Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My husband and I are slobs. We’re not quite starring on Hoarders or anything, but I haven’t changed my cleaning habits much since I had a path to my bed when I was 10. Luckily (or unluckily) my husband has the same tolerance to clutter/mess that I do, so it’s never before been a cause of marital strife. But now I’m trying to change.
This past month I’m on a roll and have started making visible progress, but this has coincided with one of my husband’s worst months at work. All he wants to do when he gets home is sit in his chair and watch TV, all evening, all weekend. You know, the kind of behavior that has been OK for the past dozen years of marriage, but it’s suddenly pissing me off. It’s very frustrating to not get any help and feel like I’m the only one actually fighting in the battle to reform. (Full disclosure: He does notice what I’ve done during the day and is lavish with the compliments.)
How do I balance genuinely needing help and support versus “You can’t change another person, only yourself”?
Dear Nearly Neat,
Congratulations on being on the path to cleanliness! They say it is next to godliness, which I guess explains the voices I hear in my head: God is right next to me, talking to me. Or maybe I hear the voices because of all the cleaner fumes I breathe in when I scrub the tub. Either way, who cares! The house is clean and I’m happy because God tells me I deserve a vodka tonic after all my hard work.
It’s true we can’t change another person, only ourselves. The weird thing though, is that by changing ourselves, it also changes others. Mahatma Gandhi also speaks to me, mostly when I use a lot of bleach in the whites, and he told me that directly from heaven! What’s stranger still is Gandhi was a man so I’m wondering if he ever did his own whites. What did he know about extensive housework?
But this is marriage we’re talking about here. Partnership! Helpmate! The reality is things aren’t always exactly 50/50. Right now he’s under a lot of stress. We know husbands have to take care of themselves emotionally just like we do. So maybe, for now, you should let him off the cleaning reform hook. If you have old enough children, make them take his place. What did we have kids for if not to at least wash the dirty dishes?! As a child I was convinced that was the only reason my parents had my sister and me.
As far as the weekend goes, well, I think that’s a wee bit different. For the time being, perhaps you should scale back your expectations. Say, get him to help you on a specific cleaning job for, I don’t know, an hour or two, and then call it quits and do something fun, like go out for ice cream or watch as your kids do the dishes. (I swear my parents’ FAVORITE pastime.) And don’t forget to let yourself off the hook a little right now too.
But once things calm down at work, put the screws to him. Work his @$$ off and make him earn IT. And you know what I mean by “IT”.