Should you go on a wife strike?

Nicole Yorio

The extreme step one woman took could help you rebalance your relationship.

After 13 years of being her family’s cook, maid, and chauffeur (you know, in addition to her full-time job), Sherri Mills was seething. But instead of freaking out—or walking out—she went on strike! And for Mills, the author of the new book I Almost Divorced My Husband But I Went on Strike Instead, it had a big payoff:

How did you get to that point?

When I first got married, I didn’t mind being the one to clean and cook. But once we had two kids, I needed help. I’d ask my husband, Gerald, to do the dishes or fold the laundry, and he would say yes but would never do it. The resentment got worse every year. Finally, I snapped. I was fixing dinner, and I asked our two kids, then 11 and 12, to run down the street and pick up an ingredient. They came back empty-handed. I was angry, but Gerald defended them. That was it. I announced, “Not only am I not cooking dinner, but I am officially on strike.”

How did you think up the idea?

I considered divorce—I was that unhappy—but I didn’t want to put our family through that. Gerald works at a factory and he handles union contracts. I read one of his contracts and wrote one for myself modeled after it. I made a list of 70 chores that I did regularly and demanded that he check off 35 that he would take over. I listed other terms too, like, “When the female householder is ill, all duties will be taken over by the male.”

And how did he react?

That first night, he cooked dinner—the first time in 13 years! I think he wanted to prove that it was easy. But by night three, he told me I couldn’t force him to take over everything. I stood firm and said, “No, I can’t force you. But I’m not lifting a finger.” From then on, I would eat the dinner he made, leave my plate on the table, and watch TV as he cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, and helped the kids. It was hard not to cave, but after two weeks, Gerald said to me, “I’m exhausted, but I can’t complain. You have been doing this for all these years. We need a change.” How did it affect your marriage? He gained a new respect for me, and now I have a husband I don’t resent. Gerald never went back to his old ways—I’ll come home from work and he’ll be shining the floors or ironing. I can’t believe he’s the same man I married! I read that people who share chores have better sex—and we’re proof: Our sex life is hotter than ever. I used to blame Gerald, but truthfully, I should never have allowed things to get so bad. My original contract called for a 50-50 division of chores, but I know that it won’t be that way all the time. It doesn’t really matter who does what, as long as both people are working toward the same goal.

Why men need more touch

Chances are, your man is running low on oxytocin, the chemical that helps us feel bonded: “Men require two times more touching than women to get the same amount of oxytocin,” says Pat Love, a relationship educator in Austin, TX. “Sex gives him the biggest oxytocin release, but lots of other loving touches can have the same effect.” You’ll benefit too: Touching more will make you both feel less stressed.

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