Dear Is This Normal,
I just read your “Leveling the Playing Field” reply, and I have to ask: what if I talk to my husband about redistributing family duties and he’s NOT on board? What if he’s happy with the imbalance in his favor? What’s next? I’m done trying to have calm, rational conversations about how this inequality is breaking me. I’m this close to calling a divorce lawyer just so I can get a couple days off a week.
Running Out of Options
Dear Running Out of Options,
Oooooof, I feel you. Running out of options and probably also all out of patience! I completely understand your frustrations, and those frustrations are 100% valid. When you take the initiative to talk to your partner about things that you are not happy with, and those concerns are minimized or ignored? It can feel like you’re being gaslighted and that your needs and wants are not a priority. And that is not OK.
Because it’s not about the chores, is it? Not really. You haven’t been pushed to the brink because your partner won’t do the dishes or laundry. No, it’s about something much deeper than that: it’s about equal distribution of emotional labor, and the burden of inequality within the home. It’s about respecting YOUR contributions to the household, and valuing your work and worth. If your husband’s boss came to him and said, “Hey, just wanted to let you know that some of your coworkers are carrying more than their fair share, and it’s time you stepped up and took on some of that work,” would his response be the same? Would he tell his boss, “Eh, I’m good with how things are, I don’t think I’m on board with that”? I’m going to go out on a limb and say…no. No, he would not. Maintaining a household is work, parenting is work. And balancing parenting and household duties is part of the job description.
So what’s next? Counseling. Couples counseling, and ASAP. By refusing to acknowledge your attempts to level the playing field, your husband is refusing to acknowledge the emotional burden you are under. And that signals (to me) a greater problem than who does which chores. OF COURSE he’s happy with how things are working—they are working entirely in his favor! And the fact that he is unwilling to change that tells me that your mental and emotional health are not as important to him as his needs.
This is not your house (singular), this is YOUR house (plural). These are not your kids (singular), they are YOUR kids (plural). Balancing parenting and the work that goes into making this life work in a way that benefits everyone is crucial. And if he’s not willing to make changes for your benefit, there is some deeper stuff that needs to be unpacked in this relationship. I am such a huge proponent of therapy, and I urge you to find a therapist for yourself and one for you and your husband to see together.. Oftentimes, therapists are able to bring the perspective of both partners to light in a way that can be difficult to do on your own. These types of conversations are riddled with emotions that can be difficult to channel and navigate without a third party involved. At this point, I think you’ve reached the breaking point and professional help is very much needed here.
If he’s not willing to do counseling? Sit him down and ask what he IS willing to do. See if there is a workable compromise that you can come to, something that takes some of the emotional labor off your plate and spreads it around more equitably. Maybe he doesn’t like certain household duties but is open to others! Maybe he is having a hard time balancing his parent time with his career time, and you both need to work on a scheduled solution. Does he seem at all open to coming up with something, ANYTHING, to address this chasm in your marriage? If so, this should be the jumping off point.
And if he doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to bend in any way? Well…I’m sorry to say, but sometimes scorched earth is the last viable option. Of course, only YOU know what is right for you and your family, and if there comes a point in time that you need to walk away, you should feel empowered to do so. “But ITN, should I really be willing to walk away over chores?” No, because remember: IT. IS. NOT. ABOUT. THE. CHORES. That is the surface, but if you dig a little, what’s boiling underneath are the real issues. His reluctance or flat-out refusal to change the status quo in order to improve your mental and emotional health and quality of life is the problem. You are not feeling supported or valued in this relationship as it currently stands. And at some point, you have to ask yourself: what is my line in the sand? If equity among household and familial responsibilities is something that your partner struggles with, consider for a moment what their reaction would be to the big stuff.
Your happiness and mental health are important, mama. They deserve to be a priority. YOU deserve to be a priority. I’m pulling for you, and for anyone out there who is breaking under the weight of this burden.
It’s Time to Catch Your Breath,
Is This Normal