Money and housework – final thoughts on marriage and children study

Couple upset over finances © Wavebreakmedia Ltd |

This is my final post based on information from When Baby Makes Three, the 2011 State of Our Unions a report from the National Marriage Project.

The study showed something interesting about income. Not surprisingly, how much money a couple has was far less important than how much “financial pressure and debt” they had. In my words, being poor is not a problem for a marriage, while being heavily in debt is a problem no matter how much money or how many nice things the couple has. Among couples with “below average or average financial stress”, 50% of men and women said they were very happy in marriage. When a couple had above average financial stress, only 34% of women and 43% of men said the same. The amount of consumer debt a couple carries shows showed similar results, especially for women. For those with no such debt, 48% said they were very happy and divorce proneness was only 18%. For couples with $10,000 to $19,000 in consumer debt, those figures were 40% very happy, and a 23% divorce proneness. Please note that this issue is more important to women, especially women with children. You can’t make her feel better by downplaying or hiding the issue, you need to deal with it!

The study showed, as others before it have, that women were happier when they felt household chores were shared equally. What is somewhat surprising is that men were also more likely to be happy in their marriage when they felt the housework was shared evenly.  Rates of “very happy in marriage” were 50% for both men and women in marriage where the work was not shared equally. This went up to 59% for men and 64% for women when housework was evenly shared.

The good news from this study is that there are a number of things we men can do to make our marriages better. Being more generous, seeking out those who will support our marriages, doing our share of the housework, and getting our finances in order will all result in greater marital happiness for both you and your bride, and will reduce the odds of divorce. Yes, great sex also does those things, and does it well, but if she’s not about that yet, work on the one’s a list above. As she feels better about the marriage, things may change sexually without you saying anything. Even if this does not happen, it put you in a better place to deal with the sexual side.

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8 Comments on “Money and housework – final thoughts on marriage and children study

  1. So how do you address these things when it’s your wife who is the spender and the one who leaves clutter, dishes, piles of laundry, etc?

    Seems I’m the one suggesting folks put their dishes in the dishwasher, like I’m doing. I’m the one suggesting folks do a load of laundry a day instead of just piling it up in the laundry room. (I’m doing a load right now.) I’m the one suggesting folks not leave their clutter on the dining room table, but put things away when they are done using them.

    But it goes in one ear and out the other. I set the example, I do my share and then some, but nothing changes.

    Ditto for spending. Before I married, I was saving 10-20% of what I made. Now, it’s probably 5-10%. But all sorts of really useless stuff shows up in shopping bags. DW says she wants to start saving, so I suggest she keep track of what she’s spending to find ways she can cut out spending in order to save it. It doesn’t matter. If I cut my spending, it’s countered and then some by other spending on her part.

    I can only lead by example so much. Sharing how I feel about this only gets the dismissive you are too strict, too anal, or whatever.

    Yet I know the stress and destructive nature of these things. But my wife will not hear me on these things.

    I simply don’t know what to do next. I’m caught in this push pull where she says she wants me to take the lead, but when I lead, she doesn’t want to follow.

    She’s not my child, so I can’t treat her like a child. She’s an adult, and at some point, she has to choose to follow if she really wants me to take the lead on these things.

    I’m tired of the contradictions between words and deeds. If she really wants to save, then she needs to stop spending and start saving. If she really wants to have a relaxing home, then she needs to follow the example, instead of frantically searching for stuff she can’t find.

    I’m getting to that point where I’m simply looking for reasons not to be here because being here just reminds me of how much of this dissonance there is.

    I’ve been generous and loving, and it simply doesn’t work. I simply am ignored, told I don’t measure up.

    How can one lead spiritually when someone won’t even follow in these very simple things?

    Why try when met with recurrent failure and disappointment?

  2. @Tony – Maybe one way to change things is to stop doing certain things, so the rest of the family can experience the ramification of their (in)actions. Do your laundry, and leave the rest. If they really prefer to do it all at once when they have nothing clean (my daughter was that way) then they can do that. If they are just lazy, they can deal with not having clean clothes.

    I realise this does not work for everything – there are sanitation and sanity issues. But start where you can.

    • That doesn’t fix the issue of not being able to get in the back door when the door is nearly blocked due to laundry baskets.

      I’m all about allowing others to suffer the natural consequences of their actions. However, my gripe is that the mudroom/laundry room is the catchall for laundry.

      The teens do their laundry now. I only wash clothes for myself and my bride. They are 19, 17 and 13. I did my laundry when I was younger than the youngest, so we expect them to do it. It’s the detritus associated with it.

      But if I don’t have the support of my wife, I’m just tilting at windmills. Since it doesn’t bother her, since she doesn’t have to open the door as wide as I do, it’s not a problem. I’m told I should just live with it.

      If they want to keep in all in their rooms and do it all at once, I’m good with that. I just don’t want the piles in the mud/laundry room getting in the way of opening the door to the attached garage.

      I do laundry for me and my wife because otherwise I can’t get into the walk-in closet. Same issues. Door doesn’t open when there is a 4′ high pile of clothes blocking the door. So I do a load or two a day if I can, or more.

      I’m finding I’m spending more time at work and at the gym where I don’t have to deal with this. It’s not like I’ve been missed. In fact, I’m waiting to see if anyone even notices I’m not there as much. So far, not so much.

      I guess my next move is to cancel the cleaning service. My requirement for being enthusiastic about paying for a cleaning service twice a month was that the house would be kept neat. I.E. my wife and kids would not leave their stuff lying around, filing the dining room table, putting dishes on the counters when the dishwasher was empty, etc.

      They are not holding up their part of the bargain, so I really want to end the service to make the point that I’m serious about how much this bothers me, and how it’s contributing to dissatisfaction.

      I can’t even stand to ride in my wife’s car most of the time due to the trash in the passenger footwell. So if she wants to take her car instead of mine, I drive so I don’t have to sit with the trash.

      It’s her car, so she can keep it how she wishes. I simply refuse to sit with the trash. But it still bothers me.

      • Funny enough I agree with what Paul is saying.

        Me and my now wife had this issue a long time ago. I was doing the cooking, the cleaning, the washing of dishes, and then still had to take care of her emotionally and physcially.

        It was difficult, and often did end up with us eather fighting, or me just being mentally and emotionally tired.

        But then I came to realize something, I realized that I was doing alot of these things to myself. I needed to back off, lessen my share of what was being done so that (A) i wouldnt be so stressed all the time, and (B) she could have a CHANCE to actually be helpfull and do something.

        If she didnt do her share, then guess what…food wasnt cooked, dishes werent washed, place looked like a wrech ect ect.

        We both then came to realize that we need to share the responsabilities, but this only came about through me letting go of takeing responsability for her and her share of what needed to be done.

        Your right, she isnt a child, so dont treat her like one. Pray for guidence from the Lord, then leave anger, bitterness and frustration out, do your share and let that be that.

        If she is really paying attention she will see that she needs to do more.

        I pray this helps.

  3. I also want to say on a side note that I do feel the finacial thing.

    Its hard man…me and my wife are barely makeing it now as we speak and its hard to keep your mind pure and upbeat when your struggling with bills every month.

  4. Tony,
    I TOTALLY get your life and what you struggle with. However, I must be the broken record….
    “The WHO is more important than the WHAT”

    Letting go of standards, preferences, desires, cares for the future, frustrations over laundry, trash under foot in her car, peaceful time alone at the gym… is what God wants for you to learn. More importantly, God wants you to learn how to be peaceful and “ok” with what IS. Why ? Because your wife and 3 children are more important to God than what a faithful, hard working, orderly, kind man like yourself prefers to feel and experience in his day-to-day life.

    Your wife and children will not EVER miss you if you do not let go of your frustration, disappointment and resentment over house and money issues.

    If you do not let go of your “need” for order and respect in your home, they may just end up letting go of YOU… out of frustration, disappointment and resentment.

    Your family is more important than your home, your savings, your peace. Please get this one right. Don’t lose them by being demanding. Let go.

    The WHO is more important than the WHAT

    God Bless You. Sincerely, Jeff

    • That’s the only thing that keeps me from just chucking it some days.

      I’d simply like my who to register just as important to them as you suggest they should be to me over my preferences.

      At times, it seems one-sided. It doesn’t provide the confidence to lead in other ways if my family is not willing to follow on such simple things.

      Again, why would I think they would follow me on more spiritual matters if they don’t respect me enough to follow me here?

  5. Dear Tony,
    I really identify with your story.

    I have 8 children (4 of each… 21 down to 1 year old), and Im married to a fiesty, lawyering, spontaneous, high-octane, unpredictable but lovely Bride, who has challenged me to the very core of my manhood in every way. I’ve thought or spoken every word you’ve shared, at some point in my own married life. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    As long as I have breath, my Bride and our children are FAR more important to GOD, than MY needs are to ME. God brought me into this world to DIE. In order for me to ACTUALLY do that, I must first accept this profound fact, then I must intentionally testify and walk in this profound understanding, DAILY, as my PURPOSE for LIVING! Finally, I must, with endurance, finish the race. My experience of THIS life is no longer the point. My fulfilling GODS WILL, by DYING for her and them, is the point… in that, while they (we) were yet disrespectful, inconsiderate slobs (sinners), I (Christ) died for them (us).

    As it was for Christ on OUR behalf, our life must be OUR generous, freely given GIFT to THEM, without resentment, criticism or anger. This is the savior-man God calls us to be if we are to call ourselves men of God. You and I simply need to man up… and die.

    Now, lets quit our bitching (I bitch too), and make God PROUD of us by following Christs lead. It’s time. Will you join with me?


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