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If You’re Complaining About How Little Housework Your Husband Does, You’re Doing Marriage Wrong


“It’s better to give than to receive” is an aphorism so common that many people don’t realize it’s from Jesus. As ubiquitous as it is, actually following it can be far more daunting. The stronger our sense of entitlement, the harder it is for us to give; and it seems that nobody is more terrified of that prospect than feminists.

A few weeks ago, Working Mother published an article by Zawn Villines that alleges anything less than a perfect 50/50 split in household labor is domestic abuse. That’s a highly problematic judgment, as such marriages are much more likely to end in divorce.

Villines laments the fact that women perform more hours of housework than men, and, without pausing to consider that men put in more hours outside the home for the sake of their families, ascribes this all to male laziness. God forbid a man ever even pause to relax, because “most heterosexual male partners buy their leisure time and their freedom on the backs of the overworked, exhausted women with whom they live. It’s exploitation, plain and simple.”

To be sure, Villines makes it clear that in contrast to most men, she believes her husband pulls his weight around the home. But her entitlement is so immense that even gratitude is a bridge too far for her. After all, that 50 percent is just the bare minimum of his responsibility. In her words, being grateful for his work as a father or cooking meals for the family “is like being grateful to him for not beating me or abusing our child.”

Yeah, she actually places not making her dinner in the same category as beating her, and it sounds like an absolutely miserable way to live. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop her from immediately going on to (quite falsely) complain that nobody teaches men to be grateful for the work women do at home.

Equality Is Marriage Poison

The hypocrisy here is blatant, but also inevitable when one fails to recognize that equality is marriage poison and instead considers it the necessary foundation for any relationship.

Genuine love recognizes that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and in marriage, it leverages the complementary natures of men and women so that both husband and wife each become more blessed than they ever could have been apart. Each contributes things the other does not possess. All is given, and nothing is truly lost. Rather than a 50/50 split, there is a 100/100 cooperative.

Equality, in contrast, merely breeds entitlement and the inevitable resentment that follows. That’s why even an act of kindness like making lunch for your husband is a crime against feminism.

Equality is a tired old nag, constantly policing each spouse to ensure quotas have been met. The instant one gives rather than receives, equality is right there, stealing away the blessing by whispering in her ear that she was just taken advantage of. Instead of a gift, it becomes an advance payment for a vague and unspecified receipt in the future. And because it is so vague, the receipt ultimately takes the shape of whatever one feels to be lacking.

In a loving relationship, that lack would naturally become a petition, and it would be the other lover’s turn to be blessed by attending to it. But in an equalitarian relationship, the lack instead becomes an entitlement—something that was paid for, but never delivered. It may not have even been requested (and the other lover might not even realize the need,) but under the iron tutelage of equality, she comes to believe that she was blatantly robbed of it.

Now she knows better than to make advance payments. So she deliberately shuts down the very cycle of blessing on which marriages thrive and replaces it with an ever-changing set of arbitrary weights and measures whose sole purpose is to determine exactly how badly she’s being taken advantage of—exactly how “unequal” things really are.

Marriage Isn’t the Victimhood Olympics

After all, how exactly are we to ensure that housework is split 50/50? Do we keep spreadsheets of chores completed to make sure the counts are even? But surely, not all chores are equivalent—setting the table is a lot easier than doing the dishes, after all. So we’ll have to mark down time in addition to tasks.

But is time the only factor to consider? Maybe cleaning the filter on the septic tank is equivalent to doing the dishes because it’s more disgusting even though it takes less time. And maybe time spent at work is considered a chore as well since it is for the sake of the household—but does it count more or less because it earns wages?

Not to mention that different individuals place different values on different tasks. One person might find dishes by the sink normal while the other does not. So this needs to be taken into account as well. Clearly there needs to be some kind of science-based point system to ensure equal participation, and the paperwork needs to be filled out and signed in triplicate each evening after the chores are done.

Your Feelings Shouldn’t Run Your Life

But nobody really wants that—not even feminists. What most equalitarian women really want is to feel like the housework is split 50/50. If they feel satisfied, then everything is fine; if not, then everything is wrong and they’re being abused.

But feelings are blind guides. A person can feel angry because she was wronged, or angry because she wronged someone else. A person can feel tired because he’s overworked, sick, or lazy. And yes, a person can feel abused because she’s actually being abused or because she’s spoiled. Plus, looking at it from the other direction, the Apostle Paul learned to be content even while in prison. So the feelings themselves can’t tell you which is which.

This is important to recognize because feeling contented in a marriage proceeds from mutual lovingkindness, not from equality. And don’t be fooled by that word “mutual.” Although both spouses must love, the lovingkindness a husband ought to show his wife is not the same as the lovingkindness a wife ought to show her husband.

For Christians, this reality is made clear in scripture. The husband ought to love his wife, and the wife ought to respect her husband. The husband ought to sacrifice himself for her; and the wife ought to submit to him. There are a million tiny differences in practice that result from these fundamental difference in office. A contented marriage is a result of both spouses playing their God-given role, and a discontented marriage results from one (or both) rejecting that role.

But whether a spouse is failing to show loving kindness cannot be discerned by feelings alone. People can certainly feel resentment because their spouse isn’t loving them. However, as odd as it may seem, people can also feel resentment because they aren’t loving their spouse—and it can happen in at least two ways.

This Is Called Projection, Honey

First, it can take place on a practical level where one spouse is unwittingly sabotaging the other’s ability to fulfill his or her role. Naturally complementary roles have a tendency to fall into this problem when one party refuses to accept his or her calling.

For example, I shared a kayak with my wife on a vacation years ago. Our guide instructed the group that when paddling, the person in the back needs to concentrate on steering while the person in front concentrates of providing even forward momentum. I was in the rear attempting to steer, but my wife—worried that we might bump into the river bank—kept trying to steer us away from it.

I can assure you that it’s not easy to steer a kayak when the other person is working against you. So we did end up bumping into the river bank a few times. This only increased her resolve to keep trying to steer, because from her perspective, I wasn’t doing a good enough job and she had to take over.

Entitlement is what transforms these small accidents and oversights into injuries that require retribution.

But once our guide and I finally convinced her to stop trying to steer, steering suddenly became much easier for me, we stayed on course without a problem, and we both had an enjoyable trip upriver. We may have been equally frustrated with one another, but feelings were wholly insufficient for discerning which of us needed to change our behavior.

But creating your own feelings of resentment can also take place on the level on conscience—and this way is far darker than mere practicality. Humans are self-justifying creatures. When we do wrong but refuse to repent, we have to rationalize—convince ourselves that we weren’t actually wrong after all.

The murderer claims his victim had it coming. The thief says his victim deserved to lose his property because he left it unguarded. The adulterer says his spouse wasn’t fulfilling his needs so he had to go elsewhere.

Nothing primes the pump of entitlement like trying to elevate an unenforceable rule like splitting housework 50/50 to a matter of social justice.

Likewise, the wife who divorces her husband for leaving his dishes next to the sink has to believe him doing so is akin to punching her in the face or telling her he hates her. If we refuse to repent, then we have to believe in the villainy of those whom we wrong; and the worse we treat them, the worse we have to believe they are.

Within a marriage, entitlement is the most common means by which one achieves this kind of misery. After all, everyone has missteps in a marriage. No matter what the peeve is, we all do it relatively frequently—forget to turn off a light, leave laundry where it doesn’t belong, make dinner late, or whatever grinds your gears. Entitlement is what transforms these small accidents and oversights into injuries that require retribution.

Entitlement proves to be the gift that keeps on taking, for there’s no limit to its growth once it’s unmoored from anything that might tame it. And nothing primes the pump of entitlement like trying to elevate an unenforceable rule like splitting housework 50/50 to a matter of social justice.

This is why, when a wife’s feelings of discontentment over housework arise, the answer is not necessarily for husbands to respond by doing more housework until those feelings disappear. There’s a reason that the risk of divorce rises when going down that road. When feelings are used as a substitute for good judgment, they become tyrants—and capricious ones at that. Trying to satisfy a bully is a fool’s errand, and the kind of entitlement Villines exhibits is blatant bullying.