I’m Happily Married — But I Still See How Marriage Is A Scam

Learning how LGBTQIA+ couples handle the division of labor can help.

stress woman with kids and man on couch Prostock-studio | Yuganov Konstantin | Shutterstock

Even though my parents had a traditional marriage, my mother never romanticized being a stay-at-home parent. She told me, in fact, to do the opposite.

"Never depend on a man," she told me multiple times. "Get educated. Get a job." So I did. I got a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s. I worked. And then I got married for the first time.

Becoming a married single mother.

What I didn’t know at the time was that just by marrying a man, I had significantly improved his life and career outlook while hurting mine.

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While he was likely to give me an extra seven hours of housework per week, I was likely to save him an hour.

While he was likely to make 10 to 40 percent more money, my chances of a successful career plummeted. While he could dedicate time to building his career in his 30s, my chances of doing so were interrupted because we had children. I went on maternity leave, and then once I returned to work, I continued to be our children’s primary parent.

Once our children were born, I didn’t have the option to spend long hours at work grinding. I had to leave promptly at 4:30 to pick up our children from daycare, and then spend the rest of the evening on my second job: taking care of them and our home.


He was also likely to have a vastly improved health. He regularly went to the gym and ate healthier, as well as, kept regular doctor appointments.

I, on the other hand, suffered, both physically and mentally. While he was getting to the gym, someone had to watch the children, and that someone was me. While he had time to meal-prep and eat healthier, I was feeding our children. I constantly forgot to feed myself and, more often than not, would eat my children’s leftovers.

The stress of having a full-time job and the job of taking care of our household and children ate away at me. I was depressed and anxious. When I looked around and realized I was a married single mom, I knew I didn’t want it anymore. It wasn’t worth it.

While these issues might seem like they’d be true in any relationship, they’re not.


In multiple research studies, same-sex couples do marvelously better at dividing chores.

Same-sex couples don’t have gender expectations for who should do what in their relationships, so things are divided more fairly.

Even when they aren’t necessarily divided more "fairly," (as in, one person in the relationship still takes on more of a specific task/job/part of the home), it’s often still viewed as more fair in the context of their relationship.

Why does it feel more equitable even if, for all intents and purposes, it’s not? Because it was an agreement the couple came to. For example, since the nonbiological mother in a same-sex relationship can’t breastfeed, she’d be the one to handle other tasks, like laundry or dishes.

Further, same-sex couples just do better at communicating, which means that when tasks need to be changed or negotiated, they have ways and means to be able to do that.

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The traditional heterosexual marriage model doesn’t work for most families today. For one, it’s not possible for many families to live off of one income anymore. Only 27 percent of all family households in the U.S. are single-income (and "54 percent of those single-earner households receive assistance" and are "three times more likely to live in poverty").

The modern heterosexual marriage model doesn’t work either. Women cannot "do it all." They cannot work 40+ hours a week, making close to the same amount of money as their partners, while also being the only ones taking care of the children and the household.

It’s a scam, one that comes at high costs for women. Their mental and physical health suffers. Their careers suffer.

So what’s the solution?


LGBTQ+ couples can lead the way in helping heterosexual couples rethink and reform their marriages into more egalitarian ones.

For one, there has to be an agreement on tasks completed in the home. Eve Rodsky posits one way of doing this in her book, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live).

When my husband and I first got married, we sat down over several nights to figure out how to come to an agreement on our division of labor. We chose to do a spreadsheet that clearly defined whose "job" a certain task was. This allowed us to have ownership and responsibility over certain tasks as well as to pick things based on our preferences. Not every task we’ll do is one we like, but we were able to figure out a way to make sure the majority of them are.

Our spreadsheet is color-coded based on frequency. Tasks that have the same frequency are weighted the same, and larger tasks are broken down into smaller steps (for example, cleaning the house is broken down into cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, etc.).

This is important since while "doing the dishes" daily might just take about ten minutes, that task takes up 70 minutes a week, while mowing the yard may only take up 45 minutes once a week.


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Some tasks are split or traded off (for example, my husband might bathe one child at night while I might bathe the other, or he might start the laundry while I fold). Other tasks might be outsourced (hiring cleaners, for example). Still others might be handled with the use of technology (like automating bill pay or purchasing a self-cleaning cat litter box).

And some tasks, we’ve learned to let go of for this season of our lives. For example, we’ve let go of sweeping the floors daily since we have 2 dogs and 3 small children, but we do keep the table tops and countertops clean.

As the parent with the more flexible schedule (my husband has a normal 9–5 and travels 20 to 30 percent of the time), I still take on a majority of the childcare duties. But like my gay/lesbian counterparts, while it may not be "fair" as in "50–50," it still feels fair because we’ve agreed to it, and I know all the ways that my husband steps up for our family as well.


When we’d been successfully employing this spreadsheet for a few years, I shared about it on my social media accounts, and it quickly went viral. It’s not surprising why: couples who split chores more equitably have higher relationship satisfaction.

Since our division of labor continues to need to be re-negotiated, my husband and I make sure to talk about it every week during our "weekly relationship check-in." If either one of us is traveling, has a deadline, is sick or stressed, or if our children have a pretty packed week of extracurriculars, etc., we’ll discuss how each of us may need to step up.

This is part of better communication that LGBTQ+ couples do better: Having an agreement in place, as well as a structured weekly check-in, gives us the opportunity to discuss what needs to be handled.


I’m grateful my husband and I work hard to make sure our relationship feels fair. I want that for other heterosexual married women because our gender and our marital status shouldn’t dictate what we do in caring for our home and our children.

RELATED: 20 Healthy Marriage Habits I've Learned In My 30 Years As A Psychotherapist

Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships.