I was the lazy spouse. My wife’s idea of a “fun” Saturday is to rearrange the kitchen cabinets and make them more “efficient.” She is a self-confessed Type A perfectionist. She is goal-oriented, detail-conscious, and absolutely driven. She makes to-do lists, keeps detailed calendars, and if I ask her if she had a good day at work, she’ll say, “Yes, I got a lot done today.” Tasks.
Then there’s me. My idea of a fun Saturday is sleeping in and laying around talking. Then making a mess of the kitchen with a fun breakfast or brunch before we watch a couple of movies. I’m a people-person, a relationship person. I do poorly with organization, rarely make a to-do list and rarely mark anything off of it. If I’m asked if I had a good day at work, I think through conversations I had, creativity, and ideas that got kicked around. People.
If you came around my house on a Saturday, who would you think is lazy?
The main task of our first few years of marriage was figuring this out. My wife would say, “At least I get stuff done!” I would reply, “Yeah, but I’ll live longer because I’m not stressed out!”
Finally, we realized that different was not only okay, but it was complementary.
Here’s a pretty common scenario:
Let’s say both spouses work outside (or inside) the home. One spouse (according to research, usually the husband) does their work for their employer and is done working for the day. The other spouse (according to research, usually the wife) finishes her work for her employer, BUT then has a “to-do” list a mile long once she gets home including household chores, helping children with homework, caring for the baby, preparing meals, handling the finances, and finally, ending her day probably finishing work for her employer. The husband hasn’t left the couch, except maybe to come to bed and expect sex—more work the wife doesn’t want to do. (Sound familiar?)
Ugh. The wife has dropped some subtle (and not so subtle) hints that she needs help. She’s tried bottling up her frustration, nagging, blaming, shaming, making threats, even eventually just embracing the role of the “responsible spouse.”
Nothing changes. The husband is still lazy, passive, and selfish. The wife eventually loses respect for her husband. (Marriage Killer.) Bitterness builds toward her husband. (Marriage Killer.) She becomes resentful of her husband. (Marriage Killer.)
She gets tired of being “the responsible spouse” and eventually becomes what marriage therapist and author Michele Weiner-Davis, borrowing a term coined by Paul Akers, refers to as a “walkaway wife.” 66-75% of divorces are filed by women who are tired of unsatisfying marriages and oblivious husbands. And even if she doesn’t “walk away” physically, (yet) emotionally—she is gone. And that’s a dangerous place to be.
But is this as simple as lazy vs. productive? What about just being different? What about conversations about the division of labor around the house? Does this have to be a marriage killer?
Even though this is a fairly standard marital breakdown, it doesn’t have to be like this. Here’s what to do when you think your spouse is lazy:
Make sure you are dealing with true laziness. Try some different approaches to address the issue.
Hey, I hear the profanity that you just mumbled. I get it. The only exercises he’s ever done are diddly-squats. But let’s practice some empathy and try to exhaust all other explanations besides pure, unmitigated laziness. You with me?
- Has he always been like this or is it a recent development? Can you think of an “inciting incident” that maybe hit him hard and needs to be dealt with?
- Could this be pandemic-related? Stress and anxiety can make people shut down. Is it possible in the past you didn’t want help but now you need more?
- Has he screened for depression or other mental health issues?
- Does he complain that too much is being asked of him and even small requests are treated like a big huge deal? You might need a sit-down about the division of labor.
- Has he been able to maintain employment?
- Has he had a full physical? Some vitamin & mineral deficiencies leave you lethargic. He could also have some significant undiagnosed health issues.
Now, about you…
- Are you a Type A person and he’s a Type Z Z Z Z Z z z z z z z z? If you are a driven, Type A, perfectionist, overachiever, make a list and get it done kinda person, almost EVERYONE is going to look lazy by comparison. Not everyone is wired like you are. He may feel inferior or concluded there’s no pleasing you—why even try?
- What are your standards and expectations? Some men look at the honey-do list and realize that it is easier to avoid it than not do it your way and suffer the consequences.
- Let’s talk about assumptions. What roles did mom and dad play in your home growing up? What roles did they play in your husband’s family growing up? This could have taught some “norms” that need to be talked through. Communicate!
- Do you function more like his mom than his wife? Did you enable this lazy attitude? When he runs out of clean underwear, he’ll get the message.
- Does he play with the kids, drive them to practice, do anything? Do you express gratitude or appreciation for what he does?
- Do you nag, show disrespect, or contempt? These things are like kryptonite to motivate a man to do anything. Now your relationship has the potential to become adversarial. Don’t fight your spouse—fight for your marriage.
Eventually, I found out I wasn’t a lazy spouse, I just had a different perspective and priorities. We learned to balance each other and bring out the best in each other. More communication.
Listen, if you have considered, tried, and talked through all of these things, it might be time to call in the professionals. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment for marriage counseling. You might not have discovered the correct angle yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there. You got this!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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