When you’re reflecting on the stresses of everyday life, it’s unlikely that you’ll name washing dishes or vacuuming as major causes of unhappiness. But fights over chores can slowly drive people in committed relationships to the brink of war, and unequal distribution of household chores plays a role in up to 30% of divorces. While chores might not seem particularly important, they have to be done every day, and if one person is doing more than his or her fair share, the person’s quality of life can steadily decline.
Women tend to fare worse in the fight over chores, statistically, and a University of Michigan study recently found that men, on average, create about seven additional hours of work each week for their wives, with married women who have children doing more than three times as many household duties per week as men. With a little planning, though, you can ensure that you and your partner contribute equally.
List Your Chores
Sometimes couples have completely different understandings of what it means to do housework. You might vacuum and mop daily, but your partner might think cleaning just means removing dirty socks from the floor. Sit down together and make a list of chores you each agree need to be done daily, weekly, and monthly, then start divvying them up. This way, neither of you can plead that you didn’t know about the chore, and failing to do something makes it clear that your partner is trying to pawn the work off on you.
Keep Track of Work
Couples fighting over chores often get into disagreements about which chores each party is doing, and research shows that men often overestimate their contributions. If you know that chores are unequal but are unsure of where the problem lies, try keeping a record of each of your household duties over the course of a week, then examining the results together to determine problem areas.
Make Chores Proportional
If one of you works and the other stays home with children, it’s likely that the stay-at-home parent will do more household chores and child-rearing tasks. This does not, however, mean that the stay-at-home parent needs to do all the chores. Instead, try looking at how much spare time each of you has and divvying up chores accordingly. Your chore division should never cause one spouse to have significantly more leisure time than the other.
Rather than trying to make everything perfectly equal each day, try taking turns. Perhaps each of you will take care of the daily house cleaning on different days, or one of you can cook while the other cleans. If there’s a task you both loathe, alternate who does it, but make sure that the turns are fair. If you hate doing laundry but find yourself folding towels three times as frequently as your partner, something’s wrong.
Work with Natural Consequences
To be able to equitably divide chores, you have to have a cooperative partner. Not everyone sees the value of evenly splitting household duties. If you can’t get your partner to work with you, don’t scream or make threats. Instead, try letting him or her deal with the natural consequences of his/her actions. Stick to doing the chores you need to do to keep your life running relatively smoothly, but stop doing chores for your spouse. When he or she is faced with nothing but dirty clothes and a week of take-out food, the person is more likely to recognize your contributions.
- Chore wars: Men, women, and housework. (2008, April 28). National Science Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111458
- London, B. (2012, August 31). Dirty dishes and divorces: Three in ten couples split over cleaning and household chores. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2196408/Dirty-dishes-divorces-Three-couples-split-cleaning-household-chores.html
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.