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Just a Guy and His Overwhelmed Wife

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So, I suspect I'm the first guy who has heard from his wife how busy she is, how much she does, how tired she is, how underappreciated she is, and how I do nothing.

wife looking frustrated with husband

Bruce Sallan: Well, it's true. I actually do nothing.

I don't take care of the boys, pay for our lives, walk our three dogs, pay the bills, clean up after myself and others in the kitchen, occasionally cook, often BBQ, do the Costco runs, put gas in my wife's car, tell her how much I love her, and how amazing her cooking is. Nah, I do none of that stuff.

BUT, she cleans, cleans, and cleans. Our house is really clean. She works, has a horrible commute, and loves her two stepsons more than their biological mom, who is no longer even in their lives. She comes home after a long drive and frustrating day at work (she's a realtor -- need I say more?) and cooks us a wonderful meal.

Did I mention she's going through menopause? Do I need to say anything else?

Okay, so the question is how do I lighten her load? I have to admit -- I just don't care about the clean, clean, clean side of her personality and anal-ness about it. But, then again, she doesn't really care for my burping and farting, and general slovenliness.

I actually think we're a perfect match and I thank G*d for my good fortune in meeting her, having her actually like and eventually marry me, and love my boys so much, but what do I know? I'm just a guy.

next: The ADHD-Sleep Connection
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny December 12, 2009, 6:14 AM

Here is a way to take care of her without hardly lifting a finger on your part. Arrange and pay for a spa weekend for her and a friend, get someone to watch the boys so you don’t have to and she doesn’t have to worry about them getting on your nerves, send them to a relative. Let her have girl time where she is responsible for nothing other than enjoying the pampering.

Bruce Sallan December 12, 2009, 7:26 AM

Jenny - I’ve offered that many times. She doesn’t like spas. I’ve offered trips away with her girlfriends. She does seem to relish being “overwhelmed” so I have to ultimately allow her (as if I had a choice) to live her life. I just wish it was less stressful for her. In the end, we all make our own choices. Thanks for your suggestion, however. Also, being alone with the boys as I’m the stay-at-home parent anyway, is no big deal for me. I did it 24/7 for years as a single dad (which inspired my writing). Have a great holiday season Jenny!

mollie December 12, 2009, 9:25 AM

i know how you feel! i’m anal in a weird way and my husband has gotten the blunt end of the stick (how he helped me fold laundry once and i told, i mean lectured him how i wanted the towels folded. half and then thirds!! i shouted. i want the clothes facing the right way when i hang them!!! oh my goodness!!! *rant rant rant* LOL, and no he does not help me with the laundry anymmore, and i’m ok with that!) i feel bad, buts just how i want things done and i’m not even hitting menopause yet! :O

anyway, this is what my husband does. when he notices i’m overwhelmed he just comes over and rubs my shoulder, gives me a hug, or a kiss.

it feels greatly relaxing, takes only a few seconds out of your time. i know he acknowledges the stress i’m feeling. i don’t like the spa also so this is my ‘spa’ time.

Anita (England) December 12, 2009, 10:34 AM

Meant to add – it’s not just physical exhaustion, it’s mental, because you are constantly thinking what needs doing next and in the time.

friend December 12, 2009, 2:39 PM

it’s very thoughtful and considerate that you want to relieve your wife’s stress and feel ‘less incompetent.’ i think the best way is to understand how she does things and help a little here and there. she feels she’s doing ‘all’ the work mostly probably because you don’t do it or you don’t do it ‘right’ like how mollie explained up there. your definition of clean may not be the same to her inspection standards, just like how some students are content with giving it their minimal (just a passing grade) versus an ambitious A+. small spaces are easy so i would start with the bathroom. love is not just shown in the obvious ways. it shows more apparently in the subtle details. a quick fix is never the long-term answer. maybe a reminder of how things were LESS stressful and enjoyable before might help too. hope this helps. happy holidays.

Kathi Browne December 12, 2009, 7:50 PM

Consider yourself lucky. When my husband refused to give any attention to housework, I started using his pillow case to wipe the poo off the toilet seat. Guess who cleans now…

PhotoJoe December 12, 2009, 9:15 PM

Do you moderate comments here? I notice mine appears to have been censored/removed without explanation. Is there any place where your policy is clearly explained so I might understand what community standard I violated?

Bruce Sallan December 12, 2009, 10:10 PM

PhotoJoe - I don’t moderate any comments but ML has a very aggressive spam filter apparently. I don’t know why yours haven’t made it but I’m quite curious so I hope you’ll try again. Keep it simple and it will likely make it through. I’ve mentioned that others have had difficulty posting comments but they’re not individually screened and, as I said, most certainly not by me.

Anita (England) December 13, 2009, 7:49 AM

I read your article with much interest. I absolutely can relate to how your wife feels. I am a clean nut when anything major is happening, and your wife has had her fair share lately – Thanksgiving, her parents arrival, your son’s Bar Mitzvah and Christmas tinkering on the brink… Like me, she loves everything to be perfect for the day. It’s something we can’t turn off. Simply because we feel like we’re letting everybody down if we do. My hubby cooks, puts petrol (gas) in my car, does the shopping, runs the lawnmower over the lawn… but I still feel exhausted at the end of the day. It’s not just physical exhaustion, it’s mental, because you are constantly thinking what needs doing next and in the time limit. What I appreciate more than anything is my hubby offering to run round with the vac. And I also love a full English breakfast served in bed on a Sunday morning with a huge mug of tea – ah! Heaven! Go for it, Bruce! Oh, and menopause? Don’t even go there, because when it comes to the menopause, you men are most definitely worse!

Sonnie December 14, 2009, 9:46 AM

Kudos to you (I don’t think I ever used that phrase before in my life)for realizing your wife is getting a bit stressed and overwhelmed. I used to be really OCD about how the house was kept but I’ve mellowed out a bit. The one thing that I really appreciate from my husband is when he just asks “What can I do to help?” It lets me know that he understands that I’m flustered and he wants to help solve the problem. I will give him a couple of little tasks that will keep him out of my whirlwind of insanity.

You are one lucky man Bruce. You mentioned that she cooks great meals when she comes home from work. You may already do this but one thing that I like when I’m cooking is having my husband help out with SOME of the prep work and he’s the one that runs to the pantry for things I forgot and so on. I enjoy having him in the kitchen with me (as long as he’s not stepping on my toes) just to unwind, vent or whatever.

Alan December 14, 2009, 11:00 PM

Hey Bruce,
You can’t change her or relieve the stress. The only way you could relieve the stress is to read her mind, tell her exactly what you are about to do, one second before she asks and whatever that is must be exactly what she wants you to do, in the order she wants it done. Its a girl/menopause thing. If there is no stress, she will create it. She just wants to be in charge of everything, that is what relaxes her, when she can tell you what to do and how to do it because she is a born organizer and you are like me - any more laid back and you will fall over.

My advice is - just love her.

Great column, keep up the good work.

Nancy December 15, 2009, 9:56 AM

These he-saids she-saids are just excuses to perpetuate boring sexist stereotypes (“My wife is overworked because she wants to be. Because, well, you know, CHICKS! MENOPAUSE!”). Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is? Sit down with your wife, do a time study and see who actually spends more time on drudgery and who has more quality time with the kids. Then jointly come up with some solutions.

Bruce Sallan December 15, 2009, 10:29 AM

Nancy - If I’d used the word “Chicks” I’d never hear the end of it. But, I guess using the “M” word is just as bad in your eyes? There are sexist stereotypes or, a better way of putting it, in my opinion, is there are generalities about male and female natures, instincts, likes and dislikes though if you studied “women’s studies” in school you’d be “taught” otherwise. We ARE different for the most part! Period, fact, Truth! I write from my heart, how I feel, and I work hard on my marriage. We actually sat down, just last night, and really had a heart-to-heart about how to better manage our marriage, our lives, our time, etc. It’s an ongoing journey and process. I just hope to provoke a dialogue here. I do appreciate your comment Nancy, even if this reply comes across edgy (I’m rushing) and I wish you and your family a lovely holiday season (most seriously).

David December 16, 2009, 11:47 AM

To the famous three rules of life—Never eat at a place called “Mom’s,” never play cards with a man named “Doc,” and I forget the third—I would add: Never (if you are a male) propose the word “menopause” as a possible explanatory factor for a specific female’s behavior. Aside from that, I’m bitter and cynical at present because I’m currently going through my own durance vile in a relationship. Although this unrest is not—in terms of either level of turmoil, height of stakes, or genre of relationship—identical to what Bruce describes, I am nonetheless completely and unconditionally mystified and hurt by my partner’s behavior. For the first time E*V*E*R in my life—and I just turned 57—I am asking myself a question that positions women, not men and women equally, as “the problem” in the world of relationships: “Is it just the women with whom I’m getting into relationsihps, or is it most women, who make really stupid, and indeed mean, choices that kill an otherwise satisfying relationship?”

Bruce Sallan December 16, 2009, 12:05 PM

David - thanks and you’re right. Mentioned the “M” word is like mentioning either the “P” or “C” words - deadly! As to your questions, here are my answers:
Yes, No, Maybe, 5, Take your pick, Men, Women, and Go figure. I hope this helps!

Loren February 1, 2010, 9:20 PM

Kathi Brown,I love your comment. My husband told me that he won’t clean toilets (but I guess it’s okay that his wife cleans the toilets???!!!). All kidding aside, we are working on it and it is seemingly improving!:-)))))) Now he’ll tell you that he pays for our lives, but won’t say that his wife works a full time job, has a horrendous commute and comes home and cooks dinner and cleans and, and, and,….

Good blog Bruce, something we can sink our teeth into!

Wally March 11, 2010, 9:50 AM

It is refreshing to read someone elses experiences. I alway try to live by a simple motto (that I am trying to teach to my sons)”Happy Wife-Happy Life”. Here is the rub…no matter how much I do and how clean the house is, the bar just gets raised higher…and she is always un satisfied and sad and angry about it. Our kids are not as helpful as they could be and no matter what they do to help she will tell them how they should have done it better….so after a while they will give up. All of this has made for a very stressful life for everybody around here. I’m really struggling because I really really want my wife to be happy…and I just can’t make her precieve how blessed we are and how good things really are…

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