There it sits. The very full, nearly over-flowing garbage can. You see it there. You know your partner has seen it there, so now the stand-off begins. Will you take it out, or will your partner? You ask yourself, “why am I the only one who does this?” “Doesn’t he/she notice it?”
Inequity in household duties can cause stress and resentment in an otherwise happy relationship. While each of you are perfectly capable of handling all the many things that need to be done, the bulk of the daily duties often falls on the shoulders of one partner more than the other.
So how do you combat a lopsided division of responsibilities? Below are 5 strategies to assist in dividing up household chores.
Begin by making a master list of all chores. You can include things like grocery shopping and dog-walking or any other dreaded duties. To ensure that nothing is overlooked, the list should have the input of both partners.
Do your work schedules differ? Maybe one of you is an early riser and the other a night owl. Look at your list of the regular chores and see when things typically need to happen. Which day does the garbage go to the curb and who is home earliest to do that? Some things can be done more easily in the morning than in the evening.
Laundry, for instance, can be started in the morning before work and finished in the evening when the first person is home. So perhaps one of you can collect and put clothes in, and the other can take out and deliver to the appropriate rooms.
Do you like the towels folded a certain way? Will your partner get frustrated when you load the dishwasher wrong? If so, then divide out chores by the ones that you each have opinions about.
If you can’t stand the way he/she handles a particular chore then you really should do it yourself. If you would like to see the vacuum marks go diagonally then you should be the one to do the vacuuming. Same principal applies to your partner.
Balance it all out by using the if/then method. If I cook, then you clean. If I wash, then you dry. If I clean the bathroom, then you clean the kitchen, etc.
This can work wonderfully for many couples because it also plays into each other’s strengths. Often one partner likes to cook, so it’s only fair that the other cleans. It also creates an atmosphere of fairness and collaboration. You are working as a team in a yin and yang manner.
4Old Fashioned Calendar
Do you each hate cleaning the bathroom? Is taking out the trash a stumbling block? Then, much like the chore charts of youth, set a calendar with the days or weeks that you each take turns for those responsibilities.
Perhaps you can take the trash to the curb on the week the recycle goes out and your partner takes it down on the green waste weeks. Or, bathroom duty falls to each of you every other week (or day depending upon your level of tidiness).
Keeping a calendar also ensures things get done. It is very easy to forget that the top of the refrigerator needs cleaning, or that the air conditioning filters should be changed. Writing these things down will help make sure they happen.
5Division by Room
If none of the other strategies are working well, consider each of you taking responsibility for a room. For instance, if you have more than one bathroom, you can each take one. One of you can take kitchen duty and the other laundry room and laundry. Then, like it or not, those spaces and all that goes with them are the responsibility of one person. This method, however, should probably be kept track of on a calendar to ensure that who is responsible for what is clear.
Having a system to get household items handled can take stress off of each of you. Most of the day-to-day responsibilities are mundane and therefore easy to avoid. But avoiding the garbage does not mean it doesn’t need to be emptied. By working together, you are likely to find these things get done more quickly and without much additional thought. And, you will no longer have to play chicken with the garbage.
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their lives and relationships better.