One of the most common things that couples fight about is the division of labor at home.
Nobody really wants to fight about this issue. After all, it’s a boring topic. Plus, it can feel like it will never get resolved. It’s not as if those household chores are ever going away.
You may find yourself wondering how happy couples manage to work this out.
There are no big secrets to success. However, there are some simple tips that you can implement in your home. By changing your approach, you can end the arguing.
Division of Labor as a Power Struggle
First, you have to make sure that you are really arguing about household chores. Many times, this is simply an easy way to let off steam about underlying feelings. If there is a power struggle about chores, then you might have an issue of power in the relationship. Take the time to work through what is really going on.
How to Share Chores
After addressing the underlying power struggle, there may still be issues with the division of labor. You can work through those issues by changing your mentality.
Approach the House as a Team
Approaching the problem as a team is the biggest change that you can make. Instead of blaming one another for the problem, blame the problem. In other words, it’s not your partner’s fault that the house is a mess. Household mess is just a problem that happens when you have a house.
Working together as a team means:
- Clarifying what a solution to the problem looks like.
- Finding compromises that work for both of you.
- Each doing the jobs that you most like or are best at completing.
- Both doing the jobs that neither of you enjoys.
- Praising each other for a job well done.
Some couples even turn the division of labor into a friendly competition. Instead of arguing about who does more, they each try to out-do one another. You can use phone apps to track chores in a fun way.
Giving, Getting, but not Expecting
Working as a team also means that you both give a little, and you both get a little. However, don’t mistake this for a “quid pro quo.” For example, you shouldn’t expect that because you washed four dishes your partner will now wash four dishes.
In fact, you should avoid expectations and assumptions. You may fall into a common trap of expecting your partner to know what needs to be done around the house. However, your partner can’t read your mind. Instead of getting resentful about that, make the effort to ask clearly for what you need.
Of course, you can’t ask your partner to do chores unless you are willing to respond to what they need as well. This is where compromise comes in. It’s not a tit-for-tat. Instead, it’s about finding ways to meet both of your needs.
An Ongoing Dialogue
You might find that you have to revisit this conversation many times over the years. In their book “And Baby Makes Three,” Drs. John and Julie Gottman list division of labor as one of the “perpetual issues” in life. They liken perpetual issues to chronic illness. The symptoms may be relieved for a long period of time, but sometimes they crop back up again.
In other words, you can resolve the issues for a long time. However, household chores never go away. Changes in schedules, work, childcare, health, and other conditions can lead to changes in the division of labor. Being open to an ongoing dialogue is key to keeping problems at bay.
Couples can work with a therapist to resolve arguments about the division of labor. Each couple is different. Learn more about how I tailor my therapy to individual couples here.