Why Don’t Men Get It?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Hello Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Thank you for all your useful teachings, which I enjoy on a daily basis.

I have another marriage question for you. It is interesting to me that while many women are, rightly or wrongly, the main breadwinners in their homes, they still continue to do more household tasks than their husbands do.

Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

We’re delighted that you find our writings valuable and regret that we cannot answer your question just as you asked it. In order to do so, we would have to agree to be constrained by the corner in which you are painting  us.

You are making several  assumptions in the way you phrase  your question. We, too, have read surveys that show that women do more household chores than men. We have read other surveys that show an increasing number of families where wives out-earn their husbands. We’re not sure we have seen any accurate studies showing the overlap between these two sub-groups of families and that drill down into relevant details of these families. There may well be some studies like that, but our first instinct when we see studies on just about any politically hot-potato topic is to ascertain how objective and statistically accurate they are. Very few meet this reasonable standard.

You then make a huge leap into assuming that in those families where wives do out-earn husbands and in which they also assume the greater domestic burden, this uneven distribution is a result of a lack of awareness on the part of husbands. That is one assumption too many for us.

However, we aren’t going to leave you empty-handed. We often use the phrase, “how the world REALLY works.” That is a phrase that makes social engineers extremely uncomfortable. For example, how the world REALLY works is that the overwhelming majority of marriages come about when a man asks a woman to marry him. Surely, that should be a thing of the past? In today’s day and age, after more than half a century of gender egalitarianism,  why aren’t proposals 50% of the time instigated by men and 50% of the time by women? You might attribute this obvious imbalance  to men not realizing   that they can just as easily be on the receiving  side of a proposal as on the active proposing side, but that would be misleading.. You’d be ignoring  the fact that God built a world where men pursue women and both men and women (in general) prefer it that way.  Deuteronomy 22:13, “When a man marries a wife,” is where God informed us that it is seldom a case of, ‘when a man and woman marry’ or, “when a woman marries a man.” 

Every individual is a unique creation and every marriage is unique. Of course, today many people avoid marriage altogether so when we talk about married couples we are already dealing with a self-selecting  group. (Incidentally, many sociological and political studies and many media outlets, on policy, do not distinguish  between live-in lovers and spouses, referring to everyone who shares a home as married. This muddies the data water terribly.)

The questions we would rather ask—and we are working on a book that discusses this idea—is, “Do men and women relate differently to the process of earning money?” “Do men and women relate differently to their homes and families?” Our short answer is yes, which means that we reject your question as you ask it. Instead we would suggest that only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works think that earning money and taking care of home and family can or should be divided 50/50 among husbands and wives. Only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works would expect traditional roles to be reversed in a seamless and painless fashion.

Obviously, every couple can and should make its own decisions. However, we do think doing so without acknowledging the laws that God built into the world and by which most people will thrive is akin to taking up smoking a few cigars a day on the basis that George Burns did so and he lived a long and healthy life. Maybe you are an exception to a general rule, but more than likely you are not.

Hope you don’t find this non-answer  too disappointing ,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What does the Hebrew word for family tell us? 
Find out in:
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26 comments

Lavene says:

Indeed this was a non answer. For the first time i’m lost from your response Rabbi.

Susan Lapin says:

Oh dear, Lavene. We just heard the same from one of our daughters. We will have to revisit this.

Peter Oster says:

Who is George Burns????? Couldn’t resist.

CK says:

The late George Burns, and wife, Gracie Allen, were famous and beloved comedians during the golden age of radio, Hollywood, and early television. I can still hear their voices!

CK says:

Heh, I couldn’t resist either!

Rob says:

I am a man. My daughter is 28 and can multi task better than I ever could. I raised her to be no mans fool. She is strong intelligent and a hard worker. Look at a male lion he is lazy and has the pride do all the work, but will defend them with his life. Men are not women and women are not men. But both are being forced to take roles that they were not designed for by our God. Please allow us men some grace. I see the exact opposite example in my brothers marriage as yours.

Claire says:

I always heard, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Works for me…no matter who could or should do it.😉

JasB says:

Please correct me if I misunderstood your response. Did you just give the unthinkable, unPC, anti-feminist answer that men and women are different and generally have different roles in non-dysfunctional marriages? If so, I would not hold out much hope that many, of a younger generation, would catch that as it zips over heads bowed to peer inquiringly at their electronic device of choice. Indoctrination is beginning to make a significant impact on our society. Actual reality no longer seems to coincide with the expectations that are supposed to usher in a ‘new’ reality. Kind of like what Lenin did when breaking all those eggs to create an omelet that never materialized. It makes me wonder how terrible will be the response will be when reality can no longer be avoided.

Ray Dinser says:

I am a man.

Concerning the condition of the house, I can tell you that a man’s idea of “good enough” sets a low bar compared to a woman’s idea of “good enough”.

Maybe an explanation of that is what your questioner was really after.

Ray

Mark says:

Haha, your comment is exactly what I was thinking!

Preemo says:

Even the Lappins have an off day! This was not clear at all as to what you are trying to communicate.

Elizabeth says:

Ok I understand that in traditional marriage roles, women takes care of the house. And men are usually works to provide for the family. So is understandable that men who grows up on this model, do not feel the need to assist with the household chores. I grew up in a traditional marriage, so my husband.

My mother stayed at home, my father was the provider. We lacked many things. So I decided not to be a traditional woman, and contrary to my mom, I can purchase, afford anything I want. I work and I bring more money to the table than my husband (yes we are fully married after 17 years) When he feels guilty he helps me and If I ask him to help me. But I recognize my husband does outside chores, such us removing snow, cutting the grass, and taking care of the external reparations etc, but never works in internal chores. He has never clean the kitchen in his life, the fridge, neither take a mop to clean the floor. I think the problem is when we want the other person to do the chores we dislike. I dislike cleaning up the kitchen.
i recognized i am more disorganized so I clean up my own mess and my children’ s. My husband is well organized and is rare he left thing here and there. But he never help me to pick up the children mess. Instead he ask the children to do it. Maybe is a good thing… Also my husband takes the children to the physicians and to watch movies, and he usually is the one in charge for diversion for the family.

I am not frustrated or angry after my lovely husband, I just trying to have a sense of a fair reasoning. Every couple behavior is different. Each couple needs to examine the things that the other half does and that sometimes we take for granted. After all I do not remove snow…and never have cut the grass in my life. And my husband have never complained about it.

Moses Abah says:

I personally think this question has a feminist undertone.

I have a female friend who wants to be a “career woman” and she gives an example of her and her husband returning home after the day’s work and she says, “does that mean because I’m the wife, I still have go into the kitchen to cook us a meal?”.

I don’t know how this works in the West, but in Africa, the woman does most of the house chores.

Well, like the Rabbi has said, specific marriages may work differently, they could buy a snack to alleviate the hunger before she goes into the kitchen. How the world really works is, that the wife does the house chores.

If the husband decides to occasionally help, fine! But it shouldn’t be his duty to do it. Or else he looses his respect in a way. I’m open to correction…

KC says:

To Quote: “Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?” I wonder what women would say if a man said all women ever want is money, complain when they don’t get their way & are mostly lazy to boot. While BOTH sides may be more correct than not, to put everyone in that box is clearly not right. Regardless, one cannot help but notice the vast majority of the time, it is the woman complaining, not the man. Certainly, the divorce statistics support this with up to 80% of the filings being women. Something to ponder, no?

Jeff says:

My wife and I have been married for 40+ years and equally dislike housework. We decided many years ago to make enough money to hire someone to do the chores we both dislike.
When laundry or something else needs done we don’t ‘divide’ the work load . We just both pitch in and get the job done.
She dislikes cooking , I like to cook . I think it’s called partnership and we don’t ‘keep score’ to see who is doing most of the work.

Susan Lapin says:

Jeff, I think one of the confusing things is that we each have our own definition of “housework,” “building a home” and phrases of that sort. We certainly agree that keeping score doesn’t work but I don’t think we recognize enough today how much goes into what we think of as “building a home,” and that increases a thousandfold when there are children.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

…and far more importantly, Jeff,
Your career has been invested in teaching and mentoring thousands of others how to make enough money to transform problems into expenses. What a blessing! And what a legacy!
Warmly
Your friend,
Rabbi Daniel Lapin

It is interesting how we can find answers to questions in Scripture. Amen!

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into THE GARDEN OF EDEN TO CULTIVATE IT AND KEEP IT. Genesis 2:15 As she looketh well to the ways of HER HOUSSEHOLD, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and HE PRAISETH HER. Proverbs 31:27-28 For HE WHO FINDS A WIFE FINDS A GOOD THING and obtains FAVOUR FROM THE LORD. Proverbs 18:22 Because BY WISDOM A HOUSE IS BUILT, and by understanding it is established; Proverbs 24:3
Let your fountain be blessed, And REJOICE IN THE WIFE OF YOUR YOUTH. Proverbs 5:18 FOR GOD CREATE MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE, in the image of God He created him; MALE AND FEMALE He created them. Genesis 1:27 And understand that “A HEART AT PEACE GIVES LIFE TO THE BODY, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30

Let us not strife and whatever we do, let us do all things onto the Lord!

Christopher

matthew gabor says:

I believe each situation is unique and should be handled accordingly. Generations ago men were always the head of the household and provided for the family. Times have changed and in many cases one paycheck is not enough for a family. In modern times with dysfunctional families so common the wife has to work for survival.
In my grandparents generation both grandmothers were stay at home wives. They cooked, cleaned and took care of the children. Neither of my grandmothers ever drove a car. My grandfathers handled the finances and paid the bills. They also did the yardwork and repairs around the home. This worked out well in their generation. They also survived The Great Depression better than others.
In my parents generation the situation changed. My fathers income was not enough and my mother working was a necessity. My mother still took care of cooking, cleaning and taking care of my brother and I. My mother liked her job. My father took care of the yardwork ,repairs around the home and keeping the cars running. In a different twist my mother was very skilled at managing money and she was entrusted with paying the bills and investing. This situation worked out well for the family.
Then came my generation. My wife was already working when I met her and loved her job. We have no children but have a system that works for us. I pay all the bills, take care of the yardwork and keep the cars running. My wife cooks and cleans. She does her laundry and I do mine.
In an ideal world we should live as families did for hundreds of years but the times have changed. Even if the wife earns more than her husband there should always be respect for the contributions made by both spouses.

Neweverymoment Deb:
Jeff has the right idea. Keeping score on this sort of thing just leads to misery. That said, like it or not, the woman sets the tone of the home. Where it goes from there depends on the individuals involved. People have to be willing to level about their feelings and adjust from there; different strokes for different folks. The Proverbs wife will take you further than the Ephesians wife (I don’t think Paul was married!). I know cases where the husband does the laundry because he is in the house more; I also know situations where the husband filled up the basement with so much stuff that he had to do the laundry because he had the longer legs that could climb over the debris to get to the machines! The thing is to get past the “shoulds” and synergize amicably. One person’s hated chore may not bother the other partner.

Jonathan Baron says:

Not sure about all the confusion. This was a non-answer because the question was a non-question. The beginning of the answer establish’s the questionable origin of the “facts” upon which the question was based. It follows, if the assumptions are not accurate then their is no question to answer. This “answer” instead was a teaser of an insight in to what Men and Women are in their essence and the more this essence is reflected in the structure of their relationship the more successful it will be. Regardless, more on this topic is worth reading about, so I look forward to your future clarification.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Excellent point succinctly put, Jonathan,
We are actually hoping to post the clarification you call for.
Thanks and warmest wishes,
Popop

Brenda says:

My husband and I have been married 46 years. We are farmers although when the children were small I did not help. I was a city girl learning life in the rural world. I loved it but it was hard. Over time I transitioned to running machinery. Even now, after working all day in the field, I still have to get our meal. My solution….a crock pot! Put it on in the morning before I leave and we have a hot meal ready when we get in at night. That does, of course, require some planning ahead. My husband helps me around the house but some things I’d rather do myself. I love hanging clothes on the line. I have higher expectations of how the bed is made. And I am not real fond about doing the housework but it must be done. He has outdoor work to do, machinery to grease and that kind of thing. Sometimes he needs me to drop what I’m doing and come help with something. When we were first married I had to change my expectation to accommodate rural living. Sometimes I behaved badly but I memorized a scripture “a wise woman builds her house but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands”. I determined to be the wise woman and when I wanted to nag and complain I would stop and think….will this build my “house” or tear it down? It’s a learning process.

Randy Gabbert says:

Thanks for the attempt, not all questions have the quick, simple answer we prefer. Men and women are different, God made us that way for a purpose and as a counter balance to each other. Marriage is a growing process best learned by following God’s guide lines. Much of it is simply “trial and error”, I’m on my second marriage (and last), they’ve both had trials, unfortunately the first had far more errors (mine)! Learn, hopefully grow from it and move forward. Our greatest success will come when we put our spouses well being ahead of ours!

lol!
Yes, men and women see things differently. And that’s a good thing.
My wife just got back from visiting our grandchildren across the country.

While she was gone, I somewhat reverted to bachelorhood. I ate out of the pan sometimes. Didn’t make the bed, if I didn’t feel like it. The dogs, to their chagrin lived outside. I don’t usually cry when I have to leave our kids or grandkids. The grandson and I hunt squirrels when I do go back there, my wife does not. He and I eat menudo and raw oysters, grandma doesn’t. She doesn’t mind if we skin, cook and eat the squirrels, but wants no part of it. She’s cleaner than I am. So when she was coming home, out of love I cleaned the place up. As clean as she does, no, but reasonably close.

Women are often more Godly than men. You tend to find more of them in church. And if I remember correctly the women were less involved in the sons of the Golden Calf and the worship of the Midianite Ba’al Peor.

So yes, while there are very few things I agree with the French about….Viva le difference (I know this isn’t spelled correctly)!

Terry Sterling says:

Men and women’s roles have shifted dramatically as Rabbi has taught us since the early 60’s. The “I deserve to be equal to a man” mentality has really messed things up! I don’t think some men have a clue as to how they are to be in our current world and women don’t either. I for one have a terrible marriage in part because I am the stronger one when it comes to disciplining the children, making sure bills get paid on time, having devotions and teaching the children about the G-d of the Bible and a host of other things that a man should at least be involved in. My husband is extremely passive and because of that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I absolutely hate wearing the pants in my family, but have been forced to do so. I wish I had known Rabbi and Susan 20 years ago, maybe I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in. Although, I wouldn’t trade my children for anything. Our son looks forward to getting married someday and we have talks often about what makes up a good marriage. Sadly, he won’t learn these things from his Dad. I told him just yesterday if he treats his wife in their marriage the same way he treated her while dating, they will have few relationship problems. It’s amazing how the charm goes away after the ring goes on the finger! I’m sorry. I know this response is loaded. If you decide not to use it I will understand. One other thing comes to mind that you might address is the current use of the word “partner” that seems to be thrown around these days when now referring to married people. It just another way of getting folks to agree that marriage can consist of any two individuals. I just can’t thank you Rabbi and Susan enough for opening my eyes as to how the world really works!
Sincerely,
Terry Sterling

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