Split Up Chores, Keep Marriage Together

splitting up chores, married couple, doing dishes together

What’s your least favorite household chore? Cleaning the toilet? Folding the laundry? Who does the house cleaning in your relationship? Studies show that couples who share household chores equally are happier, especially if both partners carry their fair share of the work agreeably. PsychCentral says divvying up household chores equitably and agreeably can be difficult for two-career couples, but it’s important to discuss and agree how to get the housework done.

All Things Equal

A University of Illinois study found that equal sharing of housework means a better chance for marital happiness. The study examined 220 heterosexual newly married couples and their beliefs, behaviors and marital quality. University of Illinois professor of human development and family studies Brian G. Ogolsky says it’s important for couples to work out their expectations for sharing chores in the first few years of their marriage because the patterns that get established persist and affect the quality of the marriage over time.

A Pew Research report supports these findings. Out of a list of nine things associated with successful marriages, sharing household chores ranked third in importance in a survey of American adults. This belief is consistent for men and women, young and older adults, and married and single survey participants.

Chores for Fun and Bonding

No one likes to get stuck cleaning up after everyone else. Turn chores into a positive instead of a negative by using them for fun and bonding. Doing chores together in a fun way gets them done faster, and time spent working toward a mutual goal means time to chat and enjoy each other’s company. Chat about your day while doing the dishes as one dries and one puts dishes away in the cabinet. Get a little exercise together while walking the dog. View bigger chores as a bonding experience. Cleaning out the garage or doing pool maintenance can be fun if you work as a team. Treat each other to an ice cream date after a long job well done.

Who Does What

Hartwell-Walker recommends thoroughly discussing different household chores, how both partners feel about them, and making a sincere effort to come to genuine agreement about who will do which chores. She advises couples to list out house cleaning chores, outside chores like cutting the grass and cleaning the gutters, child care responsibilities, and extended relationship chores like writing letters, sending cards, buying gifts and arranging social activities. Discuss each area and the items in them. Couples should explore how they feel about doing different types of chores, which chores they disagree about most, and what they both think is the fairest way to handle them.

Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of “To Love, Honor and Vacuum,” says chores can be used to bring couples closer together, rather than as a point of disagreement and discord. She recommends honoring each partner’s preferences and specialties in the areas of household chores, and revisiting work divisions when changes occur such as different work schedules, illness or injury or a new baby. Gregoire also reminds couples to be honest with each other about their real feelings about cleanliness and clutter because holding your partner to a higher or unrealistic standard of housekeeping perfection is a recipe for disaster.