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To feel frustrated and powerless about this situation - housework related.

(26 Posts)
Marzipanface Thu 15-Nov-12 10:42:36

My DH is lovely. The kindest, hardworking, sweetest, funniest man and so on... I really have no complaints apart from one.

He is so so messy and untidy. We have been together for 13 years and although he has improved somewhat, he still has lapses where he basically is a bit of a pig. If I ask him to clean something up, he will usually do it but often I have to ask him at least 2/3 times.

The other deeper issue is when he was a child he was quite severely mistreated and abused by both parents. He sees neither and has had a lot of medication and soul searching to get over this. Amazingly he is one of the most well-adjusted and balanced people I know. However, he does have this habit of reacting badly to confrontation or anger, particularly from me.

So, for example if I ask him to empty the bin because I have joint problems and I am pregnant and frankly the bin makes me fucking nauseous, I HAVE to ask him at least three times. After that I start to lose the plot and get angry and raise voice. He then reacts in his typical fashion which is to get very quietly upset and go upstairs and hide. He will do this either before or after he has emptied the bin. The upshot is, I end up apologising to him or it turns into a massive row, which he says he is trying to avoid by essentially hiding.

It's hard to explain...

This morning I have gone down to the kitchen to discover the remains of his breakfast, complete with coffee grounds and sticky spoons lying all over the small work surface we have. He fed our DD last night as I was knackered and catching up on some much needed sleep and clearly she dropped most of the food on the kitchen floor. It is still there. Hardened. Despite me asking him 2 days ago, the bastard kitchen bin is still overflowing.

I am so pissed off with all of this. It is like I am his skivvy. He doesn't do this all the time so when it does happen it drives me up the wall. I know if I tackle it with him, he will say sorry and will withdraw and disappear. Again I will be left feeling 'unreasonable' for being angry. I don't scream at him or anything, just am obviously upset.

Recently a family member of his told me that his mother used to scream at him for being untidy and would mistreat him horribly for the slightest mess. I wasn't aware of this but it goes someway towards explaining his odd reaction to being asked to do something. Stupid things is, he will quite randomly pull his weight. He will happily clean kitchen, load dishwasher etc and helps me in the evening after dinner to clean up.

I don't know how to tackle this with him. I am so pissed off with the levels of mess this morning yet I know the inevitable outcome of me talking to him. I will get frustrated and he will 'hide' and the whole evening will be a washout.

Any ideas on an approach?

ClippedPhoenix Thu 15-Nov-12 10:49:02

That was then though wasn't it and this is now. When he skulks off I'd leave him to sulk, stop babying him. He seems to have manipulated some sort of mum/child pattern.

Marzipanface Thu 15-Nov-12 10:52:02

Maybe. I'm obviously not dealing with this in the right way

CailinDana Thu 15-Nov-12 10:55:06

It sounds from what you say that he has genuine, deep-seated issues surrounding tidiness coming from his childhood. In your shoes I would sit him down and say that you understand his problems totally but that they're impacting on your marriage and for his sake and the sake of the relationship that you would like him to get some proper help, through counselling, to deal with his issues. I really feel for him - it sounds like he has ingrained fear reaction to being asked to tidy up and that any negative reaction on your part leads to even greater fear. That's very sad for him, but equally you shouldn't have to put up with it. It's something he needs to deal with.

My DH had a "sulky teenager" reaction to being asked to do anything. Nothing as serious as your DH, but an ingrained reaction nonetheless that came from a feeling that if I asked him to do something it was because I was annoyed. I wasn't, I just wanted him to do something. I had a serious chat with him and told him that from then on I would not accept the sulky teenager response - it was nasty and unnecessary. He understood, and though it took him a while he reined it in massively. Now I can go so far as to poke fun at him about his untidyness and he takes it in good grace, which he would never have done before, because he knows that while it might annoy me it's not the end of the world and he doesn't have to be defensive. It sounds like you DH needs more than a talking to though.

How do you think he would react to the suggestion of counselling?

brainonastick Thu 15-Nov-12 10:58:41

Can you get past the emotional part of this by having a chart/rota on the wall, which you jointly decide on. Then he can see what jobs need doing and which he has responsibility for (e.g. who cleans the floor after feeding the children). You then don't have to shout at him, he just has to take responsibility for checking the chart. If he will happily do the jobs in his own time anyway, then this approach might get round the bit that triggers the reactions based on his past?

Merrylegs Thu 15-Nov-12 11:01:42

Hmm. Well. I do sympathise.

BUT you say 'he will (randomly) clean the kitchen. load the dishwasher' etc. SO he does do stuff.

Why not think of it as jobs that just have to be done? So you wiped the surfaces one time. He emptied the dishwasher one time.

So sometimes you might do more, but perhaps he sometimes might do more in another way? ie not housework?

Jobs that you really struggle with (eg bin) perhaps say something like 'ugh the bin stinks. Do you want to empty it while I load the dishwasher?' Rather than telling him, approach it in a kind of an 'I'll do that you do this?' way.

Might work? (Might drive you mad!)

mumsfretter Thu 15-Nov-12 11:05:09

I would get him to take ownership over a few things. People like rules in general and it becomes habit. So it might be that every Monday and Thursday he has to empty the bin and so forth.

If you are always the one asking he'll never take responsibility.

maddening Thu 15-Nov-12 11:05:09

If he knows he does this can he offer any suggestions on to how to tackle it?

SlightlySuperiorPeasant Thu 15-Nov-12 11:10:01

Put your post in an email and send it to him.

EuroShagmore Thu 15-Nov-12 11:10:25

Can you sit him down calmy and talk about this with no raised voices? Explain (again) that the bin makes you feel nauseaous. That his deciding not to clean up food when fresh from the kitchen floor when it would have been easy means that you in your pregnant condition have to get down on your hands and knees and scrub it. Basically just ask him to think about the consequencs of his actions without getting angry.

HeathRobinson Thu 15-Nov-12 11:18:48

On a practical level, can you get a smaller bin and empty it daily?

I have a small inside the cupboard door bin. It's emptied every day and it never smells.

AlmostAHipster Thu 15-Nov-12 11:19:44


If he's perfect for you in every other way, I think you should stop yelling at him for being untidy sometimes. You're not his mum so stop acting like it, especially as he was abused as a child.

He obviously does do housework and childcare so let him get on with it and don't stress about something not being done precisely when you want it done. Nagging will make most people dig their heels in - if you shouted at me to do something, you'd get short shrift.

glasscompletelybroken Thu 15-Nov-12 11:24:19

This is really hard. We all have "issues" to some extent - from childhood or previous relationships. I have big issues around lateness (childhood related) and am quite obsessed with working out timings for everything so we are not late. It drives my DH mad and causes disagreements and I do try to keep it to myself but it does have an impact. I do expect him to understand though that I am not doing it just to annoy him and have genuine anxieties about it.

It sounds as though you are sympathetic but have reached your limit with this. The obvious thing to say to him is that if he doesn't want you to keep asking him and then get annoyed he could just do it when you first ask but I am guessing that part of the problem for him is that he is being asked and that makes him uncomfortable based on his childhood experience.

On that basis I agree with mumsfretter that it might be better to just pick the things that are most important to you and sit him down and say you would like these tasks to be "his" from now on. Tell him you know he doesn't like being asked and that on your part you will try not to ask him to do other things and will accept (as Merrylegs said) that sometimes he will do a lot and sometimes not so much, but that he does have to commit to doing the tasks that are specifically "his" when they need doing. (You may have to have set dates to ensure this happens).

zlist Thu 15-Nov-12 11:51:28

My DH hasn't got any of the childhood issues but I can see a lot of similarities with the housework tasks.
I've found what works for me (I have flown into many rages over DH and the housework) is to try very hard not to ask him to do anything at all directly. Like your DH he did do simple tasks without being prompted but not on an timescale, frequency or to a standard that I felt was acceptable! I now concentrate more on my behaviour and trying to be as consistent with achieving the level 1 tasks asap in the house (emptying bin 1-2 times a day, dealing with dishes, putting things away, wiping kitchen surface and table, dealing with laundry daily). DH knows I have a system where I try to make these things an absolute priorty to get done before I start anything else (inc having a coffee/doing out/doing deeper housework/doing any work I bring home) now. He knows that if he has left stuff out I will tidy it as soon as I see it/do any dishes he has left/empty the bin when I come in from work before even taking my coat off.
He also overhears me telling DS how important it is to keep on top of things and how everyone needs to work together to ensure these things are done (DS
has certain level 1 tasks that he needs to do as soon as they need doing inc sorting his laundry) and our home is kept nice for us all to share.
Anyway, DH now does all of these things pretty much consistently and I very rarely come home to an over-flowing bin or his breakfast dishes (he is based from home so often works here).
As for housework beyond that I do it all (as I only work about 30 hrs a week and DH works 50+).

Fecklessdizzy Thu 15-Nov-12 11:56:54

Bloody Hell! I could have writen your post OP! No answers but lots of sympathy and I'll be watching to see what everyone else comes up with ...

strumpetpumpkin Thu 15-Nov-12 11:57:42

can you get a cleaner?

Im the messy one in this house sad

PomBearWithAnOFRS Thu 15-Nov-12 12:28:02

Would it help if you make a dirty great poster with all the household tasks on it and stick stickers on it, one colour for you and one colour for him, or weekly/fortnightly/monthly jobs maybe? That takes all the confrontation (real or imaginary) out of the whole thing, and he can go and just look and see what needs doing, and so can you. Once you've got a routine going he can just do whatever it is in his own way without needing to be "nagged" or even have it mentioned at all. It sounds like there's more to it for him than just "not getting off his arse" and it must be upsetting for you both to argue about it pointlessly confused

Marzipanface Thu 15-Nov-12 13:26:53

Thanks everyone.

I think at some point I have tried most of your suggestions but eventually they dry up and stop. I think I need to start them again. The bin is his responsibility. I don't 'yell' but I do have an angry voice. Yelling is something my DH doesn't tolerate at all. Probably didn't make myself clear.

I despair of how many years we have had the following row.

Me: Can you empty the bin please
Him: Why are being moody?
Me: Er, I'm not. I would like you to empty the bin please
Him: You are being moody, I don't care what you say. I can hear it in your voice.
[walks off without emptying the bin to sulk and hide in his office]

Either WW3 erupts and I am accused of being moody and horrid or he basically hides until such time he feels I am in a better mood.

It started to get to the point where I got anxious about asking him to do anything in the house because I could see pattern coming. Now I am in possession of more facts regarding his childhood, I understand that often he 'sees' moodiness or anger where it doesn't exist. So I apologise and explain I am not moody at all, I just want him to empty the (fucking) bin.

It just gets so tiresome sometimes.

And yes, he does pitch in voluntarily, not as much as me, and if we have LOADS to do, we have worked out the best thing to do is for me to write a list and give it to him. However this morning wasn't a 'list' situation.

He works full time and I am a SAHM so yes I expect to do the bulk of the housework and I do.

Marzipanface Thu 15-Nov-12 13:39:18

You're not his mum so stop acting like it, especially as he was abused as a child.

I most certainly do not act like his Mum.

DontmindifIdo Thu 15-Nov-12 13:51:17

I would discuss in advance that you do'nt like the atmosphere, not when something needs to be done. Tell him you dread asking him to do anything because he often reacts badly and ask him how he'd like you to ask when things need doing that won't bring up bad memories or lead to him sulking in his room (and point out that he does this, he might not realise you see it as sulking, he could just see it as him removing himself from a situation he finds stressful, he might be surprised other people would see it as sulking)

Also, when he's sulking, don't go and apologise and have a row, ignore him. Don't reference it at all. (Unless he's still not done what you want him to do, then give it 30 minutes, and just pop your head round the door with a cheery "just a reminder, bin still needs ot be emptied." then walk away again before he can react)

AlmostAHipster Thu 15-Nov-12 14:42:14

I start to lose the plot and get angry and raise voice.

Sorry if I misinterpreted your sentence here. It just sounds like me if my kids don't do as they're told.

If you're asking him to do something in a reasonable manner and he kicks off, then that's a different story and I'd second what DontmindifIdo says.

HeathRobinson Thu 15-Nov-12 16:16:16

You could try whispering about the bin to him!
There's no way he can interpret that as angry.

brainonastick Thu 15-Nov-12 16:16:24

In which case I think he needs to come up with the solution himself. He sounds like a reasonable man, what does he suggest?

Marzipanface Thu 15-Nov-12 17:01:00

Well, I mean I don't yell like a fishwife, but definitely an angry tone to my voice.

Whispering might work smile

TheProvincialLady Thu 15-Nov-12 17:15:42

You don't have to do all the housework or never remind him that he needs to do something that is his responsibility and which he hasn't done, just because he was abused as a child. Don't take that from him, and don't take that bollocks from any posters who claim you should. If your husband has a bad reaction to being asked to do something, or to a slightly annoyed tone of voice in a situation where it is reasonable for that to happen, that is something HE needs to deal with. Whether by counselling, or whatever. HE needs to do that. Not you pussy footing around him or compensating by doing all the housework. Does he react like that to being told what to do at work? I doubt it!

You can be understanding and help him through it, but it's not going to be good for your marriage to treat him with kid gloves. He is behaving badly and he needs to stop, and having been abused as a child does not make it ok to not put the bin out and then be passive aggressive about it and storm off. It's his issue, he needs to sort it, whatever the cause. Otherwise all of us who have been abused in childhood would need a skivvy to pick up after them, and frankly there just aren't enough women to go round.

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