How I Got My Husband to Actually Do His Share of the Housework
Gemma Hartley

I see that a number of the comments already posted fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • you’ve taken nagging to a new level by airing your dirty laundry in public;
  • you’ve violated the sanctity of your marriage by using this situation as the source material for a book as well as this article, without your husband’s consent;
  • once you had succeeded to get your husband to pull his weight, you wanted to take back the responsibility because you have control issues; or
  • you’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, in that your situation is one that millions of other couples have had to deal with.

Having listed these, I think that those who have commented along these lines have been somewhat hasty to pass unwarranted (and unsolicited) judgement on you, having not walked in your shoes and thus cannot claim to have experienced your specific situation. There is clearly more to what happened than you’ve shared in your post, which you’ve withheld precisely because you value your husband and the sanctity of your relationship. The rest of us need to respect that.

Turning now to your post, I must admit that my first thought was “that’s me!” A standing joke in our household is that I don’t have OCD, but rather CDO (it’s the same thing, except that the letters are in alphabetical order…). I don’t want to take it quite that far (out of respect to those who have actually been medically diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder), but I’m happy to admit that I do like order and I am somewhat anally-retentive about it!

The result of this is a growing frustration with the other members of my family when it comes to the tidiness of our home. I’m not for one minute saying that our neighbours are needing to call in the health department, but there’s things that really get up my nose that are of little concern to the other family members. For example, when opening up a new tub of yoghurt, my mother removes the lid, peels back the tab, takes the amount that she wants, then puts back the tab before replacing the lid. This annoys me immensely — in my perfect world, the tab will be removed and discarded, with only the lid being replaced (told you I had CDO!). I rationalise this by saying that a lidded yoghurt tub with the tab removed makes it easier to see which tub has already been opened without me having to check the other eight tubs that are still sealed — which is true — but logically this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does.

Ditto with things like not replacing the toilet roll on the spindle (when there are extras piled up on the cistern, there’s really no excuse!), not filling up the condiment containers, not hanging up towels, closing the toilet door when there’s no-one in there (to me, ‘closed’ = ‘occupied’!), and a whole host of other things that mess with my ordered yet fragile psyche.

Now I have absolutely no doubt that there are things that I do (or don’t do) that drive the other family members insane, and it’s also possible that we deliberately do / don’t do the things that irritate the others as a means of drawing the battle lines (in a similar vein to the man who tells his wife to stop nagging — after all, he knows what she wants him to do; she doesn’t have to remind him every six months!).

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you might be forgiven for thinking that our household consists of a bunch of neurotics and that it’s only a matter of time before someone ends up applying to court for a protection order, but nothing could be further from the truth. For the most part we get on well with each other and our household is quite harmonious 90% of the time — it’s just in the other 10%, when someone’s opened a new bottle of tomato sauce while there’s one in the fridge that is still half-full, that the risk of bloodshed tends to increase.

You’ve mentioned that an acceptable compromise is for the others to raise their game in the areas where the CDO family member has set the bar higher, and vice-versa, thereby validating the other person’s standard in this particular area. I’m all for that. The struggle, however, is to explain to my nearest and dearest why it’s so important to me that when putting the tins in the grocery cupboard, it’s critical that the ‘old stock’ comes to the front and the ‘new stock’ goes to the back, and that all of the labels face forward.

Aluta continua…