First, make sure that you appreciate him for what he does do, even if it's "his job". When he takes out the trash, say thank you (even if it's the third time you've reminded him) Don't nag. You can remind him, but do it in a loving way (i.e. Honey, tomorrow is trash day, would you mind putting the garbage cans out tonight. Next day: Babe, today is trash day, could you please set the trash out for me? Later: Sweetie, did you remember to take the trash out, I know you're busy so I just thought I'd remind you.)
Don't stand over him while he does something, looking for mistakes. If he's doing the dishes, let him "do the dishes". Don't complain that he didn't pre-wash enough, he didn't load the dishwasher right, he used too much soap. If you do, it will do 2 things. It will make him mad (no one likes to be told how to do something) and it will make him less willing to do that job in the future. This rule also applies to folding laundry (If you don't want your shirts folded that way, do them yourself!)
TALK earnestly about the division of work. Many people (our marriage included) have very different ideas of whose job is whose. For instance, when I was growing up, my dad took car of the cars, even to the point of making sure they had gas. I never saw my mother pump gas, unless we were out of town without my dad. I never pumped my own gas, even in college when I'd come home for the weekend, my dad would follow me to the station to pump my gas for me! (I swear, I wasn't spoiled, just loved!) So, when I got married to a man whose father was in the military and away most of the time, and his mother did everything (including pumping her own gas and mowing the lawn) - we had seriously different expectations!
Use the Golden Rule, treat him the way you would LIKE to be treated (not the way he treats you). If you wouldn't want someone waking you up to yell at you for not taking out the trash, then don't do it to him. If you wouldn't want to be nagged to death and belittled for not doing something HIS way, then don't do it to him. Use forgiveness liberally and judgement/criticism sparingly.
Don't complain about your husband in front of him or your joint friends. We all need to vent every now and then, but if you complain about him in front of him, or in front of joint friends, it tears down, it destroys. Be a "builder-upper", an encourager, an appreciator. It has taken many years for my husband and I to come to a joint understanding of the division of work, and it changes as our needs and lives change. When I had our third child last year, he took over getting the kids ready for school since I was up all night with the baby. When he travels, I do his share. When we are both too pooped to pop, we just do bare minimum and it's ok if the laundry piles up for a week or if the dishes sit overnight. Sometimes spending time together is more important!
This is from the archives - originally published on my CafeMom profile August 18, 2007