Whenever we entertain, I end up doing a lot of the work to get the house ready. My husband says he'll help, but I have to tell him everything that has to be done and then, when I come and check it out, he never gets it right. So, I end up feeling disrespected and like a maid—not to mention, tired!
No doubt there are lots of women readers cheering you on for bringing up this subject. I am sorry that you end up with feelings like this, but am glad you’ve brought it up because it raises so many different points.
Our society has come very far in breaking away from traditional roles of men being the breadwinners and women taking care of the house. However, it’s really interesting that even though we have broken from traditionalism, women still tend to be the ones responsible for the house—even if they are also holding down a job outside of the house.
Of course, this isn’t fair. And, as a further enticement, recent research has indicated that when men do help with housework, their wives are more willing to have sex. So, it certainly is a win-win situation.
It’s also possible, from what you state, that your husband is willing to help but that’s where the differences begin. This can be due to a number of reasons. It may be nothing more than a stylistic difference in the way each of you perceives a "straightened up" house. Most couples have many of these differences and they mean nothing more than a variation in the way you look at the world.
Regardless of whether your husband has lower standards of what makes the house "company worthy" or he just doesn’t get it, what it requires is you telling him directly what you’d like done. I cannot tell you how many males I’ve seen in my practice who will voice something like, "I’d be only too happy to do what she wants if she’d only tell me what it is she wants."
It’s important for you to remember that the brains of men and women are wired differently. He won’t necessarily see what you see and the fact that he doesn’t is by no means an indication that he doesn’t care.
If you do find some things that still aren’t to your liking, remember to first appreciate what he has done. No one likes to be criticized. There’s actual research that shows a 5:1 ratio between positive and negative comments. What this means is that if you say five nice things to someone and then one negative thing, the negative has such a strong impact, you might as well not even said anything positive!
By being critical, he’s likely to be resentful and not want to help at all. But if you’re appreciative first and then nicely point out some other things you’d like done, you’ll have a lot more success. Criticism only makes someone feel attacked which leads to shutting down.
Your desire to be heard and helped is quite understandable. But his need to be spoken to in a way that is not demeaning is also essential. Respect in a relationship is the number one factor for a partnership going well… especially when it goes both ways!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last.