I Married a Slob and She Won’t Do Anything Around the House

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. 

Dear Em & Lo,

When my wife and I started dating, I noticed she was a bit of a slob. That’s not the way I was raised. My mom was first one up and gone to work. After 8-10 hours as a nurse, she would leave work. Stop at the grocery store, buy something to cook for 5 of us. While dinner was going on she was doing laundry, washing, drying, and folding clothes. My dad would get home about 5:00pm, cut grass, and other yard work. Homework would be checked, then eat. I guess I grew up too idealistic, I thought that would be how it would be when I married. Man, was I in for a surprise.

She was raised a little different. There was someone on the payroll to do theses things. I addressed this when she lived in an apartment which was not just a mess, it was awful. So awful I cleaned it my self several times. She explained that when we got married and got something of our own she would change. At 21 years old, boy was I played.

After the wedding we had to rent an apartment, nothing changed, raised hell. Again she explained, it wasn’t ours. This was 8 months into the marriage, and I realized I had made a mistake, but didn’t give up. Kept my part up. Grass cutting, weed eating, helping a lot inside house, thinking I have —– up.

Finally in late 1999 we bought a 10 year old house. I went to work, planted seed and sodded some grass. Painted 3 bedrooms and a play room in basement, and laid tile in a 24’x24′ room by myself. Guess what, no change, at all. I did as much or more of the laundry as she did. Loaded dishwasher, mopped, and vacuumed as much as she did for about 9 years. Started feeling like a fool. Many arguments and hard feeling. After all that time of begging, crying, I made the realization she had lied to me the whole time. I worked 10-12 hours a day and got plenty done after I got home.

I started going to a dark spot. It got to the point I could not look at her. I would ask her to mop the floor, and she always had a reason. She knew how I felt about these things. I just decided this was as good as it was going to get. I did not want to leave. We have an 11 yo and a 15 yo.

It got so awful I left, then I hear she has had an affair. I went to a place I had never been before, I was angry, hurt, and betrayed. Time has passed, the boys and I are doing great. She is miserable, she won’t let me get my stuff. I trusted this girl for 30 years so I let her handle the divorce

What could I have done differently?

— Mr. Clean

Any advice for Mr. Clean on what he could have done differently, or what he can do now? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.


  1. I am in the same situation. 9 years married. At the begining if my marriage, I started to notice that she didn’t want to cook, to clean. I had a job (so I paid the bills), she had no job. She simply didn’t care. She just *knew* that I was going to do the work in the end… why to bother, then?

    Nine years passed. We had 4 children. I had two jobs during 8 years. I had to pay for a cleaner/caretaker, 8h a day. My wife did nothing, simply she was nagging around and not putting any effort to find a job, neither to cook or do household job. My marriage was an inferno. I tried to comfront the situation: she simply reacted with verbal violence. She didn’t care about bills, home economics, house work, finding a job… sheveven wentvto the Caribean with my credit card leaving me with the 4 kids and my (external) job to do + all the household.

    Finally, she decided to file for divorce. I think it is going to be a relieve to get away of this abuse.

  2. I’m in a relationship like that, and went to a therapist. She advised me that I should note down how much time I spend chores, and ask her to do the same. She said yes, but did nothing, and I ended up noting down two hours of chores per day. I confronted her, which led to a big fight. Her main arguments were ‘this is not my house’ (I’m the one who bought it), and ‘this is not my mess’ (as in; she won’t fold my laundry, and her laundry doesn’t need folding, according to her)

    Next, I asked the therapist what to do, who advised me to note down how much cleaning is ‘her’s’, and how much is ‘mine’. If I finish a cup of tea, I move the cup to the dishwasher, so there’s no ‘mess’, while she leaves it on the table, bumps it to the floor two days later, and then pushes it under the couch ‘so she can clean it up later’ (I’m serious; this was her line of reasoning).

    To make matters worse, she’s lazy in everything. I get up two hours before her, take care of the baby, clean up the house, and start working from home for a bit. She just lies there.

    Then, when I convince her to get up, I can finally clean myself up and get ready for work. When I’m ready to leave, shes in the middle of a pile of toys from the baby, playing a game on her phone. And I know that pile will grow throughout the day, and before I can start making dinner in the evening, I will need to clean it up.

    I’ve been talking to my friends about this, and they all say “You love her, but she doesn’t care about you.”
    My therapist said “You’re sacrificing everything for someone who doesn’t reciprocate.”

    Right now, I’m planning on leaving. I can give my child a happy life in a nice home, which won’t smell like a garbage tip. I’m lucky I’ve only been in this relationship for a few years, though.

    OP: there are more people like you out there. Doing 100% of all chores should never be a part of a romantic relationship. Hold on, and you’ll find someone who cares enough about you to actually do a bit of housework.

  3. If you married her thinking she would change, you have already lost. Things that bothered you before the marriage only get magnified during a marriage. You learn to live with them, you hope to modify them, But don’t expected to occur. You’re fighting upbringing and condition behavior. You either have to find a middle ground or learn to live with it.

  4. Don’t just nit pick on what doesn’t get done because that’s really annoying (your not her mother) instead try to focus on the good things in life because that’s the glue

  5. Dear Mr. Clean,

    You could have accepted your wife at anytime and then gotten divorced. You married a partner but wanted a maid. Trying to change your significant other only ever leads to heartache.

    You said you noticed your “wife (future) was a bit of a slob.” And said, “that’s not the way I was raised.”

    I’m not sure if you caught the communication breakdown there..

    Most people reading that would think that you thought your future wife was messy and that in contrast you had been raised to keep *yourself* and your own space clean and organized growing up and had continued on in the same manner into adulthood.

    But, Instead you went straight into how your mother was different and a selfless, domestic paragon of Wife hood

    Why would your wife ever take on “these things” (domestic work?) that in her family had been outsourced to “someone on the payroll”– which freed up your wife’s mother’s (and maybe father’s) time for other things?

    You expected your wife to take on *all* the domestic work that in her experience had been relegated to an individual you describe as “someone on the payroll,” which by its very impersonal description implies a minimum wage service- industry worker *employed* to handle the menial, servant-like tasks.

    Do you see how expecting your wife to take on an *entire* service-industry job — for no reason other than you do not feel like doing the menial work– tells your wife that you believe you are more important than she is???

    Why do you believe you deserved a better quality of life than your wife?

    Clearly she loved you to stay with you so long – even though your actions told her on an ongoing basis you did not believe she was your equal

    It its so ironic and darkly funny and tragic that even at the End you were still trying to change her and expected her to take care of something (the divorce) 100% with the expectation you would benefit. You know the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The frustration alone must have caused you inordinate amounts of stress.

    Just let your stuff go and move on- you’re never going to get what you want from your now ex-wife.

    Online dating will be tough if you decide to get back in the game – you may want to try OurTime.com.

    There are quite a few senior ladieswho may be open to the type of relationship you have wanted. My grandmother for one. She will never believe her time is as important as a mans and gets very uncomfortable anytime she has to sit for more that 15 minutes,believing that for her to relax is selfish .
    You may also consider looking into mail order brides although you do have to pay up front.

    Good luck,

    Megan, 39
    Happily married
    Madison, Wisconsin

    1. Ha, that’s some seriously tough love, Megan! But very well put. In the letter writer’s defense, it does seem like he was willing to do 50% of all the household chores, he just wanted her to do the other 50%… (though we’re guessing she didn’t see it that way!). His biggest mistake was thinking his wife would change, simply by wearing a wedding band. The take-away? If there are things that are deal-breakers for you, bring them up before you walk down the aisle. Or, you know, say nothing and suffer in silence for decades.

    2. Megan you are so off its sad. Try reading…reading really does help. What this guy is going through is so common nowadays. Life isn’t how it used to be we actually have to be genuine partners and when a man is working a full time job along with taking care of all the household chores all by himself, it’s shouldn’t be a shock that he gets pissed off that his wife not only doesn’t help but to make it worse she is a slob and messes up the places the guy cleans. Megan just read…your response appears to be for a guy that expects his wife to do things that he isn’t willing to do himself. For example, I cleaned the entire house did all the laundry cooked meals for two days and washed all the dishes plus got the oil changed in the car and tires rotated. Not to mention paid all the household bills. I go on a three day business trip and come back to see dirty laundry all over the floor, dishes everywhere even the bedroom, no food in the house, and the car looks like someone lived in it the last three days. Now let me ask you Ms.Genius, does that sound fair to you? Does it sound like an equal partnership? In this age of post-modern feminism women cannot marry men and then revert to childhood, then get upset at us for acting like their parent. It’s insanity – be an adult and do your part. If you want a maid to cover your part then get your lazy ass out to get a second job. Girls today grew up treated like princesses, and yes when we marry you we are your prince and we treat you like a princess. But eventually we have to grow up, and all I want is for her to be a queen and behave like an adult who takes initiative and partners with me. Is that too much to ask? I totally feel where this guy is coming from

      1. Agreed- Megan should learn to process what she’s reading.

        I am an OCPD homemaker while my husband works. We had originally agreed, before our daughter was born, that obviously I would be doing more housework initially, but now that I’m looking to go back to work, I’m worried he will continuing being a slob when he’s home (all while playing videogames as much as possible).
        Saying ‘girls today grew up treated like princesses’ is sexist, as it’s not just girls. As an only child, I knew I was on the spoiled side, but didn’t let it turn me into a brat. My husband (along with his sisters) grew up having ‘ppl on payroll’ too however – THIS is the problem. Everyone: teach your children to do housework and not expect to be waited on!! His parents tried bragging to me that their children were never left wanting – I responded: that didn’t really help them in the long run though, did it?
        They reluctantly agreed.

    3. Wow…the perfect response…I m a guy and i totally understood what ur trying to say… Lot of guys these days want their wife to be like their mother and work like a maid!

      1. Happy Guy,
        I’m right with this guy. I am in the same situation. I work full time and my wife stays home. We both had an agreement of the roles this entails. As time slowly went on, the internet and social media became her life. I get home, do laundry, clean, take kids to their practices, do yard work, pay the bills, etc. meanwhile the house is how I left it when I left for work. I don’t really agree with idleness. If she’s going to be idle then she should go to work and put money towards the household. It’s maddening to have the stresses of a job and then come home to have to do EVERYTHING! You get resentful and next thing you know you cannot even look at them. My wife became so obsessed with Facebook that she started bugging me about taking her on vacations we cannot afford. She started wanting to keep up with the Jones’ And adopt their life. Eventually she turned to Bulimia and started ignoring the children completely. I almost divorced her but didn’t want the kids to go through that so I backed off and tried working it out. She never got help because I was the one who wanted to “fix” her. All I wanted was to help her for our children’s sake. Well… here I am a year into trying to work it out and I’m just as annoyed than before. Nothing gets done and I do 90% of the household stuff. I’m not looking for a maid, im looking for a partner!

    4. How the hell does he want a maid??? It sounds like all he wants is for her tomorrow be a pig. You know be an adult human being and pick up after yourself.

    5. Megan, you’re a moron and apparently can’t read – or you’re blindly projecting your own issues on a completely different problem.

  6. There were several things you could have done differently. First, and most important, was taking responsibilities for your own interests. Early on you saw signs that this woman’s values were different than yours. Rather than recognizing this, you believed that you could change her into the type of person your mother was/is. Second, when you realized that you had made a mistake, rather than cut your losses, you decided to stick it out. Not that there’s anything wrong with trying to stick it out. Given your choice, had you given any thought to marriage counseling. You came to a realization early on, and made a decision based on it. However, you make no mention of how you went about trying to correct the problem rather than making an effort to work through the issues. Also, what are the issues? You try to present your wife as a woman who sits on the couch eating bon bons while you toil away for her benefit. However, you then say that you did as much work around the house as she did? Is the real issue that you wanted a 1950’s relationship and she had different ideas? Finally, you let her handle the divorce and that she won’t let you get “your stuff.” If you let her handle the divorce, do you even have any stuff left? This circles back to my first point that you need to take responsibility for yourself.

    1. At some point the BS has to stop. Not fair to blame the person doing all the work. If this were reversed, we wouldn’t be blaming the female…think about it.

      1. I have lived this way throughout my youth. At 50, I’m sick to death and am no longer buying into the lie that somehow in the end, the apologies and changes are mine to make. No. I have and always have, busted my behind. Not to show anyone up. Not to bolster my image. Not for anyone. Rather, just because I want live as decent an minimally complicated life as I can. Life gives us enough without creating more challenges by waiting for someone else to wipe your ass who inevitably, never shows up (or leaves). It’s abusive. Plain and simple. But that’s not what really hurts, though. What hurts is when you know you’ve made a mistake, and because you don’t want to lose the person you’ve grown attached to or see all the time and effort fall apart, you allow yourself to believe that maybe you ARE the problem, try harder and end up being reminded again that no… you still don’t matter and never will. Ya’ know, if you truly love someone, you don’t act this way. If you’re DECENT, you don’t act this way. I never asked my wife to “be like me” or, “do as I do”. I never expected her or anyone to assume my identity or characteristics. I just wanted to believe she actually meant the vows women are in such a hurry to recite but not always so quick to own. I just love how the feminazis always give anything with female genitalia a pass, regardless of the crime and LOGIC. If a man is a slob, he’s a slob. If a woman is a slob, it’s because the man is a heartless child who needs to be more understanding who’s doing it all wrong and deserves all the heartache he gets. Right. What literally blows me out of the water is that my wife isn’t just lazy, she’s so concerned with her own image that she refuses to leave me even though she doesn’t love me, because she’d rather have me file for divorce just so she can say “look what he did to me”. Fuck that. Just do like I’m doing. Be loving, keep doing all the things that you do because that’s who you are, be good to yourself and your family, bite your tongue and keep pushing on. But politely and firmly stand your ground. Only two things can possibly happen: 1) She’ll ware down and finally get off her ass and initiate a divorce or 2) You’ll have to relent and just walk. Either way, male or female, marry someone who loves you as they love themselves. Anything else is a complete waste. If you’re one of the few who has real love or something that resembles a storybook ending, good on you (this type of thing should find you, not the other way around). But for the most part, if you’re a young man, regardless of why you’re here heed the advice of every man who’s ever lived to tell the tale: Do. Not. Get. Married. Ever. I am not kidding.

        1. Elvis, you sound like you’re in a lot of pain. You’re only 50, you’ve got a lot of living to do. If you’re inclined to keep trying, then couples therapy sounds like a good step in a positive direction. If she refuses, then maybe divorce is the best answer for you two — it wouldn’t be a failure. Sometimes it’s just the right move for a couple. Best of luck to you!

  7. Nobody ever changes for their partner, they only change for themselves. You have to accept who you’re with at the time of marriage, or you’ll never be happy. The obligation of marriage is rarely a motivator, more often it kills the changes people would be making if they were alone

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