Carolyn Hax: Revisiting an ‘unbalanced’ marriage that was anything but

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 29, 2013

Are there letter-writers you wonder about to this day? While I’m away, readers nominate some who stayed in mind.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

“I remember the lady whose husband earned more, worked more and did more housework, but she thought they were even because she was such a great catch and out of his league.”

Sept. 6 and 7, 2010

Adapted from an online discussion:


Dear Carolyn:

I’ve finally put my foot down and told my husband he needs to increase his share of the work, or else.

We each estimated the hours we put toward housework and kids. I do almost 60 percent of the work. I excluded things on his side that I don’t really call work, because he enjoys the solitude (lawn care, weeding, finances, cooking, etc.). He doesn’t think that’s right.

I also don’t buy his argument that he works 10-15 hours more than I do at his job each week. That is a career choice, and while it enables him to earn far more money than I do, it doesn’t excuse him from his share of housework.

Short of threatening divorce, how do I convince him he is wrong? I threw this out to friends and family and everyone agrees with me.

Va.

If you’re softening your hands while you do dishes, then you can’t count that toward your workload, either.

Here’s a definition that works on Earth: Anything you wouldn’t already be doing for leisure counts as housework. Period.

And if your husband carries 40 percent of the load after you’ve excluded yard work, cooking and finances — and if he’s carrying that underrated load while working longer hours (for more money) — then you owe him one of the fattest apologies ever owed a spouse. Not just for being disrespectful and you-centric, but also for dragging his domestically generous self through the mud of everyone you know in a quest for approbation.

Carolyn:

I probably should have included this: I don’t want to say I did him a favor by marrying him, but that’s not far from the truth. I’m much better-looking than he is, much smarter and have a much better personality. We have an unbalanced marriage, and I expect him to compensate for that. So even if he is doing slightly more work, I don’t think that comes close to what he really owes this marriage.

Va.

You officially can’t be real.

Carolyn:

I’m not sure why you think that. It’s hard to think my view is really so off when I get validation from just about everyone I talk with and even my husband would agree our marriage is “unbalanced.” He just doesn’t agree there needs to be a remedy.

Va. again

By marrying, you deemed each other your equals — emotional equals, equals in status, equal partners in each other’s happiness. That includes dividing chores more or less equally based on your total responsibilities, not charm.

Carolyn:

Maybe what I can take from all of this is that I need some individual counseling and that my husband and I need some marriage counseling.

Va. again

Your husband is a human being. Please grant him the dignity his humanity affords him, and stop shouting to everyone who will listen about his relative worthlessness as a person against your high value. Start noting and appreciating what he does for you. And yes, counseling, stat.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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