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This Exchange simulates the original Couples Coping Support Group. It is designed to help persons with concerns in their relationships, family, marriage, seperation, divorce, etc.Offering a wide range of real world, personal experiences, information, knowledge, suggestions, & views from real people.
Is your marriage/relationship a competition?
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queston posted:
I feel like my wife is constantly competing with me in the realm of division of household labor. She is constantly reading me (and the kids) her resume of household work.

Some background: I legitimately do at least half of the household work. I do all of the cooking, meal-planning and grocery shopping. We divide most cleaning chores, laundry, etc.

I never "compete" like that, and I never say or suggest in any way that I think she doesn't do enough. Yet, she is constantly reminding me of the things she does, while being seemingly oblivious to the things I do.

A quick example--we both have before bedtime chores: she takes the dogs out, and I load any dirty dishes that have accumulated since dinner into the dishwasher, start the dishwasher, and tidy up the kitchen. Every time I mention going to bed, or say goodnight, or whatever, I get the martyr speech about "I'll be to bed in a bit--you know I have to take the dogs out." I wonder if she's even aware that I also have an every night chore before bed, or that I'm the one who takes the dogs out at all other times of the day (including way before she gets up in the morning).

I don't understand why she needs to compete so hard when I'm not even playing the game.
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darlyn05 responded:
I remember in the past you had concerns about the intimacy aspect of your marriage. Could it be that your wife is commenting about taking the dog out to avoid intimacy?

I wonder if your wife is being passive agressive listing her household duties as an attempt to get someone (kids) to take on some or wanting someone to say "It'll still be there tomorrow so why don't you relax tonight/today". It seems that she is looking for recognition possibly? To feel appreciated? Then again if I remember correctly, like you mentioned, martyrdom. NPD is not gender specific.
 
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darlyn05 responded:
I remember poking fun with one another competitively. "Well I just got this done/or that." "Well, I just got this done/or that." "OK, we're even." laugh laugh laugh then a kiss &/or hug.

Other than that, it's generally the girl stepchildren who are being competitive with me. Like I'm taking their place with their father or their love from their father. When they are two completly different types of position or forms of love.
 
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tmlmtlrl responded:
My first thought is that she feels inferior to you and what you do around the house everyday, and therefore feels it's necessary to let you know that she does stuff too. Like maybe deep down she feels as though she should be doing the things you do even though she doesn't really want to.

Have you tried, when she says something like that, telling her "Thanks Hon, that's great"? I understand it could be hard not to have sarcasm in your voice, which would not be good.

Maybe she needs that recognition, while at the same time it maybe irritates you and you end up building resentment towards her? When she says those things do you automatically take inventory of all you've done that day?

We aren't competitive at all at my house. Our duties are not even comparable. We also are both willing to step up and help the other in times of need.

I also was thinking that your night time duties sound like ones your children could be doing for you, no? Then you could both go to bed without the building resentment... maybe, like Darlyn said, she does this on purpose at bedtime to keep that wedge there so as to not have sex. Is it worse (for lack of better word) at bedtime?
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
 
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queston replied to tmlmtlrl's response:
I think there's probably some truth to all of the suggestions. The example I happened to choose was at bedtime, but this is not just a bedtime issue.

She definitely postures at bedtime so that she is always the last one to bed (using the dogs as an excuse--of course, she could take the dogs out sooner if she wanted to). That way, she positions herself as the decider about sex, since I'm already in bed. (She definitely has some control issues.)

I think she probably is looking for recognition, although one would think if that were the case that she'd go about it by recognizing things that I do, in hopes that the favor would be returned.

Also, she exaggerates--she goes on and on about "doing the dishes" every night. What happens after dinner is that we all work together on clearing the table. I generally load the dishwasher, then she does the few remaining hand-wash dishes (the pots and pans and sharp knives--the things we don't wash in the dishwasher). To hear her tell, you'd think that she was single-handedly responsible for the whole process.

That bugs me--it's already irritating to be reciting your resume all the time, but especially if it is done in distorted ways that make it seem like she does everything I and I do nothing.

Mostly I just have lost my tolerance for the passive aggressive stuff. I've always been very "compliant" if she asks me to do things around the house. So if she thinks there are other things I need to be doing, she would have every reason to expect me to be receptive to talking about it.
 
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darlyn05 replied to queston's response:
If I remember correctly, I don't think her ego or self perception is near a sense of inferiority. Unless it's under some layers. Like pealing an onion layer by layer.

I read that there is a blood test now to check for the 'empathy' gene. I think people who have that ability, empathy, are better equipped at self reflection.
 
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tmlmtlrl replied to darlyn05's response:
Oh, I definitely meant under layers!
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
 
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tmlmtlrl replied to queston's response:
So have things been going better with you two in general (the bigger picture)? I would guess 'no' but am thinking that's not fair of me to assume.

It seems as though all these little things will continue to chip away at you and eventually (when the kids are gone) you will find yourself seeing there is no reason to stay in your marriage. Maybe you see it too but hope it's not true or she'll get better or something.

Remember a person can only truly change when they see for themselves that they need to change, and then they WANT to create that change. With her being passive aggressive the odds of her seeing her problems and wanting real change are pretty slim.

What are your thoughts? Or if this is too far off topic from the original post (ie, you don't want to talk about it) then just say so, and I won't continue to pry.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
 
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queston replied to tmlmtlrl's response:
Oh, pry away...

Things are quite a bit better, generally. And things are a lot better with our daughter. (Which may in fact be the root cause of some of the lessened strain in our marriage.)

I kindof suspect that some less life-and-death things are starting to irritate me more now because we seem to have moved past the "is this marriage going to last another year...month...week?" crisis stage.
 
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stephs_3_kidz responded:
A lot of marriages are like that. I noticed a while back (3-4 years ago) that my husband would pull stunts like that. If I told him what I did all day, he'd counter with "Well, I worked all day (like what I did wasn't work), and came home and mowed the yard (we didn't have a big yard then and he had a riding mower, LOL)."

I think a lot of it was he felt guilty for not helping out when he got home. He thought that working all day meant he got to come home and crash while I kept working and holding the house and kids together. That has changed now, he doesn't do that anymore, but I remember getting very aggravated at the fact that he always seemed like he was trying to one-up me when there was no reason to.

I also wondered if your wife is making those comments because she resents having to do her "chores".
 
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GuardSquealer responded:
My wife and I never compare how much work we do. Really we all work way too much. She has an important job with a lot of responsibility, and she keeps the household going. Occasionally when we were gone alot I would hire my cousin to clean the house. But when we aren't doing horse shows she usually does all that on the weekends.

I do all the outside work and repairs. My daughter and I share the work at the barns. And I have been working 16 hours a day at the prison. So it isn't really fair for any of us to try and look like one works harder than the other. All three of us work a lot to keep things going.
 
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3point14 responded:
How much time does she work vs. do house stuff? It could be that she thinks it is a "competition" because she feels awkward/insecure about you working more (if that's the case).

I don't see how she's competing, though, question. It sounds irritating, and it does sound like her usual passive-aggressive stuff, but I don't see where she's saying "And you don't do enough" or "And that's way more than you". I don't see how saying she'll be a minute because she has something to do is a "martyr speech". It sounds like she's just checking off something from her mental checklist, and she's one of those people who verbalizes that. My fella does the same thing "I'll have dinner with you once I'm done putting these dishes away", but he doesn't mean it in any way, he's just doing that. He's also one of those people who says "I'm going to go to the bathroom" if he leaves the room. He knows I don't care, and I don't think wants to be telling me his pee schedule, he's just a verbalizer.

It sounds to me like of the two of you, you want the recognition more. It sounds like you dislike that she does that because you're not getting the positive reinforcement to continue being the great teammate that it sounds like you are. I think you're finishing sentences for her in a way that she doesn't necessarily mean, which is understandable given her past passive-aggressiveness but I don't feel is necessarily what's going on here.

I could be totally, totally off-base, I guess I just don't see where her talking about the things she does in a day as being competitive. To her, her daily chores might just simply take up a lot of time, and might be what she talks about. Is she asking you to do more? Telling you to do more? Saying "I feel unappreciated/pissed/resentful because I do all the dishes" or just "Oh my god, I had to do like a million dishes tonight". Again, though, I could be wholly wrong.

In my relationship, we aren't competitive, but we do have a lot of conversations that go "I had to work 9-7 today, and then geez, I got stuck in traffic at the grocery store just to get dinner" and then "Yeah well even though I had the day off all I did was dust and sweep and do dishes and sent off some bills". I'm not telling him my mundane stuff to make him feel like he does less, and he isn't trying to one-up me. It's kind of us both taking stock of what we both do to maintain our happy home
 
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tmlmtlrl replied to 3point14's response:
Good thoughts. I was guessing it had to do with her tonality, but that it is also about him feeling automatically 'less than' because she points these things out.

Question, you said you're past the "is this marriage going to last" crisis, so this means "yes, it is" ? What I'm getting at is this is something that I believe she has done for quite some time now (I seem to remember you mentioning it before). So it's something you've been accepting of in the past or throughout. I'm guessing it just got to you again and maybe your initial post was more of a vent, but if you want ideas then here's mine..

Go with it. Tell her specifically "Thank you for taking the dogs out". If this recognition is something she needs then you should be the one to give it to her. Especially at bedtime! Tell her "I really appreciate that you take the dogs out at night all the time.". When she goes over the top give her over the top compliments right back. If she seems anguished about her task ask her if there's anything you could do to make it easier next time or maybe she needs a back rub.

Think about being young and in love and going above and beyond for her. Being attentive to her needs. I know you want that from her too, and maybe this would be a good way to lead her in that direction.

And of course don't look at any of it as a way to get her in the sack, but hopefully over time she would feel like expressing her appreciation for you attentiveness that way. Who knows?! I don't see how my suggestion could be bad though. << doesn't mean it can't be (I've been wrong before, once I think..lol).
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
 
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queston replied to tmlmtlrl's response:
Thanks (all) for the good suggestions.

I suppose that it may just be intended as a vent or verbalization. I think the main reason it bugs me is that it's always personal. If she ever said "We're so busy," "we have taken on so much and have so many responsibilities," "we work so hard," "WE need to get the dishes done" (after all, we do work together at that task), or "I get tired of having to take the dogs out every day--I bet you do, too," then I probably wouldn't give it a thought.

It's just that, when she says these kinds of things (which she does often--every day), it's always about her, not us. I guess I'd just like to see a little more of a team concept.
 
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3point14 replied to queston's response:
Question, you're such a good guy. I don't blame you one ounce for wanting to feel like more of a part of a team, that's super-reasonable.

Maybe try to foster stuff like that by doing it yourself. Next time she starts in on it, ask her what you can do to lighten her load, or tell her "And I appreciate it so much that I.." and then tell her stuff you did for your day. Sometimes leading by example can work, or at least make her feel closer to you and maybe less apt to complain.


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