My Husband Complains About My Cleaning

Shirley writes:

My husband is driving me crazy. He complains about the way I clean up. It’s never good enough. He says he has to clean up after I clean. I tell him if he’s not happy, why doesn’t he just do it himself? But he refuses and says I need to learn to clean better. I’m becoming extremely angry and frustrated feeling anything I do is never good enough. What should I do?

Dr. Chalmer answers:

Shirley, thanks for your question–the first for my new blog!

Your husband’s opinion of how you clean is just that: his opinion. You don’t have to agree with him, and you don’t have to fight with him either.

If your problem were simply that he did some more cleaning after you were finished, you could decide it’s a charming, if somewhat quirky, habit of his, and not worry about it. But it’s not his cleaning that’s getting to you, or even his different preference about how clean things should be. It’s his frequent criticizing you. If he were to say to you that he likes it cleaner, you could agree or disagree. You could even decide to be generous, as I hope he would too, and find a way to accommodate each other. But he claims to know that you “need to learn to clean better.” I’m not surprised you’re angry and frustrated.

What you need to do with your husband is what nearly every couple has to do at one time or another: you need to get to the right argument. What you object to is his being critical and condescending to you. That’s what you need to address with him. Something like, “We can try to figure out how to manage our different cleaning habits. But I need you to hear what it sounds like to me when you tell me that I need to learn to clean better. I need to be spoken to with respect, even when you’re irritated by something.”

You need to get hold of yourself to have a conversation like that, and there’s no guarantee your husband will be able to do the same. But if you can get to the right argument, you’ll be less angry and less frustrated. That doesn’t solve your problem, but at least you’ll be on the way to addressing it. Good luck!