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I'm wearing the pants

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  May 31, 2012 08:28 AM

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Q: I've been with my boyfriend for the past two years. We live together (a first for both of us) and he's by far my greatest love.

Our main issue is that I feel like I'm the man in the relationship because I tend to take care of everything and it's progressively been getting worse.

I make all reservations, take care of all the bills, and if something goes wrong in the apartment, I'm the one on the phone with the landlord. Any date we go on, I plan it all. Any weekend trip, I plan it all. We're invited to many weddings this year and I've planned everything for every one of them. And I know this sounds sexist to some, but I also have a hard time with the fact that I make a lot more money than he does. So not only am I the breadwinner, but I get to come home to make dinner and clean up the place after my long day.

We've had many discussions about how I don't like the role-reversal feeling, but he tends to get defensive and claims that he "does stuff too," and will use taking out the garbage or doing our laundry (he doesn't actually do it) as examples. After explaining to him that it's not just about chipping in at home, he agrees that he needs to start being more involved in planning and also talks about going back to school in order to further his career.

All this talk is great and it makes me feel better, but we've had this discussion three times in the past two years and nothing has actually changed. No actions, just talk.

I know you can't tell me how long to wait it out, but I need to know suggestions for how to make this work better. I've tried the "wait until he actually does it" on a lot of things. It just ends badly. Just as reference, he's in his mid-30s and he wasn't/isn't a "mamas' boy"...

– How Do I Get Out of Wearing the Pants In The Relationship?, Boston


A: This has nothing to do with gender roles. This has nothing to do with pants.

If we're going to make generalizations about men and women (and I'd rather not), I'd actually say that women are better planners. You should see the RSVP list for Love Letters events. Women tend to RSVP the day I publicize the event. The men email me at the last minute -- after the event is booked up -- with notes that say, "I meant to sign up but I forgot. Will you please let me in?" Again, I don't like to generalize about who does what, but I think that some of your assumptions about what men do might be a bit off.

Your issue is that you're wearing the pants, a dress, a travel agent's uniform, a maid's outfit, and everything in between. You're running the show and you're tired.

My advice is to make a list (on paper) of the things that you want him to do. Make it short. Just one or two tasks. As in, "Book hotel room for July wedding." Hand him the list. Put it on the fridge. Give him a deadline, one thing at a time.

I also want you to consider hiring help. You make money? Fine. Spend some of it on a cleaning service. Make your life easier so that you don't have to nag.

As for the bigger issues with his lack of motivation, you just have to accept him for who he is. He's in his mid-30s. He might never go back to school or change his job situation. Can you be happy with him the way he is now? Consider that question. Because after two years, you have to be open to living with the status quo. You can't expect too much more. There is no waiting it out.

Readers? Should she walk away from this? Are the gender stereotypes fair? What can she do to get him to do more work? Anyone else have this problem with a partner? Help.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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