Love and housework
Balancing love, life and housework
Article in images

When untidiness is no longer endearing


Sometimes arguments over household tasks can threaten relationships. © Jupiter
Sometimes arguments over household tasks can threaten relationships. © Jupiter
"Macho," they think, and still pull on the rubber gloves
A tough businesswoman in the outside world, the good little housewife at home? "Most women quite unconsciously still feel responsible for the housework, no matter how emancipated they are," explains relationship adviser and psychologist Susan Quilliam.

"Macho," they think and still pull on the rubber gloves "so as not to endanger the peace in the partnership," says Quilliam.

Only when the frustration becomes too great will most women vent their anger, usually in the form of accusations. Who does the washing up and other chores thereby quickly becomes the number one bone of contention in the relationship.

But even if there are still some incorrigible specimens – many men keep away from housework for reasons other than an outmoded role perception – often there is a totally different understanding of cleanliness and tidiness at the bottom of it.

His untidiness used to be endearing
"Just think back to what his bachelor pad was like when you first met. Then, you found it amusing, even endearing. Today, his untidiness gets on your nerves," says the psychologist. She explains: women would never continue living together with another woman who they found too untidy. But for a boyfriend or husband, they make an exception. For the sake of love, so they think, they are prepared to put up with his untidiness – and they try to convince themselves that he will change.

Of course, almost never does this imagined, wonderful transformation into a paragon of orderliness happen. On the contrary: "Constant complaints about his untidiness often remind men of the nagging by their own mothers," Quilliam says, having seen it over and over during her many years of experience advising couples. "I then see many men exhibiting a childish, stubborn behavior. This creates an impasse in the relationship and exacerbates disputes."

"He does not do any cleaning, therefore he does not love me"

But with women, the reasons for their dissatisfaction often go deeper than mere
Haushalt: Zankapfel in der Beziehung
Haushalt: Zankapfel in der Beziehung
annoyance about the additional work. A deep-rooted panic can set in with them trying "not to become like my own mother," and live up to the image of the strong, independent woman with her own career and her own life plan.

Additionally, doing housework is still regarded as a lowly occupation; those who can afford it will often have a cleaning lady or housekeeper. Often, the anger about lonely hours doing household chores also masks a deeper fear of not being respected and esteemed by one’s partner. When the expected change in the partner does not happen, the disappointment is great, and it is interpreted as proof of a lack of affection on his part.

Open discussion solves the impasse
This much is clear: for a relationship to work, the couple must be willing to have frank discussions and come to jointly-negotiated agreements. Each couple can find a solution that will suit them; for some it might be alternating weeks doing chores, others might prefer to split the chores between them – he does the dishes, for example, and maybe she does the laundry.

But what if a partner is not willing to cooperate?
"In some cases, I then recommend to my female clients to go on strike and just not take care of anything anymore,” Quilliam says. “But that takes persistence; men tend not to respond until some months later, when they have nothing clean to wear or when the untidiness gets too much even for them. But by then most women have actually thrown in the towel."

The gentler method: "Praise everything he contributes to the household chores, even if it's just taking out the rubbish. That makes sharing the work a positive experience – but this also takes time."


Women in Focus Editor
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