Advice on a Repeated Argument with DH

Updated on January 31, 2011
A.B. asks from Appleton, WI
17 answers

First I want to say I have a great husband, he is a good friend and a good provider to our family. Ok, here comes the BUT...We are always having the same argument. We don't fight much and we don't fight often but I find we fight about the same thing every few months. Basically this is the cycle...he isn't the most helpful guy when it comes to household chores or some things that have to do with the kids. I take on the brunt of all of that as well as work full-time at a fairly stressful and time consuming job. On top of that I plan b-day parties, get us ready for any holiday, interview sitters, check out pre-schools etc...I am beat!

I can usually handle a specific pace for awhile but then I start to burn out, and he always says he will watch for those signs as I think I make them quite clear. Apparently I don't...because we get to the day I burst into tears-- it is usually a day that is important and the stress level is high and then he gets so mad he retreats and doesn't want to do what we have planned and he gets mad that I cry. For a few weeks following the fight we get into he becomes the worlds best dad/husband but unless I continue to badger him it reverts back to the same routine.

Do any of you go through this? I have noticed stress levels have gotten higher since our second child was born which I expected but i didn't expect to get this overwhelmed. And I didn't expect him to be so blind to my needs. How do you tell your husband what you need without sounding like your delegating to yet another child? I don't want to be his mother I want him to step it up and be my partner. I need the help and I want it from him. I feel like some of the most difficult times of parenting are also some of the most rewarding and I just don't feel like his head is completely in the game. I know he loves us but comes from very disconnected parent/child relationship so I try to take that in to consideration. I just don't think he knows or evert saw the hands-on parenting I saw growing up. Is there anyone out there experiencing this? Any advice would be appreciated thank you for your help!!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so very much. Your posts were both reassuring that this is not something I'm dealing with alone and your suggestions were great! I can't wait to implement some of them. For those that suggested help, I am in the process of looking for a new cleaning person, we had one but she recently moved so I am sure that added responsibility recently has added to my stress. Second, yes, for those of you who asked or mentioned if I had small children I do. They are almost 4yrs old and almost 6mos old. Our baby does not sleep through the night at all yet, which also has added to our stress. Our first slept and sleeps great still, this is foreign to us. Both hubby and I planned both children so his lack of "helpfulness" is really not a reflection of not wanting fact we talk of more but not for another 3ish yrs. I really appreciate all the helpful hints and feel truly blessed to have so many caring people post.

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answers from Atlanta on

I don't expect anyone to be a mind reader. If I need something from DH I say "I need..." or "Could you please...". If you're planning a party, give DH a list and say I need you to get the cake, sweep the floor, and do etc before the party. Makes life much easier.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

Have him read : "If He Only Knew, What No Woman Can Resist" It will give him insights about what women NEED. When we speak, they shut down and dont listen. So let him read another man's words about it.

At the same time, you should read :
"Sacred Influence, What A Man Needs From His Wife To Be the Husband She Wants". It will show you what his needs are.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Oh yes. I totally get this.

One summer we went on vacation. Before we went I booked the rental. Researched and got directions to all the local attractions. Packed for me and the kids. Figured out the groceries for the trip. Etc etc. We got there and I said "This is fun, but it was really a lot of work." And he said, totally genuinely shocked, "It was? You made it look so easy. I'm sorry you were working so hard." Such a metaphor for Every.Single.Day. I think that if we're not crying or asleep at 8pm they assume that everything is fine.

I have gotten better since then at asking for help. I think that there's a way to ask for help that doesn't sound like nagging, which was really important to me. Also, I generally make more known when things are really tough by cluing in my husband that "It's going to be a really busy week at work, so I'm going to need a little more help doing X around the house."

Sometimes, though, I really just want him to know how hard I'm working to make the house run smoothly. When I realized that it wasn't really that I actually wanted him to do more, things got a little easier emotionally. Because then it wasn't an "I'm working harder than you" competition, but rather "I'm working really hard and I'd like you to recognize that please." When he could do that, I could also be more appreciative of everything that he does as well, which grows positive feelings instead of negative ones.

If your husband would be okay with it, ask him if he'd be okay with you sending him a list of things that he could do to demonstrate his appreciation for you. He can just plug them into his work calendar or whatever and then do them. My things are stuff like: bring home flowers, give me a kiss before taking off his coat, sending me a sweet email, calling just to check in, offering to order pizza instead of me cooking, folding the laundry without being asked, offering to take the kids out for a couple of hours on the weekend, etc. Sure, I'd like him to think of this stuff on his own, but he's not going to, so I'll help him out.

It does take a while, but if you can get through this without blowing up at each other, it really does strengthen your marriage in the long run. Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

i say just flat out ask him for help when you START to get overwhelmed - don't wait until it is crushing you and you have nothing left. realize what he has been "telling you" all this time - he doesn't get it. you have to spell it out. don't expect him to read your mind or pick up your "cues". just let him know. he sounds like he'd be more than happy to help out if you'd just ask him to do it. (and no, i don't mean "honey can you just help me out?" - be specific - "honey, i am about at the end of my rope. can you fix dinner tonight while i do baths and wash the dog?" or whatever...! :) good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You're actually asking a collection of questions, all good ones:

Why doesn't he see your need?
Is his head is completely in the game?
Will he ever voluntarily accept more responsibility?
How can we communicate better?
(And a few others.)

I guess my first question to you is, was the second baby an enthusiastic joint decision? Or did he acquiesce to another child to make you happy? If the latter, then that helps answer the first two questions. Also, I see from your profile that your children are around 2.5 and .5 years. That means you're still tired and probably hormonal, particularly if you are breast-feeding. And I'm guessing that with your husbands history, he was probably fairly "hands-off" with your first child until she was toddling. If that was the case, he's probably also pretty hands-off with the baby.

So, those are tough emotional hurdles for any man (I've known quite a few reluctant dads in my life, one of them being my first husband). Men often talk themselves into a state of self-pity or pure escapism. And they really, really can't imagine how much you've already given, physically and emotionally, to motherhood. Try as they might, they really can't go there, just as most women would never, ever be able to fully imagine being a soldier in battle.

You can't 'make' somebody grow up and be responsible. But you can learn better communication, and you can learn compromise. Or rather, he can learn better compromise – it sounds like you're already doing your share, plus. You are taking his history into consideration, which is good, but is that making you less able to ask for a fair division of duties?

So, let me strongly, STRONGLY, recommend you google Non-Violent Communication and start learning the difference between a true emotion (feeling glad, sad, mad, etc.) and a concept ("feeling" understood, supported, disrespected, taken care of, abandoned, needed, etc.) When we don't understand the difference, we continually throw wrenches into the works of our communications and relationships, because true emotions are spontaneous and completely legitimate, but concepts are always open to interpretation and disagreement.

Non-Violent Communication can be used by only one party to good effect. Learning this very powerful approach is a tremendous help in understanding and respecting the other person's valid needs. By doing that, we reduce their fear, anger and defensiveness, and give them a chance to hear our needs better.

I've used this approach to gently connect with a few difficult people in my life. I've even heard wonderful stories of whole relationships being transformed from enemy to friend. This is good stuff, and worth investigating. You can find descriptions of the basic process, examples, videos, books and classes online.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Ok do you actually *feel* when you are getting stressed? If you do, don't wait for him to ask to help, ask him to do specific things. Really. My husband doesn't see how I need help so I have to point blank ask him to do things like intervene in a fight the kids are having, put away the dishes, and other things. I have worked out in 7 years of marriage what he REALLY dislikes to do and what he will do but only when prompted. (clean the bathroom is one of the dislikes... I can remind him til the cows come home, and he will never do it, put away dishes... 5 minutes later I can start a new load as he will carry on and load the dishwasher too! but not start it strangely enough...). Men are trainable but sadly they start as being trained by their mothers so whatever she had to do for the 1st 20 or so years until you showed up is where you have to start at. My MIL always "reminded" my hubby to clean this or that, so that is what he is used to and is unlikely to change quickly. And remember, whatever you train your sons in is what your DILs will have to deal with. So if they are NEVER asked to clean... well I pity the future wife and hope the marriage survives... or that you have friends with daughters that are being trained to be slaves to their husbands messiness so they have someone to marry!

Also I agree with the praise him for stuff, I have found that if I am less stressed I have more time his favorite bedroom activities... funny how that works...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Get a large piece of graph paper and stick it to your bedroom closet door. mark a square on the graph each day so he can see where you are headed.
Maybe that visual will help him be more engaged.
Below the graph, write out the things that you appreciate him lending a hand with... so he has a constant reminder of what he should be doing and where he may be dropping the ball.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

I absolutely identify with this. My husband does a lot at home but I still feel overwhelmed with long days at work, all the school pick ups and doctor's visits, and I definitely hit a meltdown every so often. Crying "what do you all expect from me!!?" Very melodramatic. Usually happens after 3 or 4 nights of less than 5 hours of sleep so don't think too badly of me:-)

All I can tell you is what I've heard my friends say -- men need to be told/asked. Many of them are very willing to help but they don't know how. And many men don't get as involved with their kids until they are older; don't know if babies are too scary or just not interesting. Don't look on it that you are mothering him by asking -- think of him as an assistant who doesn't know what you need until you tell him. Good luck! You're not alone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

They ARE children. I swear men, no matter how wonderful, stop maturing at age 12. I think we have the same husband. LOL

Ok, so here are some ideas:

Split the house up into 8 sections. Each of you take turns picking the room/section you want to clean....until all 8 are picked. Set the timer for 15 minutes and when it rings, you move on to the next section. (You don't swtich sections for a month or more.) You do this 1-2 times per week. You both work at the same time and in ONE hour, your entire house is clean.

Birthday parties. You pick the even and he does the odd birthdays. Invitation, cake, etc. Give him a check-list the first time, after that, if he fails, you'll have birthday party pictures to prove it.

I have a career, homeschool our 3 kids, pregnant with #4 and do so much as well, so I HAD to delegate....or I don't have the energy for him and sex. ;)

I also take Adrenal Support in the morning for my stress and I find that I don't have the breakdowns anymore because my body can handle that stress. I also feed it to my husband and he's not so vacant anymore.

Hope that helps!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You're having the same argument we're all having! (except single moms!) another great book to read to help you talk to him and understand him is the John Grey book Men are from Mars.....or Mars and Venus communicate.
Those of us who have been married a LONG time will all say you need to be specific when you ask him to help, dont expect him to see what needs to be done and jump in to help you. Do expect him to be in charge of something IF you have made it clear he is now in charge (of his own laundry for instance) It's annoying when we both work full time and he is expected to HELP us around the house Find something he can be in charge of! You tell him what you need in a slightly different way than you tell a child, not because he is a child but because he is a man. He cant handle when you accuse him of not helping, it really upsets him because he wants to be the big strong provider who gets a lot of praise for everything he does for you. Men crave respect but they just dont think the kitchen needs cleaning or the laundry needs doing or that there is that much work to be done around the house. He needs to be Told nicely all the things you do in addition to your job and then you need to tell him that you cant be a good wife and a good mother without his help. Most men get the "I'll be too tired for sex if I have to do everything" I tell mine that when he cleans it really turns me on and he believes it! Make a list of all you do include shopping for kids clothes and making appointments as well as the day to day, then ask him what he can take over. Also let him make the decision does he want to hire someone to help around the house or does he want to do it?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I used to train dogs and though some people think it is mean to make such a comparison getting your kids or your husband to do what you want can be much like training a dog. I think you have to praise the hell out of him when he does do right by you and be good about giving clear consistent direction on what does not work for you. I am not at all saying I am perfect in this regard. In fact, this last Christmas I made the mistake of telling my husband not to "go nuts" in buying me too much for Christmas. TOO BROAD OF A HINT. I expected a few thoughtful things and ended up with ten different ugly and wholly unnecessary things from the dollar store. I was clear about my disappointment and have been telling him more specifically what I want for Valentines Day. I am in the same boat as you in terms of doing much of the cooking and cleaning around here as well as all the paperwork and such related to school for the kids and I work full time too. Whenever things get to feel like I am not appreciated at all I do make it clear through conversation (way from the kids) that his way of doing things is not working for me. I can remember when I was a kid Moms would talk about going on strike but that really does just hurt you more having to live in conditions you don't like. I think its time to talk schedule with you especially in regard to letting you have a regular break where you do not come back to a bigger mess than was there at the start of your break

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you are working that many hours and still having to do everything you need to call around and find a helper. My FIL hired a woman from Church who just wanted to make a bit of spending money, not support herself just enough to have some money of her own. I had a friend trade with me to watch the kids, I did laundry for her as pay back. There are many ways to deal with this if you are not able to spare $4-$60 per week for house keeping help.

If you have friends that have similar needs then you can have them all over for a meeting, call what ever you want, coffee and cake if you like. Talk to them about doing a new thing you found out about or came up with. Each 4 people group up, by size of house, cleanliness, etc...some sort of equal division. Anyway, you each decide on a day of the week, in your case maybe Saturday morning, and the other 3 meet at the other of their groups home and clean it top to bottom. Every room finished as best as possible for the time frame. If it's a real mess it may be that the hostess asks for 1-3 rooms be finished. We have had this and the kids rooms were sorted out and old toys were boxed up and donated/given away. It took a couple of hours and the rooms walls were scrubbed, the bed frames cleaned, etc....

This can be a very equitable arrangement for people who are responsible and keeping their word to show up and work hard even if the visiting and fellowship that develops between the friends. If there are more than one group it is nice to switch it up occassionaly, for instance if someone has a really clean house and doesn't need the once a month cleaning then that weekend could be for someone that may be having a special event. Like a sleepover or birthday party.

Still, the thing is you need help. If you can't do this helping arrangement or hire a helper then you are going to have to assign chores to each person and if they don't do it you have to let it go and that is the hardest of all. Eventually they will figure out if they don't do it you won't be picking up their slack. I told my husband he was going to add dishes to his trash chore. The dishes didn't get done for a couple of days and then he finally got up and did them. He isn't healthy enough to do the standing now and wants to do laundry instead. That's my favorite chore so I don't think so.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

You need to tell him... HE will be doing all the dishes and putting them away, taking out all the trash, starting the laundry and then put it in the dryer (if you trust him with that task), cook every other day and sweep and mop the house every other day.

Then you say you'll do the rest of the myriad of household chores and take care of the kids with his help as needed.

Be stern, strict, enforce it and yes - treat him like the child he is since he can't seem to act like a man for more than a week after you have a melt down.

It's not like you are a SAHM, with a little more time to get all the house stuff done AND the children... even if you were, a husband and Father would still need to be helpful.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I know exactly what you mean. My husband does help out, but I do almost EVERYTHING from cleaning to finances to scheduling. I don't work full time, but I can tell you I'd quit if I did or hire a housekeeper to come once a week. I do understand what you mean about you getting upset and then he helps out and then after a while things go back to the same old routine. It's a cycle. I think most marriages go through this type of cycle over one thing or another. Someone mentioned a couple of books and I'm going to check them out. Don't have any advice, but just wanted to say I know how you feel. You're not alone.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi, it sounds like you are writing the story of my life! I can relate~ Have you thought about a chores chart? I have one and that helps us. Sometimes my hubby wants to help but doesn't know how to help me or what--he always thinks since I have everything under control, that I dont' need help---well, a little help sometimes would be great honey! I think if you write everything down, have a list for what days you do them, you can say when you are needing help--Honey, the list on the fridge has the 5 most important things I need help with. Could you please pick a few and help me out? Thank you so much. This works well for us because I am not badgering and he has a to-do list so he knows what I need. Best wishes and hang in there!~




answers from Detroit on

I might be a little late in answering this, but my gut reaction is to stop expecting your husband to read your mind and automatically know when you are feeling overwhelmed. Just tell him you would really appreciate his help if he would do XYZ. Let him know in a nice way, and afterwords tell him thank you, and again, how much you appreciate him helping out. I've found that this works better with my DH then me just suddenly snapping at him, because the more I snap at him, the more apt he is to get defensive and snap back and NOT want to help. Your hubby sounds like a lot of guys, and I've found that giving specifics helps, as well as just asking nicely. Men are just pretty clueless sometimes.

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