Dear Kiki: My marriage is straight out of the ’50s

Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area can be sent to (queries can also be sent anonymously using this form). Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Illustration by Jav Ducker

Dear Kiki,

I am getting tired, frustrated and increasingly disappointed by how little my husband does compared to how much I do to keep our household functioning. As much as I love the man (and I really do), the next time I come up the stairs (which really need to be swept) with a full basket of laundry to find him napping or playing video games, I’m going to fucking lose it. But God forbid I try to manage tasks or ask for his help! If I do that, I’m some nagging woman encroaching on his autonomous manhood. I’m sick of asking and I’m sick of being told I’m nagging, but most of all, I’m sick of cleaning this neverending goddamn mess. I work full-time and I don’t have time to do everything. And I can’t just sit back and let the house get filthy and leave chores undone to teach him a lesson — I’d be miserable living that way. So what should I do?

— Dishwater Hands

Dear Hands,

There isn’t anything I miss less about marriage than those feelings. It seemed my (ex)husband expected me to be the keeper of the house and the schedules of our family living within it. Women’s work is so rarely recognized, let alone compensated for. No matter how far feminism has come, strong and smart women cannot and should not deny that the patriarchy is still alive and well — and it still really sucks. Although you do not mention children, if you have or plan to have them, their messes and caretaking exacerbate the issue exponentially.

In trying to achieve a shift in duties and maintain a loving and working union, your expectations about housework need to be communicated and the logistics figured out. It’s possible your partner does not value a tidy house as much as you do. This can be OK if your duties are lightened elsewhere. For instance, I did not cook, but my ex did. I appreciated every bite and cleaned up more afterwards. He took out the garbage and mowed the yard while I made appointments and did the laundry. Blah blah. Now I live alone and am responsible for it all, which has its own frustrations. Mostly sexual. Anywho — I hope the love between you prevails!

— xoxo, Kiki


  1. Dear Dishwater Hands and Kiki.
    If this is the deal you have (or had), it’s one you participated in creating. These man children don’t spring up overnight like bad mushrooms. Usually they are created over time by women who: want the dishwasher loaded a certain way a.k.a “It’s just easier to do it myself” or martyr myself, mother him (and who wants to have sex with their mother?), or the read my mind types “I want you to WANT to do the dishes”. Seriously? Who wants to do dishes?
    Do that enough, and you’ve taught him the new dynamic. You did it, you must undo it. That takes stamina and adult conversations. And a true understanding of man brains. Bolster yourself, and thrive. Good luck.

  2. 1. Sit down with your husband and make a list of chores and determine frequency of those chores. Then take turns picking chores that each of you will be responsible for.
    2. Look into hiring a cleaning service.
    3. Look into couples counseling. Go alone if he won’t
    4. As a last resort, if nothing changes, ask yourself are you willing to go on as you are for another five years. Ten years? Fifteen? What is your limit? Make a decision as to what you want and what you are willing to accept.

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