How do I get my husband to help out?

If I ask my husband to do a task, he will—by his nature—not do it because he does not like to be nagged or told what to do. So how can I get him to perform said task? We have talked about this and he knows this is common occurrence, yet it continues to happen. What do I do? Some tasks only he can perform.


A good marriage is made of one heart and four hands.

11-13-32-41-57 / 16


Hello Diner. There is a lot already going for you: you’ve spoken about the problem, and you both agree it’s something that needs to change. As you can imagine, the situation would be more difficult to address if you two are not in alignment. I would like to point out and question a few things you have said, though: “by his nature,” “he does not like to be nagged,” and “some tasks only he can perform.”

Your husband is far from the only one who procrastinates on difficult tasks whether or not their significant others ask them. You should not take it as a slight, and I hope you do not see it as a unique personality flaw in your husband. Let’s just say there are a lot Fortune Cookie-sized towels I still need to fold.

I can also safely say that no one likes being nagged. My point in bringing this up is simple: you and your husband are on the same team, and a power distance between you two will inadvertently build resentment (for example, one spouse being the “boss” and the other the “employee”). The resentment would be present on both ends. The spouse may see the other as lazy, while they feel nagged. Resentment can manifest as anything from coldness to arguments to divorce. Things were a lot different when you two fell in love and got married. Otherwise, the marriage didn’t start out on equal footing, and that is a more important issue to deal with.

I am not suggesting that you have to choose between harmony in your marriage and getting stuff done. Making that choice itself would cause resentment. There is unfortunately no getting around responsibilities. However, I can’t stress enough how the process of getting stuff done should not be combative. Air grievances and come to resolutions. Agree that you two are on the same team. I suggest not moving beyond this step until that is worked out.

If you have worked that out, I recommend making ownership and accountability more prevalent when dealing with these unpleasant chores. A whiteboard is also important to have in this next step.

Establishing ownership. A major part of motivation is to take ownership of the task from beginning to end. I don’t mean taking on all of the work. I mean actually agreeing to take on the responsibility of getting the task done. It is 100% OK to ask for help.

Promoting accountability. You and your spouse have divvied up the work by responsibility. Writing the task down on the whiteboard will give you both a constant reminder of your commitment to finishing it. You and your spouse then commit to a mutually negotiated date on which the chore will get done. Again, write it down to make this agreement concrete.

Set up rewards. With the task and due date defined, negotiate on incentives to encourage getting the chore done on time. It will be something to look forward to.

Sustain the whiteboard. From here, you both have to agree to keep to these agreements. It’s important that both you and your spouse agree to take the list, dates, and incentives seriously.

Consider outsourcing. You mentioned there are jobs only your husband can do. I think you mean “your husband—or a paid service professional—can do.”

So there you have it, Diner. First and foremost, make sure you are on the same team. After that, the nuts and bolts of doing the chore become the focus. From here, you commit to each other that you will finish the list together. Incentives will make finishing the tasks that much more rewarding. If the chore really sucks for both of you, you can always pay someone to do it. Welcome to adulthood, Diners. Welcome.