Setting up guidelines is the best way to talk about chores.
Q: My girlfriend and I are both 29 and have been dating for two years. I’m planning to ask her to marry me, but her divalike attitude is causing me to question my decision. She seemed excited about working on the renovation of our apartment together, but when it was time to dig in, she refused to help out, claiming that the work was "too dirty." And she hasn’t helped out around the house or taken out the garbage in over a year. At this rate, I'm worried that she'll be a complete princess by our second anniversary. I have no problem being chivalrous—I'm happy to carry her luggage and groceries—and I don't need a tomboy. But, I want a woman who’s not afraid to break a nail. Will our marriage work?
- Paul, 29
A: A good place to start is by having a talk about the roles you both play in the relationship when it comes to household chores. This is the time to examine your expectations of each other—you may wish that she took out the garbage more often, but she may be longing for you to mop the floor. Arrange a set date for this discussion so your soon-to-be-betrothed has the chance to come to the table with a few points in mind. It’s also a good idea to have this conversation in a place that is neutral for both of you (hint: your favorite sports bar is probably not the best location).
Once you’ve both expressed how you’d like the other to behave, you should be prepared to compromise your expectations. Instead of taking on trash duty, she may do the laundry or walk the dog. As for the renovation, you can explain to your girlfriend that helping out doesn’t necessarily equate to knocking down walls or lifting heavy lumber. She can also pitch in by painting, assembling furniture, or sweeping up after construction.
While the two of you work on creating a fair division of household duties, keep in mind that you can control how you react to your girlfriend’s behavior. Instead of working to change her, find ways to laugh about her idiosyncrasies and remember that you’re not perfect either. She may shy away from manual labor, but when was the last time you cleaned the toilet? Annoyance can quickly turn into resentment, so catch it before it’s too late.
Susan King is a wife and entrepreneur in Minneapolis, MN.