What if the reason that many women “nag”, or at least men feel “nagged”, is that women are carrying too much of the mental load?
If only women know what tasks need to be done, then it’s almost inevitable that they will have to issue constant instructions. And because husbands often don’t understand the WHY behind the tasks, then they may not buy in to their importance, and leave them undone. And then women have to issue reminders.
Men feel belittled.
Women feel ignored.
And no one’s happy.
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This month, on Mondays, we’re talking about “mental load” and marriage, looking at how when one spouse carries the majority of the mental load, or responsibility for all the daily tasks of the family, it can cause some major negative dynamics in marriage. We’ve specifically been looking at the book Fair Play, and its system to divide up the mental load and emotional labor so that everybody owns some things and one person doesn’t carry everything. (Warning: Fair Play is not a Christian book and does have some language, but I still found it very helpful).
We looked at mental load in general, and then looked at the Fair Play system that Eve Rodsky suggests using. Then we looked at how to decide standards if you share the load.
Today I’d like to turn to nagging: what causes it and how we can eliminate it by dividing up tasks.
What we call “nagging” can also be conceptualized as the Random Assigned Tasks phenomenon, or RATs
The person carrying the mental load and planning everything that needs to be done starts assigning tasks to other people. The problem, however, is that these tasks come out of nowhere, and so there’s rarely any buy-in. And when one person is constantly assigning tasks to the other person, it takes on a very negative dynamic. (“She’s always telling me what to do.” “She’s always barking orders.”)
RATs, or Nagging, Makes the Relationship Feel Awkward
But here’s the thing: Most women don’t actually WANT to be giving these orders. Like the story I told about Mark and Sandra’s Saturday morning gone wrong, Sandra wanted Mark to just remember that Brian needed to get his homework done; to notice that the present needed wrapping; to remember that Janie needed to practice piano. Sandra didn’t want to be giving orders. She didn’t want to feel like she was treating Mark like a child. But there didn’t seem to be any other solution.
Issuing Reminders, or “Nagging”, Adds to Mental Load
Why didn’t Sandra remind Mark that the homework needed to be done, the present needed to be wrapped, the piano needed to be practised? Because reminding him uses her mental energy, and she doesn’t want to have to use mental energy. As Rodsky explains:
Having to remind your partner to do something doesn’t take that something off your list. It adds to it. And what’s more, reminding is often unfairly characterized as nagging.
Issuing RATs changes the dynamic of the marriage relationship
Most of us want to treat each other as equals, and to feel like we have a teammate and a partner. But when one person carries all the mental load, and then has to assign tasks, that relationship is undermined.
A reminder, in itself, takes tremendous mental effort by you. It requires knowing what needs to be done, remembering what needs to be done, and reminding someone to get it done, whereas the person being reminded gets off easy. He doesn’t have to remember a thing, nor does he worry about forgetting. And if you think about it, reminding and praising is the daily work of parenting children, not partnering with husbands.
Nobody wants to feel like their husband is a child. No husband wants to feel like he’s being treated like a child.
But this is often what happens when only one person knows what needs to be done, and only one person feels responsible for making sure it gets done.
Because the other person doesn’t see the bigger picture, they don’t know what tasks need to be completed. And even highly intelligent people can ignore what’s right in their face if they’ve never had to “own” the task. We get into these routines where one person takes care of many of the daily tasks, and that gives the other person the luxury of never thinking about it.
When one person is holding the mental load for far too many tasks than they can possibly execute themselves, then you’re going to end up with disaster because nagging will become commonplace.
Here’s what can often happen in families when instructions are given without context–and both of you get annoyed (from our life about 10 years ago!)
The Canada’s Wonderland Disaster
On Saturday morning, Keith and I were supposed to be heading to the church for 7 am with the girls in tow because we were joining the junior high youth group for a trip to Canada’s Wonderland amusement park.
On Friday night, the girls were hanging out in their rooms, and Keith was playing a computer game, wondering when I was going to come and watch a movie with him.
Rather than sitting down, I was grabbing towels and bathing suits and shoving them in backpacks. I was cutting up watermelon and putting it in Tupperware. I was frustrated because no one was helping, but I kept doing it all before sitting down and enjoying the movie.
The next morning we were up early, and I was shouting out last minute orders. “Keith, can you get sunscreen and put it in your backpack?”
When we got to Canada’s Wonderland, I asked Keith to produce the sunscreen.
It was an SPF 15.
Our daughter Katie burns like a lobster if any sun gets on her. Seriously, like a whole body blister reaction. She needs at least SPF 60, and SPF 100 on her face. We always had special sunscreen for her in the medicine cabinet. But Keith hadn’t grabbed that.
“Where’s Katie’s sunscreen?” I asked, horrified.
“You said to get sunscreen and put it in my backpack, so I thought you meant get sunscreen for me.”
I was seriously irritated. Why would I have reminded him to get sunscreen for himself? Especially knowing what he did about Katie. But he thought he was doing what I was asking him to do, and we both felt irritated at each other.
A 2-Pronged Strategy for Eliminating Nagging
Step 1: Both spouses “own” certain tasks
Both of you should choose certain areas of family responsibility to thoroughly own–conception, planning, and execution. And then that person has to follow through.
So if Keith owned “family outings”, for instance, then he would be in charge of making sure the backpacks were packed with towels, everyone had sunscreen, and snacks were cut up. He could, of course, ask the kids to pack their own backpacks and supervise, but he’d be the one responsible for them.
Or, if Keith owned “family finances” and I owned “family outings”, then I wouldn’t issue last minute orders to him to get the sunscreen; I would get it myself, likely the night before, rather than being resentful that other people weren’t helping.
And so a special note for guys here: If you don’t want to be nagged, then please, own some areas of household responsibility where YOU’RE the one who remembers what needs to be done. And you can read ouron how to do that, or pick up the book Fair Play and work through it together! Or pick up the cards and make it into a game!
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Step 2: Stop asking the other spouse to follow through on execution
Here’s how Eve Rodsky explains the problem in her book:
A predominant number of the men I interviewed report being on the receiving end of emasculating finger-pointing on a daily basis.
“I’m sick of being constantly ordered around,” said one man.
“The only time she speaks to me is to nag me,” offered another.
“My wife jokes that I need better ‘training,’” said a third.
“Hey, I admit I’m not perfect, but I’m not a dog.”
While a single RAT will turn up from time to time, when homes become infested with them, guess what happens? At least one person inevitably declares, “I’m not living like this. I’m out of here!” After speaking one-on-one with countless men, the data was clear: Random Assignment of Tasks is one of the top reasons men resent their wives, admit to affairs, and express a desire to divorce. Yikes! This is a painful reality check and well worth addressing before it gets to the point of no return.
Thankfully, RATs become unnecessary when CPE (conception, planning, execution) comes into play because tasks are no longer random. After pre-negotiating and specifically assigning all the cards, both partners know in advance—actually, at every minute of the day, seven days a week—what they are responsible for so nobody is caught off guard, needs reminding, or is told to figure it out!
It comes down to this:
Nobody wants to be treated like a child; and nobody wants to feel like they’re married to a child.
And the way around this is to each own your own stuff, and to each do part of the work of keeping the family going.
I hope this gives you a new way to think of “nagging”, but let me know what you think! Is this what causes nagging, or is it something else? Would this stop nagging in your house? Let’s talk in the comments!
Posts Coming in the Mental Load Series:
- How Emotional Labor Series: How Mental Load Affects Marriage
- The Fair Play Solution: Conception, Planning, Execution
- The Emotional Labor Series: How Do We Decide Our Standards?
- The Emotional Labor Series: How to Eliminate Nagging for Good
- The Emotional Labor Series: Why The Daily Grind Needs to Be Shared
- The Emotional Labor Series: Why Everyone Needs Time to Themselves
- PODCAST: What is Emotional Labor?
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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Thanks for this post!! I am definitely the one who sees everything and often gets irritated that my husband doesn’t see it and do it!
Months ago we divided up a few tasks. One thing my husband became responsible for was cleaning the shower (I have a bad back so I can’t). He has cleaned it once in that time – yes, literally months. It’s that acceptable?!
No, that’s really not okay! That’s where you need to also talk about it in relation to last week’s post about minimum standards. You talk about what standard is acceptable, and then you can have meetings to share different things about the household/marriage on a regular basis, and check in with each other about how they feel about the things that you’re each responsible for. You also need that “check in” so you can each give feedback, because, no, cleaning a shower once in a few months is not acceptable.
Actually, we only clean our shower once every two months and it is perfectly acceptable. We found an amazing product called Wet & Forget and we spray our shower down with it once every two months, scrub any areas that need to be scrubbed, rinse the rest off and then forget about it until two months later. I just noticed yesterday, that I need to do it again but it has literally been two months since the last time I did it. Just wanted to share because this product has been a lifesaver for being to remove an item from the list for constant upkeep.
Melissa, can you tell me more about this amazing sounding wet and forget? We also don’t get around to cleaning our shower often. First I’d like to thank you for being brave enough to admit that. LOL. In a world of clean people I feel so lazy for not getting some tasks like that done, even though I work like crazy at home and work otherwise.
Anyway I googled it and it looks like it’s sold as an outdoor product for moss, algae, etc. Is that the one you use? Or is there a separate indoor / bathroom one I should be looking for?
Well, we used to clean it more often but since getting this product we don’t anymore. Part of making the list of to dos much smaller. My in-laws discovered it as my mother in law was sick of having to constantly scrub to get the soap scum off the shower door and for the glass to stay clear. Now, they are only using it every month and a half to two months just like us. Yes, there is an outdoor product (which I have heard is great for mold on your siding, etc) but the one we use is specifically for tubs/showers. We get it at Menards in our area but I haven’t looked for it online.
THIS IS AMAZING! I am totally going to give the weekly shower cleaner a try. It’s one of the few tasks that we just don’t get done nearly enough since it hurts both our backs to get down and scrub like we would need to.
By the way, I looked up the products on the website and there is a store locator option. I found a few places nearby that sell it that way.
HA! The things you learn on my blog…. 🙂
Interesting read! My husband works a lot, since he owns his own greenhouse business. I have a huge “honey do” list, and I don’t know how to ask him to do stuff because he’s so busy and tired when he gets home. He also like to do things with the kids when he’s home. How do I get things checked off of that list without nagging (I can’t stand nagging, I’d rather ignore things) when he’s too busy to own tasks?
I’d look at it this way: If he has enough time to do things when you ask him to do things, then he does have enough time to “own” certain tasks. The key is this–you should each have down time in roughly equal amounts (and that doesn’t include playing with kids; just time to rejuvenate however you need to) and you should each have time to pursue a passion. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but you should each have it in roughly equal amounts.
If you are assigning him tasks, and he does them, then he does have time to own something. And just because he has a stressful job does not mean that the entire weight of the household’s management should fall on you. He is involved in the household as well. The book Fair Play talks about how to discuss this with your spouse in a non-blaming, solution-finding way, which I found helpful. And I found the cards system helpful, too. But read all the other posts in the series (they’re listed at the bottom) and see if that gives you any ideas!
This would work great if married to an emotionally healthy individual. I read the process here and would love to be able to put this in motion. But, it’s not that I’m treating husband like a child, it’s that emotionally he is a child. This kind of divide and conquer for household tasks was never possible because he won’t consider safety. And he doesn’t want to put any of the work into thinking these things through. He asks for lists so he can help without putting the thought in. I have carried the mental load for most things throughout the marriage. Now I understand why I’ve been so exhausted for so long. I can’t put these suggestions into practice because of the destructive patterns in the marriage. But these suggestions do help me understand what ultimately I want in a healthy marriage if that becomes possible with husband in the figure.
*possible in the future (not figure- sorry for the typos)
I’m sorry. That is exhausting, and very difficult. Have you talked to a counselor or anything? Sometimes people do the minimum possible, too, because they can get away with it. What would happen if you simply stopped doing some things he relies on to show that he needs to take some responsibility, too? I’m not saying being mean, but saying something like, “I’m exhausted and near my breaking point, and so I need to start taking care of myself and having a few hours of down time a week. That means I won’t be able to do everything I normally do, so I’ll have to step back.”
I also want to say that I believe that this also impacts God’s calling on our lives, something I haven’t talked about yet, but which is important to note. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God prepared before the universe began good works for us to do. He has a calling for each of us.
But if we are spending all of our time doing things for other people that they should be doing for themselves, so that those people have an easy life where they can relax a ton, then we’re actually working against God’s calling. We only have so much time in this life. There is much kingdom work to do. If your effort instead is focused on being a maid for your spouse or a servant so they have an easy life, then we’re missing out.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to do things for your spouse, by the way. Not at all. The problem comes with imbalance. If he has a ton of time off that he is using to relax, while you have no time to pursue your genuine passions and callings, then there is a big problem there.
Good thoughts. All of them. Yes counseling is happening. Pastors are involved. Lots of factors- Thus- the waiting and staying well. Addressing the mental load idea is but one symptom of a much deeper problem. But the more I learn about healthy relationships, the more I understand what I can live with and what I can’t in my future. So that part is helpful.
We are separated but in the same house for now. I have reduced my mental load as much as is safe to so at this time to focus on my kids and my personal healing from decades of emotional abuse.
So sorry @stayingwell . Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage is very healing. Sounds like you’re on a good track personally for healing. I’m glad you’re here.
I’m enjoying this series but having a little trouble figuring out how to apply it in my situation. My husband has ADHD. Because of that his memory is absolutely terrible. We tried once taking turns initiating sex because I was tired of always being the one to make sex happen. He forgot. Completely. And he didn’t just forget to initiate, he forgot we ever had that conversation and decision. So we have tried our best to have some things be his responsibility, but he struggles to remember and follow through. So any tips to handle ADHD and forgetfulness in marriage? It’s hard being the only “working memory” in the marriage. It’s hard when it feels like I can’t depend on him remembering to take care of the things he is responsible for. I am grateful he at least really does want to help and want to be a partner.
That is tough, Lynn! I hope others will chime in. I personally have found so many apps tremendously helpful for that. Apps that will tell you what tasks need to get done each day, or will even text you with a message like, “initiate sex now” or “send your wife a nice text!”
With ADD and my PTSD plus past use of meds (legally prescribed) my memory is shot, both long term,and short-term. I would suggest a calendar, on the phone and walll? my phone alerts me to important things and wall calendars can be used for everyone. I’m sorry, my man gets frustrated with me too for this and it feels horrible on this end of the equation.
Has he been diagnosed with ADHD by a doctor and prescribed medication? A friend of mine had terrible struggles in her marriage until both she and her husband got properly diagnosed and medicated for the ADHD. Now it’s like her husband is a new person and their marriage is so much healthier.
And can I add that since your husband has the issue- he should be initiating the fix? I have this issue also although husband isn’t professionally diagnosed because he won’t pursue that. His solution is just let me do everything. The person who has the issue should be figuring out how to fix the issue. It’s fine if that person asks for some help, advice, brainstorming sessions. But it’s not okay to hand their need to fix to someone else.
I agree with Sheila. I set reminders on my phone or alarms to go off to remind me to routinely do some tasks (start homeschool etc). Maybe those help? I’ll even set dates with reminders on a calendar for sending birthday cards, etc. *These would be on his phone and not on yours.
I hope you find something that works.
Hi, Lynn. That sounds like a huge burden to bear.
Say that a person can’t walk. It’s harder to get around, so he can’t accomplish as much work. A handicap is preventing him from helping around the house. If it can be healed (maybe it’s a sprained ankle) he should try to heal. If it is permanent he should try to learn how to manage it.
If your husband, suffering from ADHD, is already doing the best he can, then asking him to do better is probably not your intent. So instead, ask him to try to get himself into a position where he CAN do better.
Here are some ideas that might possibly help him do that.
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. He discusses healing the brain from damage caused by emotional and mental trauma. And says that brain damage can cause ADHD symptoms. (ADHD is one of the index words.)
This series about retraining the “lizard brain”. It’s about procrastination, but her techniques might help with ADHD (the word “permaculture” refers to a gardening/farming term, in case you were wondering. Some of her other posts on that website talk about techniques for succeeding in tasks when it feels like your brain is against you. And some are just about gardening.)
Researching brain nutrients might help.
Researching neurotoxins might help. Or thyroid health, since that is supposed to filter toxins from your blood before they even reach your brain in the first place.
Neural Integration System Therapy (NIS). Some people’s brain and body do not learn how to coordinate together. These people must expand massive amounts of mental energy on basic housekeeping, like keeping their balance, for example.
ADHD can be caused by having to manage too many mental tasks at once. Some people have no hunger signal and must remember when they last ate, what they ate and how much. Good memory. It’s just being used up on a mental task that most of us don’t ever give a second thought to.
Someone experiencing chronic pain or discomfort is always multitasking. They have to mentally manage distractions from their physical body. The solution, of course, is to become free of the pain. Easier said than done.
Let me know if you want me to expand on any of those. If I can, I will.
Hi Lynn, I highly recommend the YouTube channel How to ADHD for tips and tricks that work for the ADHD brain, related to memory and other things. I also recommend the video https://youtu.be/m8QNRpN4nY8 for specially talking about ADHD and intimacy.
> > husbands often don’t understand the WHY behind the tasks
This is a good point. Sometimes, especially if a man has grown up in a household where mom just does everything, he may not get why some things need to be done (and need to be done more than once).
An example is on one of my favorite TV shows “The Big Bang Theory”. A running gag is that Sheldon doesn’t understand a lot of social situation and often says or does things that are wildly inappropriate. Everybody just tells him that he’s wrong or crazy, etc. but they almost never sit him down and explain WHY his actions are unacceptable. Obviously, it’s just a TV show, and the quick shutdown is funnier than a long discussion, but in real life it helps to explain why something is the way it is
So true, Nathan! Great point.
Thanks for this post! As we’ve been thinking about dividing up the mental load, one question I’ve had is how to handle shared tasks. My husband and I do a lot of chores together. I’ve been thinking it might make sense to divide up some of these but it works well for us to do some tasks together, like cooking.
For shared tasks, is there a good system to divide responsibilities? Like maybe even if we both cook, one person is ultimately responsible for organizing and managing the task and the other person just helps but is told what to do? Or maybe taking turns being responsible, like one month he is in charge and the next month I do it? Any thoughts on this?
Elsie, My husband and I often work on chores around our house together and we each do what we’re good at. I’m a planner so I’m very good at planning and defrosting meat/veggies for a meal and since he isn’t able to be home very early during the week due to his job I’m usually the one cooking. I say usually because there are times when I delegate of making a meal to my oldest child (13). But even still for my 13 yr old I have to tell her what to cook and where it can be found. So in the weekends he is usually the cook, I will plan what we’re having and have to tell him where to locate the items for the meal but then he does the actual task. There have been times when I have requested he come up with the meals for the weekend that he will be cooking but he often time forgets to think ahead for defrosting or simply doesn’t know what he have on hand for meals which frustrates him and me both. This is what works for our family you just have to find the balance for yours.
I’m a big fan of doing (some) chores together because it’s a great bonding activity. I remember reading in one of John Gottman’s books that fighting couples go on exotic vacations to try to heal, but just end up fighting on the vacation, whereas the way to connect is to do mundane daily tasks together, like folding laundry. When you connect on that most basic every-day level, than you really enjoy your vacations. In our situation, when it comes to cooking, we play chef and sous-chef interchangeably except for when one person is working late, in which case the other one makes the entire dinner.
We do a lot of routine tasks together, too. I think the point of the sharing of mental load is that one person fully “owns” it, so they keep track if something is falling through the cracks.
Since my husband and I both work full-time+, the person who owns the task of getting ready for outings and trips is the person who gets home earliest the day before it happens. Sometimes that’s my husband, and sometimes it’s me. To make sure we’re on the same page, we made lists of what needs to be packed for different types of outings on the computer, so that whichever spouse is packing can just pull up the right list and work on it. Our lists are: Road Trip, International Trip, Camping, and Hiking, plus a useful list of “Things to do before leaving the house” (take out trash and compost, write directions for the pet-sitter, make sure safe and guns are locked up, etc.). Then when spouse #2 gets home, they can just look at the list to see what hasn’t been marked off yet and chip in. After several years of refining those lists, we don’t forget important things anymore! (We actually went camping one time and realized when we got to the campsite that we hadn’t packed the sleeping bags. Oops.)
Love this! I have those lists, too, of what to pack every time we go in the RV, and what I’ve left in the RV so I don’t bring extra with me. It does make it a lot easier, and we’ve honestly got it down to a science. I think talking it out together and then having those lists so you each know what to expect is a great idea!
” (We actually went camping one time and realized when we got to the campsite that we hadn’t packed the sleeping bags. Oops.)”
Before I leave for anything big, I do what I call an “idiot check:” do I have wallet (credit card and ID included), cell phone, and anything really crucial to the outing that cannot be purchased on site (e.g., running sneakers and orthotics if I’m going to a race, medications)?
I once did this as I was in the car about to leave for the airport and… my cell phone was on the charger in my bedroom.
Everytime I leave the house I go ” keys wallet cell phone” lol
I think it unrealistic to expect that there will never be random tasks assigned from one spouse to another. Often there is too much in prep for one person to do themselves. Think packing up the house to go on vacation etc. And if I was packing for wonderland with the family (my kids are too young currently) and I was running around It would be nice if the spouse wandered up and said ‘hey can I help you with anything so we can get to the movie?’ Or what if it’s my task but I’m chained to a couch nursing the baby at the moment. Then what? I think random tasks are likely to occur both ways. Some general consideration is nice too. As in my spouse is running around like a crazy person trying to prep for something maybe I should get up and go see what I can help with. Sort of like take our noses out of our screen/ book / whatever and look around if my spouse is busy with something and I’m just sitting. Just my two cents.
I hear you, T. There’s actually quite a lot in the book about how to negotiate when you have to assign tasks to someone, or you have to delegate. The main thing is to understand that when you’re delegating to someone who doesn’t “own” the task, you have to explain more. They don’t know the whole context, and so you can’t expect them to do it perfectly.
And I totally agree with the running around like a crazy person. The goal of dividing up mental load should be that both of you get time off and time to pursue passions in roughly equal amounts, and it’s decided when that’s going to be. Other than that, you should both be “on”. So if one person is running around trying to get stuff ready for the outing, the other should presumably be doing laundry or prepping school lunches or getting kids in bed or working on the finances or something.
Ah gotcha! I don’t have a ton of time for spare reading right now:.. and I’m a reader by nature. Lol. It does sound like an interesting book though !
We have a traditional home, where I work outside and Mrs. Nathan stays home and takes care of our child. We don’t officially split up tasks, but I try to do dishes, laundry, sweeping and vacuuming whenever I notice that it needs to be done.
Thank you Mr Nathan, I think thats called ADULTING. My man does the same, especially if he can tell I’m exhausted (I have some health issues that make me overly tired some days/weeks and energetic on others). He thinks nothing of washing dishes or doing the laundry if he sees that it needs to be done.
Late for the party today – Sheila do you and or anyone remember my comment from quite along time ago from an unknown referenced TLHV post regarding my wife walking through the house and making what I termed a GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT? Well that came up in my memory banks and I have been thinking about that recently due to this series. My wife would walk through the house and make a a general announcement about some random chore or out spoken thought about something that needed to be done. I tend to find comedy where ever I can and for a while when she would do this I would poke fun and say GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT and laugh. Well eventually she stopped making “general announcements.” I have realized that my general announcement was the RATs. This was my wife trying to communicate her mental load and indirectly asking for help. Makes me feel bad about the way I delt with it. I am glad that she does not need to make RATs anymore and now even more so I can help carry the load.
Phil, I have been thinking about your comment and believe what you are describing with your wife’s “general announcement” represents what could be described as the difference between Ask and Guess culture. It hasn’t been discussed yet in this series but is actually pretty relevant to the discussion of mental load. In Ask culture you ask for what you want or need with the understanding that you could be told no or not have your request met. With Guess culture you don’t directly ask for what you want or need but go through all kinds of rituals and different ways to get your need met but with never actually asking directly. These two cultures often clash because Ask people come across as rude to Guess people and Guess people resent being put in a position where they would have to say no and Guess people come across as passive aggressive. A for instance would be my late mother in law. She knew if she asked my father in law to buy two dresses instead of one he would get upset but if she said something to the effect of “I can’t decide which one of these two dresses to get” then he would say “get both” essentially making the purchase of both dresses his idea and not hers and thus avoid being told no. To this day he just thinks she was always being frugal and he was able to help her splurge on herself some but she told me exactly what she did and why. He was raised in guess culture so she had to play his games (he didn’t realize they were games) to get what she wanted. The problem with Guess culture is that the further you get out from your family of origin the harder is to figure out the rituals involved in getting your needs met as there are so many different ways to do this. I believe that Ask vs Guess culture absolutely comes into play when it comes to mental load and the dividing of tasks. The earlier we can identify these differences with our spouse and their family of origin the easier it is.
Hi Melissa. Very cool way to look at things. The very first thing that comes to mind is my sister in law. She will ask her husband for example “ Do you want me to do the dishes or are you going to do them?” Like its an option. What she really wants is for him to do it. Of course Mr comedy/me finds this funny cuz its beyond obvious – And she does it very often with a lot of scenarios. But he plays along(well not really – their relationship is fire and gasoline). My friend calls the ebbs and flows of our relationships “The dance”. We all have this “dance” we do in our relationships. What is funny about it is while I can see my sister in laws crap for example I often cant see my own/me and my wife’s. So with regard to the general announcement I can see her trying to get my attention in different ways and that didn’t work so she stopped. I would put this on The Guess angle Which aligns with many things from what I know about her up bringing. However heres the catch. She isnt afraid to ask for something either. Regardless interesting perspective and am interested in knowing more about it.
Okay, seriously, I find my comments thread so interesting!
Reading through the previous comments, a few posters separately mentioned obstacles I deal with. I have carried the mental load the past 11 years with my husband. The biggest issues I can’t seem to find a way around are 1. He is ADHD, so even if he intends to do something, he often forgets. Sometimes seconds after I have asked/reminded as he us going to di the thing. 2. He was not raised doing chores or helping out around the house in any way, but then he was raised in a hoarding situation. Which leads me to 3. He doesn’t understand why the things need to be done. He is perfectly comfortable in the mess and chaos. He was a rather autonomous child, so he seldom interacts with the children with intention (unless it’s in a video game). I am working and going to school in a medical program. He currently does not work. I have had to take a step back from domestic responsibilities because A) I am seldom around, and B) I just don’t have the spoons. So, our house is constantly a mess, laundry is seldom done unless there is nothing else, and meals are few and far between. I have tried divvying up chores and responsibilities in the past, and those assigned to others were seldom if ever done. I really have no idea what to do and have basically resigned myself to the fact that if I want something to be done, I have to do it or live in the chaos.
So it sounds like you both have different rule books for home and marriage. (Something I learned about through Natalie Hoffman). The options with different rule books are to discuss them together and try to come up a shared rule book or to accept that he doesn’t share yours. My two cents is that his diagnosis is his responsibility and although more difficult, he still has the responsibility to learn to be an adult. What he didn’t learn growing up- also his problem. There are plenty of options for learning the stuff we didn’t learn as kids. But him not caring about what he doesn’t know- that’s a problem for you. I’m so sorry. As someone who has been waking up to destructive patterns in my marriage that are twenty years old- my first advice would be to find your support system first. And then dive into educating yourself so that you can make informed decisions about your future.
I am the odd one out. I am the wife with the nagging husband.
He is picky about food and laundry, so he does those. Since he does the cooking, he also prefers to be the one to shop. I could have done much of the above, but I long ago stopped trying since he criticizes the results each time I try.
But I am learning to not let his negativity get me down and to not let my passive aggressive anger sabotage my own work.
Thank you for initiating this series! A lot of times I just scan over the blogs (not because I don’t love them but because I don’t have time to sit and read them all) but I went back and read this series word-for-word and can’t wait for the next post. I am going to read this book too! I am so hopeful my husband will be on board. I have been so weary lately and believe mental load is a big part of what contributes to it. I’m looking forward to tackling this issue.
That’s wonderful, Suzanne! I’m glad it’s helped you!