PODCAST: What if Your Husband’s Not on Board with Sharing Emotional Labor?

by | Jun 11, 2020 | Podcasts | 16 comments

What if you want to redistribute the mental load and emotional labor in your household–but your husband’s not on board?

We’ve been talking about emotional labor all month on the blog, and we’ve got a lot more coming! And today on the podcast we want to continue the conversation by looking at how to renegotiate how your household functions.

But first, listen in to the podcast!

When Your Hubby Wants to Help with Mental Load–but Doesn’t Always Understand

Sometimes you’re married to an awesome guy (I think  most of us are, really), and he wants to help, but he doesn’t understand what  needs to be done, and doesn’t feel the same ownership or urgency.

That’s the situation Rebecca and Connor were in with mental load, and they discussed how they came to a great solution in the podcast this week.

And it wasn’t only Connor who had to compromise–Rebecca had to learn a lot, too. That’s what marriage is about. Learning to be on the same team!

This conversation was a continuation of one we started last week on the blog about emotional labor, and on our podcast about emotional labor. I promised in the podcast this week that I’d point to all the posts so you could catch up:

Posts Coming in the Mental Load Series:

Another tool to talk about dividing up emotional labor: The Fair Play Cards

We’ve been talking this month about the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, which goes into the problems of one person bearing the majority of the mental load for the family, and how to even this out so you feel like you’re on the same team, and your marriage feels so much better. No more nagging. No more annoyance and frustration. No more confusion and lack of communication about tasks.

But she also has a card system that makes talking about this so much easier. So check out the cards, too!



Fair Play:

A Game-Changing Solution for Sharing Mental Load and Emotional Labor–

that will transform your marriage!

What if your husband isn’t open to sharing mental load?

I hear a lot “well, he has mental load and stress from work, so I can’t ask him to take on anything at home.” I agree that housework may be off the table, but people still need to be engaged with relationships at home, especially with kids. And when a husband does nothing at home at all, that does set a bad example for the kids.

I dealt with these questions on the podcast from women whose husbands aren’t as open to talking about things:

With regards to chores, how do you deal with a perfectionist? My husband complains about the yard/patio every single time he goes outside. We fixed it up nice this spring, but he still complains. I don’t have the energy to sweep the patio daily and weed the driveway cracks etc, so I mostly just tell him to do it himself. I always feel like he holds me to a higher standard and nothing is good enough— not just with me, but with our kids’ behavior, with his work, with everything. Nothing is good enough for a perfectionist. I mostly let it roll off my back because I’m used to it and he is hardest on himself and I know that, but sometimes it bothers me. Like about the yard.

Any household paperwork is my job— we hired an accountant for taxes but my husband is still asking me for paperwork that HE has for the taxes, so taxes haven’t been done. Finding a plumber when we have a leaky faucet? That’s on me to research. He mows, but it’s been on me to find someone to do yard work when he can’t do it. Basically the mental load of running the house is all on me. We need a new sink and he keeps telling me to pick a sink because he doesn’t want to get the wrong one. I even remind him to pay himself because he is self-employed. I struggle with mental load a lot and can’t say anything about it because he has too many clients and too much work to share in the household mental load. I meal plan and make the grocery list, but he does the shopping because I almost passed out after grocery shopping when about 6 weeks postpartum with my third kid— I had taken all 3 kids with me and it was too much. When he saw that he said he would do the groceries from then on.

Another woman commented this week:

I have tried on numerous occasions to get my teenage children and spouse to take on responsibility for certain tasks (after discussion about what they preferred from my list of stuff that needed doing really regularly). It’s the mental load of noticing and reminding that gets tedious: i find my son is very good doing specific tasks when asked to. Nowvwith us all stuck in the house together since lockdown it’s starting to get more shared out, certainly in terms of cooking meals and clearing up. My husband doesn’t cook though and recently my daughter has been noticing more how infrequently he will get up and clear dishes after family meals. So it has got to be a bit of a joke…however when she has cooked the evening meal he has taken the lead to say that she shouldn’t have to wash up because she cooked! Different rules for wives and daughters He is a good man but just not great at noticing stuff – very good at doing a task very thoroughly once he has got started though and gets frustrated if I mention other things to do before he has finished (oops). I think that may be a male trait.

I think what happens often is that our work becomes invisible when we’ve been doing it for so long and people come to expect it. So he doesn’t even notice after a while. And when men don’t feel “ownership” of a task (which is what the book and cards are great for), then they don’t jump up and help.

A few things about teens: If they’re enjoying the benefits of the household (like wifi; shared data or cell phone plans; TV; video games; etc.) then they can share in the responsibilities. And if they need to be reminded to do their chores, then you can simply stop reminding them and change the wifi password. Do something where it relieves you of the problem of having to remember it all. Also, if the teens see the dad ignoring the mom’s work, then how will that impact their future marriages? That’s worth talking to the husband about.

Okay, one more comment:

So my husband and I both work full time and I was just promoted to manager for a busy office a yea ago. I have always handled all bills and kids (ie. doctors/dentists/schools/daycare etc) but since promoted I have been working late hours so he gets off at 3 and gets kids from school and I usually don’t get home until 6:30 (give or take).. then I have to help with hw and clean up and get them ready for bed… then get up at 5:45 to make lunches and get kids ready for school and do it all over again. On weekends he sleeps in and I get up and make breakfast and clean up and he wakes up and just sits on couch! I am losing my mind! I feel it is unfair! Especially if we have a birthday party or something to go to he won’t bc he says “I’ll stay home and I’ll clean .. etc..” it’s like he is a blob here and I’m a single mom.

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I’d just say–deal with this before it gets worse. If you are both working full-time, then the household needs to be shared. If he isn’t stepping up, let your circle know, like his parents or siblings. Talk to a counselor. But most of all, talk to him and tell him what you’re willing to do, and what you’re NOT willing to keep doing.

But now I’ll let you all chime in–what do you think she should do? How do you have these hard conversations? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Nathan

    Good topic today. Some of the notes confirm the idea that it’s not always the physical work that’s the problem, it’s the mental load of having to remind your sweet other to do things. Taking full ownership of something means not only that you do it, but you notice it and do it on your own.
    > > very good at doing a task very thoroughly once he has got started
    > > though and gets frustrated if I mention other things to do before he
    > > has finished (oops). I think that may be a male trait.
    It may be. I do this, too. I don’t mind doing man things, but I get irritated if I’m doing one thing and Mrs. Nathan keeps talking about another thing.

  2. Nathan

    As an aside, I love the picture of mom vacuuming and holding the baby while dad has checked out and in la la land.
    It reminds me of a comedian who has a joke about multitasking.
    “My mother can cook a meal, handle the baby, sweep the floor and talk on the phone all at the same time”. (Audience applauds). “My father…” (Audience chuckles) “Can sit on the couch, crack open a beer, turn on the TV and fall asleep all at the same time”.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think people laugh because it does sound so true to real life for many!
      But at the same time, I think we as a culture have come to expect that, and I hope that we can change the expectations, at least for the next generation. That’s why so much of this matters: what are we teaching our sons about their role in future marriage? What are we teaching our daughters to expect and tolerate and not see as red flags?

  3. Jane Eyre

    Perfectionism is for middle school girls, brain surgery, and briefs being submitted to the Supreme Court. It does not belong in a grown adult’s daily life.
    Not a psychologist, but the perfectionist husband sounds like he could use therapy (therapy in the sense of coaching, finding out what is causing this, and living a more functional life).

    • Angela Laverdi

      In addition to Jane’s comment…perfectionism should NOT carry over to the other people in your life. Be harsh on yourself fine. But do not expect perfection in your loved ones. They will never be good enough for you if you act this way and will also cause resentment.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very true. And it can also verge on the abusive. Not all perfectionists are abusive; but almost all abusers demand perfectionism from their spouses.

  4. Nathan

    > > the perfectionist husband sounds like he could use therapy
    Could be. Also, if you’re a perfectionist with everybody except yourself, that’s grossly hypocritical. I’ll give my father credit for one thing. Yes, he was a demanding perfectionist, but he held himself to that same standard as well.

  5. AspenP

    My husband gets frustrated that I don’t vacuum our walls. I finally got fed up almost ten years ago and told him he was in charge of vacuuming the walls. It hasn’t been done since. 😏
    I still consider that a win.

    • Angela Laverdi

      Please explain how to vacuum a wall. I’ve never seen a wall with carpet on it.

      • AspenP

        You use the long wand attachment on your vacuum with the hard wood floors head and wipe the dust off the walls with it.
        I had never heard of it before either.

    • E

      I read a cleaning book once that suggested vacuuming the walls and ceiling to reduce dust. Hell, I have enough trouble keeping my floors vacuumed and my shelves dusted, I’m not going to add vacuuming the walls to my list of things I ‘should’ be doing!

    • Lynne

      This reminds me of a funny story. I have no point to make, except perhaps that there are rare cases when vacuuming the walls may be logical as a one-off event. I share in hopes of bringing a giggle!
      When I was 8 months pregnant with my second we decided that our (finished!) basement should become an actual living space instead of storage. We’d lived there for two years already but moved in two weeks before our first, high-needs baby was born, so it just got left as storage. We cleared it out, painted it and furnished it. In the process, I realized that the circa-1980 ceiling, covered in long, sharp, stalactite-esque hard stucco has also become a terrifying mess of deserted spider webs. So me and my giant belly spent a couple of hours vacuuming the CEILING of our tiny little basement.
      The hormones… they do weird things to me!

  6. Trucker Dave

    Vacuum the walls?! I admit I come from an eccentric family, but vacuuming the walls is a new one on me. How? Why?? I’m going to laugh for 500 miles on this one, its that goofy! Thanks, this really made my day!

  7. Nathan

    I’ve seen people vacuum curtains, but never the actual walls.

  8. Grace

    These posts strike a very deep chord with me but honestly, it’s much easier to just continue on as is than go through the emotional turmoil of trying to talk to my husband and change things and feeling rejected when nothing changes (I say this because we’ve had conversations in the past…). I’d rather concentrate on raising my son to not be like this. I don’t mean by bagging my husband to my son and telling him to not be like his dad, I mean I want to teach him to notice the things, know what is involved in running a house, know how too cook, know how to make and stick to schedules, lists etc. so that he has the skills he needs for adult life.

    • Melissa W

      This is great. As a woman who is married to a man whose mother did exactly that, this works and I am so thankful to his mother. She didn’t want her sons (she had three of them and no daughters) to be like their father who had an opinion, and expressed it often, on how everything should be done but never lifted a finger to help in any way. He had his own projects that occupied his time. Now when I met my husband he was a 21 year old homeowner and had owned his own home and lived on his own for almost 2.5 years when we got married, so that definitely helped, but his mothers focus on making sure they knew how to run a house was also a big part of why he felt confident to take on such a task at 21 years old. I know that the distribution of labor (physical and emotional) has never been an issue in our marriage. So, I can totally see where you are coming from and want to commend you on at least trying to make things different for your son and his future family. It will reap rewards for him for sure! I


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