For many young people, living in a dorm or a shared apartment is a rite of passage.
You’re away from your parents for the first time, and it’s up to you to keep your living environment clean.
Many of us also remember the frustration of having a roommate who didn’t do their fair share of the work.
There was always one person who left wrappers everywhere, ate everyone else’s food, and used the last of the toilet paper without restocking.
And there was usually one person who took on more than their fair share of effort to clean up everyone else’s messes.
Having a home is work. Someone has to do it.
We live in a time where it’s easy to forget that relationships take work, too.
Maybe you have a partner who doesn’t think he has to put any work into the relationship.
He acts as if the relationship will miraculously take care of itself…
Like that roommate back in college who thought the house miraculously cleaned itself.
So what do you do when you’re in a relationship with a man who leaves all the relationship maintenance to you?
You follow these 3 steps…
Step 1. Dig Deeper
When you’re stuck doing all the work for something that should be a shared responsibility, it can make you angry.
There are two of you in this relationship. He should be shouldering 50%.
The more you think about how unfair it is, the angrier you get.
It seems to you that he’s doing this willfully. He has all the time in the world for his hobbies and his friends—why can’t he make time for you?
Obviously he’s selfish. He’s not committed. He’s a bad boyfriend.
Or is he?
Relationships are never as black-and-white as they seem.
There are always deeper layers complicating the easy story about who’s right and who’s wrong.
If you have the patience to dig deeper, you might just find a way to reach him.
Because one thing is for certain:
Confronting him about his failures as a boyfriend won’t make things better.
So what might be underneath his lack of effort?
Here are some possibilities:
- He feels that he already did his part. Many men think it’s their job to woo and win a woman. Once she’s won, they get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
- He doesn’t know what to do. Many men grew up in families where their fathers brought home the bacon and left everything else to their mothers. They never saw men investing in their marriages.
- He doesn’t feel it’s a man’s job to work on the relationship. For some men, their model of masculinity specifically excludes emotional labor. These men consider relationship maintenance “women’s work.” They feel offended if they’re expected to contribute.
- He thinks relationships should be easy. This popular myth suggests that if it’s right it will feel easy—hard times are a sign you’re not meant to be together. This belief can make it very hard to convince him that relationships do take work.
- He thinks you do relationship stuff better. Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable taking over something you’re so much better at.
- He doesn’t care enough. Some men want a relationship that neatly fits into a small compartment in their lives. They don’t want to have to think about the relationship outside of that. They’ll break off a relationship if it asks more from them.
- He’s quiet quitting. “Quiet quitting” refers to doing the bare minimum to keep a job or relationship, without any real enthusiasm. He’s hanging in there until something better offers itself.
Do any of these possibilities strike a chord with you?
Step 2. Dangle a Carrot
If you think he’s quiet quitting or doesn’t care enough, then it may be time to reflect on whether this relationship is serving you.
But if your guy isn’t putting work into the relationship because he doesn’t see it as his job, that can change.
Not by sitting him down and laying down the law—as tempting as that might be—but by tempting him.
Pick one small change that would make you feel loved and cared for.
If you can’t think of anything, ask yourself this:
“What’s one thing he does (or used to do, or could do) that makes me feel really, really happy?”
Maybe he used to plan date nights. Maybe he sometimes gives you foot massages.
Once you have something in mind, tell him that you were thinking about this amazing thing he does/did. Share concrete details about how it makes you feel.
Then tell him:
“I love it when you do that for me. Could we do that again? Maybe tonight?”
You’re dangling a carrot in front of him, and that carrot is seeing you happy.
Step 3. Enjoy
Making the person you love happy is a wonderful feeling.
It makes you feel powerful.
Men can get hooked on that feeling.
But they don’t always know how to get it. Sometimes they feel like nothing they do for you is enough.
Asking for what makes you happy helps him and it helps you.
When he sees your reaction, he feels secretly pleased. He’s more likely to do it again.
In the end, we work on our relationships not to avoid our partner’s wrath but to enjoy their smile. Help him figure out how to make you smile.