A couple of years ago, a study came out that I’m sure didn’t come as a shock to many married moms. To put it simply, the study found that single mothers did less housework and spent more time on leisure and sleeping than married mothers. The results seemed counterintuitive. How could a household with just one parent provide more alone time, less housework, and more opportunities for rest than a two-parent household?
While researchers couldn’t specifically speak to the exact cause of the disconnect, I’ve always had my theories. One of them being that stereotypical gender roles have convinced many women that it is their duty to do more work in the home while simultaneously convincing some men that they’re only required to do the bare minimum because “housework is a woman’s job.” My other theory is that many of these hubbies are more “woke” than they let on; however, the convenience of being a male living in a patriarchal society leaves them unmotivated to step up their game because why should they? Thus they remain in their complacency, which many women with live-in partners have dubbed, “lazy husband syndrome.”
The name is self-explanatory and describes men who were once self-sufficient yet suddenly forget how to clean up after themselves, cook, or do anything chore-related once the marriage certificate is signed by the officiant. If left unchecked, it can become a major source of conflict and frustration within a marriage, leaving women feeling disenchanted and resentful. So, is there a “cure” for lazy husband syndrome? The answer is yes, sort of.
“As a psychologist and self-help author, I often receive desperate pleas from mothers wanting to know how to get their husbands to be more involved with the housework and children,” shared Dr. Joshua Coleman, in his book, The Lazy Husband. “Some women are on the verge of divorce, while others are still struggling to comprehend why her partner acts like a 50’s-style uninvolved guy when he promised to share 50 percent of the parenting and housework before the children came on the scene.”
To initiate the process, it’s going to take some reprogramming for both parties, Coleman added. “I believe that the onus is on men to do the changing,” he wrote. “However, I don’t think they’re going to be in any rush because the current system works so well for them.”
Here’s where to begin:
Rethink your role and stop doing the most
If your spouse is going to step up to reclaim responsibility for some of the domestic duties in your household, you’re going to have to fall back and let them. This can be difficult to do, especially when you’ve grown accustomed to carrying the load alone and have little hope that things will change. However, you won’t know until you try. For some households, this may mean allowing things to get a little messy or simply setting some boundaries for what you will and will not do.
It’s extremely frustrating to think that you should have to tell an adult to things that you know damn well they should be doing, but telling a lazy spouse what do will always trump doing it yourself while silently allowing resentment to compile.
“You may just feel like your partner should naturally know that he needs to do more. You may wonder, ‘How does he not know that this is not equal?’” Dr. Keisha Downey told MadameNoire. “And because we can’t assume or read minds, the relationship starts to break down. However, if you know how to recognize when something is off, that’s when the repair can begin. You have to see what’s going on. Some people have blinders on and they want to stay in their feelings and they assume the other person should get it.”
When you’re at your wit’s end with a lazy spouse, the last thing you want to do is be affectionate. However, in an episode of ABC’s “20/20,” Coleman explained that simple affectionate gestures could help the marriage in a few ways.
“It makes each person feel like, ‘OK, we’re in this together. We care about each other,” Coleman said. “What most guys don’t realize is that if they made a little bit of change in the direction that their wives are asking them to make, their marriages would be so much better,” adding that “Men who do more housework are associated with wives who want to have more sex.”
A little appreciation can go a long way when it comes to implementing change in a household. Firstly, by showing appreciation for the things your spouse actually does. A simple “Thank you for taking out the trash” costs nothing but can go a long way. Secondly, by offering praise when they step up to reclaim some of the domestic load. Saying “Dinner was really great tonight. Thanks for cooking,” can feel unnatural and even annoying to say when you feel like it’s something that he should have been doing in the first place. However, comments as simple as this one can help to serve as positive reinforcement, which can be helpful in encouraging and motivating the desired behavior.