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Episode 25 - The Dreaded Housework (Part 1)

Episode 25 Overview

This is a hot topic for many of you ladies, and I can completely understand why. This week I'll be sharing my paradigm shifts that have saved me from years of frustration and resentment when it came to partnering on housework with my husband. I'm sharing how we can use thought work (a la Brooke Castillo) on our house work (see what I did there?) and also some powerful insights from the research of Alison Armstrong.

I highly recommend Alison's two books as a great starting point for her research. They are written as fiction so they are an easy and fun read, but packed full of information.

Keys to the Kingdom - How men change over time and why it's so confusing.

The Queen's Code - How we can bring out the best in men (and often bring out the worst)

Episode 12 - Mind Management - For an introduction to thought work


00:00 Episode 25, The Dreaded Housework, Part One.

00:16 Welcome to the First Year Married Podcast, where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm marriage coach Kayla Levin and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected with practical tips, real life inspiration, and more than a little self awareness along the way.

00:38 Welcome back ladies, I had such a great time hearing from you this week on Instagram. I posted to my stories that I wanted to hear from you about what was the most frustrating, upsetting place or thing going on with you and your housework. And there are some angry ladies out there and I totally get it. If you've followed my story you know that this was really a sore point for me earlier on in our marriage and I can tell you this is an area where I have seen such profound and unbelievable transformation. To the point where when I hear people being frustrated it makes me just want to give them my class because this is one of those areas where for me it was just such a massive paradigm shift and I'm so excited to share it with you today.

01:30 So there's a couple different things that I want to discuss when it comes to housework and frustration. But let me start with sort of the problem, what people are seeing. It sort of seems to come from a couple different tracks. One is the idea of him helping. We both live here, why is it called, "He's helping me" if he's washing the dishes? He ate on them too, right? We all need to pitch in, why this whole concept of, "He's helping me out with this?" Right? Because that in itself is so frustrating. It's almost like why does it have to be called helping? I don't want to use my points on that. Let me use my points on something I actually want, he should just do it. That should just be his responsibility just as much as it is mine. Right? This is the 20th century, 21st? What century, 21st century. I had a lot of coffee before I recorded so I hope this isn't just going to be totally off the rails.

02:18 Okay, we live in modern times. And men and women both contribute, we both help, this is not a traditional old-fashioned marriage so what is this whole deal with helping? It's sort of inherently offensive, it feels so wrong and really offensive. It really gets us riled up, it makes us feel angry. So that is one area.

02:38 Another one is the "Why do I have to tell him?" Which kind of comes from a similar track, right? Why do I have to say to him to take out the garbage? Why do I have to ask him to help clean up? I shouldn't have to do that, he should just clean. Now some of you are saying to me or listening to this and thinking, "I don't really get it. My husband's neater than I am." Of course these things we're speaking in generalities, and sometimes you'll see that the husband is more one way, the wife is more the other. I do still want you to listen to this episode because it's possible that what he is is so, I almost want to use the word trained, to a certain expectation, that you actually might be missing out on more. So if he grew up in a home that was extremely orderly and he was really expected to toe the line on that, then this could be an area in which you can actually have a pretty awesome connection by understanding it more deeply.

03:35 Okay. So there's a couple different ways that I want to sort of tackle this because, again, I totally get it. This is an area that was for me very upsetting and honestly I'm not a very tidy person, right? I'm, I get it when someone's perfectly immaculate and then they marry someone and it's a different standard but we're pretty similar and I still felt like why is this on me? Why is this falling on me? And I'll even say more, I'll even say that from the beginning because we knew that we wanted to start a family pretty early in our marriage, we discussed and I told him that one of the things I really wanted was to be able to be the primary caregiver for my children. That was something that I wanted and we explicitly discussed this which, by the way, I highly highly recommend, whether you want to be working or you want to be a stay-at-home mom or like me you want to work partially, I highly recommend having this conversation very explicitly and literally. It's really really helpful and it's really saved us from a lot of headaches.

04:31 Because we had that, I knew that this really was officially more my domain, meaning that was kind of the deal that we made was that he was going to have more responsibility for bring in income and I was going to have more responsibility for cooking the food and managing the home and all of that. So I'm saying even for me, who should've been, I'm not so Type A with my space, I knew that this was my responsibility, and I was still fuming. So I can only imagine those of you where you're both holding down full-time jobs, you maybe are very tidy and he's not, right? There's so many other factors that can come in and make it even worse, so I can only imagine why this could be triggering you and I totally get it.

05:10 So the first thing that I want to do is I want to talk to you about how thought work applies to dealing with housework. I want to also talk to you about some ideas of how we can see this differently, two ideas that really for me were the biggest paradigm shifts in this area.

05:27 Okay so if I'm looking at what is my brain doing, where is my brain going, this is something that we really want to pay attention to. And one piece that I am reiterating constantly for myself and for my clients and for my friends, for all of you, is that sometimes negative emotions feel more true or authentic than neutral or positive emotions. And this is more true than ever when it comes to the emotion of being offended.

05:56 When we are offended, we feel justified in our thoughts and our feelings. It is the hardest for most of us to question our thoughts when we are coming from a place of feeling offended. Because we feel that there's a value that is deep inside of us that's being contradicted. And we don't even, honestly let's be fair, we don't even think this value is deep inside of us. We think this value is literal and true like gravity. Right? This is a value that all people should agree to. Whenever we feel offended we feel like someone is breaking against a system, you clearly, you just, you don't have empathy. I'm offended by you. You're missing a key component of being a human being. Right?

06:40 When we're feeling offended, there's this concept that there is a truth in the world that I have access to and you are denying that truth. Okay? This is true for politics, this is true in our marriage, this is true on social media, wherever we're feeling offended, this is really what it's coming down to.

06:58 So when you're feeling offended, this is what I call one of those red flag emotions. Resentment is another really good one. These are extremely specific feelings. When you're offended you're not confused about that. Right? If I say to you offended, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's not like sad. Sad, there could be sort of sleepy sad, and there could be crushed sad, right? Offended is really crystal clear. And so that's really helpful because offended is one of those emotions where you most need to question your thoughts. You first need to articulate, what am I thinking right now? And you second, need to question is that really true?

07:39 When we're feeling about housework, and it sounds like such a small thing, but honestly a lot of our negative emotions just come from the daily, day-to-day, running our life, living our life, and being with the people that we're closest to. Right? So when we're feeling offended that, let's say, oh here's one. When we were first married, I would get really offended when my husband would walk through a messy room. Okay? Because I felt like since I, let's make it even worse. Let's say I'm there trying to clean the room and I'm cleaning it and he walks, he comes home from work and he walks past me as I'm cleaning the room and he moves on to the next thing on his list. Okay? I was offended by that. Okay? And it was similar thoughts to the thoughts that were submitted on Instagram which are, what makes this my job? Right? Why aren't you pitching in? You live here too. Some of this mess is yours, some of those dishes are yours. What's the deal? Okay.

08:36 And this is a really interesting one because for me, and I again see this with other women, this is a layered emotion. Because offended was covering up an emotion of do you not really care about me? Because if you cared about me, well then you'd be seeing how hard I'm working and you'd want to come and help me. Okay? So that's a really uncomfortable and painful emotion so I'm not going to go there, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to get offended. Yeah? A lot of us do this with anger. It's a little too complicated to be hurt or crushed but it's pretty comfortable to be angry. Honestly.

09:14 So what I want you to do, so let's say, let's take the situation of my husband passing me while I was cleaning in a messy room. This would apply to you're doing the dishes and he doesn't volunteer to help, or the garbage is full and he's not taking it out, whatever the thing is. Oh, let's say he drops something on the floor, like he drops his dirty laundry on the floor and the basket, the hamper is right over there. So what you want to do is you're going to notice that feeling offended and you're going to stop and say okay that's my red flag. I have offended going on for me and now I want to know that whatever is making me offended is the thought, the interpretation that I'm having about this. Right?

09:50 Because all may husband did was walk through a room. That's all he did. But I layered so much meaning on him walking through the room, right? It had to do with how much he loved me, how much he cared about me. It had to do with his basic assumptions about the jobs between men and women and my value as a woman. There was so much that I layered onto the action of walking through the room that I became offended. So what you want to do is you want to really articulate what is offending me? What is it about what just happened that's getting me so upset? That's getting me feeling offended? Okay?

10:24 So let's say I say because he thinks that it's my job and that it's beneath him to help. So I'm going to look at that and I'm going to say, okay well how is it that he doesn't think it's my job? All right? So the best thing, and this is one that I've said to you before, you just turn it on it's head and ask it as a question. You do this before you know the answer. Okay? But as soon as I say that, my brain is going to come up with answers because it's the amazing thing about your brain. I heard someone refer to the brain today as a search engine. Put something in and stuff will come out. Right? So I'm going to look at the thought and I'm just going to flip it. It's such a simple tool.

11:02 How does he not think this is my job? Okay? And then I'm going to go, well because last Wednesday he helped. Right? Whenever I ask him to help me clean up, so he does. Right? He does help me, he doesn't say that's your job and why would you ask me to do that? And I can also question the other one. He thinks it's beneath him. Well how does he not think it's beneath him? Well he does other yucky jobs in the house like he takes out the garbage or he fixes the clogged toilet or whatever it is. So he does things, he's not holding himself high and mighty, he really does get his hands dirty in keeping this house running. Okay? My brain's going to come up with answers. Obviously yours are going to be different than mine.

11:43 So that's how you want to deal with the thought work piece of it. Now, I probably should have said this in the beginning but I'm asking a lot of you. I know that I am. Offended is one of the hardest ones to question. It's extremely vulnerable to question something that we're feeling offended about and your brain is going to put up a lot of defenses. It really wants to hang on to offended and I think that the reason is that offended does really layer on top of emotions of vulnerability a lot of the time.

12:14 I know that some of you might be listening to this and thinking well easier said than done. Right? Those are your examples but my examples are way worse. You have no idea how offensive this is. So I just want to invite you to just try. Because nobody has to know. And you can go right back to being offended. You can continue to believe any thoughts you want. But I want you to have the experience of, what is so liberating, is to see your thoughts as something outside of yourself. You are the command center. And you have the choice of deciding which thoughts you want to attach to and which thoughts you want to let go. And if, at some point you decide that it's just not worth your energy to be offended about this issue any more, you'll know that that's available to you because you once questioned that thought.

13:03 So again the tool, all I'm offering you for the tool it's a simple simple tool, is feel the feeling, think about where you're feeling that feeling, articulate the thought that you're having, why are you feeling that way, and then flip it and ask it as a question.

13:19 Now I want to offer you a couple tips for how you could see this differently. Now this work comes from Alison Armstrong who, if you have not listened to her, if you have not learned from her, please immediately get to know her. You will just fall madly in love with your husband in a whole new way. My tips for Allison's work would be to start with her books Keys to the Kingdom and The Queen's Code.

13:42 So I want to offer you two things that I learned from her. These, for my listeners who are Jewish, these are very very much in line with Jewish thought. Alison is not Jewish but I'm going to sort of give you where those come from in Jewish thought also.

13:54 So the first one is Alison talks about the difference between single focus and diffuse awareness. Okay? Single focus is seen as a masculine form of attention and again, all of us have a mix of masculine and feminine, but most commonly women are primarily feminine and most men are primarily masculine. However, women are often increasing their masculine energy because that really is what's rewarded in the world these days.

14:21 So, single focus means I have a goal, I have an objective, and I'm going to get it. Okay? When I think back at all the times where my husband didn't spontaneously start cleaning, it's because he had a different goal at that moment. And what happens, and she's actually says that his brain is automatically filtering out extraneous information. So when my husband was walking in the door and past me cleaning the messy room, it's because he had a single focus. He was going from the mailbox to the filing or to his laptop where he could pay a bill. Right? His focus was, his brain was removing all the extra information that would interfere with him accomplishing his goal. This is a masculine energy. I'm going to focus on one thing, I'm going to focus on it for a very long time.

15:06 Now again, I exude masculine energy when I'm coaching because I'm extremely focused on that. Right? When I'm teaching. We all have times where we're in this zone. But that is called single focus. In Judaism we refer to this as Daas. It's known as sort of a male form of attention or thought. And then women, Alison says, experience more diffuse awareness.

15:31 And the example that I always give for that is that if you think to a high school or a college class where you were sitting there and you were painfully aware that there was one person in the room who was either very upset or very angry. Okay? I can imagine that scenario. I remember that scenario. Right? That's a very familiar scenario for me. When I share that with my husband, he looks at me and he's like, "Well why are you paying attention that person?" Right. He hasn't really experienced that. Unless the person is sobbing in the corner and distracting him. Because why? Because if he's sitting there in class, he is either actively paying attention to the teacher or he's actively not paying attention to the teacher and paying attention to something else. He's not scanning the room. Okay?

16:17 And the female attention, in Judaism called Binah is about scanning the room. I'm scanning the room for how are we all doing emotionally? How are we all doing physically? What's on the floor? What throw pillow should be adjusted? Right? What's my to-do list? There's this constant, we call it multi-tasking but it's not but it's sort of the prerequisite to multi-tasking. I'm aware of all the things. And the way Alison says is it is that when there's a mess in the room it's as if those things are yelling at you. They are accusing you that a better woman would have cleaned it up already. Yeah?

16:53 So this is why my husband and I share an office and when it's messy, even though I choose to do other things with my time, I feel upset, I feel accused by the mess in the office and I don't know if my husband notices. I don't know if he actually knows that it's messy as long as he can find whatever he needs. Why? Because when he's in the office, he's never there just to be there. He's there to get a specific task done and then he leaves. So he's not scanning, he's not aware. His brain is not making him aware. Now this isn't a "he's clueless" type of thing. It's a different operating system. It's a different mode of being in the world and it has some amazing benefits, by the way.

17:34 What does this mean when it comes to you and housework? I mean it's a little bit obvious. One is that the housework, for many women, is like a pot simmering about to boil over. Right? Whatever's going on in the house is just shy of being a total disaster and that doesn't really matter how messy or clean it is. Right? It just needs to be fixed and it needs to fixed pretty urgently and there's just a lot of pressure and there's a lot of stress from our physical environment. Why? Because as Alison says, it's accusing us. It's yelling at us. It's distracting.

18:09 And there's a lot of studies now on minimalism and talking about how minimalism can decrease anxiety and it can increase focus. And that makes so much sense to me because how can you really focus when there is something in the corner that really should just be moved a little bit? And sometime we will, we'll stop what we're doing and we'll go fix something.

18:28 The house that I live in right now has a laundry room right next to the kitchen. It's such a classic example of diffuse awareness because I'm always halfway through a load of laundry, halfway through cooking a meal, and halfway through doing the dishes. Right? Plus taking care of the kids or whatever else is going on. Because this is classic diffuse awareness.

18:45 And then we ask our husbands, "Could you make dinner?" And then we're like, "Well how come you're not also feeding the baby? She's clearly upset. She's clearly hungry." Yeah? But what is going to happen is dinner is going to get on the table. And this is the amazing thing about single focus. This is why when there's a task that needs to be done that I know will never be the top of my priority list, what I do is I ask my husband to take it over. "I really want this mirror hung up right there. Can that be a job on Sunday that you do?" And then, "How can I make space for you? What do you need so that you can do that job?" And he'll tell me. He'll say, "I need there not to be other things for me to be responsible for. If I'm dealing with tools I need you to be taking care of making sure the kids aren't going into my toolbox and getting hurt." Whatever the thing is that he needs.

19:28 But what I know is that because he has single focus, he's not just going to get distracted. He might give up on this project and go move on to something else, but he's not going to just get distracted the way that I do and that's awesome. Because some of those things wouldn't happen in my house if it wasn't for that.

19:47 Now, I know that you're saying, "Well my husband was an adult before we got married. And the trash got taken out before, it's not like he was living in a complete trash heap. So what's the deal?" There's a lot to be said for this, but one thought that I want to offer you is the point at which you think the trash should be taken out is a thought and not an objective reality. It could be that when he was living on his own, he would let the trash get really all the way full and overflowing. He would even pile a couple of trash bags before he made the trip out to the outside trash container. Right? His decision about where it needs to be taken out, it would have spoken to him possibly further down the line than when it's speaking to you.

20:34 So this is an area that I find to be so fascinating because we tend to come at it from a perspective that where we think the trash should be taken out is an objective reality, that's a standard that everyone should agree upon. And if he wouldn't take it out at that point, if he would go let's say pile a couple trash bags in the hallway before he takes it down to the curb, then that's gross. That's beyond what's acceptable. Right? But really it's just two totally different ways of functioning. He has something that's higher up his priority list. And for us, this is what's higher up on our priority list.

21:08 So, it's an area that I sometimes give a little bit of a hard talking to to my clients of, we have to realize that if you're looking for a partner in your housework, that doesn't mean a partner to do the housework according to only your standards. Right? That means a partner who has equal say in how things should be done and when they should be done. And if you want to be the person who gets to sort of call the shot on that, that's actually very doable but you need to be willing to see it from a different perspective and from a different paradigm.

21:39 Okay, so that's all we have time for this week. This is going to be a two part episode and for those of you who are wondering, "Okay well what about this whole thing about why is it always he's helping me? Right? We didn't really get into that and also, fine so I'm willing to accept a different way of looking at it but what do I actually do? How do I actually get the help I need?" I will be addressing of that in next week's episode. Please go ahead if you have any other questions about this episode you want me to address next week, get them in as soon as you can on Instagram and I will try and address them in the next episode.

22:10 But for now I really want you guys to just focus on noticing that thought, notice where you are making things an objective reality. It's that moment where you want to call your girlfriend and be like, "Right? Shouldn't he take out the trash at X point? Right? Isn't this the point?" Or "Should he, isn't it crazy that he does this? And it should be ... " We're looking for someone to validate the standard that we think is just true and that's the moment where you want to go, "Okay. So what's driving me crazy is that I decided on a standard and now I'm getting offended or upset or resentful because he's not ascribing to my standard that I invented in the first place." Right?

22:47 So what's actually upsetting you in the situation? It's not your husband, it's the standard. Right? Now that doesn't mean you can't have a neat house. That doesn't mean you can't have the trash taken out, but we're going to have to look at that next week when we address the second part. Why is it that he's helping you and how do you get him to help you, how do you get a real partner when it comes to taking care of your home?

23:09 I will be linking to Alison's books in the show notes. So If you want to check her out I, again, very highly recommend all of her work and I will see you next week with the rest of The Dreaded Housework. Have a good week, bye-bye.

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