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If you are currently in a relationship or been in a long-term relationships, you may have either had one of these experiences.
Experience 1: You’re doing your thing and helping out whenever your partner asks you for help. One day, your partner starts to complaining about how you aren’t helping enough around the house, with the kids, etc. Your response to these accusations is “you should’ve asked” or some variation of that response.
Experience 2: You’re constantly cooking, cleaning, running errands, and other various tasks in the household. You complete these tasks to keep the household afloat. Your partner helps whenever you ask but they rarely take any initiative to do it on their own. You wish they would pick up some slack or even pick up the socks in the middle of the floor. Whenever you start to share your feelings about them taking more initiative, you are met with a response “you should’ve asked” or some variation of it.
The Significance of “You Should’ve Asked”
The reason why I am choosing to talk about this topic is the relevance it has in our culture. A friend recently shared a Facebook post that has circulated surrounding this response. It discusses the struggles women go through daily.
Culturally, women are often doing the large portion of the household chores. They often do the cooking, cleaning, budgeting, grocery shopping, laundry, appointments, and other tasks. These tasks create a type of stress called the mental load. The mental load is a concept where someone takes on the stress or the “worry work” of keeping the household afloat. Even if the execution of the tasks are split evenly, you will often see one person take on the stress of planning these tasks. This type of stress can weigh down and wreak havoc on someone’s mental health. In other words, it can lead to burnout and can cause tension in relationships.
If I have to be completely honest with you all, I am guilty of using this phrase “you should’ve asked”. With this type of mindset, I viewed my wife as the “manager” of the household. I wait on her to give me directions of what I should do. Even though I take on the budgeting and taking our daughter to her appointments, I have walked past that sock in the middle of the floor. I have walked past that messy table without a second thought to come clean it off. I’ve waited on her to tell me what has to be done. Once she got to her breaking point, I hit her with that infamous line.
In my experience with this, the only thing this leads to is minimizing feelings and arguments. These types of responses creates tension and division between my wife and I. When this happens, we are at odds because we cannot see past our viewpoints. I feel that “closed mouths don’t become fed” and that if you need help one should speak up. My wife feels that she is taking on all the anxiety and stress due to the chaos of toys, keys, socks, and other objects that are out of place. Certainly, you can imagine that this has led to us being at odds with each other.
What Can Men Do to Lessen the Mental Load?
In my blog post Dear Dads of the World, I discuss some of the things men can do with our children. I share that men should not fall victim to the gender roles that society assigns us regarding our children. I want to extend this even further to helping our partners.
If you are a person that defers to your partner for direction, please stop doing this. We must rise above these gender norms and help our partners. Our relationships are PARTNERSHIPS. It is equally our responsibility to keep things in order. I believe that we have to help our partners take on the mental load of everyday tasks. Take some time to help with the budget. Please help your partner prepare the house for guests. Learn how to do your daughter’s hair and assist in getting the kids ready for the day. Your partner will be forever grateful if you help them out and take on that stress.
In conclusion, hitting your partner with that line “you should’ve asked” can be very detrimental to your relationship. It minimizes your partner’s feelings and stress that they take on willingly. However, we can avoid this type of phenomenon by viewing our relationship as a partnership. Let’s get rid of the notion that one partner is the manager.
Instead, let’s have a discussion of what each person can do in the household. Discuss who will take care of the budgeting. Become proactive by asking your partner what do they need help with everyday. Also, look around and see what needs done and just do it. Let go of that one time three years ago when you took on the responsibility. Since then, your partner has taken on the mental load of daily living.
Above all, men’s sole purpose is not to provide financially for the family. Likewise, women’s sole purpose is not to be the manager of the household. Together, you both have an equal responsibility to contribute and keep your household afloat. I encourage you all to start taking the initiative to do the little things. Your partner will feel gratitude and a sense of relief if you do the little things to help take the edge off.
What is your experience with this topic? Do you and your partner split things evenly? Is it a struggle between “you should’ve asked” or “why don’t you help out more?” Share your experience down below. You may help out another couple who are struggling with this concept.
Cameron is the creator of Supportive Fathers. He created Supportive Fathers as a way to help explore topics other dads encounter in everyday life. Cameron is very passionate about being a father to 2 year old daughter as well as being the husband possible to his wife. To read more of his story, please click here.