One of the most common areas of conflict with couples in long term relationships is around running the household and dividing up household responsibilities. In this week’s blog post, our guest blogger, Lesli Doares, a couples consultant and coach and author of the book “Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work”, explains how to end the chore wars once and for all.
Are You Still Fighting the Chore War in Your Relationship?
Back in 2011, Time Magazine had a cover article on the Chore Wars—the ongoing battle between men and women over who did what in keeping a household going. Judging from several recent Facebook posts, not much has changed.
Maybe if the posts I wrote back then had gotten as much attention as the recent posts on social media, the battle would be over.
Per the viral posts, husbands and sons are not sufficiently contributing to the running of the home they live in. Studies continue to show that women do a majority of the household tasks, even if they have a full-time job.
If they live alone, this makes sense. If they have a partner and/or children, it’s crazy. So why, almost fifty years into the women’s movement, has nothing changed?
Is it really that males are selfish and entitled? Are they just oblivious? Or is it something else? I would argue it maybe all three. The more helpful question is how to change things so that no one feels overly burdened.
I believe the answer is hidden in plain sight of the posts themselves. The statement that if the woman doesn’t do the chores, they won’t get done. Is it really that they won’t get done, or that they won’t get done “properly”?
The answer to this question is where the solution can be found.
I guarantee that part of the problem is the child-centric society we have created. Most children do limited chores around the house either because they have too many extra-curricular activities or because parents don’t want to upset them.
This is where the sense of entitlement or being oblivious comes from. If you never had any responsibility for your living situation growing up, why would you expect to as an adult?
This explanation rings hollow to some extent when you consider that most people are getting married at an older age than ever before.
Most have lived on their own for some period of time before that and would have dealt with many of the chores that now seem to be causing so much tension.
So why do so many women still accept so much of the responsibility for the domestic side of things? The unpleasant truth is because they allow it to be set up that way. This is why “asking” the men in your life to “help” doesn’t work.
This presumes that it is all the woman’s job in the first place. But anyone living in a household has responsibility for keeping it running. Once you accept this premise, the rest becomes a spread sheet exercise.
The best time to tackle this issue is when you first move in together. The next best is anytime after that. If this is still a problem in your relationship, it is way overdue for resolution. I know. You’re going to say that you’ve tried.
This is the refrain repeated in many of the Facebook rants. And I’m sure it’s true on some level. But, results speak for themselves.
The first step is to be honest about how things got so unbalanced to start with. Did you indeed marry a selfish, entitled lout who expects you to epitomize the old perfume commercial about bringing home the bacon, frying it up in the pan, and never letting him forget he’s a man?
Is he unaware of all that you do because he’s focused on different household tasks? Are there too many tasks for the number of hours in a day because both of you work full time outside the home? Is he truly incapable of doing the tasks?
The answers matter.
The next step is to stop being angry and resentful.
Require things to be different.
This isn’t asking.
Each of you needs to sit down and list all the tasks you do to keep the household running. Go day by day, room by room, task by task.
Then get together and compile one big list. Take each item and define what “complete” is and the time frame it needs to be done. Then go down the list and choose which tasks you will take on. If you aren’t willing to do it each and every time with an open heart and a willing spirit, don’t agree to do it.
This will result in further negotiation around the standard and time frame or deciding to outsource it.
Now if there is a task that you want to be done a specific way, take ownership of it. For me, that’s grocery shopping. I am very picky about the products I buy so I gladly go to the store every week.
If you find that you want many things done a certain way, you have identified part of the problem. The task can be done by someone else or it can be done your way—it can’t be both.
Once the chores are divvied up to everyone’s satisfaction, behave like grown-ups. Honor your agreement to do the task as defined and trust your partner to do the same.
Only if things aren’t proceeding as agreed do either of you get to say anything. Be willing to renegotiate when change requires it—having a child, changing jobs, getting a bigger house, etc.
Start from the premise that the household is everyone’s responsibility and don’t take on chores you don’t want to do. A new chore is an impetus for a discussion, not a seed of resentment.
You can end the Chore Wars. All you need to do is simply begin the peace process.
Chore wars are hard to end without some help so check out Leslie’s three easy step program.