Chores, Chores, Chores

Little Tasks Can Cause Big Conflict in Your Marriage - Here's How to Fix it

Couple washing dishes in kitchen, laughing, playing with soap suds
Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images

When you or your spouse are unhappy about the allocation of household chores, the stress level in your home will increase tremendously. Conflict over domestic duties is second only to conflict over money in a marriage in terms of its impact.

"The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction. And husbands benefit too, since studies show that women feel more sexually attracted to partners who pitch in."
Source: Stephanie Coontz. "The M.R.S. and the Ph.D." NYTimes.com. 2/11/2012.

If you ask wives what their top source of stress is, quite a few will respond that it is the fact that their husbands don't want to do their share of work around the house. Stress levels increase in your home when either one of you is unhappy about unfinished chores. Couples fight over who does what around the house almost as much as they fight over money. Many surveys and studies point out that even though many women work outside the home, they still tend to do most of the household chores.

How Uneven Chore-Splitting Can Erode The Partnership of Marriage

Marriage is in many ways a business partnership - and the business is running the house. That means keeping financial records, maintenance, shopping, planning, cleaning, cooking, child care, transportation, etc. When the business runs smoothly, there is more peace and harmony.

However, if friends drop in and the house is a mess, or if there are no clean clothes to wear, or it rains hard and the leaky roof wasn't fixed because of procrastination ...

then irritations grow, misunderstandings surface, and the result is conflict.

"Equal" Chore Division is in the Eye of the Beholder

Courtney Ronan writes that according to an MSNBC survey, respondents were asked if the chores in their households were performed by just one person or if they were shared.

The results were telling: 74 percent of men said the chores were shared; 51 percent of women said chores were shared. 26 percent of men said one person did the housework; 49 percent of the women said the same.

Dialogue Question

George Eliot wrote, What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?

Do you make life less difficult for each other, or more difficult? How does your answer make you feel?

How to Divide Household Chores

The biggest mistake you can make in your quest to have your spouse do more chores around the house is to ask for help. Asking for help implies that the responsibility for the chores belongs to just you. In actuality, chores around the house should be shared responsibilities, and doing a good job dividing up the housework is essential to ensuring a happy marriage. Here are some tips for dividing them fairly.

  • Set your priorities as a couple. What is truly important to each of you? Discuss how you both feel about home cooked meals versus quick meals or eating out now and then. Find out your feelings about dusting, cleaning the toilet, making the bed, mowing the lawn, paying bills, etc.
  • Sit down together and make a list of the chores that each of you absolutely hates to do. What one hates, the other may be able to tolerate. If both of you detest the same chore, then figure out a way to compromise in getting this particular unpleasant task done. Or perhaps you could tackle the horrid chore together, as a team. You could also find some money in your budget to hire someone to do that task.
  • It is important, too, to be considerate of one another's body clocks. Some folks are morning people and some folks are night owls. Forcing one another to do a project or chore when they really aren't ready to do it only creates tension. Timing is important. So is sharing expectations.
  • Let one another know what the coming week is going to be like. Meetings, errands, special occasions, etc. Then decide who is going to do what, make a list, and post the list. Then let it go. Don't nag each other about what you volunteered to do. If the task hasn't been done by the following week when you next sit down to share expectations, that's the time to bring it up.
  • If one of you doesn't follow through on promises to do your share of the work around your home, try and discover together why there is such reluctance. Some men may view household chores as woman's work. Family of origin issues can be a reason for differing opinions on chores, too. Blaming your spouse for what hasn't been accomplished or finished is just wasting energy.
  • Be flexible and allow your spouse to accomplish tasks in their own way. If having the towels folded a certain way is super important to you, then do it yourself.
  • Many couples find they look at the division of chores differently. Domestic disorder simply doesn't bother some people. If after discussing the situation, your mate absolutely refuses to share equally in household chores, and you're tired of carrying the load yourself, then you have some choices to make. Bottom line, you can't change your spouse. You can hire some outside help, or you can quit doing some tasks that you don't want to do anymore. The roof won't fall in just because you don't cook a 3-course meal every night.
  • Look at some areas of your house and yard that you may want to cut back on to save both time and money. Try to get your home organized so it runs more efficiently. Ask yourself if some chores even have to be done on a regular basis. For instance, if mowing the lawn is taking too much time, sprinkle wildflower seeds out there and let nature do her thing. If you hate ironing, give the clothes away that need ironing and toss the iron. Do the windows have to always sparkle? After an examination of your standard of housekeeping, your domestic chores may become less draining emotionally and physically.