ShareThis Page
Dividing the chore list — and its mental load — with new husband |
More Lifestyles

Dividing the chore list — and its mental load — with new husband

Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

I am extremely Type A — organized, motivated, mind always on. I am also very particular about things around the house — an unfortunate trait I inherited from one of my parents. My husband (of one month) is much more laid-back, a trait I otherwise prize in him. He is extremely willing to help me around the house and asks me nearly every day what he can do to help.

What I really need is to not have to tell him. I need him to share in my mental load and take responsibility for things without having to be told. I recognize my own role in this as someone who is so Type A and overbearing that it’s probably hard for him to find his way.

How do I let go and let him step up? I thought about making a list of all the tasks that go into running the house just so he could see it laid out, but that just felt like more work to me.

— Faithful Reader

You both do the housework so you both write a list.

And neither of you ever uses the “help” construct for chores, because that codifies the imbalance. You do, he helps? No. You contribute, he contributes.

So, two lists, not just one, written separately, and include preferred schedules. Bathroom cleaning, for example — daily, weekly, monthly, when you hear screaming and it’s not human? The comparison will be illuminating.

When your list comes out longer than his — I can say “if,” if you’d like — you can then talk about what timing might be excessive and whether those extras are even necessary.

This can’t be, after all, just about his contributing more to make you happy. This is a shared life you’ve just embarked upon. You also need to expect less to make him happy.

Even if it means getting help-help.

The lists will also reveal what each of you sees as a priority. He can certainly take charge (entirely) of his top list items for both of you, on a daily or weekly or as-needed basis, without asking you what he needs to do today.

Delegating to reflect priorities can also neatly — and naturally, which is ideal — address the issue of his needing reminders, if you let it. A spouse without clean underwear does laundry without being asked, no? And hungry spouses buy food. The chores that come with urgency built in are his; the tasks a laid-back person can conceivably ignore forever are yours.

One more chore I recommend you tackle, if you haven’t already: unpacking (pardon the thera-speak) all that Type-A-very-particular stuff. You aren’t going to change who you are or how you’re wired, and shouldn’t; the world needs its alphas, betas and omegas. But you can (BEG ITAL)understand(END ITAL) who you are to a greater depth than “an unfortunate trait I inherited,” especially if you’re going to bring it to bear on another human, in what is his home and happy place as much as it is yours.

Specifically, if there’s unexamined stress or under-managed anxiety driving your need for towels folded just so, then examine or manage it, please, professionally, enough to mitigate its effects. It might insist otherwise for years, and even sincerely believe it, but, trust me: Love hates being told what to do.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.