Q. My husband assumes that I will do all the housework. That was fine when he was working, but now he is retired and his only "job" is playing golf and paying the bills.
Our relationship is the same as when he was working full-time.
Once in a while he will "help out" if I ask, but mostly everything, laundry, putting dishes away, cooking, changing the sheets, is up to me to notice and complete. I would like his help, but I don't want to be a nag. What should I do?
A. It is time to renegotiate the contract of your partnership. As you mentioned, the old contract may have worked fine for the two of you when he worked full-time, but now your free time is equally available to take on the obligations of housework.
When he leaves the work to you, he is sending a message that you are in a one down position of housekeeper and this is not an equal partnership.
This may leave you feeling resentful and angry, which you may take out on him, so he ends up being less than happy. If you put it to him so he sees some benefit to himself for helping, such as you will be a happier more appreciative wife, then he may be more willing to join up with you.
Some men find it difficult to take on an equal partnership at home, because they were raised seeing their fathers rarely participate in housekeeping tasks and believe it is less than masculine to do so.
These beliefs from the past are sometimes quite difficult to challenge, but not impossible. Try to find couples who have a cooperative marriage and introduce him to their style of relating.
In helping around the house, it is important not to micromanage him, so allow him to take on tasks and then leave him alone to find his own way of doing it.
In addition, you can make it couples time to clean together. Put on some music and make it a joint activity in which you both can be proud of the final results.
If he absolutely refuses to help, you can assign him "chores" that just affect his royal highness if they aren't accomplished, such as doing his own laundry. If he doesn't do his laundry, it doesn't get done. Perhaps he will be guided by necessity. Try this as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (561) 694- 6703. Her Web site is