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Advice from Dr. Stanwix: I’m NOT the Cleaning Lady

Advice from Dr. Stanwix: I’m NOT the Cleaning Lady
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My husband does nothing to clean up around the house. We have been married for fifteen years and it seems that he is getting lazier and lazier. He says that I have higher standards of cleanliness than he has and he just doesn’t see the need to have everything spic and span all of the time.

He also claims that he has better things to do than to clean the house. We both have demanding jobs, and when he gets home he likes to relax. He also likes to dedicate time to his hobbies. Well, I’m sorry, but that goes for me, too.

I believe that if we were to simply work together we could have the place ship-shape in no time. It would also be easier if he were to simply clean up after himself. Putting dishes in the dishwasher and wiping down the counter with a dirty wash cloth are not what I consider cleaning!

To be fair, he does do most of the cooking. However, he makes such a mess, that I would prefer to order out half the time.

What can I do to get through to him that I am not his servant?


I’m NOT the Cleaning Lady


Dear I’m NOT the Cleaning Lady,

I understand your plight. This is a common dynamic with couples who have been married for many years, especially if they are middle-aged. While men in this age group are getting better at helping out around the house, they are still products of the family dynamic of the 50s and 60s. Deep down beneath their progressive beliefs about equality for women lurks the notion that it is a woman’s job to clean. This will hopefully abate in future generations. The question is what to do with husbands who still have this mindset now.

You certainly need to make it clear that you are tired of this family dynamic. If he doesn’t respond to that, then make a list of the chores to do around the house. Divide the house responsibilities based on what you both find the most agreeable jobs. After that, take the most disagreeable jobs and divide them down the middle. You can post a checklist of these jobs on the refrigerator and check them off as they are completed each week.

He may be resistant to this at first; however, if you stick with it, he will eventually come around. It will also serve as proof of what you have done and what he hasn’t done around the house. When he sees this evidence, he may finally realize how much you have to do to keep the house in order. You might also want to tie this to some sort of reward or consequence. If he doesn’t do all of his chores, then he has to take you out to dinner or give you a massage, etc.   (If nothing else, you may get some nice gifts out of the deal.)

One thing you need to be careful about: Many women feed into this dynamic by being too demanding. Men and women seem to have different standards of cleanliness. If you want your husband to make a better effort, then you must consider the standards you are holding him to. I’m not saying you have to live in unsanitary conditions, but if you are a compulsive cleaner who cleans every time you have a free moment, then you certainly can’t expect him to do the same.

You should also be careful not to re-clean things that he has already cleaned. What sometimes happens is that men make a pathetic attempt to clean something. After that, their wives or girlfriends come by to inspect the job they’ve done, get upset and end up re-cleaning the same thing. This gives men the idea that women will always be there to clean up after them. Rather than re-clean it, make him look at the pathetic job he has done and ask him to do it again.

If none of this advice works, then I suggest you go on strike. He may be able to live in squalor for a while, but he will eventually break. The question is how long can you hold out? If you follow this line, be prepared for a few weeks of filth and disorder. If you really want to show him how bad a house can get, maintain your resolve. Don’t begin cleaning until he promises he will help you every week.

Men can be like the family pet. They may take a while to train, but, once they know you mean business, they will come around.

Best of Luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix

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