Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Marriage doesn't nullify need for a little bit of gratitude
Grateful?: Where do you stand on saying "thanks" to your spouse for the little things? I say "please," then "thanks," and mean it. My husband tells me to stop. But I want that in return — some gratitude for cooking dinner 95 percent of the time, then doing dishes 100 percent of the time.
I told him I've tired of cooking because I resent that he takes it for granted. He says we're married and "thanks" is never necessary. Am I asking for the wrong things?
Carolyn: No, you're asking them of the wrong person.
I'm on the record (abundantly) in favor of expressing appreciation to and for one's mate, so I disagree with your husband. But he's entitled to his way of doing things. Even if it sucks, it's his, and it's his right to be his sucky self.
You, in turn, can decide whether you can live with that. It's unfortunate that his refusal to do something small might force you to do something big. But that's just how it is sometimes.
Of course, it doesn't have to be big. If your husband contributes in his way as much to the marriage as you do, then you need only to open your mind to his ways, and reset your expectations to reflect what he's willing and able to give.
If he doesn't contribute equally, and you've lost interest in doing 95 percent of anything in a household where you never even hear "thank you," then it makes sense to stop doing 95 percent, and pull back to the point where you feel less frustrated and taken for granted.
No matter where your calculations take you, it's to a better place — since now you're stuck asking repeatedly for changes that are, apparently, never going to come.
D.C.: Re: "Stop doing 95 percent":
How does that work in real life? I'm not going to simply cook for one (as that seems passive-aggressive), I'm not going to attract bugs by leaving dirty dishes everywhere, and I need clean underwear too! I've had this problem in pretty much every relationship, and in my last one it broke us.
Carolyn: You buy no-cook things that you can eat for dinner, solo — e.g., hummus and pita — and you do your own laundry. Since you'll create far fewer dishes, you can hand-wash any you use.
This is scorched earth, and I don't recommend it unless you've talked openly and still reached a complete impasse. It's putting actions to the words: "This household-chore imbalance is unacceptable."
Milwaukee: Re: "Stop": You say to your spouse, "I'm only cooking four days a week. You're in charge of the other three days. Which days would you prefer?" And, "I'm not your mother or your maid. I have a hard time feeling like a lover when I have to clean up after you like I AM your mother. So I'm not doing it anymore." And you LEAVE whatever it is where he/she left it. If he/she runs out of socks, too bad.
Carolyn: This is a great example of spelling out what you want, and backing it up. Sometimes, though, the "other three days" strategy yields nothing in the way of dinner or gratitude, which forces this choice: resignation, scorched earth, attorney.