Nina Roesner wrote a post on her blog “The Respect Dare” this week that drew quite a lot of attention. It was a topic that can cause a wife’s blood to boil like almost nothing else, “Why Won’t My Man Help?”
I had never thought about the insight that her teenage sons verbalized to her this week. They said that for a man to help someone who has not asked for help is disrespectful. Hmmm… You may want to read that again. A man would take it as an insult if someone swooped in and took over and did something for him (kind of the way we moms tend to do!). BUT it is NOT disrespectful to help a man who asks for help. Nina’s sons said that men respect that other men know their limits and when another man asks for help, then it is respectful to help him. Wow.
That could explain a lot!
If I see another woman who is overwhelmed with work – I know that the loving thing to do is to roll up my sleeves and help her. That’s not an insult! That’s love! So maybe there is more to this love/respect dynamic that is causing miscommunication that we need to really examine.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER REASONS THAT HUSBANDS DON’T HELP THEIR WIVES?
This is not an exhaustive list – and I would actually really appreciate your input if you can think of other reasons that husbands don’t or won’t help with chores and child care and stuff around the house. If you are a husband, what has turned you off to helping your wife in the past? If you are a wife, what has gotten you poor results in this area? Or what has made things work better and inspired your husband to help you more?
I know there are husbands that are AWESOME at this. My husband is now! He wasn’t always that way, though (due, in large part, to my lack of respect and cluelessness in the past). I am so thankful for men who step up with a servant’s heart and go way beyond the call of duty to help their wives and lay down their own desires to take some of the load from their wives’ shoulders.
But there are also a lot of men who do not help their wives at all, or very rarely. Why is that?
- IT’S NOT AN OPEN “WINDOW” ON THEIR SCREEN – I talked to the Respected Husband about this tonight and this is what he said. Shaunti Feldhan describes in “For Women Only” and “For Men Only” that men usually have zero – one “window” open on their mind’s screen at any given time. Women have many, many screens open all the time. OH TO HAVE ONLY ONE SCREEN! Sometimes I am insanely jealous of the way God designed men’s minds and how they can think about nothing! Who knew!?!? So my husband’s point is that the dishes in the sink, the laundry piling up, the dust bunny colonies, the clutter, etc… may not be a window that ever comes up on some husbands’ screens. They aren’t being vicious about it. They just don’t see it or notice it. It’s not on their radar.
- WE DON’T ASK FOR HELP – Like Nina Roesner’s sons suggested, and like my husband suggested – whether a man considers it to be disrespectful to start helping uninvited or whether he just doesn’t notice the needs, many men don’t help because they aren’t asked.
- WHEN WE DO ASK WE ARE DISRESPECTFUL – There is a HUGE difference in a man’s mind when his wife glares at him like he is evil and growls, “I have to do EVERYTHING around here! Why don’t you EVER help me? You don’t love me at all! If you loved me you would help me with X, Y and Z! I don’t even know why I married you! If I ever want something done right around here, I have to do it MYSELF!” vs. his wife smiling and pleasantly saying, “Sweetheart, would you please run a load of whites for me? Thanks so much! You’re the BEST!” In the first scenario – he is the villain. But in the second scenario – he is the hero! I totally get that husbands should help all the time regardless of how we ask. That would be awesome. But our men are human and they respond so much better to kindness and respect than to demands, verbal attacks, character assassinations, an angry-mother tone of voice, criticisms, negativity, sarcasm, lectures and scolding.
- WHEN THEY DO HELP WE CRITICIZE THEIR EFFORTS – Sometimes our husbands DO try to help us. But if they are met with a barrage of criticisms about how they help us (you folded the underwear wrong! You loaded the dishwasher wrong! That’s not how you change the baby’s diaper!) – they are NOT going to be motivated (unless they are Spirit-filled!) to help us again. “Why help and put forth all that effort if my wife is just going to blast me about what a bad job I did? She’d be mad at me if I did nothing. And I wouldn’t have had to do anything. She is impossible to please. If she’s going to be such a perfectionist about it, she can do it herself! Why do I even try to please her?”
- THE PARTICULAR ITEM ISN’T A BIG PRIORITY FOR HIM RIGHT NOW Sometimes we’ll ask for a honey-do project to be done, and months go by and it’s not done. As wives, most of us want things done NOW. Our husbands’ time tables are different – read that “SLOWER” – than ours. Kind of reminds me of how we must wait on God’s perfect timing in life a lot, too! It’s not that they are wrong. It’s that they aren’t necessarily going to do something immediately. That has to be ok! When he is able to make it fit into his list of priorities, he will. And we can have some practice waiting and being patient. Woohoo!
- WE WON’T WAIT LONG ENOUGH – This happened in our marriage A LOT. I am not a very patient person. I’m much more patient in many ways now than I used to be, but I used to be EXTREMELY impatient. I’m a retail pharmacist. A long wait in a retail pharmacy is 15 minutes for most patients. Much longer than that and many people get REALLY ANGRY. My husband works as an engineer for the state. A RUSH project for them is something that requires an email back within 30 days. See what a time discrepancy we are dealing with here? So I used to ask my husband to do things. I would wait about 2 minutes and he was still sitting in his chair watching tv. So I would assume he wasn’t going to help me and I would do it myself. That would really make him upset. He actually did plan to do what I asked him to do, but I was too impatient to give him a chance. So I took on more and more of the load and got much more stressed, overwhelmed, negative, critical and irritable. Not good. If I had just let the thing sit with him, he would have handled it eventually – but on his time schedule not mine.
- THEY THINK WE’VE GOT IT UNDER CONTROL – If you really DO NOT have things under control – there are times when we are extremely stressed, sick, in pain, overloaded that we might truly need to just say something like, “I can’t.” “I can’t take care of the laundry today.” “I can’t handle the finances anymore. It’s too much for me. Here are the passwords.” “I can’t handle the kids anymore tonight. I’m going to bed.” BUT if you do this, I would strongly suggest that you stick with that you can’t do it. Don’t get up in 5 minutes and do it. Just let it go. If you are truly depleted, here’s an idea-you can just say you can’t with no explanation and leave it. It may take a long time – but eventually he will pick it up. This is how I transferred the finances to my husband. He’s done a beautiful job! But I don’t check behind him, make sure he’s doing it “right” – I just trust him with it. If you say you can’t – the key is to go take care of your emotional/mental/physical health needs and let him handle the situation (unless there is imminent danger for the children or something!) If he knows you’ll do it if he waits long enough, he may not do it. You have to follow through with the “I can’t” thing or it doesn’t work! But when you are truly in a bind – most husbands are good willed and will help you if you give them a chance.
- HE MAY BE HELPING YOU – BUT IN WAYS THAT YOU DON’T COUNT. He may be going to work every day to provide for the family (something that scores BIG points on most men’s scoring system) but some wives don’t count that especially if they work, too. He is still making a HUGE contribution that is worthy of appreciation whether you work or not! Or he may wash your car or cut the grass or change the oil – these things need to count, too!
- YOU MAY BE UNGRATEFUL OR AN UNGRACIOUS RECEIVER – if your husband finds that he does things and you don’t appreciate it, he may decide it’s not worth doing. That’s why I try to say a very gracious “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” with a huge smile any time I see my husband do ANYTHING! Then he knows he is appreciated and he’ll want to go that route again!
- GOD MADE WIVES TO BE HELPMEETS FOR THEIR HUSBANDS – He created us FOR them, not the other way around. God created us way before feminism and our brains are made by His design to be uniquely male and female regardless of the feminist message that we “should” split housework 50/50. Check out Genesis 2!
I asked my husband to help, and he did, but he complained the whole time.
If you have just started working on showing respect for your husband and you have been controlling and micromanaging, irritable, stressed out, anxious, bossy, etc… then give your man some grace when you do start asking for help. It’s hard for you to ask for help. You don’t like asking for help. You feel guilty asking.
And it’s hard for your man to know exactly what to do. It’s unfamiliar territory if he hasn’t been helping out much. He may not be comfortable – and he may be afraid that you are going to rake him over the coals if he doesn’t do things exactly the way you want. That is scary for him. His favorite thing in the world is to delight you! Really! He LOVES your smile, approval, praise and affirmation! He would probably do almost anything to get a reward like that from you! And his LEAST favorite thing in the world is your condemnation, verbal attacks, scolding and contempt. He would do anything to avoid that!
So what if you ask for help (respectfully) and he helps but is mumbling about that he doesn’t know what to do or what an aggravation it is that he has to do this for you or how he doesn’t have time? Here’s what I have seen work:
- IGNORE THE NEGATIVE WORDS.
- CONCENTRATE ON HIS POSITIVE ACTIONS! (A man’s actions show his true heart much more than his words! Words do not weigh nearly as much as action to most men!)
- THANK HIM FOR ANYTHING HE DOES RIGHT!
- DO NOT MENTION WHAT HE DOES WRONG (unless it is a safety thing or something absolutely critical to survival!!).
- WHEN HE IS DONE – THANK HIM AGAIN and you may try saying something like, “Wow! You really helped me out by doing that! THANK YOU! How can I ever repay you?” or “You are my hero! Thanks for being my big, strong, man!” or “Thanks for taking such a load off my shoulders today. I REALLY appreciate all that you did.” Even if he complained while he was helping you, even if he didn’t do things exactly right – THANK HIM! Your praise and appreciation will make him feel like your hero. Your smile will make him see it IS actually possible to please you – and it could be worth trying to please you again!
You will both get better at this!!!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments – husbands and wives!