Q: My husband is a slob. He leaves his socks and clothes on the floor where they drop. He leaves his dishes on the table and walks away after dinner to flop in front of the TV. He "can't remember" to take out the trash on garbage day.
When he leaves the house on garbage day, and he drives by all our neighbors with their trash by the driveway, he's in "too much of a hurry" to turn around and come back to get the trash. He says he works and that's how he contributes to the household. All these little things sound nit picky but they drive me crazy.
I ask and ask him to help, and he says, "OK" but never does. I'm at the end of my rope.
A: It sounds like there are two tough issues going on for in this marriage.
One is the lack of partnership around caring for the home. The second has to do with being placated, told, "Yes, I'll take care of that," but then he never follows through. These are enough to truly drive someone crazy in a relationship.
To address the first issue, it may help to have a frank discussion of how each one of you sees your role in the home and in the relationship. If you feel that he is acting like a little boy who is coming home from school to mommy, then tell him so.
Emphasize to him that there is a cost and benefit to him acting like a little boy with no responsibility to the household. The benefit, of course, is that he can relax at home and have someone do all the menial chores for him. The cost however, is huge. The cost is emotional because you are losing respect for him as a husband when you are stuck with all the chores. In losing respect, we no longer can find things we appreciate about our spouse, and develop the damaging negative perspective which begins to pervade all our thoughts about our partner.
In addition, you may want to mention that he will lose out because mommies don't have romance with their sons.
In the role of mommy, you will be responding to him as if he were a child, since he's acting like one, and be turned off if he should make a romantic bid when he's in the mood. If this matters to him, he may be motivated to work on helping you feel more like an equal partner in the marriage, by acting like a responsible husband. And yes, part of being a responsible adult is picking up your own clothes and remembering garbage day.
Your husband may not realize that in putting you in the role of housekeeper/mommy you may not feel respected and valued. As a result, you may distance yourself, become angry, irritable and short with him. If he doesn't like triggering those responses in you, and dealing with a crabby wife, he may also be motivated to clean up his act.
Finally, his placating behavior is disrespectful in the least, and maddening at the worst. Nothing causes a partner to lose trust in their mate more than being told, "yes, dear" with no follow through, no accountability. Just like in business, you are only as good as your word. He may benefit from thinking about the integrity of his word, and making good on it. If he says he's going to do something, it is his responsibility to follow up.
Short-term marriage counseling or a marriage check up can often be helpful to straighten out these issues. Try it, as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (561) 694- 6703.