Hi Evan,

My boyfriend and I have been living together for about three months and dating for seven. I love him to pieces but I don’t feel we’re both pulling our weight as far as finances and the typical chores at home. We’re both 37, he went back to school to finish his engineering degree so he’s going to school three nights a week. I really admire him for this but at the same time I don’t feel he’s working as much as he should or could. His work is flexible and many days he’s done by 2:00 in the afternoon — I guess I’m resenting this and don’t know how to handle it.

Thanks,

Julie

Dear Julie,

I forgot where I heard this, so forgive me if I’m misquoting:

We are all experts in our own behavior.

In other words, we know exactly what we do. I can rattle off every kind and generous thing I ever did for any of my ex-girlfriends. I remember making late-night airport runs, going out to dinner with her mom, soothing her emotional crying jags, coming up with thoughtful birthday and anniversary cards, paying for every meal, drink and coffee during her unemployment, and so on.

You know why I remember this? Because *I* did it.

What I don’t remember as clearly is what she did for me. How she took care of me after I had sinus surgery, how she made me a three course dinner, how she bought a dress to go to a wedding with me, how she made my bed while I was in the shower, how she held her tongue after I said yet another stupid thing.

These are is two major disconnect we have in dating.

  • We remember all of our good deeds and forget all the nice things that our partners do for us.
  • We ignore our own bad qualities and focus on our partners’ bad qualities.

I have a friend who was dissecting her new boyfriend to me the other day.

“He’s not great in bed. He has a questionable past. He’s moving too fast with the relationship.”

These are fair enough reasons to be concerned. Then I asked her to tell me what reasons a man might have for not wanting to be with her. She took a second to think, before responding:…

“I’m a 38-year-old single mom. I take antidepressants. I’m slow to warm up to people. I don’t know if I want to get married again…”

Finally, she rattled off about seven potential red flags. Red flags that she hopes each and every suitor forgives. Because if no men forgive her for her flaws, she won’t have any men to pick apart herself.

To bring this back to you, Julie – this is the man you love. This is the man you live with. This is the man who is back in school to get an engineering degree – a fact that I presume you knew before you moved in. And while I can’t say from the outside what percentage of the household chores he’s doing, I can say that you’re better off appreciating him for what he DOES do for you than resenting him for what he DOESN’T do.

If he’s not in a position to contribute more financially, there is absolutely no point in bringing it up. It will just emasculate him and make him angry. He’ll be done with his degree when he’s done with his degree. ‘Til then, you just have to hold your tongue.

However, if you want him to be a better housemate, I’d follow the sage advice of Amy Sutherland, who trained her husband the same way she trains animals. With positive reinforcement, not resentment.

Funny, how well that works.