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My boyfriend doesn't do chores; help!
I totally understand being tired after work and not wanting to clean but then he just never does it and it turns into weeks of me cleaning and him never lifting a finger.
OUR BEST FRIEND, WE LOVE THEM:
My partner (26 M) and I (25F) have been together for almost 5 years (yay). We met in college and have been through a lot of life changes and transitions together. Overall he is supportive, validates my feelings, and is a wonderful partner.
We moved in together about a year and a half ago when our jobs and life plans finally allowed us to work in the same city. The first year together in this new city was fun and exciting as we were happy to be living together. We had a blast going on adventures on the weekend and just overall getting to see each other more. (We used to work in cities that were hours a part and only got to see each other every few weekends).
However, I think the honeymoon has ended and we are now struggling to share each other's space. I am an avid cleaner and have always needed my personal space to be pretty spotless. I clean every weekend and make sure I keep things pretty tidy during the week. It is just how I operate best. I can't relax and unwind at the end of a long day if there are dirty dishes and shit all over the place. I know that not everyone is like this- I know my partner is not like this- and I am trying to be accepting of that...but..
My partner is different. He is by no means a huge slob like some men I've heard horror stories about on twitter or from friends (picture air mattress on the floor and no liner in the bathroom trash or no trash at all in the bathroom).
While my partner is pretty clean, there is definitely an overall difference in the amount of time/energy/resources that go into housework and keeping our space clean. This past weekend I spent 2 hours cleaning the entire apartment. The typical weekly cleaning of surfaces, windows, floors, dishes, toilets, etc. I tried asking him to help me vacuum (one miniscule task) when he got home from work. He didn't. I'm a full-time teacher so I totally understand being tired after work and not wanting to clean but then he just never does it and it turns into weeks of me cleaning and him never lifting a finger.
I've tried being really blunt (my confrontation style) with him and say "I feel like I am doing more and could you please help me with xyz." He will acknowledge my feelings but then say that he actually cleans up as much as me it is just when he works from home and I don't see it (I feel like this is false due to the crumbs I see everyday when I come home and the dirty dishes in the sick..) He has also said that he just doesn't need to clean as much as I do (i.e. the weekly cleaning of the apartment).
How can I make our chores more equitable so I am not bearing the brunt of chores? How do I communicate to my partner that it is ok that we have different styles/ways of "being" but that I want more help with cleaning more frequently? Am I asking too much..? Or being too much of a neat-freak?
I strongly recommend the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. It includes a lot of information about childcare, however, it’s perfect for couples without kids, too. The book is imperfect, to be frank. For example, I think she could have gone in a bit harder on the partners who don’t take any initiate and whose biggest complaint is how much their partner “nags” them. But the system is a good one and it outlines a step-by-step process that I think will highly benefit you and your boyfriend. You guys have got to figure this out because it’s not about chores, it’s about communication. And y’all are FAILING.
I think he certiainly has the lion’s share of the blame in the communication issues. If you’re a blunt person and you’re telling him straight-up what you’d like from him and he still doesn’t “get” it, that’s … on him. HOWEVER, you are not blameless. None of us is a perfect communicator, and especially with people we live with or have loved a long time, it’s easy to slip into familiar, albeit dysfunctional patterns.
Until you two start to see this issue/ your house/ your communication blindspots as shared issues that you need to tackle TOGETHER, you will not have a fully functional, healthy relationship. He does not get to not care. This is his relationship. He has to do the work. (You do, too, obviously!) You don’t get to own a pony and not shovel shit.
The first thing you guys both need are reasonable, agreed upon standards of care for your house. Rodsky talks about this in her book, but even if you choose to not go that specific route, you have to do this. This is non-negotiable. You must sit down and chart out every SINGLE fucking thing that an adult home requires. (And it’s a lot). I mean everything. Also map out how much time you’re both spending on each chore. You may both be surprised at how much (or little) the other person does.
Real Simple (a fabulous magazine) gave out a chore audit for couples to check in on who they think is doing each chore. It’s also good to talk about how much time each chore actually takes you, if you’re the one doing it. Make sure to add your own chores that are specific to your life, too.
Once you’ve done that, agree upon a standard that you both think is reasonable. Both of you have some unreasonable expectations right now of what a clean house is. There is likely a very reasonable middle ground here that you’re both coasting over. That is not to say that you inherently need to move to the exact middle between your two positions on each issue. If your boyfriend thinks sheets don’t really need to be washed and you think that sheets need to be washed once a week, you are just correct about that. Sorry dude. You have to move towards reasonable. If you’re really stuck, look up chore charts online.
Once you’ve agreed upon what needs to be done, how often and to what standard of care, you start divvying up tasks. No one should get all the big chores; no one should get all the daily chores. Regardless of the chore, whoever is in charge of a chore has to do the whole chore from top to bottom. They have to remember to do it, buy anything they need to do it (I don’t care who pays for what, but they need to make sure you own dish soap if their chore is dishes), and they have to actually finish said chore on time.
Your boyfriend MUST participate. There is no “or else” here any more than there is an “or else” about wearing shoes to work. You just have to. That’s it. You just do because you’re an adult now. His attitude cannot be “I’m doing this to appease you.” Or “I’m doing this so you aren’t pissy or nagging at me.” That is fucked. That’s a full-on bad partner. I’m not saying anyone’s dick is getting hard at the thought of vacuuming, but you should like making your partners life better. You should like taking part in caring for your shared home. The idea of one partner begrudgingly participating in a shared life is fucking disgusting, and you should not tolerate that from him.
You are not there to remind him of chores. You are not there to dictate what the chores are that need to be done in a house. He does not get to make you feel like this is a favor to you, or that he is helping you out. This is not him “helping” you out. IT IS YOUR SHARED FUCKING HOUSE. He has the same information you do. Your being a woman doesn’t make you better at chores or knowing when they need to be done. Please stop doing the labor (and yes, it is labor because it sucks and costs you time) of making your boyfriend be an adult.
Here are some miscellaneous things that I’d like to note, which I probably could have fit nicely into paragraphs with sweet little transitions but I’m a lazy little bunny rabbit right now so here you go:
1) If you guys have the money to do so, consider getting someone to come in and clean once a month or so. Often this doesn’t cost more than about $80-100 (still a big expense, I’m not minimizing!!!). Even if you do it every other month that can help maintain a threshold of cleanliness that might make you feel better. If you can afford it, it can really take some of the pressure off. Everyone wants more free time and this is a way to buy it for yourself. Again. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, so I don’t want to sound flippant about it!!!
2) Once you guys reach an agreement about the chores, you cannot remind him about his responsibilities or correct him about how he does things. You can later on have a talk about how he’s not doing what you guys agreed to and see why that is and what would change that, but you cannot be his mom. That is not your job. That is not a healthy relationship dynamic.
3) Money earned outside of the home is not relevant. Time is time. His life is not more precious than yours. His free time is not more important than yours. He doesn’t get to have more fun than you simply because he doesn’t think fridges need to be cleaned out (which, he really does think, but he knows you’ll do it).
If he “can’t” (WONT) get on board with all of this— all of it!!!! not just the parts he likes about living with you—you know what time it is: time to live apart!!!!!!!!!!! We do not have time in our lives to be with people who do not WANT to help their partners. (NOT THAT CLEANING IS HELPING YOU!!!!! DEAR GOD!) Please only be with people who want to give you their best. Who want to create a good, functional life with you. People who ACTIVELY are invested in creating a better, more fair, more functional life. Right now, if this guy was your coworker, you’d want him fired!!! That does not speak well of this guy, no matter how “supportive” or “wonderful” he is. That’s like your boss being a nice person but not paying you. Being good in the bedroom or planning fun vacations or listening when you talk about hard stuff is great, but you have to do ALL of the shit to be a good partner.
Again, I would like to give HEAPS of credit to Eve Rodsky for the basis around a lot of these ideas. Read her book, visit her website, play the game she designed. It will help you immeasurably. The idea of more fair divisions of labor is not hers, of course, but a lot of the specific advice I put in here is similar to concepts she has in her book.
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tweets about everything else at @1followernodad, is a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at email@example.com.