By Carolyn Hax Advice Columnist since 1997. Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When my husband first moved in with me while we were dating, he was a weekend-laundry guy. I work from home and like having my weekends free for play, so I offered to do his laundry when I do mine.
At first, he was immensely grateful and was okay with my occasional bad habit of forgetting the last load in the dryer. Now, almost 10 years later, he’ll be getting ready for work and growl about how such-and-such shirt is missing and I end up getting it from the dryer downstairs. I’ve suggested he check the dryer when he gets home on laundry days, but he says that since I volunteered to take on laundry, it’s all my responsibility.
Does that sound as awful to you as it does to me? It sounds like he’s trying to teach his child a lesson rather than help me out when I’m doing him a favor.
Help! Taken Advantage Of?
Yes, it sounds as awful to me.
“You’re right. But since I volunteered 10 years ago, maybe it’s time for another look at the division of labor.”
That has to go both ways. Be open-minded, resist the impulse to minimize one chore vs. another, and concentrate on matching the chore with the person who minds doing it least.
Ideally this will flush out whether he’s just turned petty on this one issue, and you can therefore brush it off, or whether more serious bean-counting has crept into your marriage.
Because of my partner’s travel, I often do laundry. I will sort her laundry but not put it away because we differ in how we organize and fold. One day she complained about having to put away SO MUCH laundry and I said, deadpan, “You’re right. It sucks to come home to clean laundry.” She’s not complained since.
If household chores are split evenly, is it crazy to think that if you take responsibility for X chore, you take full responsibility? (Did I just out myself as awful??)
Awful, no, but you are on a different side of an old argument I used to have that taught me there were two schools of thought on this.
School 1: If someone’s doing you a favor, then you don’t nitpick how it’s done.
School 2: When someone agrees to do you a favor, they’re agreeing to do it right/follow through.
Obviously I am of the former mind-set (and I embrace its corollary, that if you want something done right, then do it yourself), and it seems you’re in the latter.
I lean the way I do in part because it reduces, even erases tension over whatever labors are being divided. If I’m particular about X, then I handle X. If I’m not particular about Y, then I delegate Y, be grateful not to have to do Y myself, and shaddap if/when Y isn’t handled to absolute perfection.
If instead I’m particular about W, X, Y and Z to the point that I can’t delegate without getting upset about the results, then I either need to chill, or figure out what I’m really so torqued about, or just find someone better suited to me.
Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071