Dear Neil: I would like to see you address the issue of sharing household responsibilities in two-earner households. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. Except for a couple of years I took off when our kids were born, we have both worked full time. In all that time, my husband has refused to help with any household chores. It’s become a major point of contention in our marriage.
From comments I have heard other women in the office make, I don’t believe my situation is isolated or uncommon. I’m sure millions of working women would thank you if you’d address this issue.
Upset in Canton, Ohio
Dear Upset: Many of us grew up in traditional households where our fathers worked and our mothers took care of the house and children. That arrangement was considered roughly equal: men worked typically outside the home to support the family, and women worked typically inside the home to support the family.
But the norm is different now. Today, more than 68% of married women with children work outside the house, according to a report by the Council for Economic Advisors. If you include women without children at home, the figure is far higher.
The days of women being housewives while their men go earn the bacon are—for most households—over. If women are also earning money—even if they earn less than the man—they will grow very resentful if they are also expected to do the lion’s share of household chores and responsibilities.
A resentful woman means an unhappy household—and it does, trust me on this, guys. So, in two-earner households, I would recommend that all domestic chores and responsibilities, including childrearing, be considered joint responsibilities—and should be divided up fairly and equally.
I am not suggesting that agreements can’t be made that shifts more household responsibility toward one person in exchange for something the other person offers, such as one person paying the bulk of the household expenses while the other person does the bulk of the domestic chores. But that is an arrangement each couple must make, based on their unique situation, needs and personalities. To assume such an agreement is in place when it is not—will lead to anger, withdrawal, hostility and accusations of unfair treatment.
The most recent studies on this subject that I’ve read conclude that men who do more household chores also tend to get more sex. Any more questions?
Dear Neil: I have been in a relationship for four months. I find it hard being treated with respect, patience, kindness and compassion. I am used to years of verbal abuse and arguments, and I worry I am going to turn into the bitch I was in my first marriage. He is older than me by 12 years. It is the only thing in our relationship that I have doubts about. Is this a problem in your opinion, or am I being ageist?
Doubtful in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Doubtful: I do not see a 12-year age difference a huge impediment to a wonderful relationship. But I do have a concern about your awkward discomfort with being treated well—combined with your fear that you’ll handle being treated well poorly.
Do you think you’re worthy of being treated well by a loving man? Do you feel worthy of having a kind, respectful, loving relationship? It sounds as if you are seriously doubting yourself and your skills in being a good, kind, loving, respectful intimate partner yourself. Openly address this with the man in your life, and see if you can’t come to some agreements about how to handle things so you don’t wind up sabotaging yourself.