Spouses almost never have the same exact preferences and tolerances for things at the same stage in life. Sometimes, a husband wants his wife to keep the house very clean. That may feel like an impossible task, especially if you have young children or if you work full-time. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. None of us are superwoman, even though our culture would like to say we can or should be.
Some Unproductive Approaches
It may be tempting to explain to your husband:
- All of the reasons why it is hard to keep the house clean.
- Why it doesn’t really matter to you if the house is messy or not.
- That you believe you have a greater obligation to take care of the children than to keep the house neat for him.
- That he should clean it up himself if he doesn’t like it.
- That you are not his maid.
- That he is a jerk for wanting you to do a better job with the housework.
These would all be popular ways many wives handle such a situation. Unfortunately, those approaches will only stoke conflict, resentment, and defensiveness in your husband, most likely. You also may experience a significant loss of intimacy in your marriage because of the tension.
Here’s a little peek into a husband’s perspective in a situation like this:
- Explaining why his priorities are not important to you and why things that matter to him are irrelevant to you will only make him feel upset. Maybe angry, even. Understandably.
- Showing him that he is important to you and his priorities are important to you can lead to him softening and to greater healing for the marriage.
Imagine if Jesus had asked you to keep the house tidy. How would you respond?
Different Husbands Have Different Priorities.
My husband, Greg, actually wanted me to STOP cleaning so much when I first started this journey. He said I stressed him and the kids out by trying to have everything so neat all the time. I wanted the house to always look magazine perfect and, inadvertently, made the house being clean more important than the feelings of my husband and children. It was very challenging for me to let things go and to see a lot more mess than I liked, but I was able to see that it was a blessing to my family and my husband.
God tends to do this for all of us – use our spouse to help balance us out.
The Marriage Comes First.
You have a covenant with your husband that you do not have with your children or anyone else. If the children are having a crisis and true emergency, their needs may need to come first during that moment. But in general, your husband is to be your greatest human priority and ministry by God’s design for the family. (And you are to be his greatest human priority.) He is in a position of God-given leadership in your life. God chooses to work through the people in positions of leadership in our lives, including our husbands. When we honor these people and cooperate with their leadership appropriately, we are honoring the Lord and cooperating with His leadership and His will.
When the Marriage Comes First in Godly Ways, Your Children Are Blessed
Taking good care of your marriage is one of the best ways you can take good care of your children. They need to see godly parents who have a harmonious relationship who are united, loving, and respectful to each other.
If a husband loves to have the house look neat and orderly – he is not wrong. It is difficult, with young children or a packed schedule, to have a clean house, to be sure. But…
Surely you appreciate it if he cares about things that are extremely important to you, even if they aren’t extremely important to him.
A More Productive Approach
Eventually, Greg began to ask that we have the front foyer and steps picked up when he comes home. I was so excited! He wanted something to be neat and organized! So, I began to let the kids know,
- “Daddy will be home in about 30 minutes, let’s get your stuff in your cubbies and take all of your things upstairs that are on the steps because he likes to see this area nice and clean when he comes home. This is a way we can show respect and honor to your dad.”
You can sincerely say something in a friendly way like:
- “Sure, Honey.”
- “Okay, I’d be happy to keep the house more organized. What things matter most to you so I can focus my time and energy there first?”
- “Thanks for letting me know that this would mean a lot to you. What specifically would you like me to do?”
- “Okay. If it is important to you, then it is important to me.”
Of course, there are limits to your human abilities. If you have young children, home school, or work full time, the house probably can’t be perfectly immaculate all the time. If your husband tends to be a perfectionist about the house being clean – it may be helpful to ask what his top 3 priorities are for the chores so that he can feel welcome and at peace and so that you and your children have something to work with that is actually possible to accomplish.
You may, after praying and seeking wisdom from the Lord, say something like:
- “I want to do whatever I can for you to feel welcome and relaxed here. I want to find the right balance with work, the kids, exercise, time with God, time with you, and chores. Is there anything you see I could take off my plate or adjust so that I could have an extra X minutes per day to make cleaning a bigger priority?”
- “Would you consider watching the kids on Saturdays for 2 hours so I can focus on doing some extra cleaning?”
- “I’d love to do that for you. I’ll need X amount of time per day in the afternoon. Do you have any suggestions that might help me have more time freed up so I can work on the house more before you get home?”
If you and your husband both work full-time, if your husband is home all the time and you are working full time, if you have extra challenges like ADD, or you are pregnant or chronically ill, these dynamics can be a bit more tricky.
In situations like that, a wife may prayerfully say something like:
- “I can homeschool or I can keep the house really neat.”
- “I can work full time or I can cut my hours and be available to do more homemaking.”
- “I wish I could do everything, but that is not realistic. What would you prefer for me to focus on? If you would like me to work full-time/homeschool the kids, I will need help with the chores or we may have to have different expectations about how clean the house will be.”
(Check out the comments for more suggestions.)
How This Simple Thing Can Be a BIG Win
You can choose to use this opportunity to bless your husband, to strengthen your marriage, to set a godly example for your husband, to honor him, to minister to him, and to set a godly example for your children. And they will get to learn to clean up in the process, to be responsible with their things, and learn to show respect for their parents and those in authority, as well.
It is a win!
- A win for the gospel being displayed in your marriage.
- A win for your witness to your husband (if he is not a believer or he is far from the Lord).
- A win for your husband to feel welcome and respected in his own home.
- A win for you to have the chance to minister to your husband and honor the Lord.
- A win for your children to witness a godly example in your attitude and servant’s heart.
- A win for your children to learn to clean up and show honor and respect.
- A win for you as you have a cooperative spirit that draws your husband toward you rather than repelling him with contentiousness.
If You Are Feeling Overwhelmed, Pray Before You Talk with Your Husband
Pray and let God know that you want to honor your husband’s request but you need God’s wisdom about how to do this. He can often show you a way to do things that you didn’t imagine before. God can help you:
- Find time-consuming things you can cut out of your schedule (especially time wasters like social media, surfing the internet, etc…).
- Find more efficient ways to get things done.
- Figure out how to teach your children to help with the chores so the burden is not all on you (if you have children).
- Seek His wisdom about respectfully speaking to your husband about cutting your hours at work or him helping a bit more with the kids so that you have more time to devote to taking care of the things that are priorities to him.
- Respectfully talk with your husband about ways to organize things together, organizational systems, shelves, more storage, etc… that could help make an uncluttered, neat house easier to achieve.
- Have a discussion about things that can be sold or given away to make less clutter.
- If you are both working full time and it is feasible, perhaps discuss hiring a cleaning service at times.
- Talk honestly about whether it is best for the family for you to homeschool or work full-time or if things need to change.
Seek to Have a Cooperative, Honoring Spirit
Seek to honor your husband’s request for things, whatever they may be (if they are not sinful, abusive, or illegal), simply as a gift to honor him out of reverence for the Lord. As you let your husband know that things that matter to him are important to you – he will feel infinitely more respected and loved.
Most reasonable men, when they are feeling respected and honored by their wives, feel motivated to be more loving and to serve more in the marriage. Yet, regardless of his response, do things he requests whenever possible to bless him, to bless your children, and most of all – to honor Christ as your Lord. When we do things that honor the Lord, He will reward us in heaven no matter what happens here on earth.
We’d all love to hear what things work for you in your marriage on this topic. Or what works for you to stay on top of chores. How do you find balance for all of the things you need to do? You are also welcome to share any struggles you may be having.
Respecting Our Husbands As Fathers – Part 1
Respecting Our Husbands As Fathers – Part 2
17 Tips to Ask for What You Desire Respectfully – you may need to ask for help at times, as well
Can You Overdo Respect or Submission in Marriage? (The short answer is, yes!)
I Can’t Have Needs. I Can’t Ask for Things. by Radiant
www.flylady.net – cleaning and organizing tips (I don’t personally use a particular system, some of my friends and readers like this system, though.)
For wives whose husbands are truly unreasonable and/or emotionally abusive, please check out the free resources at <a href=”http://www.leslievernick.com/free-resources/” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>www.leslievernick.com</a>