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Episode 26 – The Dreaded Housework (Part 2)

Episode 26 Overview

This is part 2 of 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 26. The Dreaded Housework part two.

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 through practical tips, real life inspiration, and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:38 Welcome back ladies. I think this is the first time we've ever done a two part episode. So I guess that just goes to show how much you had to say and I had to say about housework, which I guess is fair, right? We spend a lot of our time on this, so let's feel good about it. It's going to be my vision for this. Let's just... What if we just had a totally positive relationship to all the housework? Wouldn't that be amazing? Like what if we just had nothing to complain about?

01:05 We still did it. Because why are we complaining, right? Why are we feeling bad about it? Housework isn't inherently bad. Housework is neutral. So what if we just felt awesome about it? And I don't mean like it doesn't... You don't have to be '50s housewife. But what if like every time you had clothes to clean, you're just like, "Wow, I have clothes to wear." Or I don't know. It doesn't have to be gratitude. There's lots of ways to feel good about stuff.

01:32 I learned recently, Alison Armstrong talks about this, but John Gray does. I actually learned it from John Gray originally. He's the one who wrote, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. But his newer book Beyond Mars and Venus goes very in depth into hormonal changes for men and women, hormonal differences in men and women and specifically how women's hormones shift throughout her cycle and how that makes her sort of available for different stages of the relationship. It's really fascinating work.

02:00 But one piece that I absolutely love is that when women are very results oriented, they're burning up their testosterone, right? They're using up their testosterone. So if they have a job or they're doing anything where they're really trying to get a specific result, and that can be a stay at home mom, right? She's trying to get her kids to school on time and to get a certain dinner on the table. We can do that in a very testosterone driven way, a results oriented way. So if we're doing a lot of that, then we use up a lot of our testosterone. And what he recommends to balance it is to work on activities that increase oxytocin, which are, it's the bonding hormone. And so calling a girlfriend can do that. There's a lot of different things that can do that, but one that is really surprising is slow rhythmic hand motions such as folding laundry or washing a dish.

02:48 This totally like, I just, I crack myself up. I think I'm hilarious. And so like every time I have to wash dishes, I'm like, "This is just my oxytocin therapy happening right now." I have a totally different relationship with washing dishes. So if that isn't proof that you can feel differently about housework, I don't know what's going to be proof. But if you need something a little bit more technical, I've got four things today that I want to talk to you about to sort of help shift this concept of the relationship aspect of the housework. Not the actual doing it, but how do I feel like I have a partner in the housework, especially if I am the one that feels like I have a higher standard than my husband or I'm always asking him for help and I don't like that feeling.

03:32 It gives me the heebie-jeebies to be asking for help because we both live here and we're both adults, so why do I have to do that? Right? We talked a little bit last week and if you didn't listen to the last episode, episode 25, about how our brains are wired differently in terms of how we view our surroundings for men and women. And that's definitely worth listening to if you haven't yet, because I'm not going to go back into that so much. But it's really important to understand that the things that are driving you crazy, it's possible he's not making an active choice not to see it. His brain is filtering it out.

04:06 When you expect someone to take the initiative to pick up a sock that he doesn't see, can you see how you're driving yourself crazy like for no reason? So go ahead and listen to last week's if you didn't yet.

04:16 Okay. Before I get started on these four things, I want to thank you because I don't know how so many people are finding out about this podcast so quickly, but we are beyond thrilled and excited and grateful and just totally jazzed about how fast this podcast is growing. It has way exceeded our expectations. Again, we've no idea really what's going on, but the only thing I can guess is that you must be sharing it. So thank you so, so much for sharing it and please keep sharing it. And I've gotten my wish list now of guests that I want to have on the podcast. So my request for you is if you haven't gone and rated with five stars please and reviewed, like actually written out a review for the podcast. I know it's a little bit annoying, but I also know that when people are deciding where to spend their dedicated podcast interview hours, they do go check into the podcasts that have put in requests.

05:11 I'm thinking if we have a lot of really awesome reviews and fabulous ratings, then of course they're going to want to come on First Year Married, which would be so cool. I've got some awesome people on my dream list. So please go do that if you haven't done it yet. Okay.

05:26 Last week I promised to get into this whole piece of why we talk about guys helping with housework, right? Helping. Why's he helping me? And I wanted to give you some insights into how you can reach partnership when it comes to the housework. What do we want, right? We always want to start with like, what is the vision? What is the goal? My goal when I'm dealing with this is I want to feel like we're in this together. That makes me feel supported. It makes me feel loved and cared about, right? That I have someone who's in it with me. I'm not on my own left to battle of the evil laundry pile, right? Like I've got a partner here.

06:02 The first piece, I'm going to bring in some Alison Armstrong because she is the expert when it comes to this and the best in terms of this paradigm, this sort of paradigm shift, which is that the way she says it is that men are inherently providers, okay? What does that mean? That means that he's always looking for what does it provide? What is she getting out of it? What am I providing? What am I creating? What is the result? Okay. I talked just a second ago about how results are the very testosterone driven, right? We use our testosterone to get results, so it would make sense that men are more naturally, they have so much more testosterone than women. They're more naturally in that phase, okay? So he's in a phase where he wants to provide.

06:48 To be quite frank, when I'm cleaning my house, I'm not looking to provide a clean house for my family. I wish I was. That sounds lovely. That sounds like something that would be nice to feel like. What I'm trying to do is to get it to just stop bothering me, right? My house is bothering me, the mess is bothering me. The mismatched chairs are bothering me. The old kitchen cabinets, right. Whatever the thing is, it's bothering me and I want it to stop bothering me. That's where I'm coming from.

07:16 Now imagine if you're similar to me on this one. If you can relate to this, imagine if nothing bothered you about the space you are living in. What if it wasn't bothering you? Now, 90% of you just went and imagined yourself inside like an HGTV show at the end, right? That's not what I'm talking about. What I mean is you're in the exact same house as it looks right now and it doesn't bother you. I mean, my brain breaks a little bit to imagine that. But that's how my husband experiences our space. Unless there is an actual problem, like there are now bugs in the house or the trash bag is leaking on the floor or there is a problem that now he has to deal with, that is now going to take up more of his time, it doesn't bother him.

08:02 He's not going to be motivated the same way that I'm motivated to clean, okay? So what does that mean? If he's a provider and he's not bothered by the house, so why would he help me with the house? And you see I did use the word help. I did use the word help because you know why? The house isn't bothering him. It's not a problem for him.

08:26 Now, if you're talking about dinner needs to be on the table and he looks at his plate and it's empty. So now he has a problem and he's going to go create dinner, right? He's going to go provide dinner. But right now he's in a house that is functioning. Nothing is actively breaking or getting destroyed. But it's driving you up to the wall and he doesn't even know that there's a problem, right? Because there's not a problem by the way, right? Go back to the thought work. There is no problem. It's just all your thoughts about the space is creating the problem.

08:52 You're in a house that's totally neutral. You've decided or not actively decided because it just sort of happens for a lot of us. You call it a mess. There are things in your house and to you they are a mess and to him they are things in a house. Yeah. So the way for him to be involved, to be motivated in the housework is to help. Why? Because if he's a provider, then he needs to be creating a result that's helping someone. He needs to be creating a result that is giving.

09:23 I like to remind my clients and you that if we married someone who was exactly like us, who functioned exactly like us, right? Who did see the socks on the floor or the throw pillow that was off or whatever it is, or the old kitchen cabinets. We would have done better to have married a clone of ourselves. But we wouldn't have done better to marry a clone of ourselves. Because if you married someone who functioned exactly like you, there would be no room for you to grow and develop and work on yourself and become a person who can see the world in totally different way.

09:56 And you can have that if you allow him to be a person who functions differently than you do. What do we think when we hear this whole thing, he's helping me? We interpret that helping as meaning it's my job and I'm using up my points for him to help me, right? That's how it feels like from a feminine perspective. If he's helping me with the housework, what that means is it must be my job because otherwise he's not helping, right? It's my job and I'm sort of trading in. So now I'm somehow obliged to him in some other way, right? Because I'm asking for his help. So now he gets to ask me for my help because to be frank, that's kind of how we are in a lot of our relationships, right? But that's not how he sees it.

10:39 How he sees it is, "There are things in the house, but to my wife it's called a mess and it's bothering her." And if you allow for it, right? If you're not already jumping down his throat that he's not cleaning it up or that he's not supporting you or he's not helping you, but if you allow for it, he can have a clear result of I can fly in and be the hero. I can give my wife a gift, I can help her, I can do something to show that I love her. That is a result that is motivating to somebody who is a provider, to somebody who is focused on results. All right, for more on this, please go check out Alison Armstrong, her first two books, Queen's Code and Keys To The Kingdom. They are linked in last week's show notes. I can put them in this week as well. And you will get a much bigger picture. This is just a very small taste of that whole concept.

11:36 But I do want to say that in Judaism we actually have the same concept, which I think is really cool. We talk about it a little bit differently. This is sort of in the realm of Kabbalah, which I am not even remotely qualified to talk about teaching, let alone teach, okay? But from what I understand of this, that there's this idea of Mashpia and Mekabu, which means a Mashpia is a giver. A Mashpia is a teacher. Right now I am being Mashpia, I am giving over information in this form of a podcast. And a Mekabu is the receiver. So right now those of you who are listening or being Mekabu or not, but ideally, right? You are receiving the information. What you do with it is up to you, but you are receiving, you're hearing it, you're listening to it, okay?

12:16 They are seen as a masculine and feminine form. Now, as evidenced by the fact that I'm female and I am right now being Mashpia, a female can do the masculine action of Mashpia and a man can do a feminine action of being Mekabu, right? So this isn't man and woman. This is masculine, feminine. And what's interesting is that the very basics of it is that the relationship between the two is that one can only be Mashpia if someone is being Mekabu. I can sit here and talk into a microphone all day long. I'm not being Mashpia, I'm not being a teacher or a giver if there is nobody listening on the other side, right?

12:58 What this means for our marriages and this is if you're Jewish or not, it's just another approach, another take on this, is that if a person can only provide where someone is receiving, and I would want to even say graciously receiving, then whatever you want your husband to provide, you have to be willing to receive. And this can be really hard for some of us because some of us have been raised to idealize being independent, okay? And we get confused about receiving as an independent person.

13:33 And the example that I love that was given in some class that I took once upon a time, and I wish I knew who it was so I could credit her or him. The example is the Queen of England, okay? The Queen of England is independent in that she is self-sufficient. Nobody questions her or wonders if she's weak, okay? She's not a weak person. And so when she receives something she is receiving as a Queen. She can graciously receive, she can be excited or show gratitude for the thing that she's receiving without it weakening her, okay? Is she a damsel in distress looking to be saved? No. Is she able to receive? Absolutely.

14:13 This is the kind of Mekabu that we're talking about. We're not talking about, I can't make any money for myself, so can my husband please bring some home for me. Or I can't do anything on my own so I need him to come in and rescue me. Absolutely not. But what it does mean is that if my husband washes the dishes and I think to myself, great, of course, like that's what he should've done. I wish he'd done it earlier. I'm not being Mekabu, which means he's not able to give it to me, okay? It's not a gift. It's not a... I'm not receiving it, okay?

14:43 And since that will shut down that flow, it means that it's harder for him to now continue to do that, okay? So I think there's... It's really fascinating to me. It's why I'm sharing all this. The overlap it has with Alison Armstrong because here we have someone who came in and started researching by asking men about their experience of being men and why they do things, right? What motivates them. And then we have this centuries old tradition of how things are in the world spiritually and the two of them align so beautifully. So that's why I wanted to share that.

15:16 But again, this is one where, if I only gave you a taste of what Alison Armstrong has to say, I am giving you a molecule of a taste of a Kabbalah has to say and the whole concept of masculine and feminine, male and female and Judaism. So if that is something that you're interested in, there are people much more qualified than me to teach it, okay.

15:34 Number three, so that's number one and two, provider, receiver, Mashpia, Mekabu. Number three is that we tend to choose the standard. The women, us ladies, we tend to be the ones to choose if it's done or not, right? What we're judging our house against. When we look at the house and it's not the way it should be, we are the ones that have a concept of what's wrong, okay? Now, this is for... I see a couple of different reasons for this. Number one could be that a lot of us feel like the house that we're living in or our home or our apartment, that it feels like it's a reflection on us or a reflection on how we're doing in life.

16:16 I know that for me, my kitchen, if it's out of control, I feel like I'm out of control. I get very distracted. It's harder for me to focus. It's harder for me to produce results in my life. I spend a lot of time in my house. So that's different. But when I was working and I was teaching in elementary school, it was my desk. If my desk was together, my day would go smoothly. If my desk was a mess, I didn't feel on top of things.

16:41 We sort of have this relationship of it being a sort of representation or a reflection on us as people or how we're doing. And I want to say that I don't know if there is some of that, that is inherent in the masculine and feminine or if that's entirely the way that we raise women, the way we talk to women, just the societal expectations. And the truth is that it doesn't matter to me, right? Because what I'm doing is I'm trying to take us as we are now and get us to the goal, get us to the vision of where we want to be. So I will leave to somebody else to worry about why we got to where we are now.

17:16 I don't think it matters. I think if I see my house as a reflection on me and how I'm doing, I don't really care if that's because that's the way I was raised as a little girl or if that's because of my genetics. That's the situation I have and that I need to work with. So that was the second thing that I wanted to say, which is we don't really know where it's coming from. But if we're the one that is setting the standard, okay? We're deciding, there's this kind of concept that the woman is in charge, like the houses is a reflection on her. Again, we don't know where that's coming from. And it could be that in certain houses that's very clearly not the case, right? And people tell you that the husband designs it and that's fine. But for a lot of us, this is what we're struggling with, is that we feel that the outside world also agrees that our space is a reflection on the woman.

17:57 And in the last one I want to say, which is if it's your standard, so be honest with yourself. Are you the one that's deciding when it's clean? Are you the one that decide that it's dirty? Or do you check with your husband and say, "Is it time to clean? Do you think it's messy?" So if you're the one deciding, then that means it's your project, okay? So if he were to come home and decide that the whole family isn't healthy enough and needs to give up sugar and flour, then it wouldn't be fair for him to say, "And now it's time for you to start cooking to my expectations." No, right?

18:31 You would be helping him, right? If you were cooking dinner and you were doing it according to his sugar and flour rule, so you would be helping him because it would be his project. He set the standard. It's his project. So if you are the one that's setting the standard in your house, that means it is your project, which frankly means if he's getting involved, he's just doing it to help you.

18:50 I like this one because this is very separate from gender. It doesn't matter who's the guy, who's the girl. Just be honest about who's the one that's setting the standard. Be honest about who is the person that it's bothering. Who is the one who decides? Fine, you're both bothered when the house is a total mess. But if it needs to be cleaner for you, then it needs to be for him or vice versa, then the person who's pitching in just to get to the standard of the other person is helping. And you know what, then you get to be grateful for it. Then you get to feel partnered with. But you can't expect someone to help you without asking for their help, without being grateful for their help, right?

19:26 It doesn't even mean reciprocity. It doesn't mean you need to give something back. It can just be a great big smile or a hug or a thank you so much that did so much for me. Now I can move on with my week because everything's put away. If it's your standard, it's your project and so be grateful for any help that you get.

19:43 The last tool that I want to give you about this, which is one that I learned the hard way. Meaning this is one that I learned from my relationship, from my husband, explaining to me his experience of being a husband married to me more than I learned from my research, which is that a specific result or vision is motivating. Already being behind the bar is not. Now this goes for men and women.

20:09 I don't know about you, but I have a tendency when I'm cleaning a room that I think that all I need to do is... Let's say I'm in my room and I just need to put away the clothes that are on the bed. I go and put the clothes away on the bed and then I'm like, "Oh my gosh, but the counter of my dresser, the top of my dresser is covered. I need to go through that and make sure that everything is, get things put away and declutter and throw things out." And I go to throw things out and the garbage can is full. So I need to take out the garbage, right? So in the... I lied to myself essentially, right? I went in saying all I need to do is X, and then Y and Z popped up because the more that I clean, the more the standard went up of what needed to be done.

20:42 You just start noticing things when things get cleared off, that's fine. I'm going to be hard on myself for that. But I do need to be honest about that.

20:51 When articulating what it is that you're looking for, two things need to happen. This is specifically when we're dealing with housework, okay? One is you need to be really honest about when you'll be happy. And this might mean two things. So I've said to my husband, I grew up in a family that loves boating. And so I said, "I want my house to be like a boat. Everything that we owned should have a place where it goes. If it doesn't have a place, I don't want to own it." Right? And to him, he was like, "What? This is craziness. What are you talking about?" Okay. So we haven't gotten to my standard yet, but at least now I know what my standard is. That is my standard.

21:27 I know that unless we are going to send the children away for the next six months and work exclusively, quit our jobs and hopefully it wouldn't take six months. I don't know, maybe Marie Kondo can come to us. But a significant amount of time devoting ourselves exclusively to our home. If we're not going to be doing that, I'm not going to get what my standard really is. And the truth is, to be honest, even if everything was away, then I would start on home decorating. I really would. Then I would start to notice the couch needs to be like this and , and this doesn't match and I don't really like the color, right? That's what would happen for me. That's the way I function. I'm not saying all women are that way.

22:05 What I've had to learn to do is to, actually, I write it out on paper. If we have jobs in the house and it will usually be a Sunday, we'll write out the jobs that we're trying to get done and I will write it down because then I know that if I'm now going back and saying, "Oh, also the counter needs to be cleared." I have to write it on the list and then I know, okay, I'm adding to a list that's already been agreed upon. That's not fair, okay? So sometimes I'll be like, "Can I just squeeze this little one in?" And I'll get away with it. But it definitely keeps me on track. It keeps me from going and adding one thing after another, after another, after another.

22:36 Because what used to happen is we would have a specific amount of time that he had offered to help me with the house, help me. Yes. Because it wasn't bothering him and we would be working on it together and we'd be doing all this stuff together and I just kept adding to it, right? It was a never ending bottomless pit of things that needed to be done. And what that means is he could never get a win, right? And we've all had that experience, whether it was in work or in school where everything that you did, the bar just kept getting higher and you could never get that win. If you want someone to help you with anything, you have to be willing to say, this is the bar and you can get a win.

23:20 That's why I love as a teacher, when you use grading rubrics. This is how you get your grade. It's not personal. Check off all these boxes and you will get a hundred, right? We sort of want to have the same thing with the people in our lives. Why do grading rubrics work? Because it motivates people to know how they're being judged.

23:37 There is a study a little while ago, a couple of years ago about what was the biggest cause of job dissatisfaction and it was not knowing how they were performing, not knowing how they were being judged at work, right? So all the more so in our homes where we're even more dedicated, it's more important. You've got to know if you're trying to get somebody to help you with something. This is when I will consider it a hundred. Yes. Do I have my perfect better homes and gardens house? No. But the job that I asked you to do, perfect 100% exactly what I needed. Thank you so much.

24:10 I do want to get into quickly what do you do if you feel like you are just bearing the brunt of the housework? Okay. Because I'm talking to you about an approach, sort of way of looking at it. All right? But what happens if, let's say you both work 40 hour weeks and you are doing 90% of the housework and he's doing practically none? I want you to start with where we are. What is your standard? Own that you are the one choosing the standard in the area that you are, right? If you don't want to own the standard, that's very simple. You can just sit down with him and say, "Can we just have a conversation about what the house should look like, what we consider baseline, what do you need, what do I need, and we'll just put it down on paper and we'll both agree to make sure that we have that.

24:51 And when you agree, do you agree that you have that, you get to that point when you finish dinner, before you move on to relaxing for the evening. Is that what you need? He might say to you, "Actually you know what, I'm so burned out. I come home, I'm starving and I haven't sat and zoned out. And what I need to do is just turn on the TV and watch for an hour or open a book and read it for an hour. And then I will have the energy to get there." So listen to what he has to say and tell him try, this is even harder. Try and figure out what you need, right? What do you need in terms of your day? When would this be good? Okay. And the two of you can sit down and you can make a deal.

25:26 This is the standard that we're looking for. This is what I need to have the fuel, the energy to be able to do that kind of thing and then talk it out. So you're going to sit down together. And the reason I wanted to start with all of this thought work and all of these perspectives on how men and women can be different, and the concept of him helping and letting him have a specific goal, is my hope is that what that would've done for you is that if you have resentment from the way things have been going, we can get to a place of, maybe this has more to do with not understanding what's going on.

25:59 Maybe this has more to do with not understanding how the two of us function differently. And it wasn't him saying, "You do it, it's your problem, not mine. You're not important enough for me to help." Right? "Or for me to care or I'm just a slob." Or whatever things that we put in the thought bubble above his head as he didn't wash the dishes that so clearly were screaming to be washed. We can move on from that and say that was a misunderstanding.

26:25 Now when I sit down with him and say, "I want to get to a place," remember set the vision, set the goal for yourself. "I want to get to a place where the house looks like X five days of the week. Five out of seven days of the week it looks like X, Y, Z. Dishes are always clean and put away at the end of the night. I'm not doing laundry, I'm doing cooking." You have your vision, you have your needs, he has his needs, and you're coming at it from a spirit of partnership, not from, I've already been burned by you. I've already been hurt by you. But I trust you that if I sit and I listen and I hear what you have to say and I respect your needs and you say, "I need to veg out on the couch for an hour before I can help with the housework," and that's valid. Even that's not... Play video games, right? Whatever it is.

27:08 I don't understand that. That's not my thing. But if that's what you need, it's valid. And you know what? Actually now that I think about it, I need one night a week where I don't do anything in the kitchen. Let yourselves help each other with that.

27:19 All right. My final point, which is, and I alluded to this in the last episode, which is that if you listen to the two of these, and I don't know why you listen to them if this wasn't an issue, but if you listened to both of these episodes thinking, my husband is immaculate, he always puts things away, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I don't know. I'm only listening to understand what other women deal with and not me, okay. So it could be very, very possible that he's the one setting the standard and so he's going to go and get it, right?

27:50 He wants things to be put away immediately. He doesn't like seeing jobs in the form of things around the house and so he wants things put right away so he can move on with his day, fine. That would be great. It could also mean that he's been sort of "well trained", right? That he has been given this as a standard in the form of shame of it's bad if you don't, okay? If that's the case, this means that what he's not able to do is do any of this from a place of providing, okay? If he is keeping the house clean, because there is a shame element in, by the way, this is the same for you.

28:33 If you're keeping a neat house or cooking elaborate meals or keeping yourself in shape to a certain standard or working yourself to the bone in your job because of shame, which means because you're feeling that this is what gives you value, not that you have inherent value, but you need to do these things so that you have value, then you aren't doing it for your husband, you aren't doing it to give or to relate. So the same for him. And it also means you're not doing it for yourself. You can't go to the gym to take care of yourself because you have to be a size two to be worthwhile. You can't. You just can't do both at the same time.

29:10 When you do some of this work, you spend some time thinking about what drives you, what motivates you, and hearing the same thing from him, it can be extremely powerful. And then if you can get to the point where when he's doing that, he's helping in the house or whatever and he is able to provide for you, he is able to give for you because he understands that his value is there regardless of what the house looks like, regardless of how helpful he is, regardless of what he looks like or what you... Right? For either of you. So then now all of these actions that we're taking throughout our day can be forgiving. They can be forgiving to ourselves, forgiving to other people, right? It can be for a higher purpose when it's not coming from a place of you have to, otherwise you are not worthwhile.

29:56 Okay, so I wanted to leave you on that note. I hope that this has been helpful for you. If you sit down and you have this conversation with your husband, I would absolutely love to hear about it. Let me know how it goes. Let me know if you need to troubleshoot any of that, and I will see you back here on this podcast next week. Take care.

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