Our Life on Christ

Sunday, November 27, 2011

6 Steps to Get Your Spouse to Wash the Dishes (or do any "chore")Properly

My husband, Wil, and I have been married for a little over seven years. We have had a constant battle about our home’s cleanliness. Our (my) main issue has been the dishes. Why couldn’t Wil figure it out? I was only asking him to follow “Anji’s 49 Steps to Dish Care”! As crazy as that title sounds, so were my expectations. Some people, usually men, are just not wired for housework. No matter how hard they try, the dining room, living room, bedroom (heck, pick a room) will never really be “show floor ready.”

Lately, we’ve been really focusing on “the big picture.” When we look at what God has called us to do on this earth (be fishers of men, love your neighbor as yourself, etc), will the fact that a piece of hardened oatmeal was stuck on the bowl matter? Of course it won’t bother God but should you be troubled by it? No.

As we have matured, had children, grown in our relationship with Christ and, oh yeah, almost divorced twice, we have both learned to accept many of what we consider to be the other’s faults and short comings. I have realized that more important than if the dishes are stacked right: are they clean? Can we eat off of them? If not (if he missed a spot), can it be easily cleaned so I can feed this child who is buckling over in near starvation?!

If you still really want to know how to get your spouse to perform house work properly, here is what I did:

1. Prioritize housework together. Your non-housework-doing spouse can and will get overwhelmed if it seems that everything has to be done just right. Maybe you don’t really care if the clothes are folded and put away in a certain order but you really need pots and pans cleaned everyday in a certain way so that you can cook the family meals. Tell them what is most important to focus on and which tasks can be done how and when he or she sees fit.

2. Tell them one more time how to do it and why. If you have a legitimate concern (more than just your personal preference) like the towels need to be folded in half the short way then in thirds the long way so that they will actually fit in the linen closet, express it verbally then physically show how you do it.


3. Show appreciation every time they do it. Maybe they still aren’t doing it quite right but, hey, at least they’re trying! Let them know that you really are thankful for the help. Don’t just say “Thanks”—try writing a note, Sometimes I also slip in a little passive-aggressive comment (a softer way of trying to teach them) with a smile like, “Even though you put the cups upside down, you still did a great job…you’re still getting a massage tonight!”

4. Do something you don’t necessarily like doing. This kind of goes along with the last part of my comment above, “…you’re still getting a massage tonight!” Your spouse may not like washing the dishes but they do it to make you happy. Are there things that you don’t like to do that, if you did them, would make your spouse happy? Think about it and make an effort to stretch yourself a bit. Your spouse will notice and will put in more of an effort to do things to help you.

5. Assign tasks. Even though the title of this article is about how to “get your spouse to wash the dishes properly,” the point is not necessarily to get them to learn a task—it’s to have a relatively clean house while maintaining peace, right? If there are certain things that your husband or wife does well, why try and force them to do other things? Figure out what it is that they can do “right” and let them be the master in the area.

In our family, I stay at home and Wil works outside of the house. I do not expect that our house work load will be equal. It will be different for every family. Find what works best for you. Be fair.

6. Pray. Pray? Yes, pray. Don’t pray, “Please God make my husband do laundry more often.” This is what I prayed: “Please, Lord, help me to be patient with my husband. Soften my heart towards him. Please help us to communicate about our needs more effectively. Help me to really listen to and understand him.”

These steps may seem corny but when you have open lines of communication in a marriage, things get corny sometimes.

How is housework handled in your home? Do you have a schedule? Is one person doing most of the work? What works best for your family?



  1. When I first saw the title of this post on Twitter I was expecting to read something totally different. But after reading it, I gained some great insight about doing things as a team! Definitely more realistic and valuable than I anticipated. Thanks so much for posting Anji!

  2. I'm SO I glad that it was helpful, Dana! I was a little apprehensive about posting it--I was worried about how it would be received. Thanks for reading it and commenting!

  3. Or you could just ask before/after bedroom activities. :)
    Works on me everytime.

  4. LOL, Asten! You are funny! Yeah, I suppose that would work, too! Thanks for the input! :)

  5. http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2010/11/04/does-a-clean-kitchen-lead-to-more-sex-the-art-of-chore-play/?hpt=C2

  6. Interesting and very true! Thanks, Asten!!