One of the biggest problems facing couples is the unevenness of chores; who does what, and how much time do men and women each contribute to daily household chores? With the majority of couples, women do the majority of chores, and guys when they are asked to help out complain that they can never do it to their girlfriend or wife’s satisfaction. A recent study revealed that the potential for a divorce could be cited by talking to the couple about who does what chore and is it equal with the amount of time spent. The study was very clear that it wasn’t only the chores and who did them, but how each spouse felt about doing them, and the extent to which one of the spouses felt they were not shared equally.
The division of labor or who does what chores depends on many factors. I can understand one partner doing more chores if there are small children and one of the parents stays home with the child. The stay-at-home parent may be more responsible for more chores during the week. However, this doesn’t explain why they continue to be totally responsible on the weekends. When is their day off from chores? Add to that, the statistic that women who work full-time outside the home are still doing 87% of the household chores while their male partner is doing 13%. When asked “why,” the couples themselves didn’t have an answer. I don’t understand how the man or woman is okay with this division of labor. It seems very likely that one of them will eventually become upset and retaliate. This is what usually happens, and it comes across in all sorts of areas while working with couples. It may show up in their sex life, how they manage money, and how they talk to their husbands. They are angry about the chores, but they may act the anger out by over-spending, withdrawing from sex, or engaging in the silent treatment. They feel that their complaining and nagging falls on deaf or defensive ears.
Perhaps the best time to talk about this is way before the couple end up married or living together. With cohabitation these styles of who does what are developed very early in the relationship. Whoever feels the most vulnerable in the relationship usually ends up doing more. The majority of the time this is the woman. In fact, even in cases where the woman is living with the guy, working full-time while he stays home and/or looks for a job, she is coming home to a messy house that needs picking up, straightening, and the dishes washed. Somehow this is still considered “her work.”
If you find yourself fighting about chores or you feel guilty for not doing your fair share, I do have suggestions that have been recommended by couples I work with, as well as programs such as smart relationships which focus on the chore list during pre-marital counseling programs.
1. There is a computer game titled, “Chore Wars.” It promotes doing chores by awarding points to the person who cleans the toilet, wipes down the tub, and vacuums. Couples get a sense of “playing with chores.” This makes it fun, and the person who wins can cash in on rewards set up prior to the game. I can see this being fun, but it seems like a lot of work to keep points, and I am not wild about the competitiveness.
2. Write all of the chores down on a whiteboard in the kitchen. Each of you checks off what you will do. This is done Sunday evening before the week starts. Next to each chore is a value assigned in dollars. If you don’t do it by a set time, you pay whoever does it. I have done this in my home, and it worked great. If you travel, this will not work. You will lose a lot of money.
3. Hire a housekeeper. No one really loves to clean all the time, and we all love coming home to a clean house. It’s expensive, but so is divorce.
4. Instead of naming chores, name hours. Basically break it down to fifteen hours a week, or whatever time allotment it will take for you during a week’s time to do all of the chores. Assign hours instead of jobs. The jobs are already listed on the white board, so everyone knows what must be done. This one must be clarified because some people work fast and others move slowly. If you say 5 hours per week and your spouse doesn’t know how fast you move and what you are able to complete within those hours, you will need to be clear about that.
5. Specific cleaning days, mornings or evenings can be very helpful. For example, Saturday morning after you enjoy breakfast you can clean and then have something fun planned. Both of you cleaning together will be more motivating, you can listen to great music, and it can be enjoyable and even fun. This one works great for families, and counts as a family day. Families that work together are engaged and understand the importance of working toward a shared goal.
It doesn’t really matter in a marriage who does what, but how one feels about what they do is everything. When I talk to couples about getting married this is one area most of them haven’t discussed or thought about. When it is first mentioned the guy looks at me and says, “We are going to share EVERYTHING.” I want to believe him, I really do, but the statistics will not support him. If you want a happy contented relationship, talk about who does what prior to someone getting angry. If you aren’t doing your fair share, step up to the plate. The guys who pitch in the most, and do their fair share, have more time to enjoy intimacy. Their wife is usually happier and more receptive as well. –Mary Jo Rapini
Tags: Relationships, Family, Chores, Work, Anger, Resentment, Responsibility, Contentment
For more information and MONTHLY FREE RELATIONSHIP TIP go to: www.maryjorapini.com
Talk to me on my fan page: http://www.facebook.com/maryjorapini
Tweet me: @ Mary Jo Rapini
Join me every Monday and Thursday Morning for “Mind, Body, Soul with Mary Jo” on Fox 26 Houston at 9 a.m.