How to Get Your Husband to Help (Written by a Husband)

Most moms are inundated with far more than their husbands. Knowing how to ask them for help is the key to balancing the workload.

It isn’t fair.

Women today make up nearly half of the workforce and yet are still largely expected to run the house and take care of the children, just like their maternal ancestors did. Don’t believe me? Think: “Nah, this is 2016 for crying out loud!” Think again.

A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found that, on an average day, only 22 percent of men actually did housework compared with 50 percent of women. To top it off, men in families with young children only spent 25 minutes providing “physical care” (e.g., a bath) compared to the hour women spent. Considering the fact that 70 percent of women with children under 18 are now working, this just isn’t fair.

Likewise, for moms who stay home, it still isn’t fair. These moms, in addition to doing more housework and child raising than their husbands, report higher levels of worry, sadness, stress, anger, and depression than their counterparts who work outside the home.

The point is this: moms, whether working outside the home or not, are completely inundated, and their husbands are oftentimes just not doing enough to help. The problem, however, is that these same wives are trying to get their husbands to help in all the wrong ways.

That’s where I come in.

You see, I am a husband…and I regularly do housework and child rearing. (Don’t give me a trophy – it is my responsibility, but that’s a story for another day). Wives, I can help you understand your man.

But before getting into the ways you can get your husband to help, you need to understand a few ground rules:

“Clean” means something different to him

Your husband’s expectations for “clean” are probably different than yours. Don’t try to convince him to increase his standards to match yours. Instead, you need to tell him that doing chores above and beyond his level of cleanliness is one way that he can love you, not because he agrees with your level of cleanliness.

Understand the rule of reciprocity

The rule of reciprocity tells us that if you treat your husband well, he is, evolutionarily-speaking, more likely to respond with kindness. Likewise, if you nag, yell, or treat him with ugliness, he is more likely to respond with ugliness. Thus, you need to treat him well.

You are now ready to take the steps required to get your husband to help.

Before anything else, forgive him

Someone I respect very much once said that forgiving someone means deciding to cancel the debt that they owe you. I want you to tally your husband’s debt against you (e.g., the times he criminally failed to help you) and then, once you’ve taken a deep breath, decide to cancel it out. (Note: this process takes time.)

If you try to do any of the other steps in this article without heeding this one, you’re going to fail.

Communicate your hurt, not your anger

When you (wives) get angry, we (husbands) get defensive. However, when you express your hurt, something within us wants to rise up and protect our girl, even if that means protecting you from our own actions, or inaction. If you want to spark a change in us, it starts with showing us your heart, despite what culture may have you believe about men.

Be specific and straightforward with requests

No sighing and no rants about how we “don’t do enough.” Tell us exactly what you expect us to do. Ideally, we’d sit down and both agree on a set list of chores, including a deadline for those chores.

Assume the best about us

Sometimes we aren’t going to get around to fixing the vacuum as quickly as we told you we would (true story). You have every right to be upset at us. But the best thing you can do in that subpar circumstance is to assume the best. For example, instead of assuming that we don’t care about you or your requests, assume instead that we may have completely forgotten about it. Then, ask us.

Appreciate us when we do the right thing

I’m not talking about showering us with praise or giving us one of those condescending “wow, you can actually do something right” kind of “compliments.” Just be genuine.

I understand the argument that we shouldn’t be thanked because it’s just as much our job as it is yours. And you know what? You are absolutely right. However, when you stick to your principles and decide not to appreciate us, you miss out on an opportunity to love on your husband. You also miss the chance to help him associate your happiness with his helping.

Finally, don’t be afraid to send your husband this article. If I’m right, I suspect this will be a welcome change for him, too.

After all: happy wife, happy life.