5 Ways To Communicate With Your Spouse When They’re Not Pulling Their Weight Around The House

Don't let arguments ruin your relationship.

Effective Communication Skills For Talking With Your Spouse About Helping Around The House getty

Arguments between spouses can be common — and conflicts are especially frequent when you feel like your partner isn't carrying their weight around the house.

Despite this, there are ways you can learn better communication skills in order to end arguing for good.

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You're most likely reading this because you're frustrated with your partner for not pulling their weight around the house. You're not alone. This has to be one of the biggest complaints brought into couples counseling, and is further complicated by not knowing how to effectively communicate your needs.

You would think that a partner not pulling his or her weight would be an easy fix. A simple conversation about who needs to do what would solve the problem, right? If you're having this problem it's because there is nothing simple about the struggle you are in.

The truth is, how you're communicating with your partner isn't working. And every time you come home and find stuff lying around, the dishes not washed, or the laundry not folded, you complain again. And still nothing changes. In fact, the problem may be getting worse.


So where's the communication breaking down? Not knowing how to communicate with your spouse when they're not pulling their weight around the house is a huge issue. And it can threaten the intimacy and even the future of your relationship.

Here are 5 ways to communicate with your spouse when they're not pulling their weight around the house:

1. Don't approach them like you're their parent.

Pay attention to what you're feeling on the inside when you talk with your spouse about not pulling his or her weight. If you're feeling tired or angry, this is not the time to have a conversation.

Your partner will be on the defensive if you try to talk with the parental voice that manifests when you're feeling bad.


It's important to have an adult-to-adult conversation with your partner. If you come in sounding like the parent, your partner will defend like a child.

This will just reinforce your view of your partner, and it will cause your partner to feel more infantilized by you.

2. Approach the conversation with emotions of compassion.

This is the only way that you will have a chance of being listened to and responded to.

There are many reasons why your partner may not be doing his or her fair share. This may be a passive-aggressive response to your hounding. It may be an unintended behavior due to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Your partner may be going through a hard time at work, pregnancy, or taking care of the children. She may be going through depression. Or yes, he may have very different values than you do about how to keep a house.


The fact is that you won't be able to get to the bottom of any of this unless you approach the conversation with compassion and curiosity. Don't just assume they're doing it out of spite or laziness.

RELATED: 5 Steps For A Calm, Cool, And Collected Argument With Your Partner

3. Seek to understand not shame.

Until you really understand why the behavior is happening, there's no way to have a productive conversation. Shaming or punishing your partner will only make the problem worse. You will not get a positive response using these tactics.


Shame will cause your partner to feel like he or she is not good enough to please you, and nothing will get resolved.

Lovers "pair bond" because they want to have one person in their life who will understand who they really are and what they struggle with. When your partner is struggling, it's your job to understand.

When you're seeking to understand your partner will be able to open up and reveal the deeper reasons for the struggle. This will allow the two of you to have a conversation that will be supportive rather than shaming.

4. Ask how you can help.

By offering to help, you're communicating that you understand and that you're a team. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take over your partner's responsibilities.


If your partner is going through a rough emotional time, then offering to do the household tasks together may be the support they need.

The other thing to consider is that you may be unreasonable in your expectations. You may be a compulsive clean freak. Or you may not be realistic about what it really takes to bear, nurse and raise children.

You may want to buy a home but are not realistic about the extra hours your partner needs to work to make it happen.

If your partner struggles with ADD it may be that creating a list, or some way of promoting the tasks, may be all that's needed to keep the work progressing.

Many couples are comprised of one organized member and one who's more creative or more disorganized. Maybe it's a left-brain, right-brain pairing. Both bring different gifts to the relationship. If the less organized person can feel supported and not judged, then this kind of partnership can work well.


5. Remember the two of you are together because you love each other.

If you're trying to have the talk with your spouse about why they're not pulling their weight around the house, it's because your partner’s behavior is causing you to feel unloved.

Beginning the conversation by reminding your partner that you love him or her is a great way to break down walls and establish why you're together in the first place.

Learning to open up, understand, and problem-solve together is a great way to grow your emotional connection. You can actually turn lemons into lemonade when you discover the joy of coming together over a problem.


When loving emotions aren't flowing in a relationship all kinds of things become problems. It's easy to argue about the burnt toast when you're really upset about being ignored.

Remember why you're together. It's because you believe you're better together.

You don't have to be the same in order to be better together. Opposites really do attract. You will challenge each other in different ways if you value each other’s differences.

So go for it. Have the talk. Stop stuffing the emotion, building resentment, and brooding over this thing that's driving you crazy.

You're worth it. They're worth it. And your relationship is definitely worth it.

RELATED: Picking Fights With Your Partner Can Destroy Your Relationship — Here's What You Can Do To Avoid It


Michael W. Regier, Ph.D. is a certified emotionally focused couples therapist and EFT supervisor in Visalia and San Luis Obispo, CA. He helps couples understand and stop their negative cycles of arguing and create emotional connections for lifetime love. With his wife Paula he co-authored the book Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.

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