I Can’t Win, So Why Try?

I know a lot of men who won’t do certain things at home. Won’t wash the dishes, won’t fold the laundry, won’t help with this or take care of that.

Yes, some of this is about being lazy or selfish. But there’s another common reason: He knows he can’t do it to her standard. Or the corollary, he sees her standard as unreasonable and won’t try to hit it.

I Can't Win, So Why Try?

If doing something is just going to lead to being criticised, why do it? If you get grief for not doing and grief for doing it, why would you waste your time and energy?

I realise there are situations where his half-way job isn’t acceptable by reasonable standards, and I understand there are sometimes health issues. But a whole lot of this comes down to personal preference and/or perfectionism.

I have an interesting perspective on this because I have preferences on most things. I have preferences that are irrelevant, over the top, and just plain weird. It would be unloving and wrong for me to expect Lori to do everything in a way that satisfies my preferences. There are a few places where I’ve asked her to do something the way I want it done, but I limit that to what I see as issues of safety or things that will really make my life easier. 

Years ago I decided if I have a strong preference for how something was done then I should be the one to do it. It’s amazing how this helped me scale back some of my preferences!

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I prefer my wife!

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18 Comments on “I Can’t Win, So Why Try?

  1. I like what you have to say here! I had to ask myself how badly I wanted help? I wanted help desperately. In realizing that my perfectionist tendencies were hindering me from having help, I let some things go. We are both happier now. He’s not criticized and I have help!
    Bonny Logsdon Burns recently posted…Pare Christmas Down to Four PrioritiesMy Profile

  2. I suspect that much of this kind of perfectionism is rooted in childhood, set by parents’ example…and when the childhood ‘home’ is broken up by parents moving or dying, it becomes kind of a sacrosanct link with the past.

    Should it be addressed? Sure, but carefully, because playing with the depths of the psyche can cause some damage.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 413 – The Meaning of ChristmasMy Profile

    • Perhaps, but I think the actual answer is far simpler – on average, when it comes to running a household/rearing children, women simply assume their way is superior (I’d wager most men have gotten the “you’re not loading the dishwasher correctly” complaint). That’s not a judgement call – men are the same way when it comes to grilling, driving, and yard maintenance :)

      But yes ladies – you want your man to help out more around the house? Don’t criticize if he does things differently than the way you do it.

      • There’s differently, and there’s just plain wrong that just makes more work.

        We should all be careful not to do the latter.

        I am amazed at how unobservant the male of the species can be. For example, this morning I found a small pile of laundry I had folded and placed on a chair on the floor and my oldest boy sitting in the chair. I scolded him about dumping the clothes on the floor, and he swears he didn’t know they were on the chair! He had to have moved them to sit down! Indeed, he did. He absent-mindedly pushed them onto the floor, not even registering their existence or purpose.

    • @Andrew Budek-Schmeisser – Yeah, it’s usually old and deeply rooted. Far better to do it ourselves than to have our spouse demand it!
      Paul Byerly recently posted…December DatesMy Profile

  3. So… What do you suggest when the shoe is on the other foot? I’m a busy mom of littles and I never get everything done. But my husband told me just last week in regard to one area that, if I do it “right” (his way) only 90% of the time, I may as well never do it. And I wanted to respond with, “Well, in that case, we’ll be moving much closer to zero.” I didn’t say much at the time, but I wish he could understand this. I never complete my to do list. Even if I try hard in this area (I’ve been making extra effort lately), I’ll probably only be at 90%. But really? Now he basically told me it’s no good to try because he doesn’t care about anything other than perfection. And that totally deflates my efforts.

    • @Bethany – I’d tell him it’s now his job and then stop doing it. When he complains have a discussion about time, energy and standards.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…December DatesMy Profile

  4. Libl, I would guess that you got snookered by your son. Men are probably every bit as observant as women, only about different things. When a man “can’t” find something, it is because it isn’t worth the effort, or because you’ll find it for him. If he really wants it and you would wouldn’t know what it is if you saw it, he’ll find it. Make your son re-fold the clothes and another laundry basket, too, and he probably won’t repeat his “mistake.” Parents must be smarter than their children.

    A lazy man might do a bad job of something because he doesn’t want to do it again. A good man who is praised will probably do more work and seek to improve what he does. We all like to be appreciated.

    • You are likely right. I don’t think of reasonable consequences because I am usually just flabbergasted at the behavior!

      Although, I am not sure I am entirely far off. I hear from men frequently enough that they just don’t see it like we do. Another example is I had washed dishes when hubby came in looking for his cup. I told him I had washed it and it was in the drying rack. He sighed and said, “now, I am just going to dirty another cup and make more dishes for you!” I told him, “or, you could just wash it yourself when you are done and not worry about making more dishes for me.” It honestly didn’t occur to him to wash it himself, yet he was upset at the prospect of making more dishes for me. I appreciate very much that he was looking out for me and trying not to put more work on me, but I am a bit taken aback that washing it himself never occurred to him.

      Back to child-rearing…I often feel he is too harsh on the kids, but I have learned to back off and let him parent them his own way.

      • Libl – I agree with having him refold the laundry too. Perhaps not a second basket though, as you are really training them to pay better attention, not punish them for being singularly focused.
        I’ve sat in a room, and watched my guys come in and do something, so focused on another task, and then watched the reality of what they just did set in. Sometimes, they ask me why I left something like that, and when I tell them I just watched them do it, they are shocked!! And they will correct it without me asking. It has gotten way better as they get older.
        I’ve also watched them look for something, in the place it is, and then get frustrated that they can’t find it, and so they ask me for help, and then get angry when I walked to where they are and pull it out, because it was right in front of them!
        I really do think they get very focused on things, and can block everything else out – “waffle compartments”.
        Just patiently train them, and realize they are wired completely different then we are.

  5. This was a problem for us in early years. I think it’s fed by insecurities. After 30 years together we are 90% happy with how it gets done, no matter who does it. The other 10% is just a bad day. And we’ve learned the best cure for a bad day is to acknowledge you’re in a foul mood, take a step back, bring God into your thoughts, and let it go!

  6. Years ago my mother told me never to complain about the way the boys helped me with cleaning around the house (to them). Instead just be thankful, that although the house wasn’t vacuumed to my standards, it was vacuumed, and it gave me another day or so before I had to get to it. And although the dishes weren’t put away were I would put them, I didn’t have to empty the dishwasher. And although the laundry wasn’t folded, it was washed – or if it happened to be folded and wasn’t my way – it was still folded! And on and on. She said unless it was done where I had no choice but to fix it, and she said that would be very rare and more a sanitary issue, let it go, and just keep having them help out. Over time, while everything still might not be the way I want it done, it’s done, and I don’t have to do it, and they have gotten much better at doing it. And I don’t really worry about a right way of doing things anymore.
    Its probably advice she should have given me about husbands too. Because while I offered my kids tons of grace, not so much by husband. So now, my help is what the boys give me. And I am grateful for it, and make sure I express that gratitude often.
    I am working on showing this gratitude when my husband does things around the house to help me out.

    • The amount of gratitude they need is crazy, though! You changed one diaper and you want a freaking party and rave on facebook while the queen of England knights you father of the year?! I’m being silly, but you get my point.

      I was sick a while ago and hubby stepped up. It was a blessing, but he kept “rubbing it in,my face”. At least that is what it felt like. Of course I thanked and praised him, and even bragged about him to the in-laws. After a while, he came in again and rubbed my face in it. I said, as nicely as possible, “I know and I I told you how much I appreciate it and thank you.” He responded with a shy, “I know.” It seems, he just really needed the affirmation that he did something well and to my standards and he thus took good care of me.

      I realized that our abilities as wives and mothers are often something men are amazed at and intimidated by. How does she do it all?! They know we are experts and want to please us. It is like asking a child to assemble a bouquet of flowers for a wedding instead of a professional florist. You’re likely going to get the most proud bouquet of wilted dandelions, or your flower bed is going to be bald.

      On the flip side, I have tried to help hubby out with more manly projects and such. I either as a woman cannot do them at all (strength and stamina issues), or I just don’t have his eye and expertise. Dandelions in the face of an expert. I am in awe of hubby’s ability to do what he does for a living.

  7. As the husband, I am willing to try it her way. One, it might be better than my way and I won’t know if I don’t try and two, it keeps the peace. But if she’s not around, I will revert back to my way (assuming it’s just a matter of preference and not laziness or quantified “better”!). An example of laziness is I used to clean the sink with hot water and my hands. No sponge, no cleaner, no disinfectant. I was being lazy! I no longer do that. An example of preference: When I wash dishes in the sink, I wash on the right side and rinse on the left. My perspective is the flow is more natural for me and I don’t keep the left side (with the garbage disposal) blocked. She prefers washing on the left and rinsing on the right. If we’re doing it together, we do it her way. If I’m doing it alone, I do it my way. Guys, there’s no reason not to at least give her way a shot. If you can quantify your way is better, you can try explaining it lovingly. She might actually agree. :)

  8. It is good for a husband to help even if it isn’t appreciated or is criticized, because we ought to help. Mature adults learn to derive their sense of worth from knowing that they have done their best. A woman who constantly finds fault with the best that a husband can do is creating issues for herself. I have been helping more around the house, and my wife gives an occasional pointer, but she is thankful–not effusive, because I would consider that silly–but thankful.

  9. I haven’t worked outside my home very often, and I think part of my “perfectionism” is about doing my “work” to the best of my ability and taking pride in it, without really realizing what I am doing. It’s about self-respect and affirmation. “Housework” is not recognized today as “real work,” just something to get done so you can get on with “real work.” This may be another way of looking at it, though my husband is now very helpful, and our health has caused us to change our expectations. It would be nice if men “honored” and affirmed their wives’ work by respecting their way of doing it as efficiently as possible. Gratitude does help a woman accept whatever offering is made, however.

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