrated (and probably feeling guilty) about being home. He wants to spend quality time with you, do fun things together. This is a GOOD thing. It means he looks forward to your company . You don’t seem to want the same, and that hurts his feelings. Get it? He’s not trying to boss you around, HE’S HURT. THIS is the crux of the issue. Rather than see your day off as a time when you can finally do some fun stuff with your husband, you would rather sleep in and then lounge in your pajamas. I understand where you’re coming from – truly I do -- but remember you can’t just think about yourself anymore. Try to see it from his perspective too. In his eyes, you’re choosing sleep + vegging over him. Also, you don’t work a 9-5 job; you work retail hours. So it sounds like there are at least a few days in the week that you get to sleep in. Surely you could wake up early on 1 or 2 of those days? Even if it’s not what you want to do, it would make him happy. Marriage requires effort and sacrifice.

i ask what he wants to do then, and the response is i shouldn't wait for him to come up with everything.

He’s right. If you wanted to spend time with him, this would come sort of naturally.

i explain that i have looked and there is not much to do in the area, and everything requires money, which we are trying to save. we are not the "go for a walk/bikeride" type people. he storms off to bedroom, i resort to metafilter because this similar scenario has happened multiple times.

I’m sorry, this is a weak excuse and I think you know it. There are tons of ideas for cheap or free dates. Metafilter is filled with them.

You love your husband, yes? You want him to be happy, yes? Then you need to find the balance. And in this case, I think it does involve you putting in some more effort. Unless he’s a chronically unemployed bum, he’s probably not happy with his current situation either. Your attitude should be, "What can I do to make our home life happier?" not "How do I get him off my case so I can relax".
posted by yawper at 11:34 AM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm trying to figure this out by clarifying some points that are bugging me about this question.

1) He is unemployed
2) He is pissed off at the OP for superficial reasons that might actually just be a cover for some deeper problem in the relationship
and 3) He is applying to grad school

If my partner did this to me and was such and asshole about it, I would write their name on a cardboard box and start shoveling all their shit into it.

Being unemployed isn't bad enough, he has to compound it by bringing on staggering debt by going to grad school? Holy crapfactory he better make a lot of money afterwards batman, because the OP is going to have the opportunity to support him during and after grad school as attempts to crawl out of the hole. If he's going to grad school for humanities I would jump out a window.

Good sweet jesus I wouldn't want to be in either position in this relationship. It sounds painful and probably doomed. Sorry for the downer, OP, but look out for number one.
posted by Skrubly at 12:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've actually been pretty close to in your husbands shoes recently. I'm a very career driven person - I truly love working. Last year my husband and I were both offered jobs at a place we dreamed of working - him full-time me part-time. I figured working part-time and taking care of our son would be enough for me but it really hasn't. Being stuck at home, even part-time, made me miserable.I'm guilty of just about everything your husband has done - especially the passive aggressive cleaning.

After a few months of home induced misery, I am ashamed to admit, I started taking it out on my husband. I would focus on every domestic misstep my husband made - he would leave the milk out when he left for work and in my head it was as if he had emptied the entire contents of the pantry on the counter. This one misdeed would trigger a mental tally of all the things he didn't do (some real, some verging on the imaginary). By the end of my 8 hour stint at home I would have such an arsenal of the things to be aggravated with my husband about that more often than not I would get mad at him within minutes of him getting home and start the passive aggressive cleaning routine. Boy those were not fun times.

The last few months things have been much better. I've gotten a second part-time job so I am working closer to full-time hours, I volunteer for the park service which fills out my schedule a bit as well and my husband is doing more work around the house. Is there anywhere he can volunteer (maybe somewhere that will help with his grad school applications?). We've also started going out more as a family and as a couple (this has really helped). We live in a very remote location (it is 20 miles to our mailbox) and we are able to find things to do - the two of you have to have something that will get you out of the house, or even just out of your routine (board games?).

Hope our experience helps you!
posted by a22lamia at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I think this is a smokescreen, even if he doesn't know it. This sort of stuff isn't worth making such a huge fuss over and the reason he's doing it is because he feels it's okay to make a fuss about this thing, whereas complaining about other issues he has may cast him in a more negative light (if he even chooses to see them). Not to say that his other issues are negative, only that his perception of them would be.

These are the question you should be asking:
How has his self-confidence been lately?
Is he worried about grad school?
Does he feel useless because he sits at home while you - in his mind - do the real work?
-if he wasn't normally a super cleanly person, that could explain the constant cleaning.

Another possible reason he might get so upset with you when things are messy is that he's spent all day cleaning, and the cleanliness itself is the only proof of his work. It can seem futile and maybe he wants to defend it and have something that he can take pride in.

Really, the issue is not with you. The issue, from what I can tell as someone who's been in similar situations to your husband, is that he hasn't figured out what's bothering him and so takes it out on you (not deliberately - I doubt he's even aware of it) for things that are truly minor grievances.
posted by scrutiny at 12:07 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should have previewed, but a22lamia has it right.
posted by scrutiny at 12:10 PM on April 16, 2010


Here's another way to look at it.

He cleans the apartment every day. And yet when you're home on your weekend, it's still cluttered enough he's annoyed at the mess. He likes keeping a clean ship, and right now he has the time to devote to this. This is also a temporary situation, and when he starts grad school the dynamic of the household is going to shift. I can imagine he takes the fact that you never feel the need to clean and builds it into this huge fear that you two will live in messy chaos when he finally has his time filled with grad school.

Unemployment gives you a lot of time to dwell and worry about these possibilities.

Another suggestion. Plan your days off together. Find something cheap and social and civilized in the afternoon for him to look forward to. Ask him to join in with your lethargy so that you relax together. Let him be a part of your weekend so that you two aren't living such separate lives. I can't imagine that's good for the crazy itching isolation that unemployment causes.
posted by politikitty at 12:42 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please get couple's counseling because this is unreasonable on his part. You need and deserve a day to recharge your batteries. And if you don't get it, you are going to start resenting the hell out of him. As for him, he needs to calmly think about just what it is he needs BEFORE you have a day off so the two of you can figure out how he can get it without interfering with YOUR day off.

By the way please realize this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with he is looking for an excuse to be pissy. Hence my recommendation for a neutral party. If you are so inclined and have a clergyperson you trust, usually they are free-but otherwise this is worth paying money for.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:26 PM on April 16, 2010


(PS, and I can't believe I am the first one to suggest this, what about sex on your days off? I can't think of one single man who wouldn't think this would be a superb start to a day, and if he had any sense at all he'd let you roll over afterwards and catch some extra zzzs......)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The entire conversation involves a lot of blaming and "you should do more" and "I think he should..." and "you always... you never..." One useful step could be to work on communication methods. (Nonviolent Communication is one big website / book / training for this.) It's all about making requests through the lens of what you're feeling at the time and why, and recognizing that you have no right to make demands but instead are just asking for a favor to help you with those needs and feelings. So it could be a way to shift toward talking about what he's feeling that's causing him to blame you or ask for more cleaning, etc.

If you have health insurance, you could see a therapist for some help getting new communication habits, and if you have Kaiser, they have (very cheap) group classes in this (possibly even open to the community?).

I also think maybe you could push back a bit and ask questions to start to turn "you always" into "oh, so that specific thing just now bothered you?" and "you should" into "I feel ___ when you ___ and would prefer if you would please do ____." Like this:
Him -- "You never get dressed for me, or even in general!, unless you are going to work."
You -- "Oh really? I don't see it that way, but that's interesting. You wish I had gotten dressed right away today?"
Him -- "Yeah, I mean, people can't just lay around all day like slobs!"
You -- "Yeah, that makes sense that they can't always lay around, but I'm actually really enjoying it. :) I kinda feel like, I went to work five days in a row and my feet hurt, and I just woke up and I really like this book, so I'd like to enjoy the morning by resting here for a little bit and reading. It feels so nice just to be at home. Would that be okay with you? What are you wanting to do today? Is there something you want to do together? [Maybe: It sounds like it makes you uncomfortable if I rest for a little while?]"
posted by salvia at 2:41 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with couples counselling, and/or non-defensive conversations about expectations, roles and responsibilities. The only insight I can offer is when I did this (which I don't anymore), it was kind of like this: I have asked and asked for you to remember to do these things that are important to me (a household chore, being on time, whatever) and you don't remember and I don't feel valued so i'm going to be damn passive aggressive and remind you that you're not doing the thing, and then when you start doing it, take the task off you angrily, telling you that the big deal is you doing it without being asked, or doing it cheerfully or whatever.

It may or may not be related to self-esteem from lack of employment, but if I was having the conversation, I would frame it in terms of relationship goals and expectations as many mefites above have suggested. Let's decide what's acceptable behaviour, let's talk about what's not negotiable. You let me have Saturday mornings to slob around in, and I promise to do all the laundry by Sunday night.
posted by b33j at 2:42 PM on April 16, 2010


Here's an example to expand on what I said above --

desjardins suggested: What does he do while you're at work? He could be bored and lacking human contact, so when you're finally available, he wants to go go go. Can he pick up a Saturday morning hobby?

My point is, if that's the case, he needs to learn to say "I've been so bored and desperate for human contact, and now that that you're available, I want to go go go. Can we go?" and not "you always lay around!" or "why are you sitting on the couch at 11 am??" or whatever he's actually saying.

If he can say, "I've been so bored and desperate for human contact that, and now that you're available, I want to go go go." You can say, "oh, yeah, I totally get that, I'd feel the same way. But honestly? I'm exhausted and really want to get re-energized before doing anything. I probably won't have lots of energy until 1 pm. Since I work until 9 pm, it's going to be that way on all my days off. Could we go go go after lunch? I know you'll probably be bored Saturday morning, maybe you could pick up a hobby during that time?"

And for your own part, instead of starting to clean huffily or saying "i feel like everything i do is overlooked," you could also practice a bit more "what I'd really like is to rest" and "your complaint [just now] makes me feel defensive and unjustly accused. I think thoughts like 'everything i do is overlooked.' Is there a better way for us to talk about what we each need here?"
posted by salvia at 2:57 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


He sounds like one of those people who has a bunch of unwritten rules he thinks everybody else should live up to that just so happen to match his personal preferences. He prefers to be active on weekends, therefore *you* should want to be active on weekends. He's a neat/clean freak and therefore you should clean like a crazy person. He likes to wear nice clothes all the time so you should wear nice clothes all the time.

It's hard but probably possible to teach people like that that other people have different preferences and that there's more than one way to live, but it'll probably take a long time. I assume counseling could expedite this process.

It also could just be that when he finds a job he'll stop being so unhappy and taking it out on you.
posted by callmejay at 4:02 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Advise-wise, I'd say to just refuse to accept his framing of the issues.

When he complains that you "never" get dressed except for work, point out (calmly) first that "never" is an exaggeration and not true and second that getting dressed up on saturday mornings is not something you necessarily want to do.

As for cleaning, maybe you can just agree that cleaning is mostly his job while you do other jobs (laundry, dishes, whatever.) That's pretty much my deal with my wife. I'm a slob and perfectly happy letting dishes stack up until there aren't any more clean ones while she can't handle a cup being left out. So now we basically have an agreement where I try to be somewhat neat but cleaning is just her job, while I run and unload the dishwasher, take out the trash, do the laundry, etc.
posted by callmejay at 4:06 PM on April 16, 2010


The man is bored, bored, bored.

You see this scenario play out around retirement time as well, when one spouse is still working and the other is suddenly at home with nothing to do. The house becomes their job and the other person just a force that shows up and makes messes occasionally.

I'm assuming here that applying for grad school is not taking up more than a few hours a week. Life would probably be much better for both of you if he was temping while he waits.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:08 PM on April 16, 2010


Have your husband eat breakfast. Preferably something with protein- it doesn't need to be high calorie, but low sugar is probably best.

I'm in your shoes, as far as being the one that works all week and loves to sleep late, and husband does the cleaning up. However, I've been the one to feel restless, and get grumpy about not doing anything. The thing is, it always nearly lack of food that gets me in a bad mood- I'm not diabetic or anything, but if I don't eat in the morning, quite frankly, I get mind-blowingly irrational- and about 10 minutes after I eat, I'm like "WTF was I thinking?"

I understand that people here tend to be pretty proactive in the DTMF department, and for good reason, but it may be as simple as getting your husband to eat something that will make for a happier existence for both of you. In my case, I absolutely love my husband, my kids, my mother, my sister and most everyone else I've encountered in the morning before a meal, but one wrong statement, and in my head they are the most evil person in the world. After I eat, I get reasonable and 100% polar opposite of what I was before.

If he's still an a-hole after breakfast, then yeah, you need couples counseling or more drastic measures. If it's a food issue, he'll probably be able to recognize it after awhile- I'll usually recognize what's happening, just tell my family that I need food, and they give me a couple minutes to eat and let it absorb, then approach me.
posted by andeluria at 3:10 AM on April 17, 2010


You would be well within your rights to take a look at the favorites pileon on the comment calling me rude, decide I'm a loon and go about your day. But before you do that, allow me to whip out some credentials. I've been married a long, long time, probably longer than anybody else commenting in the thread, and certainly longer than you guys, so I really do know a thing or two about staying married. I also work long stupid hours, past midnight every night, so I know a thing or two about being tired. It's also a deadline-driven job, so I know a thing or two about stress.

What you guys have is a chain-reaction of reactions. He's unemployed (this does not make him bad, lazy, unreasonable, an asshole (!!!), controlling or anything else, and nothing about your situation is about the housework -- that's an enormous red herring). Being unemployed is enormously stressful. If you've never had to go through it, thank heaven, but it's hell.

You are the one good thing in his life, and he hears you telling him you're more interested in your sweats and slippers than you are in him. He's stressed and frustrated, he lashes out, you dig your heels in or wave a dustrag around in a huff, all the while telling a man in pain how wrong he is. Can you blame him for wanting his real wife back?

This isn't your fault, per se, it's not his fault, but when you just circle each other with reactions without seeing the other person's side, you just spiral deeper. One of you has to pull out. Good for you, you took the chance and wrote the question.

And whether you like it or not (and you won't, trust me), the quickest ticket to wondering where your life went is to veg out every chance you get.

Good luck.
posted by sageleaf at 9:31 AM on April 17, 2010


Wow, sageleaf, your uncharitable reading just got more uncharitable. "Wave a dustrag around in a huff"? You don't know that's the case, at all.

OP, I think neither one of you is really communicating with one another in a productive way. It's perfectly reasonable to not want to get up and dressed first thing on your weekend, but why not say something like "I'm going to be chill until (whatever) o'clock, and then I think we should go out and do X together." It is perfectly reasonable to want to relax, but he's been home alone all week, and it's perfectly reasonable for him to want to feel like you're interested in spending some time with him. However, he's showing his unhappiness in not-so-great ways. The two of you need to put some time aside to address what's really going on.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:30 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can you blame him for wanting his real wife back?

This situation isn't about the wife suddenly changing into a slob who lazes around the house on the weekends and gets huffy when her husband raises the issue. It's about the husband's circumstances changing such that he's under new stresses, experiencing new frustrations, and mishandling some of them. He's lashing out because he's upset, not because she's being a bad wife. Under normal circumstances, he might be mildly annoyed that she doesn't share his weekend activity preferences, but he'd probably get over himself and find ways to work with their differing preferences. Under the current circumstances, he doesn't have the emotional energy to restrain himself from bursting out with that annoyance.

There are certainly things that both the OP and her husband can do to improve things--and it may well be that the OP can shoulder more of the burden here, that it'll be easier for her to make some extra efforts because she's not depressed about being unemployed. But that's not the same as her failing to be an adequate wife.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:43 PM on April 17, 2010


Sageleaf, unless you have been married more than 26 years, I outrank you.
And I think your telling this woman that she has to jump up and get dressed immediately on her day off after a draining week of working retail management is complete and total horse squeeze.

Unless you have worked retail (I do ) you have no idea at all how totally draining it is physically, mentally and emotionally. And if you can't relax at home on your day off, when CAN you? Her husband needs to suck up and deal.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:24 PM on April 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


(I mean, why are you telling her she needs to cater to someone acting like a two year old? Because the way she describes it , he is. He can calmly use his adult voice to talk to her like an adult if he has issues instead of acting like a petulant little whiny boy.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:26 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


He doesn't want to 'sit around for four hours waiting for you to rev up,' but he also wants you to come up with plans when you clearly just want to chill out? He's being unreasonable. If he can't think of anything fun to do, it doesn't make sense that you, the even less interested party, could somehow pull fun plans out of thin air.
posted by timoni at 12:10 AM on April 19, 2010


thank you for the input, i've read it all and taken it all in. a few points i wanted to add after reading everything -

- counseling is out of the question. firstly things are not so bad that it's necessary, and i know a thing or two about this since i'm a psych major. not to mention he would never go, as he has a great disdain for it and thinks it's a waste of time and money. yes i've tried to explain the benefits of it, no he doesn't want to hear it. not a big deal, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

- i should have said that i totally understand the adverse stress that unemployment causes. i was unemployed for a time too. i understand that affects his mood and disposition quite a bit, along with the stress of trying to get into grad school.

- sageleaf...you assume a great many things about me when you do not know me. you almost sound a bit like my husband, in that you think you know what's going on inside my head and think you know my intentions, and are blind to the fact that you don't, whether i explain them or not (which i have tried with husband, to not much avail)

-one more example - i get up this morning. i know i'm leaving for work at 1:30, as does he. so i put on yoga pants and one of his sweatshirts (he likes it very cold in the apt) because i don't want to get dressed in my work clothes till it's closer to work time. i feel like that's reasonable. he gets annoyed because "once again i did not bother to get dressed". when i explain to him my reasoning, and that it seemed pointless to me to get dressed in jeans and a shirt or whatever, just to change into my work clothes in 2 or 3 hours. did not want to put work clothes on right away because we have 2 cats, hence cat hair everywhere, and to avoid wrinkling etc etc. he just disagrees, grumbles, walks away and leaves the apt without saying anything for 45 min to get his hair cut(no explanation, no "i'll be back/i'm going out for a bit"), i call and text because i have no idea what's going on, he doesn't respond, and when he gets home acts as if i knew where he was going and dismisses everything.

...just so you have another example of the same sort of interaction. a few comments about putting clothes away etc etc were thrown in there. (i didn't realize the clothes in the laundry bin were clean. i washed and dried them, but i guess he put them back in the bin to be put away, which we do. i just didn't know he had done this.)

again, thanks for all the advice, it certainly helps my mindset significantly.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 10:20 AM on April 19, 2010


So, he's just being a jerk. That's his choice.

I happen to think it's a jerky one.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:04 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


counseling is out of the question. firstly things are not so bad that it's necessary

Oh, and I disagree here. You need to go if he won't. But if it were me it would be a condition of continuing to SUPPORT HIM financially.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:05 AM on April 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


counseling is out of the question. firstly things are not so bad that it's necessary

Counseling is not like a relationship emergency room visit. (And too bad it's not, because by the time my parents went, the relationship was b-r-o-k-e-n.) Counseling is like a relationship oil change or a relationship maintenance class.
posted by salvia at 6:31 PM on April 19, 2010


Ditto the cabin fever, and otherwise so far the consensus seems to be that unless he's some kind of neat-freak or has control issues, that it's most likely not really about cleaning or getting dressed at all, but about the situation, or the relationship between you two.

Maybe he doesn't feel like he's getting enough attention? Or just bored and hopes to get the OP to entertain him? If that's the case maybe it's just his immaturity. Either way it sounds like he's not communicating well what's really bothering him, and having trouble handling it.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 9:05 PM on April 19, 2010


Hey there, since you're a psych major - my very favorite psychology idea from when I was an undergrad is the fundamental attributional error. I'm not saying that the question here is about committing it, but thinking of your husband's behavior as caused by circumstance rather than caused by "his personality" might be helpful. Of course you're probably doing this already, but it sounds like you're incredibly busy, and thinking about stuff thoroughly takes time and attention you might not have had -- so I figured I'd mention it.
posted by amtho at 10:21 PM on April 19, 2010


Well, as a psych major, maybe you would enjoy Gottman's book "Marriage Clinic". You don't have to be married. It's a good read. He's engaging in two behaviors that predict marriage failure, criticism and stonewalling. Stonewalling is particularly bad.

Anyway, on to the advice I can give.

You also say things like "he used to make me get up". That attitude--that he has the right, ability, role, to tell you what to do--let's just assume that we can't change that about him. Maybe we can, I don't know, but I have decent knowledge about working with control freakishness so I'll just assume it's here to stay. There are three major things that can happen here:

a) You are unable or unwilling to do what he wants--maybe you're too tired, too frazzled, don't have the organizational skills, you would rather chop your own finger off. Okay. That would leave you with accept his attempts to control your behavior despite their ineffectiveness, avoid his attempts to control you, or simply avoid him. Not sure how you'd pull those things off. An obvious option would be to simply leave the relationship.

b) Maybe you are capable and willing of doing what he wants, tomorrow, with no changes from him, and you simply aren't. In which case, yes, you might as well try to do what he wants. If you're not willing after all, you're basically back to a. If you really are trying your best but it's not working...

c) You demonstrate enthusiastically that you are very willing to do what he wants, and together you work out a way to make that happen. More about that.

A desire to control you or boss you around or be in charge of the schedule is okay if you're both okay with it--but he needs decent leadership skills. That means (among other things) providing structure, telling you EXACTLY what he expects and when, EXACTLY how the laundry should be done, taking responsibility for communicating to you and supervising you effectively. Giving you the opportunity to succeed.

If he wants you to do what he says, he needs to communicate in a way that is pleasant and respectful enough that you will want to listen. He needs to avoid pouting, avoid criticizing, and generally show that he is in control of his own behavior and attitude. If he can't make himself happy, how is doing what he says going to make you happy? If he can't control himself, why would you allow him to control you?

And that is what he is attempting to do--he is just doing it poorly and it is unpleasant for you both. He is trying to modify your behavior to closely conform to what he wants, but he is going about it in a completely back-asswards way. You know about conditioning, learning, shaping, right? He is punishing you, which doesn't work, and he is failing to reinforce you. In fact, he is punishing you for attempting to please him. You get the picture. Maybe talk to him about that and you two could work something out to make the learning process easier for you. Or go over the basics--"This is how you can get me to do things. This is the reward that works for me."

Again, this is if you do want to hew more closely to his desires and requirements. You might not, and that is OK.

Then there is the possibility that this has nothing to do with your behavior, but instead has to do with him wanting you to be miserable. That means you could do exactly what he wants with the attitude he wants and he would find something new to criticize you for because the criticism itself is the desired result. No fix for that.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:21 AM on April 20, 2010


And--speaking of conditioning--you know that he wants you to get dressed. You don't do it. Nor do you tell him no, you aren't changing because you want to wear comfy clothes. You wait until he nags you or does something else unpleasant. Then you give him what he wants. Think about whether this is a good way to deal with the situation, when you could be either telling him to go screw, or, say, agreeing to be dressed by 10am every morning without him having to remind you.

Again, I think this is something that he could help with enormously by providing more structure so that you know exactly when and what to do to keep the peace.

I know that I sound like I am saying his behavior is okay, or blaming you, so let me say very clearly: his behavior is not okay. It is wrong for him to criticize you in the way that he does, and storm out of the house in the way that he does.

I can't say that it is abusive, I don't know you, but from here it sounds like that is a very real possibility. Do not hesitate to leave the relationship. From the information you've given me here, breaking off the relationship is what I would choose for you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:42 AM on April 20, 2010


Totally tangential but I think it's totally unreasonable for him to make you change out of your comfortable clothing and into "normal" clothing. You are in your house, the one place you are allowed to wear what you want.

Of course, I think my wife looks fantastic in sweatpants and a hoodie, so this could be my pro-sweatpants bias coming into play.

As others have said in better ways, the frustration comes from being cooped up all the time. It's something I've dealt with with a partner. Sometimes I haven't been working much and spend a good deal of time indoors; sometimes the roles are reversed. And pretty much consistently whoever stays home all the time starts getting fairly restless and wants to go out all the time, and this feeling barely registers with the other person because they have to go out every day.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:39 PM on April 21, 2010


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