Books — The Lazy Husband
The Lazy Husband

By Lisa Parsons

Coping with The Lazy Husband - Or, how to trade sex for help around the house

The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework, by Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., St. Martin’s Press, 2005, 226 pages.

What’s sexier than Harrison Ford (circa Raiders of the Lost Ark) bathed in chocolate and lounging on silk sheets in a private-island cabana?

A man who does the dishes.

Your own husband wearing a soggy dishtowel over his shoulder and pushing a vacuum is — or would be, if it ever happened — almost as sexy as, say, Tyron Leitso in a swimsuit.

Nah, maybe not. But you don’t have a chance at Tyron Leitso in a swimsuit or in a soggy dishtowel. Your husband, on the other hand, is all yours.

And with the advice of psychologist Joshua Coleman perhaps you can get the dishtowel on his shoulder and the vacuum in his grip. How? Examine yourself. Examine your husband. (Psychologically, people!) Examine your marriage. And have sex whether you feel like it or not. Before you know it he’ll be ironing shirts and scrubbing toilets.

You start by figuring out what made you such a pushover that you’d take on all the dirty work at home. Then become less of a pushover. Alternately, figure out what made you such a perfectionist that you can’t rest until every fork is perfectly aligned in the drawer. Then become less of a perfectionist. Are you angry, controlling, guilt-ridden? Perhaps you thought you needed a maid when what you really need is therapy. Don’t enable your husband’s laziness; don’t be a gatekeeper (not letting him do anything without going through you first), and when you ask for help be specific and be pleasant.

Now, examine your husband: what in his childhood or current life makes him think he’s above doing housework? Is it his mother? His workplace? His fragile macho ego? Is he angry, controlling, guilt-ridden? Work with the problem at its source. Be aware of “common lazy husband excuses” and learn how to answer them (mainly, restate your needs calmly and assertively). Also, consider the possibility that he is doing plenty around the house and you’re not noticing.

Coleman, a San Francisco resident who has written for The New York Times, Parents magazine and Cosmo, addresses the book to women because, he says, he’s not foolish enough to expect men to read it. But Chapter 8 is “For the Husband” and opens with a quote from a male reader asking “How about a book called ‘The Bitchy Wife’?” Here Coleman (ever the diplomat) says “I haven’t ruled out the possibility that your wife may be really difficult,” and supplies advice like “See if there are bargains that can be made,” “Don’t be so defensive,” “Write out a list with her of what she’d like you to do” and (I paraphrase) if you want sex, try cleaning the toilet bowl. (Conversely, there is his earlier advice to women: Just have sex, you’ll feel good once you get into it, and it might put your spouse more in the mood to clean the toilet bowl.)

The entire book rests on the unhappy but apparently real premise that on average, men, though more involved in the homefront than their forebears were, fail to contribute a fair share of grunt work around the house.

It’s a short, accessible book. I predict wives will read it frantically while vacuuming the floor with the other hand, or read it in bed and send arched-eyebrow looks toward their mates, and husbands will read Chapter 8 as slowly as possible as a stalling tactic.

Then, if all goes well, he will clean the toilets, and they will have sex.

—Lisa Parsons

 
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