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Parallax - Advice            April 24, 2000

   The trivial and the not so...

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Sometimes it's the little things, and sometimes the big ones, that shape up - or mess up - relationships. This week our fearless SHE-HE team tackles the delicate balance of housework in the modern American household, the transcendental implications of birthday gifts, and the subtle foreplay involved in asking a partner about sexually transmitted disease tests...

Renaissance man gives up on housework.
Girlfriend refuses to go it solo. Ultimate battle of the sexes?
 Date: 04/24/00

He needs the perfect 'we're just friends now' gift.
- Our expert advice on this momentous mission.
 Date: 04/24/00

Asking the STD 'test question.'
- A dead-end on Passion Street, or the gleaming Avenue of Common Sense?
 Date: 04/24/00

From prior weeks...

He cheated, lost her, and wants her back.
Can he 'buy' her love, or does he have to earn it?
 Date: 04/17/00

'I just want a fling, that's all...'
The words every woman wants to hear, or - too much brutal honesty?
 Date: 04/17/00

She's only 26, dating and... divorced.
Should she tell, or will it scare them away?
 Date: 04/17/00

Stuck in girlfriend confusion.
Is he really in love with two different women, or suffering from self-delusion?
 Date: 04/17/00

An innocent work-date blows up in his face...
But is there more to his wife's outraged reaction?
 Date: 04/17/00

Woman vs. Girl.
Proper respect vs. crass sexism, or Mature and wily vs. innocent and exciting?
 Date: 04/10/00

Happiness struck when she least expected it.
Does this call for self-flagellation, or is the situation not so dire?
 Date: 04/10/00

Personal ads in cyberspace:
The cure for superficial bar talk! A miracle waiting to happen! Yee-haw!
 Date: 04/10/00

He's very elusive of late, she never sees him.
She thinks he might be cheating. Innocent or guilty?
 Date: 04/10/00

She's close to being borderline obsessed.
Only a crush, or a prime excuse for exquisite drama?
 Date: 04/10/00

Boyfriend is a born-again liar.
Should she take the highroad or hunker down and help him out?
 Date: 04/03/00

Dream-lady's cat throws him into asthma fits.
Simple case of allergy medication, or woman-cat-man love triangle?
 Date: 04/03/00

Is there a simple rule about which color rose for what occasion?
Or is a rose is a rose is a rose?
 Date: 04/03/00

He keeps calling and calling, he just doesn't get it...
Should she let him down easy or yank out the plug?
 Date: 04/03/00

Correspondent questions the social value of 'significant other.'
Anarchist, revisionist, or clueless?
 Date: 04/03/00

Renaissance man gives up on housework

Dear Conversely,

Email to a Friend My boyfriend and I are having the ultimate battle of the sexes. We both work, live together and take care of our kids together. Up until six months ago we took turns at washing the dishes, putting away laundry, bathing the kids and cleaning the house. Now he says that everything inside the home is woman's work and he does not see it's fair that he should have to help me. He should do guy's work and I should do woman's work. My response is to tell him that a relationship is a partnership and that I don't think it's fair that I work all day and still have to come home to cook, clean, and deal with children solo. Who's right? Should I do all the housework solo or should he pitch in?

Her view:

Dear Ms. Solo,

He should pitch in. I think that's a ridiculous and archaic way to approach a relationship. If he's right, then you should not work and there should be a complete division of labor: he should fix anything that needs breaking, drive the horse and carriage, open every door for you, and so on.

Tell him to shuffle into the year 2000. The two of you should be able to share responsibilities - not to mention that those children are not only yours. How would he propose that you get everything done? Does he think that a 90-hour week for you, between work and home, is sustainable?

In my mind there is a more fundamental question here: Why are you even negotiating? You love each other, right? And would like to make each other happy, right? He seems more concerned with some silly sense of manhood and division of contributions than your mutual happiness. I think you should have a talk around this topic rather than the actual tasks.

Ultimately you will be unhappy with the unfair burden; perhaps it will drive you to leave. My colleague Jandro may give you all sorts of formulas to work it out - but I would address the real issue. Why has he turned your relationship into a bargaining exercise in which he tries to get the most value? I think your very relationship is at stake here - the only way to save it is to correct the underlying problem.

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His view:

Dear Ms. Solo,

This is not, it appears to me, a question of who is right. His argument is so old, it is absurd. I don't believe he actually thinks this way - or that after bruising his hands for the last time while cleaning the oven, he finally concluded housework is indeed for women only.

There's probably a deeper motivation behind this change. Maybe he's making more money than you. Perhaps he feels more confident in the relationship - less needy? Or maybe he feels he contributes more in other ways to the partnership. There might be some external factor - pressure at work, for example. More likely, he is unhappy with some facet of the relationship. Whatever the problem, if you figure it out, you'll have a better handle on the eventual outcome.

Up to you to determine if he will respond more to threats, cajoling, or a nice constructive talk while his dirty laundry gathers pollen in the backyard. No matter how you approach the impending face-to-face, remember he's trying to change the rules, and you must decide in advance how far to let him go. Are you willing to give in, and if so, in exchange for what? Or, if you are defending the principle, then call his bluff, but figure out what you're willing to give up for the cause, just-in-case...

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