When it comes to doing the household chores, paying compliments, taking care of money matters and dealing with in-laws, we’re pretty sure men are rarely on the same page as us. And it’s probably a familiar scenario to find resentment building and then an argument breaking out over something as daft as his smelly socks lying around. But with a bit of teamwork (and insider knowledge from our experts), harmony can reign in your household…
Doing the chores
Feel like your man often starts something and then doesn’t finish it? You’re not alone. “Most of the time when a man’s doing a job he thinks he’s being helpful for even attempting it,” says Penny Mansfield, director of www.thecoupleconnection.net. For example, he might put the washing on and feel pleased he’s done that, but he won’t think about hanging it out to dry once the cycle’s finished.
In these situations, when the job’s only half done from a woman’s point of view, it can be really tempting to criticise him. But don’t says Penny. “Instead, thank your partner first, so you’re avoiding a harsh start-off,” she says. “Then add something like, ‘Next time it would be really helpful if you hung the washing up, too’.”
Christine Northam, relationship counsellor with Relate (www.relate.org.uk), says, “Try explaining to your partner that if you got more help from him this would mean more time for both of you to spend together.”
Penny adds: “And remember that all men like a plan, so if you want some chores doing at the weekend, make sure you talk about factoring it in before going out to enjoy yourselves.”
“The problem with arranging social time is that often you both think that the other has the better deal, which is down to mismatched expectations,” says Penny. “Dad thinks he’s more entitled to time off in the evening as he’s been hard at work all day, whereas mum often expects help as she’s had an equally busy day looking after the baby and keeping the house in order.”
The answer? Let him know in advance how important this away time is for you. Explain to him that it will help you be a better mother, and maybe even plan a night out for him, or for you both together at the same time.
“On the night, if your partner knows he’s going to be late, ask him to let you know so you’re not waiting for him,” says Penny. Once you get into the swing of it, he’ll feel like he’s doing something good and you’ll get a break.
Dealing with the bills
Men who leave unopened post and paperwork lying all over the house sometimes feel like that’s OK – it’s addressed to him so he thinks it’s up to him to open it and file it away. But when you see the envelopes piling up it can add to your stress.
“It’s important to tell him how it makes you feel,” says Christine. If it stresses you out to see post lying all over the coffee table as soon as you get through the door with the baby, let him know.
You could also try telling your other half that if he doesn’t open his post promptly, he could be missing important information like a parking fine that’s doubled in cost because it’s been left so long. But won’t he just think you’re nagging? “If you find a story in the paper demonstrating your worries, show him, as it helps men to have a specific example,” adds Penny.
Coping with the mother-in-law
Even if you get on like a house on fire with your mother-in-law there will be times when you’ll be divided on issues. But if your partner’s taking his mum’s advice over yours more often than you’d like, don’t attack her. This can leave your partner feeling like he has divided loyalties, which can make things more difficult.
“You want him to empathise with you instead of feeling accused of doing something wrong, so instead, tell him that whenever he rings his mum rather than talking to you about something you feel unvalued,” says Penny.
You need to ask yourself whether it’s the advice his mum is giving or the fact it’s her giving it that bothers you the most. “Sometimes you’ll have to try and accept that a mother-in-law’s is a point of view worth listening to,” adds Penny. And let’s face it, you don’t want to lose her babysitting services either!
Paying you compliments
Some men find giving compliments a bit soppy, while others think that because he said “I love you” on your wedding day this covers him for life . “Sometimes you need to be reminded that your partner sees you as you and not just as a mum, but remember giving compliments works both ways,” says Christine.
“If you give him compliments, you’re more likely to get them in return,” agrees Penny. Sometimes an affectionate arm squeeze or making him a cup of tea is just as effective as giving a spoken compliment.
“It’s important to have positive messages reinforced,” says Penny. “Otherwise the risk is that you’ll have lots of negative episodes in your mind and no nice compliments to balance it out,” she says. “And when you do receive a compliment, make sure he knows you noticed by telling him why it mattered and how it made you feel.”
Visiting your mum
Often the thought of going to your mum’s is worse than the reality for your man. He probably feels a bit under pressure, but once he’s there it’s normally not so bad. “If you acknowledge that it’s not his first choice of company and remind him that you do the same for him, this should help,” says Penny.
“If your partner isn’t keen, talk to him about why it’s so important to you,” says Christine. “Sort out a schedule so the amount of visiting each parent is fairly even.” You could also try combining seeing grandma with something you know your other half will enjoy. A trip to the park is always a winner, as your partner can get stuck into a game of footie with the little ones while you and your mum cheer from the sidelines or join in.
Dealing with finances
“If you know your partner isn’t good with his money, tell him you want to have a chat about working it out,” says Penny. This is much more effective than just telling him you want him to stop wasting his cash. “You could give each other a set amount of pocket money each month to spend on whatever you want,” adds Penny. “But you have to agree you won’t criticise what the other has picked.” However you decide to resolve it, your aim should be to avoid watching each other’s spending all the time, as this will only lead to more problems.
“Booking an exercise class is a good way of ensuring you get your me-time as you pay in advance, so you have to commit to going, which means that your partner has to be home on time.”
Helen Jackson, 28, from Berkshire, mum to Hannah, 3, and Joe, 8 months
“My husband finally realised how much it hurt me when he took his mum’s advice over mine when my mum started interfering. I made a point of talking to him about what she was advising versus what we wanted to do. After that, he realised he was being unfair always taking his mum’s advice. Now, if either mum interferes, we talk it through and make a joint decision.”
Abigail Smith, 33, from London, mum to Jessie, 2
“Whenever I mentioned a trip to my mum’s, my partner always tried to plan something on the same day so he wouldn’t have to join us. When I sat down and talked to him about it he said he didn’t want to come, as he felt really awkward and didn’t know what to say around her. We play board games when we visit now to give us a focus.”
Emily Hodder, 35, from Surrey, mum to Rory, 4, and Andrew, 2