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Dh is not 'engaged' with our life - how to live like this?

(96 Posts)
fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:26:15

I'm at a bit of a loss at what to do next in my relationship. My dh and I have been married for 11 years, together for just over 13 in total. We have three children under 6. It's quite difficult to describe what I'm finding annoying, but I'll try & explain it.

He is, can be, a loving, caring husband, although most of this side of him is shown to our kids these days, which I know is a bit inevitable when they are so small & demanding. Our sex life is virtually non existent, probably 2-3 times a year, which I find increasingly upsetting & frustrating.

For at least 3, maybe a lot more years he has gradually become more and more detached from me, our life.... It's both emotionally and practically. I feel like I do all of the work in the relationship and our lives, all of the 'thinking'. I do probably 80% of the housework, budgeting, planning holidays, sorting out school stuff etc etc. He will do things I ask him, but not consistently, and will forget to do basic stuff like put kids clothes in the washing basket. He does generally do the kids bath / bed routine & will often give them breakfast. I asked him everyday for about 2 weeks to give the kids a drink with their breakfast, and everyday he just said "oh, I forgot"...

We both have quite demanding jobs, although I work 3 days a week and he is part time, so I accept that I take a larger share of the housework.

To put it bluntly, it feels like he just passively participates in our life. It would never occur to him that there are things that need doing outside of the day to day routine, for example making sure the kids have shoes that fit, or organising a birthday party. Everything we do I have thought of, every holiday, every day activity, everything that happens for Christmas etc.

I have talked to him lots of times about this, I've been upset, angry, I've decided to try & not say anything & just support him & see if he becomes more engaged. I've been so cross with him today because I've been trying to get organised with decorating one of the children's bedrooms (we bought a falling down wreck because he promised he would be engaged with working on it, but has done virtually nothing in the 4 years we've had it), and he decided he didn't like the colour I had chosen, despite the fact that he's not been involved with planning it, nor will he do any of the work in the task.

Don't get me wrong, he can be an amazing person, but I feel like I am on my own in a relationship.

Does anyone know what I mean? What can I do to try & make things better?

Toecheese Thu 02-Jan-14 23:38:49

Can you start by letting him do his side if the families gifts for Xmas and birthdays? Explain the usual gift budget to him

Toecheese Thu 02-Jan-14 23:40:50

How old are the kids?

fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:43:05

That's partly the thing though, in a way. If I did what you're suggesting, he would do it, and would probably not complain or be stressed by it. But he wouldn't remember the next year, I'd have to ask him to do it again. It's not like he's avoiding things, he's just oblivious, and getting worse...

Maybe it's just me though, maybe I should just accept that this is how he is, and just get on with it.... I dunno...

Tommy Thu 02-Jan-14 23:43:26

that sounds quite familiar and probably not unusual I should think.
Have you tried going away for the weekend and leaving him to it?!
Three children under 6 is hard work and while I'm not excusing him, I think sometimes men just don't realise what it entails.
It's taken my DH 12 years.... hmm

DrNick Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:10


fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:15

Kids are 5, 3 and nearly 2. And loud. smile

Tommy Thu 02-Jan-14 23:44:24

and it's taken me that long to accept that there are some things that I do hand some that he does.

fattyfattybumbum Thu 02-Jan-14 23:47:28

I don't think he's having an affair. He's either at work or at home, or with mutual friends if we're not together.

Maybe it is just part of having young kids. I'm just so sick of always being 'on duty'.

kateecass Thu 02-Jan-14 23:58:23

My DH is exactly the same!! Did yours have a control freak mother who did everything for him too?! And he does that annoying thing when you've chosen the paint (or holiday, cinema trip or restaurant!!) and suddenly starts investigating new paints and suggests a new one! I totally understand your frustration. I'm afraid though in 20 years he has only got slightly better and it has impacted our relationship. If you can learn to accept to an extent that this is his personality type it might make things easier and definitely leave the kids with him so he can see for himself what it entails.

isitnormal Fri 03-Jan-14 00:02:02

I completely know what you mean re. the share of household chores. In every way except domestic compatibility DP is my the perfect partner - shared sense of humour, affectionate,loyal, chemistry, etc, but in the day to day logistics of living, I often feel like I'm on my own.

I'm the one who organisies the finances, plans and books the holidays, notices when things need replacing, chooses new furniture, decorates the house, does the food shop, hoovers, does laundry, cleans the bathroom, organises our social calendar, etc. He does about 40% of the cooking and washing up, but that's it.

On one hand, this works because I'm a naturally better at planning and organising than him and it gives me freedom to do things my way, but on the other hand it grates at me because I don't think he has any idea how much of my time this takes up.

At present although we both work full time, but I work from home so can fit in the chores around my work somewhat better. However come May I'll be working outside the home and it's been worrying me greatly how I'm going to stay on top of things when I do.

It's not like he intentionally opts out - he genuinely doesn't seem to notice mess / recognise things that need sorting. He's perfectly willing do to anything when I ask, ie: take the bins out, mow the lawn, fetch milk, but but I would love for him to just do things without being asked - I'm not the bloody foreman!

I KNEW he was absent minded before I moved in with him as prior to this he shared a house with some of my friends and they used to get equally as exasperated, so I know it's not me having unrealistic expectations. It frustrates me that no matter how many times I show him how to use the washing machine he forgets and does it wrong, whereas he's so intelligent and capable academically, it's not like he's too stupid to use it!

The other day things came to a head and I had a long talk to him. I said to him that I don't think he has any idea how much I do around the house. He responded then why not stop doing it and then he might appreciate it - I told him that the house would get so filthy that I'd probably end up killing him way before we got to the stage where he noticed things needed cleaning! I stressed that I think the world of him, but having to pick up his dirty pants every day is seriously eroding my respect for him and our relationship is worth so much more than that. I think that I FINALLY got through to him, and he apologised profusely for making me feel like this and has since then he has been making more of an effort to help me, although it's only been 5 days, so time will tell...

This worries me because we are hoping to start a family at some point and although I know he will be great dad in terms of stimulating the children and showing them affection, I really don't want to be stuck picking up all of the slack, so I'm glad I got my feelings off my chest.

If you've explained to him how you feel and things haven't improved then I'm not sure what else I can advise, but I just wanted to let you know that I empathise with you and that you're not alone.

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:07:41

What you are talking about has a name .... "wifework" I've linked to the book of that name.

See also the essay "The Politics of Housework".

Men who do this do it because they can. sad

How much time does he have with the DC on his own at the w/e?

Can you write out some routines (NB this is also wifework but is a pragmatic suggestion).

I also really really recommend the exhaustive list mentioned in this link.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:09:26

I loved the book wifework. Agree you're letting him get away with if.

joanofarchitrave Fri 03-Jan-14 00:12:35

It's been quite interesting becoming the FT breadwinner OTH while dh stays at home full time. He does parenting, cleaning, pretty much everything differently from me.

This is where I am supposed to say 'and it's OK that he does it differently' except that it's not. I just typed a long list of stuff - the basic premise is that dh doesn't seem to put his back into home life at all - he will do the minimum and stop there. E.g. his version of parenting involves ds having a 30 hours screen time a week (no that's not a typo) because he will not expend the energy it takes to think, plan, sort out and hoosh ds into doing stuff with him - you know, PARENTING. It never seems to occur to him that there is more to parenting than providing something that ds can watch and assuring him that if he wants to talk, he is there for him (and then putting in headphones and watching Holby).

I don't believe that men are a different species. I know men who don't parent like this at all. But I don't know any women for whom it would even cross their minds to be so fundamentally absent for one of the most important roles of any adult's life.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:14:20

Holby?! A man ?!

joanofarchitrave Fri 03-Jan-14 00:16:35

Dh watches Casualty and Holby religiously. He also watches all the science, history and philosophy stuff that I should watch but am too busy MNing.

Stillcomingtoterms Fri 03-Jan-14 00:17:30

My dh was the same. If I didn't do it it never got done.
I used to joke that one day I would just not come home from work and go away just so he could see what I actually did. But to be honest Im Sure I would either come home to a tip and washing(because he was looking after the kids) or his mother would be down every day looking after him.
It used to annoy me that I did everything. He didn't know when homework was due, parties etc. like you if I told him to do it he would do it with no complaints but my issue was that I shouldn't have to ask him to take part in our life.
As it is we've now seperated(not connected to this) and hes still the same. I think they've just been used to being led and aren't bothered about decision making.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 00:21:02

You need a shared icalendar

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:21:38

Some "favourites" of minemine slightly adapted from the exhaustive listlist - just to give a flavour:

Evaluate and register DC for extra curricular activities.

Teach practical lessons at home.

Schedule dentist/optician/injections

Sort out clothes which are too small/plan new purchases/make new purchases

Diagnose and solve DC behavioural and physical and emotional issues

Maintain household paperwork

Arrange age appropriate toys in suitable locations and storage in househouse

A lot of planning and "constructive" worrying is being done by DWs and not being recognised by DHs IMO.

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 00:24:15

<sorry for strange double words in the above - cut and paste fail>

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:30:23

Stop micromanaging. Stop criticising.

You'll be amazed.

Look how annoyed you were when he criticised your choice of paint. If he is responsible for a task then let him do it, let him manage it totally, to his timescale and standards, not yours.

Let go. You are the problem. Let go.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 00:38:42

He just doesn't see you as his intimate partner. He sees you as co-director of the enterprise that is family life at best - and junior worker who does all the legwork, at worst.

The big clue is your lack of sex life and his lack of affection.

He sounds like one of those men who subs out the sex and affection to other people, without wanting to lose his family, his house or the domestic work you provide. He gets all his needs met, without having to put in much effort or promise anything in return.

Of course he's got time for an affair. Cheaters aren't always where they say they are. I don't suppose you check up on him because that would be another chore on the list.

I'd check that out first and then talk to him. No point in confronting the state of your relationship or the inequality in it if he's playing around. Better to know what's going on and then tackle it.

But tackle it you must. I'm amazed you've put up with it for so long!!

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 00:50:24

Thank you for all of these responses. I think I need to do some thinking over, and some reading. I do think I am part of the problem in that what I am doing is contributing to the problem keeping going.

And I also need to change, but I think doesbuggerall (good username!) that letting go would only really work if he actually took responsibility for anything. He was supposedly going to fix up our house, without me 'project managing' it, but has only managed to screw a bookcase to the wall & replace a small patch of tiles in the kitchen so far...

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:50:42

Tonandfeather - his lack of affection etc. What about her? Is she not capable of giving or initiating affection?

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 00:52:06

Oh, and he is not having an affair. I guarantee he wants you. Try easing off with the control freakery and stop pushing him away.

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 00:54:01

I am the giver & initiater of everything, whether it be affection or practical jobs!

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 00:58:47

I'm presuming the poster doesn't much fancy having sex with someone who treats her like a combination of his mother and the hired help. Control freak? I can't believe that a woman who by necessity has to do all these things because a selfish, lazy man won't, despite every attempt by the OP to talk to him reasonably about it, gets called a control freak.

Jesus, what some men get away with just because they are men!!

No-one can say he definitely isn't or is having an affair. I'd want to rule it out though.

Do you, poster?

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 01:02:02

Re the decorating etc. he works full time and maybe he doesn't want to spend so much time i.e. every non-working hour doing DIY. Perhaps he just isn't very good at it.

Also he may be stressed - bringing up children especially while working full-time is hard on a man too. At home you are the boss; at his work he may not be. He comes home from work, having had to do as he is told all day by some asshole and then you boss him about! FFS women are meant to be good at working out people's feelings etc, where is your empathy?
Getting back to the stressed bit - stress can often make it very hard to make decisions or organise and think about things. Your husband sounds like he is under a great deal of stress if you ask me. He needs your support, why not ease off with the pressure, let your high standards slip a bit and enjoy life with your children whilst they are still young?

GoshAnneGorilla Algeria Fri 03-Jan-14 01:05:55

Why is it the OP who's being asked to do all the verbs?

"Try this" "Back off from that", meanwhile the man does not have to put any input or thought into his marriage or family life - why on earth not?

Support is a two way street and it doesn't sound like OP is getting any from her husband, yet your suggestion is that she contorts herself further trying to make her husband seem happy, all while raising 3 children, working and running a house.

Stuff that.

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 01:07:14

DoesBuggerAll - are you a man? If so you have a very low standards for your fellow males.

Standards can't be lowered to include committing to give DCs a drink at breakfast FFS!

nameequality Fri 03-Jan-14 01:07:54


Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 01:08:54

Are you a man who does bugger all?

This is what the poster says: "We both have quite demanding jobs, although I work 3 days a week and he is part time, so I accept that I take a larger share of the housework."

Even if that was a typo about him working part time - if this poster added up the hours she spends working at home and in her job, it looks like her hours are far and away longer than this lazy, disinterested man's.

That's if all his working hours are actually spent at work. I suspect they are not.

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 01:15:41

Ton, thank you for your responses, they, and the others are helping me think about this. Firstly, I really don't think he is having an affair, he is pretty open with his phone, and he is rarely anywhere I don't know about, I know he wouldn't be advertising the fact if he were, but I don't think he is.

Secondly, I realise this might sound contradictory, but I don't think he's trying to be lazy or selfish, so much as he's just away in his own world.

Doesbuggerall, the overall message of your post is what id like to achieve - a happy, enjoyable family life. But while I'm skipping through the meadow, who will notice my kids are limping because they have outgrown their shoes?

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 01:21:46

Strange isn't it that if a mum was away in her own world and her husband did virtually everything, no-one would hesitate to call her lazy and selfish and no way would her husband be described as a control freak.

I think you're being far too soft on him because he's a man.

What does he say about sex and not showing you any affection?

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 01:27:38

We've not talked about it for a while, but when we did he said he was feeling overwhelmed & stressed with work & having 3 small kids. I understand when he says that, and it makes sense. I can relate to that, and I do empathise.

My youngest is stirring, so I think I'll be busy for a bit, but I'll come back in the morning...

Thanks again

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 01:35:58

And you're not overwhelmed and stressed doing all that you do?

I'm surprised you're still standing.

What do you get out of this relationship that is just for you?

Do you really think he's got no sex drive?

When did you last know by his actions that he was in love with you?

Shellywelly1973 Fri 03-Jan-14 01:36:48

My Exdp was very similar to how you've described your dh.

I asked him to change, he didn't. I asked him to leave, he did.

I don't know the answer to your problem but now I'm totally on my own...

He's totally stepped out of family life, he had so little involvement, it was easy for him to turn his back on our 3 soon to be 4 dc.

Communication? Time? nights out? Maybe these thingswould have helped us not to split up, do you and your dh do anything by yourselves?

Take care.

MinkBernardLundy Fri 03-Jan-14 01:39:18

OP does your dh go on the internet a lot?

Possibly on MN?

Does he by any chance post under the nn of doesbugerall hmmwink

AlthoughOP your last post reads like his list of woes you can empathise with because they match precisely your stresses only you have the addedstress of trying to drag him along with you whilst also keeping the ship afloat.

If he has issues withstress perhaps he needs to do something to address that head on instead of using it as an opt out clause.

That may sound a bit harsh but ifyou were having stress issues would you expect him just to deal witheverything? or would you think you had better do something to sort yourself out?

thatlldonicely Fri 03-Jan-14 06:40:53

Hi fatty i have been here - feeling like i am doing more & more to compensate for the lack of contribution dh is making - thinking he is under pressure with work etc - churn out the same list of house jobs year after year ( which i thought was a joke) turns out he has been unsure of his feelings for me for some time - at least a year maybe longer and had not been saying anything as didnt want to cause any hurt - every now & then when i nagged him about not doing stuff he would jump into action for a day or so & then stop. he has said this was mainly to stop any futher conflict as he didnt want to verbalise what he was feeling. i gradually noticed that when we were on holiday without work pressure he was still distant from me although not the kids and things came to a head a couple of days before xmas when i was telling him i was feeling ignored and and he said yes we need to talk - i do hope this is not what you are going through - you need to get him to talk to you if my DH had opened his mouth ealier maybe we would not be in the position we're in now - i have a few threads running- you may wish to have a look -

Pumpkin567 Fri 03-Jan-14 06:52:31

You need to leave him to it a bit more. Take a day off every once in a while go away for the weekend. Make me understand how hard it all is.

mynameisnotmichaelcaine Fri 03-Jan-14 06:59:06

My dh is a little like this - he has total tunnel vision, and doesn't engage with things if he doesn't think they impact on him.

What helped me was our children getting older. Now they will ask if there is no drink at breakfast, or tell him if they feel ignored. This has, in turn, helped him to see things more clearly.

TheCrumpetQueen Fri 03-Jan-14 07:09:30

My dp is like this and admits it hmm says he would happily sit back and let me do everything but knows better.

He will do housework if he sees it needs doing (emptying/loading dishwasher). But with our ds he's not great. If he's crying he asks him over and over why he's crying hmm he's 13 months. He doesn't think he might be tired or hungry, he will wait for me to do it which I now have put a stop to.

Apparently women need more sleep than men because we multitask and do ten times more in a day

TheCrumpetQueen Fri 03-Jan-14 07:10:33

But it very much feels like he's still a single bloke cohabiting with us sometimes which I hate and does upset me. He had a mum who spoilt him and did everything for him.

Hopefully I raise ds to be a better man

Yogii Fri 03-Jan-14 07:38:35

"Standards can't be lowered to include committing to give DCs a drink at breakfast FFS!"

IME thirsty children will ask for/get a drink.

Sit back, do nothing, and you'll see that things will in fact happen. Maybe not to your standards or timescale, but they will happen.

I hate it on threads like this when people who haven't got the same problem pile in and say "it's your fault for allowing it to happen". Really? It's not the bloke's fault for, you know, actually doing it then? No-one is responsible for someone else's behaviour.

SanityClause Fri 03-Jan-14 08:02:04

You need to speak to him.

Say everything that's in your OP.

You can't fix this on your own. If you are doing something wrong, he needs to tell you. And you need to tell him what you need from him.

But I really think that if you just give up and wait for him to start taking responsibility, you'll just end up with two adults who are sitting around doing nothing, instead of just one.

Joysmum Fri 03-Jan-14 08:10:55

As my hubby says, my standards are different to his. I want things done before they get too bad, hubby will do things when he notices them. I'm a planner to minimise effort and problems, hubby deals with crisis management (which is often the result if his lack of planning) and he's blooming good at it.

I don't wait for him to see what needs doing, I tell him. It's not him being lazy or indifferent, he simply doesn't see the world the way I do.

He'll say he needs to clear out the garage and it'll take him all day and he'll feel pleased with himself, I'll say I'd never let anything get that bad in the first place as I tidy up as I go!

Is it because he's a man? All I know is I could never do his job, I'm rubbish at crisis management before I plan ahead and am good at it.

dashoflime Fri 03-Jan-14 08:15:13

I think the housework is important but the lack of affection/sex might be more important.

I know a lot of the times when DH and I have had out worst/most frequent arguments about housework have also been the times when we've not been having frequent sex.

I think your sense of rejection is making the housework issue seem much worse.

Tackle that first- then bring up the housework in the post coital glow wink.

Sisterelephant Fri 03-Jan-14 08:38:28

My Dp can be this way but we're 4.5 years in and have 1 ds.

I suffer with anxiety so get myself into such a tizz when things are not done straight away. On days when DS is being particularly fussy and not napping I get very stressed when I can't get things done. Dp obviouly doesn't have these issues, but will happily climb through mess instead of tidying up, , use a mug for a soft drink - instead of washing up as it just doesn't bother him.

Days out which are rare in this weather are planned by me, getting him to do anything without me asking is impossible. Don't get me started on Christmas/birthday presents!

The mix of my anxiety and his lack of initiative led to lots of arguments, I got some good advice on here about biting MY tongue at times, accepting that he doesn't do things my way, and if he DOES do things I ask, just ask him to do more leave notes/reminders around. It's been a few months for us and it's ok so far. I still have times when I've asked him to wash up and he's sitting playing Xbox, and replied he'll do it after. I have to really bite my tongue so I don't snap at him to do it now!


MrsSnail Fri 03-Jan-14 08:40:20

My ex was like this, very good at planning/ doing the stuff he found interesting and important, rubbish at the rest. Even if he did something when i directly asked, it would be half a job. think cutting the lawn and then leaving the mower out for a week, while it rained. We talked and tried a lot of stuff but nothing worked, hence the 'ex' part

BC27 Fri 03-Jan-14 09:17:42


Watching this thread as I'm in a very similar position. Probably a bit further down the line.

Told my DP I thought we should separate in the new year due to his total lack of engagement. He's now morphed into Suoer Dad and Mega Partner but you know what, it has just pissed me off even more. It has taken the threat of separating and him moving out to make him buck his ideas up - not the numerous times I have cried and been so stressed and exhausted I've been put on medication. You can imagine the sort of message that has given me....

Personally, I'd ignore all the advice about backing off and not micromanaging. I made a conscious effort in January 2013 to take this approach and still bugger all got done

Good luck

DoesBuggerAll Fri 03-Jan-14 10:02:03

Yogii - Good advice.

It's a bit like when someone leaves/retires/gets made redundant at work. You know the sort, the lynchpin of the office, the one who from the sound of it would cause the office to collapse if they left, the one who does umpteen jobs single-handedly (and simultaneously). What actually happens when they leave? Life goes on. Things still get done; the critical tasks get given to somebody else; the less important get left. Often most of them never get done again and nobody notices since most of it was make-work. Other tasks can now be done more efficiently because there isn't someone flapping around busying everybody about.
Whatever the faults of the DH (and I'm sure he has many) the OP has control issues. She sounds very much like a 'It's my way or the highway' type. Communication isn't you telling him what to do and him doing it.
For goodness sake, recognise that neither you nor your partner are superhumans, accept (and I mean accept) that you have different opinions on things and take time from all the chivvying to actually enjoy life.
Have you tried Mindfullness? Has your DH?

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 03-Jan-14 10:18:10

Wanting your children to have a drink with breakfast and shoes that fit = control freak?

Have heard it all now hmm.

Mine is like it too, but it has got better with time. Strategies that have helped have been the DCs getting older and telling him what a bad example he is setting them (dirty clothes on the floor, clean clothes not put away etc). I do not do any of the gift buying for his family (I did do some of it in the past). Last time he wanted to replace his car, I steered him in the direction of the one I thought we needed and left him to buy it and get rid of his, I think he was quite surprised at all the paperwork etc. I no longer nag him to do his tax return, if it's late, it's late.

I think the shame in front of the DCs has probably been the most telling part, there have been a few instances of me explaining why we don't leave our dirty clothes on the floor for someone else to pick up in his hearing and it has spurred him on. I have also accepted that to some extent there are differences between us, I am much more pro-active (and cautious) than he is, but he does step up well in a crisis while I panic. Also, about 15 months ago I had an operation which meant I could do no housework/childcare for a few weeks, he took on more then and has kept up with things a bit better since.

TheCrumpetQueen Fri 03-Jan-14 10:21:17

Funny how common this is.

And grin at Super Dad and Mega Partner. That's happening to me now too. But it always returns to normal after the threat has died down.

MrBusterIPresume Fri 03-Jan-14 11:01:24

OP, you have my sympathy. My H is like this too. And I have gradually come to realise that he is like this because he wants to be. He gets a much easier life by "not noticing" what needs to be done, or by doing things (repeatedly) in such a half-arsed way that it is less trouble to do them myself. The only way I can get him to do more is to make him responsible for tasks that only impact on him (e.g. his laundry) - but then I get the accusation that I don't care about him any more because I don't do anything for him hmm.

To all the people who have suggested that the OP is a control freak who has only to back off to have her DH magically engage with family life, the only charitable explanation I can think of for your attitude is that you've never lived with someone like this. Well-meaning suggestions to "just leave him to get on with it" make my blood boil, because people like this don't want to pitch in, they want to be left alone to follow their own agenda without interference from annoying household tasks and family activities. Normal, decent human beings will step up when asked/required to, selfish ones will not. Are you really suggesting that the OP is responsible for her husband's lack of engagement as well as everything else?

The OP is not a control freak. When you are responsible (by default) for almost everything bar a few token chores, to have someone faffing about doing something badly (whether through ignorance or passive aggression) is incredibly irritating because you know that you will have to pick up the pieces when things aren't done to a minimum standard. So micro-managing or taking over the task yourself are less about criticising the other person than about saving yourself more work and stress in the long run.

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 11:21:07

Men do this because they feel entitled not to dirty their hands with the boring endless work of childcare and running a home.
The ones who do it don't love their wives enough to throw off the sexist assumption that the boring unpaid invisible work of running a home and childcare is women 's work. At a very deep subconscious level, they feel it's beneath them.

Women tell each other all sorts of comforting lies about how men just can 't see dirt, just can 't organise a home (even though they're perfectly capable of organising companies) in order to try and convince themselves that all men are like this and the one they are with is no worse than anyone else.

But they 're wrong. Men who truly love and respect the women they live with, don't treat them as unpaid skivvies

Yeah there was a bloke on Women's Hour last year insisting that men simply couldn't see dirt, and us laydeez just had to accept that was the way it was.

And yet I imagine if all male food hygiene inspectors were sacked overnight for this reason there'd be a bit of an uproar...

lifestory Fri 03-Jan-14 12:39:09

rings bells with me that's for sure!after getting nowhere for years, I wrote a list of our respective jobs/responsibilities and contributions with now xh .
my list was three pages long, he had had just one "list" which was to feed his dog, though generally I did it too.
I kept the roof over 3 c heads, paid all the bills, total provider. you know what, he hated responsibility so much eventually left with someone the same, no responsibilities! he even told me "why should I use my brain when I can use yours"he was okay to be carried for decades, but eventually enough is enough. maybe he wanted a "mother" and not be a "father,husband"i even went "on strike" but it all just fell apart, I thought it might make him wake up, but hell, no, he carried on as usual. so, try it, strike, go away, down tools, before it's too late. good luck.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 12:55:17

Such a good point about hygiene inspectors!! I agree so much with the PP too about the painful to read excuses that some women give men for not loving them enough and actually being sexist throwbacks to a different age.

Some writers here are saying how coincidental and funny peculiar that the men in their lives are like this too. It's no coincidence at all.

I'm more surprised there are women who, despite their husbands functioning well at work, think it's odd or amazing that they revert to teenagerdom when they put the key in the door.

You really don't know what that's about?

It's because they don't think what happens at home is anything much to do with them, or that they will be blamed if things fail to get done. That's because there is a woman there doing it and they see it as her job that if they can be arsed occasionally, they might "help" her with.

The ones who can't even be arsed to do that without being asked or told to, have completely checked out and don't care how exhausted she is or how much she is starting to hate them. They don't want sex with her so why bother?

HowGoodIsThat Fri 03-Jan-14 12:57:45

All sounds very familiar! However, now that I am back at work full time, I have had to force a change. Things that have helped:

- Lists and sitting down regularly to review who does what.
- Routines - we now have a evening routine - tidy kitchen, fill dishwasher, hang up washing, set breadmaker, lay table for the morning. we do it together and then we both get to go and out chill out. Likewise in the mornings, its equal division of getting us and the kids up and out of the house.
- Meal planning and shopping is done on alternate weeks - his first few weeks in charge have been "interesting" but no-one has died.

Key things:
- I have made a deliberate decision not to assess or comment on the HOW he does things. It is enough that they get done. Yes, its not often done how I would do it, but that is more or less fine. Any anguish caused by it not being done My Way is in my head, so I deal with it.
- I try to work with the flow - i.e., focus him to the jobs that he is motivated to do. There is no point nagging him to do something he finds tedious - so I learn the skills instead. With DH, its very often getting started that is the issue, if I go and get the drill, he'll often pick it up from there. Fortunately he loves planning and booking holidays so that is all his!
- Older kids helps. They tell him if they are thirsty or cold - he has to live with miserable consequences of dragging them out for a walk inadequately dressed and without snacks. He is learning as a result.

Big stuff - shoes, dentists, doctors - I do all that for the kids. He doesn't do that sort of stuff for himself let alone them! I don't mind keeping the overview on the welfare - it helps me sleep at night!

Finally - look for the things he does do that you might not even spot. I realised that our bikes are spotless and beautifully maintained. I wouldn't bother myself, but it is him expressing his love and care for us in his way. And I never have to faff with pumps or change wheels or wash muddy bikes. So I cut him some slack on the things that I do that he doesn't.

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 13:21:58

You know this thing about men having different standards and not doing it the way their wives would do it (IE the hygienic, user-friendly way).

If they told their bosses they're not going to manage the project the way generations of directors and managers and HR people and company leaders have painstakingly worked out is the best way for their company, they're going to do it to a lower standard in a less efficient way, they'd be sacked.

Just sayin'.

MollyWhuppie Fri 03-Jan-14 13:39:02

My husband is like this. He has his good points though too and before we had small children it didn't seem to matter. I guess there was less to do and more time available to do it.

I do it all because I don't want to live in a pig sty, or get bailiffs letters because direct debits haven't been set up, I want the children to have clothes and shoes that fit, and I don't want to eat ready meals and takeaways every night, and the list goes on and on!

The fact is if I didn't do it, no-one would. I'm married to a man who, when he lived alone, never cleaned his own bathroom. You would never think he was such a slob to look at him. He just didn't care and still doesn't. I don't know what the answer is. Certainly leaving them in charge every so often so they appreciate what you do at least helps a bit.

BC27 Fri 03-Jan-14 13:39:37

You make a very interesting point ton . It's the of lack of affection, intimacy, sex and care combined with the general laziness and selfish attitude that is the real killer and has probably sounded the death knell for me !

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 13:43:24

I just can't leave this topic alone. grin Doing housework is not rocket science. There isn't a "special" way women do it that's different from how men are programmed to do it. You either wipe a surface thoroughly or you don't. You either scrape leftover food off plates before putting them in the spaces helpfully grooved out in the dishwasher or you don't. You either vacuum the whole room including the bits which require you to move bits of furniture out of the way so that you can do that bit of the floor, or you don't. You either sort your laundry into different colours and textures or you ruin your clothes. It's not some enormously difficult task that people need special training for; it's helpful to be shown, obviously, but if you're not, you can work it out for yourself even if you are below average intelligence.

This pretence that it's all some big bizarre technical thing full of pitfalls and different methods - well yes, if you're Anthea Turner, but for most of us, housework is a very straightforward task which you either get on with or you don't. Those who don't think it's their responsibility (children, teenagers, entitled husbands) don't get it on with it and make a song and dance of it and do it badly each time to prove that it's not their job to the person whose job they think it is. Those who know it's their responsibility (sane rational people who are physically able to and don't assume it's someone else's problem) just get on with it and do it.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 13:43:51

Yes they'd be sacked.

But the other reason they don't do jobs up to standard is because they know when people visit their home or see their children, it won't be THEM who'll come in for judgement and criticism.

It surprises me how many apparently intelligent women when talking about dirty homes or grubby children, look to the woman/mother to blame even if there is a fully able man in the house.

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 13:47:05

MollyW that's so sad. sad

One of the things you do for someone you love, is try and make the environment you share with them as comfortable and practical for both of you as possible.

Not doing so is a sign of contempt in my book.

I'd hate to live with someone who treated me contemptuously.

MollyWhuppie Fri 03-Jan-14 13:57:00

askbasil I realise I've made him sound terrible! He is a generally good bloke who will do things when asked/nagged but it does cause issues regularly in our relationship because I do feel like the unpaid skivvy a lot of the time. He works extremely hard to provide for us as a family in a high pressured job though, and a lot of the stuff I do is because I want to. Would just be nice if there was a bit more balance sometimes.

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 14:13:03

The thing is, if I lived with someone who told me that s/he felt like an unpaid skivvy a lot of the time, I would examine my behaviour to find out what I was doing to make him/ her feel like that and I would adjust it to try and ensure that I wasn't making someone I loved feel like that.

I wouldn't want to make someone I love feel like that. I want to treat the people I love with respect and... well, love. Making them feel like a skivvy is not loving behaviour.

maparole Fri 03-Jan-14 16:01:01

My ex was just like this and I must say that in retrospect I see it as a very large facet of his generally abusive personality. When I met him, he was living alone and one of the things I found very attractive about him was that he cooked and cleaned and generally managed his life pretty well. That soon changed once I moved in!

He didn't stop doing everything all at once, but eventually he was doing literally NOTHING to contribute to household or family. Whenever I tried to discuss the issue, he would just say I was moaning, or yell at me and go into a huff for days. It was made worse by the fact we lived in France and he never really bothered to learn French properly, so any admin or phone calls had to be down to me.

As the OP says, it's the thinking which is most exhausting; the constant juggling of 50 different things in your head, with no-one to catch the ball if you drop it. What's more, he was always reminding me about stuff which "we" needed to do and whenever anything did go slightly awry, he would be down on me like a ton of bricks for how useless I was.

Living with the resentment of this for several years really ground me down and turned me into a right sourpuss. I feel soooo much better now it is just me and I'm not consantly feeling aggrieved that my so-called "partner" has let me down once again and continues to add to my burden.

In short, I do think that the refusal to contribute AT ALL to life's daily tasks is a form of abuse, in that it communicates a total lack of care or respect for the one who is doing it all.

Frozennortherner Fri 03-Jan-14 16:31:31

I know what you mean OP. i feel for you. It's hurtful. Am not sure there's a way back. I still hugely resent DH for precisely this. Stupid, stupid men. They're losing something enormously valuable (ie. us!) by acting this way. I wish they knew this.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 17:36:33

I don't know how anyone can NOT know this and in the poster's case, she has told him so many times - so he knows alright.

But I expect another fault is just not taking women's complaints seriously and if they are still there and don't leave or end the relationship - and carry on doing all the donkey work and having crap sex lives - then maybe they have a point.

Maybe it's also because it gets drummed into women that they can't leave a relationship for problems that the world thinks women shouldn't be worried about - being a skivvy and having no sex life. So women trivialise those complaints and feel too embarrassed to elevate them to their proper status; the deal-breakers that they are.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Fri 03-Jan-14 17:43:28

Does anyone else think that our parents' generation of women contribute to this in some way? Not all obviously, but I recently had a c-section and both DM and MIL came to stay whilst I was incapacitated.

DM was highly impressed at how much DH did. Well, of course he did! He had a month's paternity leave and a wife who could hardly move. Of course he had to step up! He didn't deserve a medal for cooking dinner and doing a bit of cleaning though...

MIL did some cleaning 'for me'. For me?! Cos her son doesn't live here, does he? But apparently all cleaning related activities are down to me. Hmmm. This is the woman who bought me oven cleaner for Xmas when I was heavily pregnant with DC1 and hence couldn't use it - again, no thought given to the fact that DH was an equal recipient of food cooked in our home and hence could have cleaned it too...

alemci Fri 03-Jan-14 17:51:18

yes doesn't sound that different to my DH. he has improved over the years and was good with our dc.

his mum is lovely but did everything for him. she had no life of her own and now does everything with fil

redmapleleaves Fri 03-Jan-14 17:54:42

OP, my ex was like this too. I tried and tried saying, we had endless marriage guidance, I'd think he'd got it, but no change. 6 months out of the relationship I am becoming aware how abusive he was in so many ways, and that he literally did nothing for the kids, the home, or my priorities, outside paid work. I have honestly found it far easier as a single mum to two kids, working full time, in a new area where I know no one, than it was coordinating and feeling resentful that I was the only one doing.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 17:55:11

where IS the op?

CerealMom Fri 03-Jan-14 18:11:10

Cleaning/making dinner/bath & bed routine for kids etc... (probably)

Freedom2014 Fri 03-Jan-14 19:52:02

Hi fattyfattybumbum - I could have written your post myself! I have been with my husband for 15 years, married for 13 with an 11 year old daughter. He is the laziest person I have EVER met. He does virtually nothing around the house, and is totally incompetent at any gardening/DIY . He refuses to take any responsibility for our money, and makes no effort at all in terms of our social life. Every single thing we do (from holidays, to going for a walk, from going to the cinema to what to eat) is all down to me. It has permeated our life so much that he is unable to make a decision, makes no effort with his family, and has no friends. We don't have sex anymore as he is unable to......(I'm up for it), and I'm not surprised as I feel like the man, woman and mother in the relationship. He has never bought our daughter a present, and I decided it was the last christmas I could sit there watching her open a load of christmas presents that he didn't buy, and had no interest in even looking at!
Sadly although we do "get on", fifteen years of never having a birthday present, never having a nice meal cooked for me, never taking me out anywhere has taken its toll. It seems there are three layers to our marriage- the functioning household chores dynamics, us as husband and wife and our family life together, and an intimate relationship. As he has made no effort in any of those three spheres of our lives, the whole thing has finally crumbled and I ended it in December.
Each relationship is different but I have come to the conclusion that my life will be so much happier and easier without him around.

That is all doom and gloom but before reaching this (very positive) decision I tried the following (all of which were unsuccessful - clearly!)
1. Went on strike and did no chores/cooking (house became filthy, and he ate takeaways/crisps)
2. Refused to do the money - he didn't bother either (in the end I had to pick it up or we would have not paid bills or gone overdrawn)
3. Sold the house and moved to a smaller one and went part time- his 5% contribution then became 0% even thought I was still working 30 hours per week
4. Begged, pleaded, cried, and warned we would end up splitting up (had a minor effect for a few days/weeks but never more than that)

As such I can walk away with my head held high that I explained to him exactly what contribution I needed (would have been happy with an 80/20 split even thought I work longer hours than him), and sex less than the national average.....but this was still too much to ask apparently. Given that 2014 is going to be the start of a new life. No matter what anyone says, it will simply be down to your own personal threshold of what you are prepared to accept as a marriage.

Hope he pulls his finger out unlike mine! (Ps am impressed with the bookcase.....that's more than I ever could have dreamed of!)

fattyfattybumbum Fri 03-Jan-14 20:01:57

Thank you for all of the messages on this thread - Ive not done a bunk, but Ive been with the kids all day; we're both not back at work until next week so there hasnt been a good time to reply. I wanted to consider all of the advice and viewpoints that have been given - thank you all for such a good range of perspective. Ive been reading everything you have been saying and thinking about what fits with me / us, and what doesnt seem to just now.

There are lots of factors, but I do agree that I let him not do things, or not do things well. Life is busy with 3 small kids, and its even more difficult having to give clear instructions to someone who will follow them s-l-o-w-l-y or not at all. Its not a case of me having high standards either, our house is a mess more often than not. I am not a house -proud person, and generally it doesnt bother me. Im not after him putting on a pinny and dusting.... I just want him to be engaged with the situation. Someone who says to me "you've done all the work over the last little while, thank you, Ill take the slack about x y z now" is infinately better than someone who just has no idea.

And its not unreasonable to ask for simple things like 'give the kids a drink at breakfast time'. The kids were asking and saying they were thirsty, but to me! Putting out water or milk or whatever for the kids while they have their cereal is not me being a perfectionist or control freak. But if Ive already asked 10 times, and its not happened, I cant take that little thing out of my mind - I know, along with a million other things, that I will also have to get the kids a drink in the morning as DH cant!

I also totally agree with the posters who question why the housework is seen as the woman's job. I recently got a cleaner, and both my DM and DMIL were really happy because "it really helps you out" = me, not us.... I guess it makes it easier for us all to go along with the idea that its not his problem if it doesnt get done.

Anyway, trying not to turn this into another rant blush. We have talked today. He is genuinely sorry, and I do think he loves me. I think the idea of mindfulness is a good one actually, because I think part of the problem is that he is so caught up in his own internal world, he doesnt notice, or be part of the world around him. I think mindfullness would be a good idea to help him tune in a little bit more to what is around him. he has agreed to find out more and learn how to use this.

I think we will sit down and look at all of the jobs again and try and share some out, with things that are routine based for him. We did this early on in our relationship, before we had kids and when we were both full time, and it did help actually. I think this might be a helpful tactic again.

Also, I did feel that the point someone made (sorry I cant go up for some reason!) about noticing what he does do was a good one. He does little things for me like bringing me a glass of water at bedtime, and I take that for grnted, so Ill try noticing when he is doing somehting with love for me.

Lastly, I dont think the ideas of going on strike would work for me, as Ive done it before! He is so unaware of whats going on around him that he wouldnt notice that things were not getting done. I dont just mean the dishes or the washing, but the big things like car insurance, getting the kids signed up for school etc etc..

We will see what happens. I really do want to work it out. In spite of it all, we share a lot of similar views / enjoy the same stuff, and we are on the same wavelength with lots of things.

Thank you all again

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 20:07:01

Not sure what generation anyone else is but to be honest, what ever age our parents are I don't blame the women/mothers/mothersinlaw. I blame the men/fathers/fathersinlaw for doing so little. Women get so browbeaten by the message that complaints about housework are trivial and "not worth breaking a family up for" and even more so are forcefed crap about sex not being important to them, that to survive in that world it looks to me like they grit their teeth and get on with it, despite their exhaustion, sexual frustration and resentment. One way to cope with it is to deceive themselves that "all men are like that" and so they are perpetually surprised and probably a bit uncomfortable when they see one who isn't.

Tonandfeather Fri 03-Jan-14 20:09:24

Oh dear...why doesn't he want sex then?

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 20:10:45

can i suggest shared calendar too.
we give each other TOTAL control over activities as well - H does all cricket, I do rugby, I do swimming lessons, he does garden.

this means that if it fails ( including lifts, subs, kit) its yours OR his fault and one person controls better than the other
the flipside of this is that you have to let him do things his own way, not yours.

Plus do go away for a day with a mate or a weekend.

DrNick Fri 03-Jan-14 20:11:42

if the kids say " can you get me a drink" tell them to ask him
I rememebr mine walking UPSTAIRS past H to ask me something - i soon put paid to that! grin

DoesBuggerAll Sat 04-Jan-14 00:58:14

Dr Nick - giving the task 100% to either DH or the OP is a good one. If one person is solely responsible for it then the task can't fall down the gap so to speak.
I do loads at home but I have to admit I am not good if the task is a shared one. E.g. give me the task of doing all the clothes washing and I will sort it. I'll plan when to put the washing on, setting the timer so that the wash will finish just before I come home from work so I can chuck the lot in the tumble dryer and kick off another wash straight away and dry that aftwards and so on. Interfere in my schedule in any way though and it will confuse me and I'll be out of sync, I'll be unable to do that second wash or even get the first wash in the dryer in time as I'll be doing something else like going to the pub or sleeping or whatever.
Divide the tasks and agree with your OH who will do each. This doesn't mean you tell him which ones he will be doing but that you will come to an agreement over which tasks each will do.
Why not list all the tasks and each rank the task on order from favourite to least favourite. Then take it in turns to choose a task to assign to yourself (or even the other person). Work your way down the list till all tasks are assigned.

MrsTwgtwf Sat 04-Jan-14 01:02:27

Interesting thread, fattyfattybumbum. I've sent you a PM, hope that's OK. smile

Yogii Sat 04-Jan-14 01:51:52

"Wanting your children to have a drink with breakfast and shoes that fit = control freak?"

Try a little experiment. Don't give your kids a drink, wait until they ask. I guarantee you they won't die of thirst.

Tonandfeather Sat 04-Jan-14 02:01:11

But they WERE asking for a drink. They asked their mum when their dad didn't get them one. They are all under 6 so probably can't get their own.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 02:14:23

Posting off the OP here but it sounds so scarily familiar! My husband has just been put on ADs and been given a few weeks off work and he has changed so much! I've never seen this man before and I'm not sure what to do with him. He was (probably still is as not everything is fixed) exactly how you describe, I could have written that post. His hygiene was terrible, which had an impact on everything. That's changed a lot now too and I can smell the difference in the house now.

For us I'm not sure it's not too late because after 9 years of trying to do this I had given up (there's far more than I've written) and I am not sure where I can go from here, but if it's fairly recently for you then maybe it's not too late to do something.

redmapleleaves Sat 04-Jan-14 08:22:00

OP ^ In spite of it all, we share a lot of similar views / enjoy the same stuff, and we are on the same wavelength with lots of things.

I would have said this about my H too. Its taken me time after separation to realise that for me, in my relationship, shared views on the war in Iraq are less important than whether he can tune into my perspective, whether or not he thinks its valid, and respond - by acting - to my concerns. For me it felt like a relationship lived on his terms alone, quite apart from the fact that these chores weren't figments of my imagination. Shared views on childrearing are one thing, but how does he act? Who makes the views concrete?

Good luck.

DoesBuggerAll Sat 04-Jan-14 09:08:05

Confuddleddotcom - for better or for worse eh? DH finally gets the medical treatment he needs which allows him to be himself again and you want to LTB? What if it was the other way round?

maparole Sat 04-Jan-14 10:03:42

DH finally gets the medical treatment he needs which allows him to be himself again and you want to LTB?

That is outrageously unfair; you have no idea of her circumstances or what she has been through. What on Earth is the point of a post like that? angry

Great links nameequality! I particularly love the "6 Tools For Sharing Chores and Childcare with Your Partner" one as I can really see it helping.

MinkBernardLundy Sat 04-Jan-14 15:05:06

That link is really good. I like the idea of having someone the responsibility not just the task.

no opportunity to try this out with p as I am now an lp (and I doubt it would have worked as he was EA anyway but I might have realised what the problem.was sooner. he was a master a seeming to take something on but actually making duress he dragged me into it e.g. he would get shopping but I had to tell him what to get and put it away)

But I will start trying this approach with the dcs as they get bigger. i give them.orders not responsibility and it isn't working.

Stillcomingtoterms Sat 04-Jan-14 16:18:06

When I went back to work after having ds I wrote a list of every task that needed doing and who did it. Don't get me wrong it wasn't perfect and some things I ended up taking over and doing myself but it made him responsible for his tasks and he could see how big my list was. Unless they got done he had to deal with the consequences ie dc crying.

I can't remember what they were when the dc were little but this is what he was responsible for until recently. (A tip is not to give him something that would need to be done before your task needs doing. Ie getting him to wash/sterilise baby bottles. No good , as if he doesn't do them you would have to In order to feed the baby and then you can guarantee he would conveniently forget to do them ever again)

Make kids lunch boxes-week days
Put bins out- weekly
Take ds rugby training-weekly
From the clean washing put all extras away in draws ie socks, pants-fortnightly
Clean all of downstairs, inc wash floors-weekly.

I found dh wasn't happy if things had to get done on a certain day, so for the cleaning or washing I just said do it once a week, not bothered about when as long as it's done. That seemed to work.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 16:23:22

To be himself? We've been together 9 years and "himself" has always been the same. My mum was chatting to his XW the other day and said she could have been talking to me. His mum says that nothing is different to him as a teenager. If the man I am leaving was the man on medication then I wouldn't be leaving.

This is the man who's put me in incredible financial dire straights, who spends his time gaming in one form or another leaving me to care for four children (because he wouldn't have the snip until I'd suffered as much as he had, you know, me disabled mum who has irritable uterus, delivers every baby earlier and a thrombophilac so can't make permanent measures or take hormones myself) two of which are disabled themselves, then there's the constant working away. I have carried a baby and a toddler four miles a day on crutches myself to do the school run. I'm honestly only telling the small clip of it. So he's clean now and has his sense of smell back which is helping him be a bit tidier in the house. He's still a gamer and still a bachelor at heart.

At the end of the day we are best friends, we live in the same house and are getting on better than we ever have but it took splitting up to do that. I'd rather my children live with parents who get on as best friends than parents who are at each other's throats and a mum being crippled to keep up.

For better or worse, eh?

confuddledDOTcom Sat 04-Jan-14 23:52:22

I forgot to say, thank you maparole thanks

if it was the other way around? I've worked hard despite my own health to keep us together,it wouldn't be the other way because I've made sure of it.

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