This is a little outside of my normal blog topics, but since this IS my blog and it does relate to me, I figured “what the hell, let’s roll with it.”
I met my wife in 2003 and with the exception of business trips here and there, we are together almost every day. When we started dating, we did a lot together. I was making a very comfortable income, over six figures, with an average of about 2-3 hours a day of actual work so that let me spend a lot of time doing other things. So, when we moved in together, it was no surprise that I helped around the house, breaking out the vacuum on occasion, doing the dishes, and whatever else needed to be done. Since she was finishing up school at the time, I felt like it was common sense for me to put in extra time around the house while she bettered herself, despite the fact that I was the only one actually “working”.
Now, as time went on, she finished school, but as my workload increased to maintain the same level of income, she stayed an “at-home” companion and the house was her responsibility. And she does a fantastic job at keeping things up. But fast-forward 13 years later, in a house where she has decided she needed to do more outside of the house, and started working, it became harder to keep up with. Now, don’t get me wrong – our house is still spotless for company, but if you just pop-in on us, you may see a dish or two in the sink and a blanket sprawled across the couch instead of the typical “freshly steam-cleaned and sanitized” look that most visitors are accustomed to.
I regularly viewed the house as her responsibility, despite her contributing time to a job as well. My justification was that she didn’t really need a job, and since my income far outweighed hers, her job was more of a hobby than an actual job, despite her busting her ass 36-48 hours per week on 12-hour shifts at the hospital where she works.
I thought to myself, “Lucky her. She ONLY has to work 3-4 days a week and she gets to forget about her job when she gets home. Since I work from home, I am ALWAYS working so I should not have to worry about this housework!”
And then, one day, it hit me….like a ton of bricks.
She Deserves my Respect
Many arguments were had over the years about “why she had to be the only one doing housework.” So, I made the kids help. After all, we had 2 teenage boys (yes, I realize the math doesn’t add up – while we both view them as our own, we both had one from previous relationships) and our daughter was getting old enough to at least do some menial tasks around the house to help out. Problem solved! Right?
See, while the help was appreciated, what I failed to realize is that her request for help around the house was not really a request for help, because while it was a chore for her to do it all, she was perfectly capable. And she realized that I put in a lot more time into my work and projects than she did at her job. She is pretty smart like that. No… It wasn’t about the time commitment of cleaning so much as it was about being feeling validated as an equal in the house and not a house-wife, slave labor, sex toy.
What I failed to realize though, through all my intelligence, is that her request for help was more about validating our relationship and equality than needing someone to fold the blanket that has become a permanent fixture on the back of the couch or to toss the dishes into the dishwasher after dinner.
Getting into a Habit
Most experts agree that it takes about 3 weeks to get into a habit of doing something. Picking up the dishes or doing things around the house is no different than working in your business. If you are, as part of your business, doing things regularly and consistently to reach your income/business goals, why can’t you do these little things around the house to maintain your relationship goals?
It took some practice at first. I would forget about the dishes. I would put them off thinking “I’ll get them later”, but then would be in a mad rush to complete them before she got home from work or before she woke up. Instead, make it a point to throw them in the dishwasher as you see the need. Grab that blanket and fold it, and put it neatly on top of the couch where it goes instead of leaving it sprawled across two cushions when you walk past it on the way to the restroom.
By getting into this little habit of doing tings, it has almost become second-nature. I don’t even notice it anymore. I walk in to the kitchen to get a glass of water and go ahead and rinse off the plates in the sink or the breakfast dishes. I put away the clean ones from the dishwasher while cooking dinner or warming up lunch. Beats standing around watching the timer count down, right?
If she is nagging you about helping or doing something, it may not always be about the task itself. It takes very little of us to show that we respect our partner, and something as simple as putting away the dishes can do so much more than saying “I Love You” ever will.
Plus, helping out and validating her equality around the house leads to more sex. And, hey, who doesn’t want more of that. Right?