It would be nice if I didn't have to ask you to do things all the time!
June 4, 2015 8:21 AM   Subscribe

My fiancé relies on me for a lot of stuff. He was very much babied at a child; he has 5 MUCH older siblings so he really is the baby of the family in every sense of the word. He was brought up in an environment whereby if someone told him to do something, he would do it… but this means he lacks initiative in the matters of the home. How can I break this cycle?

I love him very much. But I’m a doer; when I see something that needs doing, I will do it. He is not like that and even if he sees the dishwasher needs emptying, he’ll wait until I ask him to do it before actually doing it. This gets immensely frustrating and even though I can obviously cope with it and deal with it, sometimes I’m at my wits end with him because it feels as if I do a lot (Cooking, cleaning, laundry etc.) and he is bad at seeing when I need help from him.

He’s getting much better at showing more initiative around the house, i.e. cleaning the cat litter more often without me having to ask him to, but there are other things that I have to KEEP on asking, every time, and they just never seem to sink in. The dishwasher is a classic example… he won’t turn it on if it’s full or he won’t empty it if it’s clean. These are things I have to repeatedly ask him to do. When I do ask him, he jumps up immediately and clears the dishes, but is it too much for me to just want him to see it for himself? Often times I end up feeling like a nag and ultimately, like his Mum.

The sad thing to me is that when he does a job, he does it EXTREMELY well…. Much better than me. He’s very thorough and organized. For example, his side of the closet was an absolute disgrace. It was horrendous for weeks, and I kept ignoring it because it didn’t really impact my life that much at the end of the day… but eventually I snapped and asked him to sort it out. So he spent 2 hours folding everything and organizing everything and WOW, it is totally amazing now, I just hate, hate, hate that once again, he saw it needed doing but didn’t do it until I nagged him.

Then there’s the stuff that I ask him to do 100 times, and he STILL doesn’t do it. Last night, before I went to bed, I asked him to make sure he locked the back door before he came to bed (he’s left it unlocked once this week already). Lo and behold, I’m feeding the cats this morning and see the back door is completely unlocked. It’s like, I can ask him to do something 100 times and it still doesn’t sink in.

I know none of this sounds like a really big deal, but I can get quite sick of being the "responsible one", especially since this spills over into other aspects of our lives too. He gets so used to me doing everything, organizing everything etc, that I think he often just feels he can sit back and leave things to me. This can get quite tiring. Sometimes I'D like to be less anal and just go with the flow more.. but it just doesn't feel possible at this time. Maybe I'm my own worst enemy by just DOING things when they need doing... he sometimes complains that I've beaten him to a job that he was going to do.... maybe that's true (I'm a "Monica" in that sense) but I have also tried to loosen the reins a bit, give him more time to do something but ultimately, I'll come home from a run etc. and the laundry that was ready to go into the dryer when I left, is still in the washing machine. I sometimes wonder if he might be a bit ADD....

So here are my questions:

Are there any tips I can use to make sure he does important things like locking up the house before bed time? Like I say, I can ask him 3 times to make sure it’s done and remind him RIGHT before I go to bed, but somehow between me going to bed and him coming to bed, it’s slipped his mind. I don’t really want to have to leave notes lying around the place, but that’s the only thing I can think of right now that might actually help.

Is there anything I can do to help him show more initiative around the house? Or has his upbringing absolutely destroyed any hope of this?

posted by JenThePro to Human Relations (63 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if there's some sort of app for this, or if you could just use calendar reminders that pop up on his phone regularly (every night to lock the house, etc). After a while it should be habit...
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:25 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like a weekly schedule of tasks (that the two of you sit down together to create, then post somewhere or put in your electronic calendars) might go a long way toward fixing this.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:27 AM on June 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

When I complained about a disparity in a few commonplace chores to my partner (who, like yours, is very willing to help but bad about self-regulation), he set up an alert on his phone so that, for example, every other day at 6:30 it reminds him to check the dishwasher and he'll process it however he can, either by loading or unloading or starting. Being reminded by his phone to do things instead of me fixed the issue (his forgetfulness or lack of habit) without me feeling like a nag.

I know this isn't the real solution you want, which is "notice when something needs to be done and take care of it without being prompted" but for things that need to be done regularly like dishwasher, laundry, etc. it's effectively the same result.
posted by almostmanda at 8:33 AM on June 4, 2015 [15 favorites]

Household Management 101 has some great cleaning schedule resources.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Micromanaging anyone can leave them so on edge that they become afraid to act. By your discription, it sounds like that is what is happening here. Try going a few weeks without micromanaging, nagging, or complaining. Lock the door yourself. Take care of the dishwasher. When you do see that he does something on his own, even if it isn't exactly how you would have done it, thank him. Eventually he should be able to relax and let down his guard enough to do more on his own. And, if not, hire a housekeeper. Remember, it's his space too. If he has no ownership over it because you are always in charge, then there isn't any reason for him to maintain it.
posted by myselfasme at 8:35 AM on June 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

I realize your question is essentially "How do I train him to be responsible?" but I think that is the wrong question to be asking. I also realize the answer I'm going to give is not really an answer, and not really what you asked for, but I feel it's important to bring up.

Do you really, truly feel like this is something that can be fixed, or is it more a problem that you are looking for ways to manage so you don't slowly go crazy? Looking at your previous questions it sounds like you are in your mid-30s so I am going to assume he's in the same age range; if that's the case then you are really fighting deeply ingrained habits and quirks that have been reinforced for many, many years. Are you willing to take just as long to undo those things?

There is a lot of frustration coming through in your question (rightly so) and I wonder if you are setting yourself up for disappointment and heartbreak by thinking he can be "fixed." Would you be willing to live with him for the rest of your life if you knew that nothing was going to change in regard to these habits/behaviors/patterns? Despite all your positive reinforcement, reminders, and prodding, it is quite possible that you won't see much change - and at a certain point, reminders start to sound an awful lot like nagging.

Life hacks to get past some of these things are possible, but you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that he won't change that much and you'll end up being the "responsible one" for your duration together.
posted by _DB_ at 8:35 AM on June 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Should probably mention that said Fiancé has a flip phone... he is immensely proud of his flip phone. Flip phones have no space for "Reminder Apps" (which sound GREAT by the way)... he can barely even text me on it!
posted by JenThePro at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2015

Could you divide up the tasks so some are always you and some are always him? I'm the one that cooks, so my bf is the one who does the dishes. Occasionally I do it if it piles up, but 90% of the time I leave it to him. If you are better at remembering the little things like locking doors, maybe you can be responsible for those while he needs to vacuum weekly or something. I feel like once you know exactly what your responsibility is, it's easier to recognize when something needs to be done.
posted by monologish at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

There is a category error here. He is perceiving tasks as 'annoying housework that has to get done' and of course he is not motivated to take initiative to do that, especially since A. you will tell him what needs to be done, and B. you will remind him if he forgets.

Instead these things should be framed as 'things I can do for my partner so she feels loved and respected'. Or, 'things that, if I don't do, will make my partner feel un-loved and un-respected'. Hopefully he actually cares about you and would like to show it.

Instead of telling him what to do, tell him how it makes you feel when you see he has not done the basic things that would make you comfortable in your own home. How do you feel when you find he has left a mess in the kitchen? Or when you wake up to find a door unlocked? Does he understand that by not doing a task, he is effectively allocating it to you? How does it feel to find your partner is through lack of action allocating most of the household tasks to you? How would you feel instead if he showed you that he wanted to take the load off of you to make your days more pleasant, and that he cared about making a home with you? In other words, does he really understand the consequences of his behavior, and if so, does he really want them to continue?
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:38 AM on June 4, 2015 [67 favorites]

Part of his problem is that he doesn't see that something needs to be done. When there is a dishwasher full of dishes, you see that as a task: either run the cycle if they're dirty or unload it if they're clean. He just sees a dishwasher. For one, tell him how important this is to you and how much it bothers you that he's running on autopilot. Then, give him a list of things to check the status of (like the dishwasher, the laundry, the mail, the door lock, the cat box, the cat's bowls) and ask him to set up an alert on his phone to spend 15 minutes a day looking for a chore that needs doing. As time goes on, you could expand the list (wipe down the sink in the kitchen and/or bathroom, sweep the floor around the cat box if your feet crunch on litter when you walk, etc) and he may not need the phone alerts.

On preview, skip the phone alerts, and set up a 6pm and 10pm "task time", during which you both find something that needs doing and do it.
posted by aimedwander at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

You phrase it as "he sees these things need doing." My experience of this interaction is that my tolerance for clutter/disorganization was higher than my partner's. I was willing to tolerate a lower standard of organization/cleanliness, full stop. So some of this will come down to helping him understand what your desired level is, which may be hard for him if he just doesn't share those values. I agree with other answerers that a lot of this is engrained habits, and that by framing it as nagging/reminding, you're probably causing him to dig in a bit. I mean, hell, I can see the extremely-perfectionist shirt-folding as intensely passive-aggressive (it would have been, if I'd done that, in my previous relationship).

Would you be willing to agree on a compromise position, somewhere between your standards and his standards, on some things? That might be easier to get to than "you have to match my standards at all times in order for me to feel loved and respected."

I asked my then-girlfriend if we could make a list of the chores she expected done, and the timetable, so that I could know what I needed to do to meet her expectations. She became indignant and shouty. She is now my ex.
posted by Alterscape at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

Dude needs a checklist. "You cannot go to bed unless tasks A, B and C are checked off." You write the checklist once and then you don't have to nag him about it. Assuming he actually does the things.

Eventually, the checklist becomes a habit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:45 AM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

One thing I've noticed about men and recurring chores - they often don't want to/know how to do a "good enough" job. They won't clean the bathroom regularly; they'll clean it once every three months and scrub it until you could perform minor surgery on the floor, but then of course it's dirty again in a week. In the most irritating circumstances, they'll make a big deal about how they do these chores "better" than you because you spend 30 minutes cleaning the bathroom weekly instead of two hours quarterly. This drives me up the fucking wall.

I choose to believe that this is because they often don't get trained in how to do things, so the only thing they can figure out is "do everything perfectly and with as much detail as possible".

Can you talk to your partner about what a "good enough" job looks like and maybe have him work along with you? It may be that once he understands how to do a chore quickly and sufficiently, he'll get into a headspace where he knows he can finish chores quickly.

Also, can you share with him how the nagging is eroding your relationship? You are free to tell him that nagging really killed a former [straight] relationship that An Anonymous Metafilter Commenter [ie me] had - it killed the romance dead because most of the time that we were together I was in parenting/managing/noticing mode and I just could not want to make out with someone after I'd spent the whole day treating them like I was their nanny.
posted by Frowner at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2015 [33 favorites]

Should probably mention that said Fiancé has a flip phone... he is immensely proud of his flip phone. Flip phones have no space for "Reminder Apps" (which sound GREAT by the way)... he can barely even text me on it!

There are probably online services that can call or text a reminder. And you might be surprised--even my old timey Razr had an alarm function.

On preview, skip the phone alerts, and set up a 6pm and 10pm "task time", during which you both find something that needs doing and do it.

We also do this! It is very successful! 20-30 minutes every Sunday of "active cleaning" where we set a timer and just do the chores we can find. It makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER because it becomes less about specific tasks, and more like a progress bar that moves in the direction of "cleaner house." So even if nobody vacuumed, something still got done.

But all of these methods require a partner who genuinely does want to help. If that's not the case, it's a much harder problem.
posted by almostmanda at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

He can take his pick between Flylady (there's a lot of cutesy/religious SAHM stuff in there, but the methodology is solid as a rock, and designed for people who are easily overwhelmed or simply don't know how to do basic housekeeping) or Unfuck Your Habitat (I don't know if their methodology is as foolproof but it seems to work for people).

He has to do this himself, and figure out what will work for him. I showed mine Flylady, he learned to make himself lists. He still doesn't have great mess comprehension, but if his list says to vacuum he vacuums and so that more or less takes care of that.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:53 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lot of these skills are transferable to work. How is he at getting things done at work/taking initiative/breaking unproductive patterns when his paycheque depends on it? If he struggles there as well, he may have some executive-level challenges that will require him to work hard, and coming up with his own coping strategies (his current coping strategy, as you have seen, is leaving it all for you). If he has been able to remain employed it indicates that this is not as big as a challenge as you think and he simply has to be motivated to transfer the skills he uses at work to the relationship he has with you. Whether he feels that motivation, unfortunately, is up to him.
posted by saucysault at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

Should probably mention that said Fiancé has a flip phone... he is immensely proud of his flip phone. Flip phones have no space for "Reminder Apps" (which sound GREAT by the way)... he can barely even text me on it!

So make a list and print it out? Then instead of nagging you can say "It's Tuesday; please check the list for Tuesday tasks." Put 27 copies around the house if needed.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:01 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

what ever you do, i would recommend against just doing the chores all the time and hoping he buys a clue. that will not work.

i personally support each person has chores that are always theirs. my husband and i discussed the things we hate doing and don't mind doing and low and behold - some of my hates are his whatevers and some of his hates are things i actively enjoy. this takes out a lot of the guess work and removes the thing in the back of his brain that says "if it needs to get done jen will do it or ask me to" - it makes it something that is 100% his problem. ...that you might still have to remind him to do. but i personally feel less naggy about it because there's not argument about who's responsibility it is.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2015 [16 favorites]

Then there’s the stuff that I ask him to do 100 times, and he STILL doesn’t do it. Last night, before I went to bed, I asked him to make sure he locked the back door before he came to bed (he’s left it unlocked once this week already). Lo and behold, I’m feeding the cats this morning and see the back door is completely unlocked. It’s like, I can ask him to do something 100 times and it still doesn’t sink in.

I knew a couple in your position: One Person had a very particular idea about how things should be done with regards to household stuff, The Other Person wasn't as concerned about things, and One Person ended up frustrated and feeling like a nag. They tried a week of One Person not being able to ask The Other Person for anything, with The Other Person knowing full well that One Person wasn't allowed to ask The Other Person for anything. At the end of the week, you'll have some data about what time-tables he has for getting around to something when not asked, and that can be helpful for coming to a compromise between how you want the house to be tended to and how wants the house to be tended to. Like, if you're used to constantly reminding him to unload the dishwasher because he hasn't done it without reminding as quickly as you would do it, it's useful to know "Okay, here's the things he notices on his own, albeit less quickly than I would, and here's the things that he just didn't even notice during the week" so you can triage the things you need to focus on, instead of feeling like you need to be reminding him about everything all the time.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

We got a white board. I write the jobs I need him to do on the board as I think of it, he checks out the board when he gets home & does them. . . .in theory. He has good & bad weeks, but the good days are getting closer together. He tries to do a job or 2 on the list when he first gets home and I find even that little bit of help makes me feel less resentful.

The other advantage of the whiteboard is it removes the mental energy of me having to keep track of jobs, if it's on the board it is not my problem now I don't have to keep a mental check to see if it's done, well at least when it's working. I find the having to keep track of all the things & if they are done the worst part of being the adult/organizer in the marriage.

Theoretically he could put jobs on the white board for me, but I don't think he sees them, mostly he just adds things to the shopping list as I do the weekly shopping.
posted by wwax at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2015 [16 favorites]

My crappy old Samsung flip phone has a calendar. I use it to remind me of a doctor appointment. I'd bet it would work just fine for a dishwasher appointment.
posted by in278s at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

This sounds a lot like my experience with someone who had ADD. It got much, much better once the person was on medication.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2015

When I met my wife, she was a clean everything all the time type, and I was a clean everything on Sunday afternoon type. She, like you, believed that her way was the BEST, and I was an idiot slovenly man who was irresponsible and stupid because my parents did a bad job raising me.

We had a few fights, lets say, because that sort of thinking is poison in a relationship. She wasn't right. I wasn't right. We were different, and we had to negotiate those differences. She had to learn to accept that I had my way of doing things that were different and equal to hers. Our budding relationship would have been dead in the water if she were unable to come down off her horse about her superiority.

What helped was to talk about things we don't mind and things we hate. I hate doing laundry. She loves it. So, she does laundry - but they get done on her schedule. She hates dishes, and I don't mind. So I do them - But they get done on my schedule. Either of us are free to do our own laundry or dishes if we want, but that's the compromise. She doesn't clean my office, and things I leave in the dining room get stuffed in there if she tidies up. That sort of thing.

What's hilarious is our cars. She's such a neat freak about the house, and her car is stuffed with detritus and debris and is dusty and disorganized. I'm - well, less tidy about the house- and my truck is immaculate and well kept and very tidy.

Point is - you need to stop approaching this as THING TO TEACH HIM. You're not mom. You're a partner. This is a negotiation. Everybody has a different tolerance for different kinds of messes.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:12 AM on June 4, 2015 [25 favorites]

What would happen if you put the responsibility for solving this on your fiance? Not in a passive-aggressive "You figure it out!" way, just in sitting down with him, saying, "This is a problem," and letting him take the lead on proposing solutions? (And PercussivePaul's framing is a great way to open the conversation.)

Because you coming up with a checklist or app or solution on your own and saying "Here, use this!" is not really any different from the dynamic that's happening now, where solutions are your job. In order for him to take more ownership of the problem, he needs to be involved from a much earlier stage in the problem-solving process.
posted by jaguar at 9:13 AM on June 4, 2015 [16 favorites]

Could you ask him to do the task of looking around and seeing if there are any tasks to be done? Like, "Hey, could you go see if the kitchen is clean?" "Hey, could you go around the bedroom and check if there's anything in there that I would probably want you to do?" Could *that* be the recurring task that you ask him to do?

I sympathize; my bf is good about housework but definitely doesn't have the same attitude towards noticing that stuff needs to be done as I do. How can a person just sit and watch a kettle boil when there's a dishwasher full of clean dishes right underneath it? I don't understand! But obviously not everyone is oriented that way.
posted by mskyle at 9:19 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Try putting a Post-It note on the dishwasher saying "FIRST PERSON TO COME INTO THE KITCHEN WHEN THE CYCLE HAS FINISHED, EMPTY ME".

This has been a weird source of conflict between me and the Tel3mum, whereby she was reluctant to take a task-oriented approach and said "well just SEE what needs to be done SEE it" but she also didn't like housework (in which she included very small tasks like emptying trash) being done after 6pm or early in the morning - i.e. when I was home from work - and would demand that I be prepared to dedicate my weekends and days off to being on call to do unbounded lists of household chores at unspecified times, but become frustrated at how unrealistic I was if I asked to schedule or routinize these things. It was ideological with her that household tasks are inherently unpredictable and failure to accept that was failure to accept the reality of life.

Finally, I found the book "How Clean Is Your House" and began to build a habit of adding one daily task per calendar month, such that it became routine. This was upsetting to her because it fell outside the hours that housework should appropriately be done; but at the same time, the house was getting progressively cleaner. The experience changed from "picking up one piece of rubble off a pile, looking all around the room, finally resigning myself to putting it down on top of a different pile of rubble" to "house is now only a 75% garbage dump instead of a 100% garbage dump, and the overall garbage trend is downward".

Eventually there was a confrontation over this and various other aspects, and I put my foot down and said she couldn't demand that I only do housework her way, which from my point of view was the most difficult way possible. And this is the point I'm driving at.

It is also the case that the way I do things is completely consonant with "SEE what needs doing SEE it" because I empty the dishwasher when I see it's finished its cycle (which the tel3mum will not do if it's the wrong time of day) and I put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher when I see them (which the tel3mum will also not do) and I wash, put away and refill any dirty cat dishes and clean up the cats' place settings whenever I see them, and if I find that the dryer is full I always take the laundry out and fold it. Any laundry that I pass by that is drying on a rack, I take off one category of my own stuff to fold and put away per journey (all beige underwear on this pass; all black socks on the next pass; etc). It's frustrating for me because every single time I leave the confines of my room it means at least 20 minutes' housework for me, and I would occasionally like to be able to just get a glass of water without all this rigmarole, but different strokes for different folks.

This works for me because it's a combination of SEEING IT and also having A SPECIFIC TASK TO SEE. It goes on the principle of IF this, THEN that. Not a generalized IF MESS, THEN CLEAN but if $CONDITION, THEN $ACTION.

In contrast, insisting that the whole world should be one nebulous, non-finite blur of SEE WHAT NEEDS DOING NO NOT THAT YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG was exasperating for me, and seemed like it was designed to incriminate me, since whatever I was doing it could always be argued that I should have been doing something else; there were no apparent rules besides "you're wrong".

So instead of having an ethos of SEE THING, DO THING followed by WHY DID HE NOT SEE THE THING, it might work better to say THIS IS YOUR JOB, IF DISHWASHER FINISHED, THEN EMPTY DISHWASHER.

Also, in my experience, if another member of the household doesn't know how to lock doors or turn off the stove then the person who cares about these things should make it their job to do them last thing at night. These things are too important to leave to someone who demonstrably isn't able to uphold the responsibility. I've been the locker-upper in the family for many years now.
posted by tel3path at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

So many answers. I just want to chime in saying that this WILL NOT go good places without some kind of resolution especially if children become involved because then little chores x 1000. I don't really understand people saying that different people have different levels of tolerances since your examples seem to be agreed upon needs I assume like locking the back door and running the dishwasher. Most households lock the back door every night and run the dishwasher when it is full. It isn't like you are spot-cleaning mirrors or toothbrushing grout or other tasks that have potentially debatable timelines on when they would need to be done.
posted by RoadScholar at 9:25 AM on June 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

I don't really understand people saying that different people have different levels of tolerances since your examples seem to be agreed upon needs I assume like locking the back door and running the dishwasher. Most households lock the back door every night and run the dishwasher when it is full.

Neither of these things would be routine in my household if I didn't insist on doing them. Many people simply do not care about locking doors, and regard dishwashers as primarily a storage buffer for clean and/or dirty dishes.
posted by tel3path at 9:29 AM on June 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

One thing I've noticed about men and recurring chores -

This has NOTHING to do with "men are like THIS, and women are like THIS". People need to stop generalizing.

You might want to read this.
posted by Lucinda at 10:14 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I don't think there is any way you can train him to notice more. I think you can absolutely agree on what he will DO or not do, but his feelings are not yours to regulate, and you will drive both of you crazy if you nag him.

What I have done with my man who is like this is two things:

1) If I want him to do something, I will ask. Full stop. Getting him to try and notice and read my mind that I want him to never, ever works and just makes both of you crazy. What I do is ask him at a time when I am already planning to do something else. Oh hey, sweetie, I am going to just get this pot of pasta started, can you empty the dishwasher while I do that? That way, he does. Or ever have to wonder about what he should do and we both feel like we are working together, rather Thani e of us is the chore nag and the other is the little boy who does not know how to do things. A small dynamic shift, but an important one.

2) For small things, I will just do it. The amount of stress and energy it would take to, say, pick up his socks off the floor, is so vastly greater than the time it takes to just do it. If I am feeling particularly annoyed about it, I'll pick them up but just leave them on his computer. He gets the message; he has never asked me why his socks are there :-)
posted by JoannaC at 10:15 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I actually did DTMFA over a similar issue that was also deeply ingrained by his upbringing. In fact, at the time we were dating, his mother was still managing his academic schedule -- reminding him of deadlines and assignments, proofreading his papers for him, etc. And this was for GRAD SCHOOL. For a while I figured she was just being overbearing but I came to learn that this was something he relied on. These behaviors spilled over into our relationship. We lived together and he took absolutely NO initiative when it came to household chores and upkeep. I tried everything with this guy; I asked him nicely, I nagged him, I suggested he set up a Google Calendar, I stopped doing chores altogether for a while in hopes he would pick up the slack some, I tried assigning him "his" exclusive chores in hopes he would take ownership over them, I sucked it up and just did 99% of the work for a while...

Eventually I decided this was not something I could put up with. But of course, I am not you, my ex is not your fiance, and I'm not suggesting you automatically leave him over this. But do consider the fact that despite your best efforts and his best intentions, he may never change his behavior. It's up to you to decide whether that's something you'll be able to tolerate.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 10:26 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

This sounds exactly like me up until not that long ago. I spent years suffering under a kind of low grade depression. I wasn't usually outwardly sad or anything, but dissatisfaction with my job and life robbed me of a lot of positive energy and initiative. Basically, I never started tasks on my own because I took no satisfaction in getting small things done. I would complete chores on request, sometimes requiring a bit of nagging but that was only because I didn't want to hurt or frustrate my partner. Getting things done held no appeal to me.

I wouldn't dream of playing internet psychologist just because of my anecdotal experience. But it is possible that your spouse doesn't tackle the tasks you hope he will because of something more complex than finding the right way to ask.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:27 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

My husband is like this to a smaller extent - he's good about the dishwasher but will get a pair of socks out of the clean laundry basket, then run upstairs to put them on...and LEAVE THE CLEAN LAUNDRY BASKET AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS instead of taking it up with him where the clothes can be put away. *headdesk*

I've tried a combination of ignoring (I have always had a higher standard of cleanliness than any roommate I've lived with, so am used to doing extra work to keep it my way) and reminding without resentment. We have talked this out: he doesn't see it as nagging when I ask or remind him to do something, even though by asking I feel like I'm nagging, which is a feeling I hate. So instead of getting het up about asking him now, I remind myself that HE doesn't feel like it's nagging and will do it cheerfully if I ask him, so I try to just ask him nicely and what do you know, it gets done when I want it to and all I had to do was use some words. Yes, I wish that he would see things exactly as I do and read my mind and for the love of god TAKE THE LAUNDRY UPSTAIRS WHEN HE GOES but this is who I married and he's probably not going to change - and that's a good thing, because there are so many other qualities about him that could change and I want them to stay the same, so if this is my penance for those good things, I'll take it.

I will say that introducing kids to the dynamic makes this 100% more difficult so work it out now before that's an issue.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:38 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The household chores question is actually a mix of different questions to be answered. Some of these are:
  • timing - When, and how often, does the task need doing? Must it be done at a specific time, or can it wait?
  • quality - What does "completed" look like? What happens if one person's standard is not the same as the other person's standard?
  • ownership - Who is responsible for what? What happens if something is not done or if the other party has to take over?
  • priority - Does the completion of the task have implications for personal safety/security, health, finances, or other highly important things?
Everyone has their own portfolio of negotiable and non-negotiable things. Ongoing communication is important to map out how that works for you and your fiancé.
posted by theorique at 10:39 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have solved this problem via angry confrontation and a big big fight. It's a big problem. I disagree about asking him every time. He's sandbagging. He needs to get his shit together.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

This previous question may help you.
posted by Melismata at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have so many feelings about this. My husband does the same crap - and I love him so much. He's overall decently responsible, and when he does clean he does a great job. He's actually way more thorough than I am. We would literally have screaming fights over dishes. I would endlessly get annoyed because you can SEE that the dishwasher needs to be emptied, you just got a clean dish out of there right?

Here's the thing, if you ask him to do it, does he get up a do it? Is he willing to do it? If so, that's great! You need to talk with him about this. Perhaps it's "I am fine reminding you, but if I do, you need to make sure it's done within a reasonable time so I don't have to remind you again." If that's a good solution for you, then you just need to get your own anger in check about it.

Now, my husband doesn't do this. I can ask, then ask the next day, then as again and it still won't get done. (Even though he's a wonderful man otherwise.) So, I decided - and it took a LOT of deciding - that I need to pick my battles and the fucking dishwasher isn't going to be one of them. Now, I draw the line as his icky bathroom because that's not my mess at all and I ain't touching it.

On the other hand, we will often say "Hey, it's a cleaning day!" And we make a list and get our shit done, and that works well. Could you institute an overall cleaning day to help with the workload around the house, while not needing to nag him every day about something?

Overall though, you may just need to accept that you do the dishes in this relationship. I'd rather have a good marriage and put aside my annoyance about the dishes - unless I really can't do them because I'm ill or something. I mean, it takes longer to fucking ask him to do them 20 times than it does to just empty it myself.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is a super-common thing. This is the phenomenon directly at the heart of stereotypes of women being passive aggressive and nagging. We tell men to do things, they don't hear us, so we end up telling them again and again until we finally give up, do their chores in addition to our own, and, through sheer exhaustion at not being heard, get tired of explicitly telling them what we're pissed about. Then, still oblivious, they get jobs as hack stand up comics and Official Reddit Karma Miners.

OK. I'm pretty mad about that I guess, but that said, not all men who do this are conscious of it, and a lot of them, when it's pointed out, will be rightly horrified and work to change their ways.

Some won't. Some think they're cute and clever for doing this, and will strenuously resist, but I'm pretty sure they're a minority.

So I think the very first thing you should do is sit down and explain this to him, clearly, and in no uncertain terms. Tell him that he is not pulling his weight, and he is ignoring a lot of the work that you are doing. It is not your job to assign chores to him. He is an adult, and he needs to learn to recognize and act on household tasks that need done.

It's not an easy or instantaneous process. It can be hard to become mindful of something you've ignored all your life, but the first step to changing it is that he needs to understand and acknowledge the dynamic, and be committed to changing it.

As for you, your first step is to stop thinking of yourself as a nag. You are not a nag. You are a reasonable adult who is frustrated because your partner is acting like a child.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2015 [26 favorites]

If it weren't for the birth order, I'd think you were living with my ex-husband.

The solution our therapist suggested was to frame it thusly: Maintaining a household requires an equal investment of either time or money from every member in the household. If you are not willing to invest time, then you need to invest money to make up your share of the household duties. Hire a housekeeper.

We hired a housekeeper to come in at a frequency I could live with, and it was the second-best decision we ever made (Best one was to split up, but that's neither here nor there). It got SO much easier for me to walk though the kitchen, see a pan with baked-on crud, and be able to think, 'Oh yeah, the housekeeper's coming tomorrow, so I don't have to mess with this,' rather than '%@$!% THAT ASSHOLE!!'
posted by culfinglin at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

The gender stuff in this thread kinda sucks. I'm the super fastidious husband, and my wife is the one that doesn't even see the thing that's bugging me right in the middle of where she's looking. Any two people partnered together are going to consist of the messy one and the clean one - and those categorizations may change depending on the pairing. So the clean one might be the messy one with a different partner.

That said, I actually think there's a genetic component to this. I see this trait run up and down my wife's cousins/uncles/aunts, as well as our son (who literally didn't see his backpack this morning when it was on the floor between me and him and I was asking him to pick it up). I also see the same need to chill-out on my side.

95% of the time I'm the fastidious one, but I'll say the few times I've been partnered with someone and I was the relatively messy one, that person was more than capable of bugging the shit out of me. There are ways to ask people to do something about what your care about that they don't care about - and I think that's the best you can really hope for here. I don't think it's possible (nor is it fair) to have other people care about the same things you care about to the same degree and in the same way.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

> I wonder if there's some sort of app for this....
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:25 AM on June 4

Yes. :) The following phone apps are designed specifically to remind you to do your chores regularly:

* Chorma - iPhone only. For Android the closest equivalent I could find is Fairshare. I suggest the OP start with these two, because these apps are specifically designed to help you split chores with the other person (or people) living in your home.

* Tody - iPhone only. VERY comprehensive approach to cleaning. Android equivalent would probably be House Cleaning List.

* HomeRoutines - AFAICT, this app is iPhone only. Android users should check out Chore Checklist (which is also available for iPhone) and Flyhelper (which is from Flylady). These two apps are very routine-focused, and might help your fiance with getting into the habit of cleaning.

* The classic app is for this is Unfuck Your Habitat, listed as Unfilth Your Habitat on the App Store to get around Apple’s ban on profanities in app names (there is also an Android version). Many housekeeping apps seemed tailored for people who are already pretty organized. Unfuck Your Habitat is aimed at the rest of us.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mrs. Advicepig and I grew up in very different circumstances. I grew up with parents that worked physically demanding jobs outside the home and housework was really just enough to keep us going. Her mom didn't work outside the home and their family had a very different standard. When we first started living together, things were really divided on the I cook, you wash level, but all the tasks that weren't clearly delineated ended feeling like you express here.

How'd we deal? We hired a house cleaner.
posted by advicepig at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2015

There's a ton of good suggestions here for how to organize things, but can I just suggest that you let him choose which ones to try.

Having been the guy in a similar situation, when my wife printed out a list of household chores to do every week, on the days she randomly assigned them, I was insulted and ignored the list. When about 6 months later we sat down and discussed what needed to be done, and how to help me remember what needed to be done when, those were the solutions that stuck.

Mainly though, you know, even if he would be perfectly fine with you doing that, it's not just your responsibility to come up with solutions, it's his as well. That's just another piece of work that would be getting assigned to you by default. This is part of getting him to do his share of the work, all of it, not just the household chores.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:26 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sorry, bad editing: the "that" he might he willing to do is using whatever system you would have decided on without his input.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2015

Yikes am I feeling this thread! My super feminist partner is like this. It's honestly the closest I get in life to being like MEN ARE FROM ______, WOMEN ARE FROM PICK UP YOUR FUCKING SOCKS, PLEASE, OH MY GOD. All props to the guys in this thread with messy wives/girlfriends, and I agree that a person of any gender can land wherever on the Felix to Oscar spectrum, but I do think men are more frequently socialized to unconsciously ignore the mess around them and women are more frequently socialized to feel like they need to take on more than 50% of everyday household dreck lest they be naggy (anything but that!)

What's worked for me to varying degrees , much of which has been recommended above:
- Talking about which chores we despise/don't mind, and permanently taking ownership of a few accordingly
- Setting cleaning time together ("for 15 minutes, we're picking junk up in the living room")
- Refrigerator to-do list
- Post-it notes for time sensitive things on a place he'll see them before the thing should be done. A note on the mirror for a before-bed task, a note on the back of the front door for something that needs to happen before he leaves in the morning, etc. This works! I hardly have to leave notes about stuff anymore!
- Honestly sending my partner articles about the second shift and being like "But for real, wouldn't it be crazy if I just straight up murdered you one day because you never once in your life switched out the toilet paper roll?"

Liberal applications of some/all of this, at the same time, can help. It sucks to go through the learning curve. There have been several times when I have witnessed an a-ha moment related to this stuff - like the time he looked at the shower wall and commented, "I wonder if we should try cleaning this sometime?" Which, of course, I had been, and not secretly. Often while he was in the apartment! He just was. not. noticing. Which is insane, but now the shower is in his mental checklist and every month or so he'll suggest that he clean it. Go figure.

It's easier in the short term to just do stuff yourself. But if you can get to those moments, where he realizes that what he has seen as an equitable arrangement is not at all, improvements can happen.
posted by superfluousm at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2015 [15 favorites]

I guess I don't understand why dishes have to be taken out as soon as the dishwasher is done? I don't have a dishwasher, but I do have a dish dry rack. Dishwashing (by hand) is my chore. I am the person who waits until there is a pile of dirty dishes (usually one day, sometimes two), and then I empty all the dish dry rack and fill it up with clean dishes. Sometimes I do this at 11pm, when I have too much energy to go straight to bed. Sometimes I do it at 9am because I'm procrastinating. Sometimes I skip doing it after dinner, because the sun is right in my eyes if I stand in front of the kitchen window. If my husband specifically wants the sink clear for some reason, he'll ask me to do the dishes right away, and I comply. But otherwise it's my chore, and I do it my way.

My husband is way neater than I am, so I know that some of the things I do bother him, but honestly, if it bothers him, he fixes it. Or he tells me to fix it. Or once every several month, I'll go through a giant organize-purge cycle, and then it'll slowly decay. That's why there is the house, and there is my closet and my baskets and my corner of the desk, which are areas that can stay messy.

He is also the cook. So he'll make dinner (and do most of the planning for it). If he specifically asks me, I'll cook dinner (usually only around once a week). But if left to my own devices, we'd probably end up eating salads and crackers most nights.

On the other hand, the messy yard didn't seem to bother him nearly as much as it bothered me, so I started doing the mowing and the weedwhacking, which works out well. He definitely helps, quite a bit, but it's something that I have to initiate. Or I have to say, "Do you think this bush should be pruned?" And even though he walks past it everyday, he'll pause and think about it, and then prune it if it needs to be pruned.

I guess my point is: How do you want to divide the chores? If he is never going to help you with cooking proactively, then don't give him that chore. If he's good at cleaning kitty litter, then that's his chore. Do it for several months, and then re-evaluate.

It doesn't make sense to me that you seem to want him to just do random chores. He doesn't seem to have a list. You're not willing to tell him every time you want a chore done. So, basically, you want him to read your mind to know which chores you see, and therefore he should do right now...?

Also, there are lots of "chores" I do that most people don't see. These things include budgeting, paying all the bills, making sure that our investments are in good order. I'm the one who makes sure we have enough insurance coverage. I take the car to the shop, and fill it up with gas (and also use it more than him). I do credit card churning to get us a bit of extra income. When we travel--which is quite often--I plan 95% of the itinerary and make all the reservations. I coordinate with contractors and deliveries, and make customer service phone calls to get things fixed/corrected, even though I also work full time. I manage the rental properties. These are all things that I do that are necessary, but not cleaning or cooking or laundry, and which I think some people do not really appreciate as "contributing to running the household."
posted by ethidda at 4:48 PM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think the first step is a knowleging that you have two different tolerances for clutter/organization/cleanliness. I'm totally on your side about locking the door, that's an absolute must, however, its probably quite likely that's he doesn't notice or care as much as you.

I'm like that and although this tailored more so to women being neat and mem being messy it's the other way around for me. I have a tendency to clutter spaces very easily and won't clean it until I either have time or I feel it's necessary, which takes to long for most people. The point is though, that eventually it gets done just on schedule.

I think you should stop doing all the things your doing and wait to see how it takes him to do it naturally. I'm sure it'll take longer than u want but eventually he'll get the picture.

U also think you should let this go a bit, the truth is he'll never naturally be as attentive or concerned as you...he just won't. That ssid doesn't mean he shouldn't help, he should, but even if he improves he'll still need reminded here and there.

It's not uncommon for a person who feel a necessity to do the housework to feel unappreciated and without help. The disconnect occurs because the other does place the same priority on the task and it matter to them neither one way or the other if it gets done. They didn't ask you to do it so therefore they you're doing it because you want to.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 7:59 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I guess I don't understand why dishes have to be taken out as soon as the dishwasher is done? I don't have a dishwasher, but I do have a dish dry rack.

Because an unemptied dishwasher becomes a log jam for a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

If you don't have a dishwasher then the dirty dishes will be there anyway until you wash them. The dishwasher is a mechanism for making dirty dishes go away even if you haven't washed them yet.

If you just leave dishes lying around when you could be sticking them straight in the dishwasher, then you don't know when you have a full load and may be left with a remaining pile of dirty dishes even after you get around to loading it.

Someone who is used to working around clutter and dirt in a messy kitchen (not saying goes this is you) kind of has control over the kitchen which they get along fine in, but it's hard for someone else to do anything in there.

Long ago, I remember getting jeered at by both parents for being too lazy to cook for myself when I got home, which was usually around midnight at that time in my life. In response to this feedback, I came home one night, thought 'bacon?' and pulled out the eye level grill, which was as usual crusted with grease and awash with water to soak off the crud. Either parent would have just used the grill as is, or washed it. I was too prissy to do the former and too lazy to do the latter - I did have to get up at six - so I reached for a can of beans. The can opener turned out to be crusted with rust or dirt so I took it to the sink and started scouring. It took some time and still wouldn't get clean. I scrubbed harder and the component snapped in two. Shit. I looked through the drawers and found a manual can opener, but it was broken which is why we got the electric can opener in the first place. I found a bottle opener and tried to kind of progressively perforate the can around the edges, which was as stupid as it sounds and now I had a bean can I was committed to opening but had no means of doing so. I was trying to figure out what to do next when I realised it was half past midnight and I still had to get up at six and I hadn't even gotten ready for bed yet. I threw the bean can in the trash and went to bed hungry.

This is kind of the opposite scenario to the OP's but I got into the habit of cleaning the kitchen for an hour and a half to two hours before I did anything else in there, and eventually built up a routine of trying to keep the kitchen clean throughout the day a major plot point of which was unloading and reloading the dishwasher. I was doing this and still coming across, to a person with different standards, as both prissy, obliquely a nag (you don't clean a thing unless you think it's dirty, therefore I was saying the kitchen was dirty), and radically lazy (still won't lift a finger to cook a meal!)

What was unfair there was that Felix and Oscar can be just as militant as each other about enforcing their own standards. But having been brought up with the values that it's wrong to mess shame others, and being in no position to demand that other household members Keep things clean, I still was laid open to judgement when my own household efforts got dismissed and discounted (nobody else wanted a clean kitchen anyway) while demands were placed on me that I felt systematically prevented from meeting.

Breaking the deadlock required insisting that it was a practical issue and taking the moral judgement out of it. Others in the household had a right to their standards but so did I have a right to clean to my own standards, and sometimes the cost of enforcing either standard meant that other things didn't get done and making moral judgements wouldn't change that.
posted by tel3path at 1:26 AM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Granted, you asked for tips about housework, and that's what you're getting; but this really concerns me:

He gets so used to me doing everything, organizing everything etc, that I think he often just feels he can sit back and leave things to me.

I'm gonna quote myself here, because this is something I really wish I understood before marrying, breeding, and spending countless hours and dollars on marriage counseling.

You love him. I get that. I love my guy too. But this may not change. You describe yourself as a doer; if you're also a fixer you probably know that even things worth fixing can't always be made good.

I just hope you'll consider what you want long term if this dynamic doesn't change or gets worse. That's possible, so do you still want in?

Oh, and this:

When I do ask him, he jumps up immediately

Too familiar. But he's not your well-behaved teenaged son, and you deserve someone on the lookout for your surroundings (lock) like you are for his (cooking, dishes, laundry, organizing...).
posted by whoiam at 1:49 AM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

The good news is he is still your fiancé and not your husband. This dynamic would be a total deal breaker for me personally, but YMMV of course. The best leverage you have for incentivizing him to change is to let him know you're not going to go through with marrying him until he sorts out his issues around not pulling his own weight in your home.
posted by hush at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2015

The problem with being willing to help when micromanaged but refusing to care enough to take initiative is actually the not caring part more than the dirty house. He's not only shirking work by making it take extra effort on your part to get him to do the work (so that you will maybe just do it yourself), he's also absolving himself of responsibility by making it your job to care and manage and distribute. Learned helplessness is one term for this, and strategic incompetence is another.

He's doing it to manipulate you, whether he sits down and cackles about it or not, he knows deep down he is getting you to do work so that he does not have to. Is that okay with you, to be manipulated?

You know, he can't even care enough to keep burglars out while you sleep, that's how little responsibility he's willing to take for your literal lives.

You didn't say anything about him not being capable of working, or not being able to take care of his own hygiene, so he appears to be able to handle things that are important enough to him. If he can't do those things, obviously you need to go the medical route first and psychological second.

Please do not delude yourself that having a baby will snap him out of it, if that's a thing that might happen some day. It won't change this, if you have already bought and paid for your life - your entire life - being The Responsible One. If you marry him like this, you have to be okay with it forever. If you have children like this, you will have to ensure his incompetence doesn't reduce your child's quality of life.

Go to counseling if that's what it takes, but do not marry him like this unless you are okay with it forever. You may want to bring up to him that women are biologically disinclined to have sex with their children, and that being a giant toddler is probably going to become an issue if it hasn't already.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

You may want to bring up to him that women are biologically disinclined to have sex with their children, and that being a giant toddler is probably going to become an issue if it hasn't already.

This is far, far more important than it sounds, IME.

"Do chores so that your wife will have sex with you" is an often misunderstood trope. Although part of it is "oh gee, now I am not tired and stressed about the filthy house and lack of clean dishes, now I have the brain space to experience sexual desire", a very substantial component is just that if you're always having to remind/ask/list/notice/beg or else do all the chores yourself, it changes the tenor of the relationship. It's not just that the chores are a chore, it's that every aspect of the relationship gets turned into work, and that spills over into making sex feel like one more maintenance chore. It kills the feeling that you're relating to another adult out of free choice and desire. It gets you into the headspace of "yes, men are really just big babies who can't be trusted to do what they say and who will tell you anything to get you to stop asking them to work on something", and that kills desire.

It's something you can deal with at first in a relationship, but it erodes romance and sex over time.

Despite being a big old queer person who no longer dates dudes, there's a dude I might still be with if this "big baby" dynamic hadn't been in play, because it slowly killed my sense of them as an adult romantic partner.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 AM on June 5, 2015 [16 favorites]

As regards the door locking issue, I confess that I am a person who struggles to remember to lock the door. I grew up in a small town, in a house where our door was NEVER locked (literally there was no key to our house that I ever had or was aware of). My spouse grew up in an urban area with a lot of crime and thinks it is crazy and wrong that I have such trouble with door locking, but thankfully for me, has just taken to rolling his eyes when I forget and commenting "you left us vulnerable to assault" (in a jokey and gentle way). Just wanted to speak up because for those who grew up with and have an ingrained sense of the importance of door locking, it may seem like the only reason a person would not lock the door is because they don't give a fig about your safety or are ridiculous. But since my child brain was programmed to "leaving the door unlocked is not dangerous, because where we live it is safe", it's been hard to learn a new mindset. I've learned to lock the door the majority of the time, but it's taken years for me to get decent at it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:19 AM on June 5, 2015

Thanks for all the responses! Some were really, really helpful to me.

Just in response to a couple of questions: We're not planning on having kids. We already have 2 cats and that's enough for us. But I agree with everyone here who says that having a baby would only make things worse, not better....

We had a lovely chat last night about how we can improve the situation. He agreed that his lack of initiative is affecting me negatively and is willingly and actively going to work on some of his bad habits.

I know some people are viewing this as a manipulative, malicious act from him, but it's really not like that! He's so great with lots of the other chores we do, we have cleaning days together - I do the bathrooms and the kitchen and he does all the other areas, so it's not that he won't do chores, it's just that he doesn't see other obvious things that need doing throughout the week.

I've come to the realization that there's not an awful lot I can do to "re-train" him, but we're going to work on it together and hopefully we'll see an improvement.
posted by JenThePro at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2015

Please do not delude yourself that having a baby will snap him out of it, if that's a thing that might happen some day. It won't change this, if you have already bought and paid for your life - your entire life - being The Responsible One. If you marry him like this, you have to be okay with it forever. If you have children like this, you will have to ensure his incompetence doesn't reduce your child's quality of life.

I'm impressed with your ability to predict the future.

My wife (and others on the PTA board) are often made fun of by their spouses for not having it together all the time. Those same parents (not just women) are also high holy monsters of productivity when it comes to their children and doing stuff around and for the school.

And yet, my relationship is not the OP's relationship, and that applies to all the other commentors, as well.

I say this as someone with control issues, with a job that at brass tacks is to deal with other people's very expensive problems - why do you care what HIS closet looks like? By asking him to deal with it, you're taking away an opportunity for him to feel his own consequences - which signs you up for even more time as the "responsible one." And, not to offend, his closet might be some of the lowest stakes possible. It will be much harder to let him fail when it really matters, and to resist the urge to ride in on a horse and rescue the situation - but there's really no more effective way for people to understand what is/isn't their responsibility.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

it's just that he doesn't see other obvious things that need doing throughout the week.

They're obvious to YOU.

If he's truly ADHD, they're not going to be obvious to HIM.

Those things you think are obvious are fighting for his attention with eleven thousand other items in his head, and he probably doesn't have the executive control to prioritize them in a manner that meets your expectations, especially if you are throwing multiple ones at him.

What's worked in our household (where I am ADHD and my tidy-loving spouse isn't) is having a "by the time we both go to bed, the following things *need* to be done" list, and then making sure those things get done before we both go to bed. No time requirements other than that.

In our household, it's a very basic list - dirty dishes need to be put in the dishwasher, the slipcover needs to be put on the sofa so the cat doesn't scratch it. We've *both* agreed to this. As long as everything is done when my husband wakes up in the morning, he doesn't care when it gets done (usually it is done at about 3am, right before I go to bed).

If you have a chore that is your hill to die on and you won't accept anything less than 100% perfection on it, do it yourself. If it's important to you that the doors be locked every single night, do it yourself. If the laundry needs to be taken out of the washing machine X minutes after the cycle's done and X+1 hour is UNACCEPTABLE, do it yourself.

If there's a chore that is more flexible, he can do it, as long as you're not standing over him going "why haven't you done it yet, why haven't you done it yet, it needs to be done by XYZ time, why haven't you done it yet." He's proven he will do the chores, and do them well - just let him have his own time frame to get his work done.

And please, please, give him at least a corner of the house that is his and his alone to treat how he wants with no comment or requirements from you.
posted by Lucinda at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2015

I'd also like to add that all the yelling and ultimatums and "your spouse is a big toddler who needs to see the error of his/her ways" that is being recommended her just did. not. work. in my household, and honestly probably would have been a dealbreaker for ME.

If your fiance is, in fact, ADHD, it's like yelling at a diabetic to get their pancreas working correctly.
posted by Lucinda at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wanted to address specifically the "feeling like a nag/his mum" aspect of your problem. This may not apply if your partner does feel nagged when they're reminded to do something, but from your descriptions it sounds like he cheerfully jumps up to do the thing asked.

After I had a conversation with my partner about how the constant reminding makes me feel like a nag and stresses me out, we were able to restructure my perspective: I was not nagging -- it was just a smart division of labor based on our talents. I have the ability to see when things need doing, and he does not; therefore, I am doing my part in our little family team when I use my ability and point out a thing for him to do. He then contributes to the team by doing the thing.

I realized it wasn't the actual act of reminding that was bothersome -- it was the emotions and thoughts about nagging that came with it. But, put in the perspective that delegating is my job that we both appreciate my ability at, it's a thing that I can feel good about.
posted by Pwoink at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel really bad because I think I've painted entirely the wrong picture about the tel3home.

I've portrayed the tel3mum as a slob and that's not fair.

Let me flip this around. Since the tel3mum cooks nearly all my meals without ever being asked, why expect her to keep the kitchen clean on top of that? I can keep the kitchen more or less clean. I just need her not to get ideological on my ass.

Similarly, OP, if your husband is pulling his weight in all other ways except spotting stuff that needs to be done as it goes along, is that really so bad in the overall context? As I suggested earlier, maybe giving him a task list of things to see rather than requesting that he "see all the things" will work.
posted by tel3path at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2015

Nthing the suggestion to include him in the process rather than hand him a list you create on your own. Perhaps including some rationale and feelings in these chores would help too.

"I would like us to lock the door at night because I feel safe and am able to sleep better knowing no one can just open the door and walk in. I'm putting a note by the lightswitch in ___ room to remind us both to check the lock before we turn the lights out and go to bed."

"I would like us to run the dishwasher when it's full and empty the clean dishes within ___ time because I feel frustrated when I'm trying to cook around dirty dishes." [Insert one of the great practical solutions above.]

I realize it may sound strange to phrase stuff this way, but more than just getting the chores done you'd like your fiancé to meet your emotional needs. If you can't engage him in the process, proceed with caution: that's a sign that he's fine with the status quo and uninterested in change.

One thing IME that didn't work was making the list solo then expecting him to give feedback or adhere to it. My ex stonewalled me on this approach with some pretty spectacularly bad consequences.
posted by estelahe at 7:49 PM on June 6, 2015

My husband and I have some similar issues, and here's how we've dealt with them - it basically amounts to meeting in the middle.

We had a really long conversation about 10 years ago, where I pointed out to him that there is no fairy that comes and does this stuff. If he doesn't do it, I'm the only other person in the house, so by default, I'm doing it. I had to point out to him that if he wants me to relax, and not do so much housework, he needs to do some of it. Otherwise, I have to do it. It seems simple but I don't think he really put it together. Once he had that "OHHHHHH" moment, it helped a lot. On the flip side, if I'm really stressed about something, I take it out via housework. I've learned to not take it out on him if he isn't suddenly obsessed with, say, making sure our kitchen floor is clean enough to eat off.

Overall, here's how we've done it. He's learned to step up and I've learned to step back a bit.

What he's done:
1) Make sure he takes his meds regularly
2) Chosen several things to take ownership of (bathing the dog, maintaining the doors & windows in the house, checking the locks every night, maintaining the cars, making dinner 3 times a week, taking out the trash, etc.) and doing those consistently. In addition, he has several things that are his that I've just decided to not do for him anymore (like his laundry, and his doctor appointments now that his meds are stable). He does those things too.

For us, it was really important that he CHOOSE the items he's responsible for, which makes sense. He cares more about those things, so he's more likely to do them. He could care less if the baseboards are ever washed, and hates dusting, so they aren't on his list. We also had a few trades in there - he hates cleaning bathrooms, I hate changing lightbulbs, so I do bathrooms and he does the lightbulbs. ( I realize you have to clean bathrooms more often than you have to change lightbulbs. That's how much I hate changing lightbulbs.)

3) If I ask him to do something else not on his list, he immediately gets up and does it.

What I've done:
1) I used to hate how messy his closet was and how he lived out of the clean clothes hamper, especially if I needed the hamper to do my laundry. I bought another set of clothes hampers - he has his set and I have mine - and I willfully ignore how he lives his life when it comes to clothes. If necessary, I just close his closet door. He's a grown man and if he wants to live out of a clothes hamper, that's his perogative.
2) I take 3 seconds and ask myself, "Do I really give a shit about this?" About 80% of the time, the answer is no. No, I don't care if he put all the mugs on the bottom shelf of the dishwasher, they'll probably survive. No, I don't care how he folds towels. No, I don't care that he stacked the tupperware in the wrong cabinet, at least it's in a cabinet.
3) When I do get irritated with him, I remind myself of all the stuff he does do. If I'm still irritated after that, I figure out why and we have a discussion about it.
posted by RogueTech at 8:56 PM on June 6, 2015

I've come to the realization that there's not an awful lot I can do to "re-train" him

If you don't want to nag, then you also want to avoid this (very gendered) stereotype. He is not a dog or a child. The only person who can change his behaviour is him.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 AM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Could you lighten up a bit? Probably. It's hard to tell- but let me tell you my own experience. I was with a man where I was the one that did ALL the work required to keep our daily life in tact and I was Ok with it. I am NOT a 'Monica' as you put it by any means. So I was mostly ok with leaving dishes in the sink and clothes in the machine. At the time I was in a situation where I couldn't support myself, he paid all the bills and worked somewhat long hours, so I was ok with the fact that I had to do everything else.... but after things settled between us and he felt I wasn't going anywhere it literally got to the point where he was too "busy" to do the things that needed to be done by HIM specifically. For example: If there were documents for our home that needed to be signed, I would have to forge his signature because no matter how often I asked him to sign them, he kept saying he would do it "later" until finally the deadline was coming to a close and I had no choice but to sign them myself under his name or else suddenly end up without a lease. Another time we were evicted from our temporary apartment because after telling him 100 X to make a phone call to the bank to make a simple transfer from one account to another (the account was in his name so I couldn't make the call for him) he STILL did not do it which caused us to get an eviction notice and have to spend hundreds on a lawyer to fight the eviction! If I was paid appropriate money for all the times his wanting to avoid a few seconds of work on his part cost us hours and hours of more work and money later on, I would've made a fortune.

This was a man who was sweet tempered and respectful in other ways. He provided well and was a respected member of the community. But my hair was literally turning gray with all the stress it would cause me to get him to the slightest things. And again- I was ok with doing everything that was humanly possible for me to do on my own. All I'd ask him to do were the things that absolutely needed to be done that were NOT possible for me to do alone. And it eventually took way too much asking to try to get him to do them. I then started using sex as a weapon and would withhold it until he would do the damn thing because that's apparently the level I had to go to get him to make a simple phone call at times. It disgusted me that I had to go to that level to get small actions of responsibility out of him. Eventually I looked in the mirror and saw I was losing years of my health supporting a relationship where only one of us cared enough to keep our lives from falling apart. It was too much. I started cheating on him and eventually left him. When we started out he wasn't that bad. He would just supposedly 'forget' things that I asked him to do 100X. Then it eventually got to the level mentioned above.

So far your guy has put your life in danger repeatedly by leaving the back door open even after you've asked him to lock it 100X. Locking the door at night to keep rapists and burglers out is not asking a lot of him. It's not crazy to assume that some day you may pay the price for this. If you still end up having problems with him locking the door it may be a good idea to get a guard dog rather than leave it up to him. Bottom line: You can't change him. He can only change himself. You're still in the fiance stage so things can very well get worse over time as responsibilities pile. My guess is you should lighten up on things like the dishwasher etc and keeping things always clean. Instead find out which tasks are the MOST important for him to get done that MUST be done. Hopefully he does these things. If it turns out he still doesn't do those things when you ask him repeatedly then you just have to accept that this is a relationship who's entire daily structure rests on your shoulders. Then you have to be honest with yourself about whether or not you are ok with that.
posted by rancher at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

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