“Compromise:” Coercion’s Civilized Cousin

A history lesson may be helpful to tie in last week’s post with today’s post, which depicts a situation that took me through the five stages to humor.  Don’t worry, this will be the Cliff’s Notes version – I wouldn’t want to air my dirty laundry (um, the bad laundry joke will make sense later, I promise.)

Eleven years ago, my hubby had a job where he worked long hours, so I took over many of the household tasks (except yard maintenance) that he had previously handled.  After a year, he changed jobs.  The problem?  He didn’t take any of the chores back.  This didn’t become a big issue until after we had children (over eight years ago).

Every few months, I’d compile a list of the tasks each of us regularly handled.  He would agree that my list was longer.  I would ask him which items he wanted to take over from my list.  He would tell me he appreciated everything I did and that I did them better than he could.  My frustration level increased as the years went on.  I told him I didn’t want appreciation, I wanted less “stuff” to do around the house.

Nothing changed…until I recently pounced on opportunity like a cougar on a lone sheep.  Here’s a replay of the attack conversation:

Hubby:  “I’m gaining too much weight.”

Me:  “If you’d make lunches following the low sugar/carb plan again, you’d lose weight again.”

Hubby:  “It’s too much work.  It’s easier when you do it.”

Me:  “Of course it is.  Because you don’t have to do anything and a cooked lunch appears – like magic.”  <Yes, I said it just as snarky as it reads>  After a moment, I added, “Maybe we can make a deal.”

Hubby:  “What kind of deal?” <I wonder if he got the feeling he was about to sell his soul to the devil?>

Me:  “I’ll make your lunches if you do the laundry.”

Hubby:  “But I thought you didn’t want me ruining your clothes.” <Aha!  I suspected he purposely botched laundry to get out of it.>

Me:  “I keep my clothes separate.  I’ll do those.  You do everything else.”

Hubby:  <after several seconds of silence> “Okay.”

A laundry star is born!

The next weekend, after he’d eaten a week’s worth of lunches, I reminded him that all of the laundry included towels and sheets (from all three beds).  He balked, but we had a deal – a compromise; a negotiation where we each gained something from the exchange (his gain was nine loads of laundry a week :))  It crossed my mind that the lunches-for-laundry deal could have been a product of coercion; maybe the years of pressure about my domestic overload finally got to him… No, it was definitely a compromise.

In the last several weeks, I’ve seen some disturbing things:

  • My younger son wore his older brother’s socks to school (the heel of the sock bunched up on the back of his ankle, over his tennis shoe);
  • My older son wore his younger brother’s long sleeved shirt to school (he didn’t notice the barely covered midriff and the ¾ length sleeves?!);
  • A shirt I wore camping was laundered and hung up wrong-side-out (because he thought that’s how I wanted it…even though we have NEVER hung clothes that way);
  • My socks are being trashed worn by the kids; and
  • <gasp> He’s washing all clothes in hot water.

I’m convinced that some of the “errors” are his way of making me sorry I turned laundry over to him, but I’m not taking the bait.  The kids will learn that just because it’s in their closet/drawers, doesn’t mean it’s fit to wear.  When I can’t find a pair of socks anywhere, I will go buy more.  I am too stubborn to give in to the aggravation of inside-out clothing.

I can overlook his laundry shortcomings because he has many of my deficiencies to stew over excuse, too.  For instance, I never put my dishes in the dishwasher.  I don’t have to because he can’t stand dishes in the sink.  I dislike talking on the telephone, so whenever possible, I delegate phone-speaking to him.  Stacks of “I’ll get to it later” papers clutter our desktop.  He would like to see the desk cleared and polished, I’m sure.  In fact, so would I.

Maybe if I hold out long enough, he will do it?

Eh, I didn’t think so either.

You know what they say, “She who does less laundry laughs loudest.”  No?

What do you think is the line that separates compromise and coercion?  Have you engaged in similar “compromises?”

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37 thoughts on ““Compromise:” Coercion’s Civilized Cousin

  1. suzicate May 10, 2011 / 7:11 AM

    Fine line there…compromise often does involve coersion. If parties weren’t getting what they wanted they wouldn’t compromise. Or you can choose to call it cooperation…you know everyone wins! Marriages must make compromises to work…only those involved can make those decisions. I’ve been married for almost 29 years, and though we are fairly routine with who does what, we still make compromises at times.

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 3:50 PM

      “Cooperation” – I like that. Thanks, Suzicate! I feel like we have some cooperation because I don’t feel so overwhelmed. To me making his lunch is easier than laundry because I was making my lunches anyway (it’s not that hard to make two.)

  2. 1959duke May 10, 2011 / 7:24 AM

    What a funny post that hits real close to home these days. My wife now realizes all of those small things I do that make our lives function. Like the trips to the pharmacy etc. She can’t wait for me to be able to drive again so she can give them back to me! When it comes to the yard work our neighbor has been very kind to cut the grass for us.

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 3:53 PM

      Looks like some appreciation for your contribution will be coming when you’re back on your feet, Duke. That’s a good thing. I’m glad you’ve got neighbors that will help you out. I hope you’re driving soon…I think you were at less than two weeks to go, right?

  3. Tori Nelson May 10, 2011 / 9:20 AM

    I think you handled that situation calmly. I normally wait until I am so frazzled that yelling and angry veins take place. In that regard, I’m not so much negotiating with The Dude to do chores, I’m scaring him into it 😦

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 3:55 PM

      The problem, Tori, is that my “calmness” is built on a foundation of resentment and laced in sarcasm. The “scare” tactic sounds like an interesting approach….I’m not opposed to instilling fear as long as it gets the job done 😉

  4. Debbie May 10, 2011 / 11:11 AM

    All close living arrangements require compromise (that includes the kids!). The sad thing is that, too often, we take for granted those in our family and treat them shabbier than we would perfect strangers. When my son was little, we had a “chores chart” hanging on the fridge for him — he’d get stars for completing tasks on schedule. Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore off, and he wound up not caring whether he got the star or not! Sometimes it’s just easier to give in than to press the point — though that really frazzles you when you have to pull the heaviest load. I can empathize!

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 4:03 PM

      My kids aren’t all that interested in housework either, but they do have chores to do. My older son works better if he makes a list of things to do with a “deadline” to have them done by. I also make him choose a punishment if he doesn’t get them done by the deadline. The benefit is that he doesn’t feel like I’m ordering him around because he can decide when things get done. Of course we can’t always accommodate this arrangement, but we attempt to. My younger son needs to be told 15 times to do something and monitored to see that he follows through- we’re still working on it 🙂

      You are right that it’s easy to take our closest family for granted. It can be difficult (for me, at least) to be “nice” when frustration builds.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie!

  5. crumbl May 10, 2011 / 12:01 PM

    We have a compromise relationship … I’ll do it, but in my time, and if that doesn’t suit, knock yerself out taking over. I do most of the cooking (I am, at the risk of patting myself on the back, a far better cook), grocery planning and shopping, don’t mind at all doing laundry (cold water, JT), don’t mind vacuuming IF we had a decent vacuum, which LRHG resists letting me buy in favour of these dollar store things she brings home from yard sales that suck (except they don’t), I look after the finances (LRHG is computer capable, but resistant), I look after car maintenance, outdoor stuff, indoor “stuff” … she looks after the dishes and putting up Christmas decorations once a year.

    She seems to think that, because I work from home, I have loads of time on my hands to just putter away at these household chores. It ain’t like I’m sitting around eating bon bons and watching OWN.

    As I said, a compromise … you don’t like the way I do it, feel free to do it yerself. I have no problem with that.

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 4:16 PM

      Hey, you can pat yourself on the back – it’s okay! It seems like you do take on a lot of stuff around the house. I hope it doesn’t cut into your bon bon-eating time (only kidding!)

      My husband (reluctantly) taking the laundry has helped my frustration level. We have a Dyson and I still can’t get my husband to vacuum very often. My older son is showing an interest, so I’m capitalizing on that. Part of the problem here is that I can be a bit of a perfectionist, so I’m struggling to ignore what I perceive as sloppy work. (Like when hubby vacuums the carpet but doesn’t sweep the tile. What’s the point? All the dirt from the tile tracks back onto the carpet.) I’m a work-in-progress. In ten years, I might be a content slob, who knows.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Crumbl!

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 4:23 PM

      Ha! A sock sandwich would be funny. I could add extra mustard for flavor 🙂 Thanks for the idea, Carl.

      Lunches were another sore spot several months back. For a couple months, he made our lunches, but they were sloppy and unappealing to me. The final straw was when he fixed me a fried egg sandwich and didn’t cook the egg completely. I ate lunch at my desk at work. Four bites in, I punctured the yolk and it dripped down my scarf, sweater and onto some papers. That’s when I told him I’d fix my own lunch. I refused to fix his, though. (Until he took over the laundry, that is :))

    • Blossom Dreams May 12, 2011 / 12:56 PM

      Sorry – but this response had me laugh out loud! 😉 xx

      • jannatwrites May 12, 2011 / 5:13 PM

        I’m glad you got a laugh out of it, Chloe! I can laugh about it now, but that day, I was furious.

        • Blossom Dreams May 13, 2011 / 2:52 AM

          Ah, no…I was laughing at Carls comment “Put socks in his sandwich” 😉 xx

        • jannatwrites May 13, 2011 / 9:32 PM

          Oops 🙂

          Yes, he did have a unique suggestion. Since first reading it, I’ve wondered if he’s ever tasted a sock sandwich…

  6. Carol Ann Hoel May 10, 2011 / 12:18 PM

    In my house we agree. I do everything and he thanks me. But he’s an angel to care for. Keep in mind that I don’t have to work outside the home, and my hubby has Alzheimer’s and other medical issues as well. I’m just glad to have him still with me.

    I think the way you two worked out your duty schedules to suit one another is perfect. Any time someone other than mom does a chore, it won’t necessarily be like mom likes it. This is difficult to adapt to, but you understand, because you expect the same privilege when you are the one in charge of doing it. Still, you have my sympathy on this issue. Wait until your kids are old enough to do the dishes for you. Here you may have to call a halt to this policy and coerce them to do them properly. Otherwise, you’ll be washing them over again. This is a rant, and I’m a long way past the time my kids did my dishes, but I haven’t forgotten. Ha!

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 4:31 PM

      I’m glad you and your husband agree, Carol. It so much more peaceful that way!

      The kids do load the dishwasher now, which is another reason I don’t go in there. I don’t want to feel compelled to re-load it when I see stuff shoved in there where it won’t clean well. I also didn’t like clean dishes filling up with water and falling out on my feet when I pulled a rack out. They are all in charge of re-washing the dishes that don’t come clean. The only thing I do is dry the cups out before stacking them. I can’t go along with wet cups being stacked in the cabinet because they will mildew.

      Well, it looks like I’m ranting too. I think I’m done now!

      I do get your message that I will have to make concessions when others do the work because they may not be the way I would do it. This is an area of weakness for me that I am actively working to overcome (Some days successfully…some not so much….)

  7. Aligaeta May 10, 2011 / 3:10 PM

    I could go on for pages on this subject but will spare you all such a rant. Nice post Janna!

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 4:34 PM

      Tell me about it, Aligaeta! I only tackled the laundry issue because I thought it was funny how we interacted about it. Had I gone into full rant mode, I could have topped 5,000 words easy. Too bad the novel writing doesn’t flow like that 🙂

  8. nrhatch May 10, 2011 / 5:08 PM

    Great post, Janna. Loved the photo at the end!

    We have a division of labor that works well for us.

    Compromise, coercion, and cooperation probably all entered into it in years past. Now, it’s smooth sailing.

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 8:39 PM

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Nancy. It’s nice to get past the aggravation and enter the humor zone. It’s good that things are divided in a satisfactory way in your house because it sure makes life more enjoyable when so much time isn’t spent on negotiating!

  9. pattisj May 10, 2011 / 10:14 PM

    You made me go, “Hmmmm,” over the lost sock conundrum.

    • jannatwrites May 10, 2011 / 10:31 PM

      Most of my socks are ending up in the kids’ drawers. I’ve rescued a couple pairs, my older son wore a pair and I think another pair is still missing. Hubby’s not good at sorting yet. It’ll just take practice 🙂

  10. Re Gypsy May 11, 2011 / 2:52 AM

    This really made me giggle and then I had to roll my eyes, so, so so true, mmmmm.

    • jannatwrites May 11, 2011 / 10:34 PM

      It’s so ridiculous that it’s funny, right? Sounds like you’ve been there 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Re Gypsy!

  11. Patty May 11, 2011 / 7:09 AM

    Both my spouse and I have been in the position where one takes on more responsibilities than the other. Sadly, this is probably the worst recurring argument we have had in our marriage. It’s like someone is always keeping score. I don’t know if I have a solution. I have worked full time for the past 10 1/2 years and when I stand up for myself and refuse to be taken advantage of, it doesn’t always “take”. I don’t care what generation we have grown up in, men “expect” to a certain extent women to do women’s work. The goal is to get rid of the expectations one has for one another.

    • jannatwrites May 11, 2011 / 10:41 PM

      It’s a tough situation, Patty. There are times I’ve dug my heels in and refused to do stuff…then I have to deal with the consequences of them not getting done because no one else will do it either. I would like my house to be cleaner, but I’ve had to overlook a lot because I know that if I continued to do it all, my resentment level would be off the charts and I would be quite cranky.

      I hope you are (eventually) able to reach a fair distribution of work in your household.

  12. Melissa May 11, 2011 / 9:31 AM

    Haha. Cooperation is probably best – I agree 😉

    Housework has always been a touchy subject in my household. I steadfastly hold to my title as Wife and Mother, and neither one of those spell out M-A-I-D. Two nights ago, my husband (who works nights) came home to find the dogs had hauled a rug near the back door, saturated in dirt, into the middle of the living room. They also chewed up a mystery paper towel.

    He didn’t clean them up!

    So I walk through the house barefoot the next morning at 6 am and start swearing up a storm, because I had walked through a pile of you-know-what fresh out of the shower. I cleaned it up, figuring it happened after he went to bed. Later yesterday, he meets me for lunch, and I find out he intentionally left it there. “He would do it later, if it wasn’t cleaned up. There was no time… he was so tired.” I asked him how many matches of Starcraft he lost before bed? He started giggling like a school girl before answering “Three. But one was really short!”

    He has now promised to sweep all the floors AND mop. MEN. I swear.

    • jannatwrites May 11, 2011 / 10:49 PM

      Your comment cracked me up, Melissa. What you described is definitely frustrating, and I can relate to it all too well. You’re still in the “Honeymoon Phase,” so you can’t let it get to you too much 🙂 I do love how you cinched it up with the game question. No time…hehehe.

      Unfortunately, your husband will learn not to ‘fess up. He will pretend like he had no idea the mess was there. It’s a “Y” chromosome thing, but it can be learned. I’ve tried it and succeeded. (I live in a house full of males…I’ve had to adapt for self-preservation.)

      Thanks for sharing your story. Oddly, it makes me feel better. Misery loves company? 😉

  13. Blossom Dreams May 12, 2011 / 12:59 PM

    I’ve found it best to try and have my partner think that something is HIH idea when really I have gently been dropping hints left, right and centre. He’s a lot more eager to help when he thinks it was his brainchild! 🙂

    I really think you’re handling the situation very well though! Keep up being patient! xx

    • jannatwrites May 12, 2011 / 5:15 PM

      You’re right – things do go more smoothly when it’s their idea. Sometimes it takes too long for them to think of it, though 🙂

      I struggle with patience, Chloe. I don’t have much of it…

      • Blossom Dreams May 13, 2011 / 2:54 AM

        I struggle with patience too…is there a place I can buy any do you think? 😉 xx

        • jannatwrites May 13, 2011 / 9:33 PM

          I wish, Choe. If there is such a place, I hope they offer a bulk discount.

  14. chlost May 13, 2011 / 2:40 PM

    Still catching up with posts. This is fun to read. Even after all of the years we’ve been married, husband and I still have some issues. But over all, he does much more than I around the house. Ironically, one of the chores that I do is laundry! But it is just the two of us, and the laundry room is on the same level as the bedroom. Over the years, it has fluctuated back and forth, but the key is to feel like you are a team. If someone feels cheated, the team falls apart.
    Good compromise for you guys!
    PS kids are excited to do their laundry at around 13-it loses something after that, but by then, you’ve got them!!! 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 13, 2011 / 9:56 PM

      I’m glad you’ve got a system worked out in your house. I’m a bit disappointed to realize after all of this discussion that the kinks may not get completely ironed out and a lifetime of shifting and adjusting may be in order. I completely agree that feeling cheated derails the whole system and erodes the team thinking.

      I’m looking forward to little laundry helpers. Right now, they have to put their clean clothes away and they act like we’ve just asked them to donate all of their toys to charity. Oh well 🙂

      I’m glad you had a chance to stop by. I know you’ve been busy with the new granddaughter and all 🙂

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