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My wife contributes very little to our relationship

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Question - (23 January 2011) 17 Answers - (Newest, 24 January 2011)
A male United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

My wife and I have been married for two years and I'm worried about our future because she contributes very little to our relationship. I bring in 100% of the money (I'm putting her through college), but in return she doesn't clean, cook, take care of the dog that she brought into our relationship, take care of herself physically (she's gained over 20lbs since our wedding) or really take care of me (I have severe back-pain from my work and I have a hard time doing a lot of the chores that are now my responsibility.) She keeps telling me she'll do things like the laundry or cook me dinner, but she never does, and makes me feel guilty if I bring up my disappointment. What should I do? I feel I'm being taken advantage of, but if I mention anything it feeds into her low self-esteem and motivates her to do even less. I don't want a divorce but I'm worried that it's inevitable.

View related questions: divorce, money, wedding

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A female reader, angelDlite United Kingdom +, writes (24 January 2011):

angelDlite agony auntdo you think then in that case it might be a good idea to draw up a list of house hold chores and a cooking rota, with her agreement and stick to it? if there is something down on paper it might help you both stay a bit more organised, it sounds at the moment as if there is no organisation and she is leaving things knowing that you will end up doing them. CAN she cook? if not, teach her and give her positive feedback about the food she cooks, this will give her confidence


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A male reader, anonymous, writes (24 January 2011):

Okay to answer the common themes I should note the following:

a. I don't mind doing much of the housework if she regularly did ANY of the housework. I don't care about 'gender' roles in a relationship so long as we have clean clothes and food to eat. I don't expect her to do all the laundry/cooking/cleaning with her school schedule. I expect her to do SOME of it.

b. Before marriage she always had a hard time getting/staying motivated, but I have a similar problem and it wasn't interfering with her life then.

c. I am far from a perfectionist. I actually thrive in a messy place, but it's gotten kind of ridiculous.

d. She has been depressed for some friendship issues, but she regularly gets good grades and has been seeing the school psychiatrist.

e. We don't have kids. I'm actually worried about what will happen when/if we make that decision.

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A male reader, faenon Australia +, writes (23 January 2011):

faenon agony auntActually Youwish you'd be suprised how many lazy women are out there myself was married to a Greek woman of all things who couldn't cook and wouldn't clean or do laundry and we have two girls together while I was constantly on 12hr shifts yet she found enough time to gamble our earnings and sleep around go figure huh. anyway thats offtopic..

OP if she was like this before being married she was never wife material regardless of how good she was in bed. If on the other hand this is something that has crept up since studying then it may well be depression or stress from college have a calm word with her find out the problem is if its only something thats crept up recently.

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A female reader, YouWish United States + , writes (23 January 2011):

YouWish agony auntWhat was she like before you were married? Do you have children? When you were dating, how did she live? If she was on her own, was her house done, her own laundry/dishes done, and I assume she took care of her dog prior to meeting you?

There is something missing in this story. A self-sufficient, independent woman doesn't just all of a sudden shut down and do nothing after getting married. It's a symptom of something else happening.

Instead of turning the marriage into "I do this, you do this.", find out the cause of her shutdown. AngelDlite has a possible idea in depression, because like I said - a woman doesn't just go from self-sufficient to "lazy" after marriage. The weight gain is telling in that area.

Are you a perfectionist? Is how she handles things not good enough for you? Do you compare what she does to what your mom/ex/girlfriend always did? Do you compare her to what you see other wives do for their husbands either inwardly or externally?

As for the "putting her through college", no, you're not. You two are married, and as such, she is performing her duty for the good of the marriage. College is an investment for a better financial future. You both made that decision together looking towards your future together.

You never mentioned whether or not you have kids. If you do, that in itself is a massive amount of work and responsibility.

List all the chores that need being done and decide how they'll be done together. If she is in college, that *is* a job that benefits the family, and she *is* contributing to your relationship by going.

You will erode your marriage if you reduce it to "I do all this and she does nothing". Chores and housework are a minor part unless you let resentment over them build. Find a mutual solution to work them out. Why is she supposed to cook all the food and do all the laundry and clean the house just because you make all the money?

What about when she graduates college? Is she majoring in Housewife? No. You own your half of the decision to invest in your family's future. How are your wife's grades? Is she doing her homework and studying and going to classes? That is work.

Divide the housework evenly among each other. List tasks you will do and she will do. Give her preference and don't make her feel like she owes you services because for now, you're bringing in the paycheck.

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A female reader, The_truth_hurts_OK United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

I was in the same situation, but reversed. Ive had been raised that women don't need to stoop to doing domestic work - that men try to make us slaves. I felt that doing house-work would make me less equal to a man. But I realized that my husband was working all the time, doing the cooking & cleaning, and I was doing hardly anything! Now I know that it doesn't matter if you go to work or stay home to work - everyone needs to do their part. I think your wife might be having the same problem I was having. You might have to let her know how much this is hurting you. Good luck :)

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A female reader, The_truth_hurts_OK United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

I was in the same situation, but reversed. Ive had been raised that women don't need to stoop to doing domestic work - that men try to make us slaves. I felt that doing house-work would make me less equal to a man. But I realized that my husband was working all the time, doing the cooking & cleaning, and I was doing hardly anything! Now I know that it doesn't matter if you go to work or stay home to work - everyone needs to do their part. I think your wife might be having the same problem I was having. You might have to let her know how much this is hurting you. Good luck :)

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2011):

Sit her down and tell her you want a divorce not because you don't love her but you feel as though she is no longer putting effort. If that doesn't put her in action then find someone else that appreciates what you do and gives in return

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A male reader, RayBones United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

RayBones agony auntI agree that it sounds like deep depression. Need to get to the bottom of that.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2011):

I don't think it's fair to expect her to do all of this because you're putting her through college. If your marriage was based on her meeting all of these needs due to this, something is wrong.

It would be easier for her to get a loan than to have to do all of the above.

I do think having a discussion about it and seeing if she is depressed and feeling overwhelmed by everything is a good idea. She may feel that college, and a new marriage along with all of the new demands is too much for her at the moment. You should both take care of household things together and for the dog. I don't feel this should be all on her. And maybe she does feel she is disappointing you and she is not happy.

If you have severe back pain due to work, you might want to look for another career if you can. At the least you should seek medical treatment for it if you haven't and try to get help with the things that aggravate it.

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A female reader, AuntyMaur Australia +, writes (23 January 2011):

AuntyMaur agony auntHi, I am wondering if she is mentally exhausted feeling burnt out, this can cause a physical break down.

Like the other aunt said perhaps take her out for dinner or go for a walk in a park anywhere where it is non threatning and ask her how she is truly feeling about everything. Also mention how disappointed your feeling that the house chores are not being shared.

Commuication and honesty is required here to be able to move forward.

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A female reader, OhGetReal United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

OhGetReal agony auntGaining 10 pounds a year in two years at her age is a real red flag that something is going on, unless you are exagerating the weight gain, that is a lot of weight.

She may be in fact depressed and doesn't have the energy to do her chores and perhaps she does feel guilty that she isn't contributing financially, but let me ask you...why are you working in a manual labor job and putting her through school? What is she an attorney, a doctor, what?

I am always rather suspicious of these types of people who use their partner or spouse to fund their education, these people often are simply users and simply will use you as a stepping stone, when they get the job their education provides for them, they no longer have a use for you and you are left behind.

But, that is my suspicion and I don't know either of you. Sit down with her and have a heart to heart, have her make an appointment with a doctor for a complete physical and discuss with the doctor her rapid weight gain and any other symptoms of depression she may be having.

School can be stressful, but that's no excuse, she's young, if she has goals she'll take care of herself. If she simply doesn't have time for her chores due to her coursework, you may have to be content with a messy house and take out. Most students live in university houseing or sorority houses where those duties are taken care of for them so they can go to class and study, and of course party....

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A female reader, Whimsey United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

She doesn't sound like she's pulling her weight, you should bring up your feelings when your both calm and just tell her the truth about how u feel. Leave the weight part out of it for now because that will make her defensive. Just tell her how burdened you are and that u need and deserve her help! B

est of luck!

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A male reader, mscard United States +, writes (23 January 2011):

You need to have a serious conversation with your wife. I know you feel guilty bringing up your disappointment -- it's because you love her, and you don't want to hurt her -- but you need to tell it to her straight and be brutally honest with her, no matter how much it hurts. Honest communication is extremely important - if you two aren't on the same page, things are gonna head south. I know you've probably been trying to suffer silently for her sake, but trust me, that's not gonna cut it. It isn't fair to either one of you for you to bottle it up and wait for her to make an adjustment on her own -- if you're afraid that divorce might be the eventual outcome, you owe it to her to let her know what's going on ahead of time. I would suggest having a stern (yet calm) conversation with her, and expressing just how unhappy her behavior is making you. If she starts to steamroll you or make excuses, or try to avoid what you're saying in any other way, make it clear that you've thought about it a lot and you're sure that she needs to change. As a last resort, give her an ultimatum: either things change, or we might need to look into counseling or divorce.

Good luck, mate.

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A female reader, angelDlite United Kingdom +, writes (23 January 2011):

angelDlite agony aunthi

has she always been lazy? she sounds depressed. take her somewhere different and try to talk to her and get her to open up about her feelings. college might be getting her down/stressing her out, she may feel miserable because she is not earning her own money at the moment, maybe she is not happy with you for some reason that has not felt able to discuss with you before.

talk to her without making her feel you are nagging, find out the cause of this laziness but do let her know that you need more cooperation, coz YOUR feelings matter too


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A reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2011):

For too long your wife has taken you for granted. In fact she is treating you as if her emotional development has been frozen to that of a rebellious teenager. And you are behaving as a frazzled parent, not her spouse.

If she were a teenager the first thing many parents would think of, as a discipline tool would be, 'what IS important to her?' then use denial of that object as a tool to encourage compliance with requested action.

So discuss and agree together on some ground rules in this relationship. Put them up in writing.

And some penalties.

So she likes to have, do X (something you provide for her - like doing laundry?

And she has some failing that causes you concern? - like not picking up after her?

Tell her no laundry will be done for as long as she does not pick up and continue to pick up for a whole week then you will not provide a laundry service.

Get creative about relevant responses.

She is certainly making it unpleasant for you, as the husband in this relationship

Does she not even have a part time job?She could work on Saturday morning. And contribute to the household expenses.

Start pruning the budget. Put aside 10% of your salary for you alone to save up. You may need it eventually. Open this separate account in your name only. As a just in case. For the future.

Also you and your wife could try doing some walking together, for her health. Swimming would strengthen your back if you have access to an indoor pool?

your wife is lazy, and she knows she has a compliant accomodating husband. Don't nag her. But do show less accomodating attitudes.

Put two laundry baskets side by side. attend to your laundry Her laundry can stay unwashed.

Not your problem how well attired she is.

In the kitchen, remove all cookies, cheese, spreads, chocolate, candy, chips, all Icecream (you can see where this is going?) and from now on ensure that only healthy food is at home.

Do it on a Friday afternoon so she can fume all weekend. Do not tell her you will do this. Just do it. It will shock her and bring things into the open. And demonstrate what she's been eating and how little effort she makes.

From then on:

(a)breakfast is fresh fruit you cut up and plain yoghurt.

(b)lunch is a salad and some strips of grilled chicken tossed through or similar low calorie lunch

(c) the evening meal is similarly healthy.

The days of dessert are over.

Have coffee cups of strips of celery, carrot as snacks. Or grated apple.

Tell her if she wants different food she can cook it herself. You will cook 4 days of the week, she can cook on the other 3 days.

snacks, all iv

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2011):

Lets get this into perspective:

She doesn't clean

She doesn't do the laundry

She's being supported 100% financially

She doesn't cook

She doesn't care for the dog

She doesn't do many chores

She doesn't care for herself ( gained 20lb)

I just wanted to YOU to read that back, as that is what your posting demonstrates, a complete lack of any input from this person you call your wife.

This is a most unsatisfactory marriage obviously, but has this only started since you married? As it doesn't sound like problems that arise overnight, either people are decisive, take control or they don't - well, unless something major happens to rock their world. But from what you say, your wife doesn't have to DO, or BE, anything apart from what she wants to be.

How did you meet her, what was she doing then, how long did you date before getting married, and did you discuss the issues of sharing ALL, financially a domestic chores before marriage, so you knew her take on these major issues.

A two year marriage cannot with problems you describe cannot be resolved in a few lines, it is all far to complex. As I feel a lot more background issues are more prominent than may be aired.

Gaining 20lbs is a lot, so does she have emotional issues not dealt with, past relationships not worked through. This is a lot of weight gained for a married woman of only two years. So as I say, your problems are not probably so black and white to be dealt with sufficiently on DC.

Only you will know if I've touched upon any areas that may be an issue, or perhaps, she is just a free-loader..Usually people are far more complex than that though!

Whatever, YOU have to talk to her, not DC, she is the one you are living with, and regardless of her 'defence'you must deal with this one to one.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2011):

She is taking total advantage of you. You are bringing in the money, the least she can do is cook dinner and clean the house!

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