Resolving Division Of Labor Disagreements For Couples Who Live Together

Resolving arguments in a couple

First, address ways each partner can understand self and other as it relates to this topic:

1. Each make a list of who did these tasks in family-of-origin (or maybe someone was hired to do them):

a. laundry
b. grocery-shopping
c. loading and unloading the dishwasher (or washing the dishes by hand)
d. making the bed
e. cleaning the bathroom, other rooms, vacuuming, cleaning the oven, etc.

2. Each should make a list of the most-hated jobs.

3. Each should make a list of the jobs he/she doesn’t mind doing (or may even like).

4. Then, have a discussion about how you’d like to proceed and bargain (which may include someone hired for some or all tasks) after reading below.

Seemingly, the MOST IMPORTANT part is the mind-set of the female partner(s), if there are any, because frequently females have expectations that mom’s way was the right and expected way. Despite the fact that females probably are working outside the home they carry with them the values their stay-at-home moms (or grandmothers) had of being “in charge” of household tasks. That is hard for them to let go of. So even if the other member of the couple does at least half the chores the woman often thinks she should create the time-frames and how these tasks should be done. Then it becomes “he helps me,” with her still considering herself in charge, rather than both being involved in when and how things are done.

Remember, these things can be trial and error. That is, it may take more than one conversation and various different experiments to get it to the place where there’s a best way planned out.

But, I recommend females (and men who feel as females do as mentioned above –- take-charge types) to try to let go of feeling responsible for all tasks. Remember, in the past, it was often because the way both members of the couple were conditioned to think was, “He’s earning the money; I take care of everything else.” That is no longer the case when there are 2 working members of the couple.

Keep in mind that in past generations it was common for women to be judged, and for her to get her feeling of self-worth, from the cleanliness of her house and how nutritious and creative (and nicely served) her meals. We all are worthwhile without having to prove this, right?! And both genders can enjoy our own cooking and the way our house looks and what we’ve contributed to making that happen.

And, it doesn’t have to work out evenly. Perhaps one member of the couple works longer hours than the other so has less time. Or, maybe one of the partners is more creative and likes to do certain tasks. And, sometimes it changes (e.g. during tax season the accountant has no time to do things but afterward makes up for it, or while one is ill the other takes up the slack, etc.). Rigidity is the enemy of compromise — and compromise is necessary in all couple decisions, not just regarding household tasks.

It can take time to work this out as each couple has differences of abilities, situations, etc., and it may take time for him to practice folding laundry or for her to learn how to get the best bargains at the grocery store, but, if after a while both partners are dissatisfied, sometimes a few sessions with a therapist can be helpful.

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