Dear Margo: Brickbats

Margo-Howard_tall10Margo Howard’s advice


Soooo many readers didn’t care for my answer to the neatnik bride who didn’t know what to do about her slob of a husband. I said it would probably be less aggravation if she were to stop harping and trying to train him. And I unfortunately told the truth, saying it was probably easier to train a dog. Here’s what some people had to say:

I just read your advice to Neatnik, who complained about her oblivious husband, who’s a slob. I am wondering how old YOU are? No respectful feminist would have ever answered: “The solution may be to take matters into your own hands.” Rewarding a husband is so easy, and the results are gratifying. Loosen up, and get real, woman! Men are just adult children: reward and punishment. — Bernice

What is building here will erode the love if not discussed and if compromises are not reached. She need not do things for him that he can do for himself. Ask that he remove his shoes at the door for a week and have a pair of slippers there. Thank him. You see where this is going? Dirty socks? If they don’t make it into the hamper, they don’t get washed. — Len

I was surprised at your advice to Neatnik. She is telling you of her frustrations, and you tell her to just clean up after him, “which would make it a non-issue.” What kind of logic is that? Are little boys allowed to track in grit and leave socks around, with the little girls required to pick up after them? If not, then why would we pick up after grown men? — Granny of Five Boys

I think we might be able to offer a bit more support to Neatnik. While it’s true that compromise is sometimes the best course, it would seem unfortunate to miss the opportunity early in a marriage to establish shared responsibilities. Simply picking up after her messy husband will leave one spouse feeling entitled and the other dispirited — not a good recipe for a long and happy marriage. I’d recommend that the couple make a list of all the household tasks, from trips to the dry cleaner to washing the dishes to paying the bills, and then determine which spouse is better suited to which task. The outcome, while not mathematically perfect, will provide both of them with a sense of stewardship for the home they share. — Mame

I did, however, have two letters of support:  

I actually agree with your advice. House chores have never been equal. There are things my guy does well; cleaning is not one of them. I am always picking up after him. Many years ago, it bothered me because I thought marriage should be equal. Our marriage is equal. It’s just not divided equally in terms of who cleans what, who contributes how much financially, who does the yard work, etc. If you appreciate the qualities each of you brings to the relationship, you will begin to appreciate each other more. — Another Neatnik

You were right on. Pick your battles! Try to incorporate a “no shoes in the house” policy. That will help, and it is less individualized and personal. If he is happy, you will be happy. If he is miserable from the nagging, your life will be awful. — Sue

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

9 Responses so far.

  1. avatar clutzycook says:

    Margo, if I wanted to read a read-on I’d go over to Yahoo News and read your cousin, Abby’s column.

  2. avatar sdpooh says:

    I like it when an advice columnist prints letters from others like this.  It means they are listening to their fans.  I for one have the neatnike spouse and I am the one who tends to “set things down anywhere”.  I don’t think that men are as messy as we females keep saying they are.  My ex-husband is a pretty organized guy too.  We have a deal here at our house.  I do inside stuff, he does outside stuff.  Shopping and errands are shared.  It works pretty good.  Our house is clean and our yard and cars are spotless.

    • avatar clutzycook says:

      I don’t mind if they do once in awhile, but it seems that Margo has been doing more and more whereas in the past she almost never did (and I’ve been reading her columns since she was Dear Prudence over at Slate). 

  3. avatar Cindy M says:

    We’ve been married (as of St. Patrick’s Day) 20 years. I told husband early on that he will take responsibility for this ‘n that. He did see my reasoning, and likely that much more easily due to 2 specific factors in our marriage. His parents’ marriage was a fiasco of constant yelling and fighting, with mother always “the put-upon woman” and dad an ignorant bully. He didn’t want to repeat a pattern…and I sure wasn’t going to allow it. Each couple is unique and have to discover their own ways of handling issues. But definitely a woman is not a man’s servant; and she should especially get a break if she also works (workplace) or is a busy mother. It’s been said that you cannot be taken advantage of unless YOU allow it.

  4. avatar JCF4612 says:

    The magic of a column that writes itself: String together a slew of responses and put a topper on it. Pour a cup of tea or something stronger. Prop up the feet, and call a travel agent.

  5. avatar Deeliteful says:

    Maybe Margo has been under the weather. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.

  6. avatar R Scott says:

    Bernice – Let me fix this for you:
    No respectful feminist would have ever answered: Men are just adult children: reward and punishment.
    A man hater would say that, Bernice. Not an actual feminist. There’s a difference. Learn it.
    It’s simply called picking your battles.

  7. avatar lebucher says:

    I lived with a man who had no problem putting dirty laundry into a laundry basket prior to our cohabitating.  After the move-in he started tossing it anyplace on the floors in the bathroom, bedroom, hallway.  I asked nicely several times to please drop into the hamper and he ignored me.  I didn’t think this was a huge imposition on him and resented that he was making more work for me when I was already stretched thin with 2 jobs and college.  It was taking one entire day each weekend to clean the 1200 sf house and do all the laundry.  I finally informed him that the only laundry that would get washed was that which was in the hamper.  Then I made good on my promise.  Magically he learned to pick up after himself again.  It’s one thing to divvy up chores as a couple sees fit, but it’s quite another to treat your SO as a servant to your slovenliness.  Showing some consideration goes a long way towards feeding goodwill.

    • avatar Deeliteful says:

      I had (note the past tense) a husband like that. He just bought more clothes when he ran out of clean ones. I threw the dirty ones in the basement and let him deal with them. I don’t know what happened to them, and don’t care.