Family Matters: Too much of a good thing

Conflict resolution expert Shimrit Nothman offers advice to a wife whose husband took the hint, started helping around the house.

Cleaning 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Cleaning 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Tanya asks: “I made a huge mistake. I sat my husband down for a long conversation and explained why I want him to give more help around the house. The problem is- he actually listened. Now, it seems I can see his "footprints" everywhere. He makes dinner, but leaves the kitchen in a terrible mess. It ends up taking me longer to clean after his mess, than it would have taken me to prepare dinner and clean by myself. He folds the laundry, but often puts the items in the wrong drawers. Again, I have to invest time and energy in locating the baby’s socks which found their way somehow to our oldest son show section.
What should I do? I was very annoyed when he didn’t do much around the house and I’m going nuts now that he does. I don’t want him to get discouraged but I can’t hold off my frustration for much longer.
Tanya’s problem is no-doubt many women’s ideal situation. You talk to your husband, wishing he might "fix" his behaviour, and surprisingly - he does. Unfortunately, the celebrations don’t last long and you find out this new and improved husband of yours, has just made your life more difficult.
If Tanya chooses to risk it and go for another pep talk with her husband, what might the results of such conversation be?
Back to point zero
You might not be enjoying the new changes in your husband, but he on the other hand might be feeling really good about it. “At last”, he thinks to himself, “I understand what makes my dear wife happy.”
Telling him he’s doing it wrong now may just result in taking the wind from his sails. Your husband may get confused or worse - annoyed. He thought he was doing exactly what you asked for, but now realizes you’re still not happy with him. He might think to himself that there is no point in bothering if at any case you end up upset with him, maybe he ought to go back to doing nothing.
Show him how it’s done
When you find some alone time with him, show him your favorite clothes-folding technique and ask him if he wants a short lesson about how it’s done. In the kitchen, you can explain the wonders of cleaning and washing while cooking. This might actually work since your husband seemed to be responding positively to your requests so far. On the other hand, your husband might like cooking with a mess (i.e. hates washing up) and folding the way he does it. Your requests may take out all the fun from these repetitive house chores for him. You may have to face a dilemma- Let him do it his way or do it yourself.
Don’t open up Pandora’s box
It’s amazing how it’s always men who can’t do anything right. Us women are so intelligent and so intuitive, or so we believe anyway. The fact that your husband never before commented on the way you do things around the house may be due to the fact you are perfect in everything you do, but may also be due to some other reasons. One reason could be, that he does prefer you do it yourself, even if you do it your way. Starting a conversation that focuses the blame on his lack of performance may trigger an unwanted discussion about your notions of a clean floor or your shopping habits. This might be a path worth not taking.
Back to life - back to reality
Perhaps it is best to focus on the positives. So maybe you’ll have to develop your sixth sense for finding missing clothes and you may also consider getting new kitchen appliances that can go in the dishwasher. At least now you can hold your head up high when you go to coffee with the girls. You are no longer the odd one out complaining about your husband slacking off. You are now officially one of the gang- just like the rest of your friends you suffer now from too much "good will" around the house.
Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at
This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.