In situations like that, women often feel justified in being angry, frustrated and fatigued—and verbally expressing their discontent. But, wives are not justified in verbally abusing their husbands to get them to do more.
The right way to get your husband to help around the house involves teaching wives a better way to communicate and motivate their husbands. This is one of the most important ways marriage counselors can reduce relationship anger.
Assertive communication involves learning to express what you need or request without anger or rage. Anger and rage usually makes things worse and invites retaliation. In addition, parental anger is very harmful for children to witness.
Husbands need to be reminded…
But, assertive communication and better communication skills are only half the equation. The therapist must also explain to an irresponsible husband that his behavior is severely jeopardizing the marital relationship.
A skilled therapist must change the husband’s attitude by making him more receptive to the idea that in today’s society marriage is a partnership. For their relationship to survive, husband and wife must agree on how they are going to deal with routine home chores and parental responsibilities.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 50-50 split; it is the agreement and the perception that makes the difference.
The therapist must convince the husband that it is to his advantage (peace at home, better sex, more closeness, etc.) that he and his wife see things as equitable in terms of home chores, even if one still does more of the home chores than the other.
A skilled marital therapist can help balance things out, reducing hard feelings and conflict; improving toxic communication patterns that have become disrupted.
New book for new parents
The challenges that accompany the arrival of a couple’s first child are chronicled in Jaycee Dunn’s recently published How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jaycee Dunn.
Jaycee is a professional writer who sought therapy for this issue, chronicling her experiences in a humorous book backed by much research. They met with Terry Real, a famous Boston therapist. Terry conducted a weekend intervention that saved their marriage (along with follow up sessions in their local community.) Now, Terry Real is not your typical therapist. Half of the intervention that got her husband to be more responsible was Real’s confronting Jaycee’s husband with the rather blunt statement, “Get off your ass and help her out!”
Most therapists would not even dream of being so direct. Yet, strong therapists must educate their patients and—when necessary–act as catalysts for positive change by frankly telling couples what needs to be done to turn things around.
Just asking couples “how they feel” as many therapists do during counseling sessions, is not enough. As the famous German poet Goethe said:
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
Having children drastically changes things
Terry’s outburst shocked her husband and jolted him into seeing things from a completely different perspective. Why was this needed? Because things drastically changed in their marriage after they had a child.
As she writes: “When it was just the two of us, my husband and I, both peaceable writers, rarely fought. Then we had a baby.”
She continues: “And even though fathers have stepped up considerably in sharing childcare duties – since the 1960s, nearly tripling the time they spend with their children – mothers still devote about twice as much time to their kids as fathers do.”
She cited the United States Government American Time Use Survey, women reported feeling significantly more fatigued than fathers in all four major life categories: work, household, leisure, and childcare. Furthermore, even when husbands didn’t have jobs, they still did half the amount of housework and childcare that women did.
A survey of US mothers by NBC’s Today program revealed that for nearly half of them, their husbands were a bigger source of stress than their children!
What happens when men help out?
Study after study have shown that when men take on their fair share of household responsibilities, their partners are happier, less prone to depression, disputes are fewer, and divorce rates are lower.
As Janice Dunn puts it: “The day-to-day labor of keeping a household running is a remarkably significant issue for couples.” This was supported by a Pew Research Center survey that revealed that sharing household chores ranked third in importance on a list of nine items associated with successful marriages.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology suggests the frequency and quality of a couple’s sex life goes up when male partners think they do their fair share of the housework. My clinical experience through the years confirms that sex lives also improve when men help out more.
Verbal abuse won’t motivate your husband
Getting back to our very pissed off young mother, Janice Dunn–like many young mothers–was constantly angry and resentful, often calling her husband names that I shouldn’t repeat in a family-oriented blog.
During the other half of the intervention, therapist Terry Real told her: “…the idea that you can haul off and be abusive to your partner and somehow get a pass, that you can’t control it, or whatever you tell yourself to rationalize it, is nuts. Also, your whole “angry victim” role is going to get worse. You are extremely comfortable with your self-righteous indignation.”
He bluntly told her that she needed to take verbal abuse off the table:
You can say, ‘I’m angry.’ But don’t say ‘you’re an asshole.’
Likewise, you don’t yell and scream. You don’t humiliate or demean. They’re off the table. He concluded: “You are verbally abusive.”
He goes on to explain, as I often do to couples dealing with anger in their relationships, verbally abusing your partner to get them to do what you want is a very poor strategy.
Replace verbal abuse with respect
Even if you are furious with them, you need to show respect for each other. Successful couples avoid intimidating, demeaning, lecturing, and criticizing. The negative behaviors build resentment in your partner, then resistance, and—ultimately–push-back.
There is a world of difference between assertively standing up for yourself and aggressively putting your partner down. Here’s a suggestion, starting today, simply use the phrase, “What I’d like you to do now is…..” Simply tell your partner what it is that you want them to do instead of disrespecting them.
Curb the urge to rocket straight from demand to anger and frustration. Most men do better if they know exactly what to do, if it makes sense to them, (always give them a reason), and if you request help rather than demanding it.