Have you been in this situation with your husband?
The two of you are at home after work or on the weekend. You’re catching up on household tasks or things you need to do for the kids. Or you may be trying to rest, but your head is spinning with thoughts of all you should be doing.
While you’re stressed, he’s relaxing by the TV or happily scrolling through his phone. If it’s bedtime, he’s out like a light.
One of the most frustrating and fascinating things I see happening in relationships is that there’s still a big gulf between the way men feel at home and how women feel in the same space.
Despite all the changes in gender roles and expectations that have happened in the past half-century, I believe that most men continue to view home as a place to relax and as a refuge from the stress of the outside world.
Meanwhile, women see home as a place that has its own set of responsibilities and stresses. There’s a good reason for this. Wives still tend to do more housework than their husbands do. Primary responsibility for childcare also continues to fall mostly on women, as well as the emotional labor of the household.
And then there are the cultural norms that affect us all to one degree or another. Traditionally, we’ve seen the home as the woman’s domain. A lot of us know deep down that if, for example, the house is messy when someone drops by that we will be the ones who are judged for that, not our husbands.
Making Things More Fair at Home
But, just like your husband, you deserve to get some rest and relaxation at home. And your marriage will be better if you don’t have underlying resentment that you’re doing more around the house.
Change starts by talking openly about the unspoken expectations and assumptions both of you have. You might discover that the behaviors you were taking personally (“He’s lounging around and doesn’t care that I’m so stressed!”) are actually just habits he learned in his family of origin or stem from his lack of awareness of how much is on your plate.
After you’ve cleared the air, negotiate how the two of you can divide domestic responsibilities so that you both get some rest. For example, maybe you agree that each of you will take a set amount of time to decompress after work and then have certain tasks to complete. Or, perhaps, you’re responsible for the dishes and he does the laundry. The more specific you can be, the better.
This common conflict really drives home how social expectations can affect your marriage. Remember that you are both on the same team and can create a less stressful life if you work together to ease the burdens on each of you. For more ideas about decreasing the stress in your marriage, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.