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Housework: whose problem is it?

My wife can come home after a day's work and complain, "Why didn't you wash the dishes in the sink? Can't you see for yourself that it's overflowing?" This is just an example. The same happens with the laundry and with washing the floor.

My response was to ask her that — if she expects me to figure out, on my own, what needs to be done — the same applies to her: why doesn't she make the bank deposits when necessary and open the property tax bills and pay them? Why am I the only one doing this?

In response, she divided household responsibilities into two categories. According to her logic, "Everyone sees the dishes and the floor. So it's not necessary to talk about the need to take care of it. It's obvious." She doesn't see the bank account, so if I want her to do something about it, then I expressly need to ask her.

I will add that I currently work outside the home. In the past, I didn't have work, and then I really would do everything that was needed at home. Today, it's hard for me. I can't explain why, but that's how it is. What should I do?


Let's start from the end: it's hard for you and you don't know why.

It's difficult for you because you feel that you invest more than enough in the house. You spend many hours working outside the home, and you're feeling is, "Please let me rest. I worked hard today."

It's probably also hard for you because you feel that she doesn't appreciate your hard work outside the home. When she asks you to pay attention to what is happening inside the home, it seems to you that she is not appreciating the contribution you're already making to the household by going to work, that you are investing in the household.

And you are right! But she doesn't know you're right, and in the current situation, she has no way of knowing that either. The reason for this is two differences (out of many) that exist between a man and a woman. Both differences share the same foundation.

The first difference: the first woman in the world was called Hava, Hebrew for Eve. I've heard it said that Hava is similar to Hova, "she experiences." The point is completely valid. A woman experiences reality in a way that is tangible. What she experiences with her senses exists for her in a real way, and what she does not experience with her senses, almost does not exist at all. So you go to work and expect her to appreciate it. For her, she only saw that you left and came back. She did not see the hard work, so it doesn't exist for her! I'm exaggerating, of course, but in the majority of cases, this is true on some level, for her much more than for him.

So when you went to work, you earned "one point" with her, no more. When you washed dishes, you earned points based on the number of dishes washed. That's what she saw — and this is where you revolt: "A few minutes of washing dishes is more valuable than all the hours of work I put in at my job?! So I quit, and let her deal will paying the bills!" The uproar is completely understandable, but the solution is not to run away from reality. There is a better solution, as we'll soon see.

The second difference: let's say you and your wife saw someone from the family, your brother, for example. You saw him, his face, maybe even his facial expression. You also saw the direction he is going, nothing more. But your wife saw everything! The pants he wears, the tiny stain on the left side of his shirt, the kippah that he should have replaced a while back, the new shoes he bought, and many more details that I, as a man, do not even know how to detail here.

This attention to detail is a woman's trait. She sees the details, and a lot of details. This is a blessing because she uses this trait to perform the roles for which she was created. As a man, when you enter the house, you don't "see" much, usually just the couch, as something you can rest on, and that's it for the most part.

When your wife enters the house, she sees everything: every morsel on the floor, every dish in the sink, even those at the bottom of the pile. It's not just because she sees the details, but also because the house itself is at the essence of her being. If there is dirt on the floor, she feels it on herself. If there is a pile of laundry on the sofa in the living room, she feels it "on her head," and not just as a metaphor but almost literally. So far so good. Everyone was created with the qualities that support their most common roles.

The problem begins when one is not aware of the other's characteristics. The man thinks that the woman doesn't "see" as he does. For him, the house is clean and neat. Dishes in the sink? He doesn't even see them. Again, it's not that he sees but chooses to ignore. He doesn't see them at all! This needs to be explained to the woman, and of course, not in the middle of the chaos of everyday life but in a calm conversation over a cup of coffee and cake, or whatever represents take-a-break time for you and your wife. This conversation should be planned ahead of time with one extending an invitation to the other.

In the course of your conversation, you can let her read this very response, and add that if she asks you for something, then you will "see" it, and when you have the opportunity, you will do it with pleasure.

The same is true regarding work. You worked all day, and she hardly "sees" it. What should you do? Tell her about it. Let her be part of your work experiences as much as possible. Tell her about the difficulties, the quarrels with the boss, the successes, and also the failures. This is how you will make your experience her experience, something that feels tangible and right there in front of her eyes. It will also feel like something whose value outweighs that of washing 20 dishes in the sink. Thus she will know how to appreciate your experience and also expect less from you in the home (even though one shouldn't hold expectations of anything from another person, as we've discussed in previous responses).

One more small point for the woman: it's never ever constructive to start a comment with "why didn't you do..." It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Whatever did or didn't happen is now impossible to change, and there is no benefit in bringing it up except to humiliate the other. Our goal is the future, which can be changed. Therefore, always just ask for what you want in an appropriate way, with consideration. For example, "If you can, I'd love for you to wash the dishes next time you come home, only if it's not difficult for you. If you're tired from work, then don't do it. I'll be fine." Just like that because that's the only way it's effective! The reasons why only this way works are too numerous to expand upon here. I will just say that based on a lot of experience, requesting something from your husband in this way is the only way that works. Just try it.

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