In every marriage, there’s an element of drudgery… It doesn’t really have anything to do with the relationship itself, it’s just a simple reality of most of our lives. Laundry has to be done, the lawn needs mowing, dishes need to be done, the floors need sweeping, and the list of chores just goes on and on and on…
It’s a hassle to take care of these things, but it’s even more irritating when you feel like all of the household responsibilities are falling on your shoulders, and your spouse isn’t lifting a finger to help. This unfair “division of labor” can lead to resentment, feeling overworked, undue stress, feeling overwhelmed with things to do, and a sense of nearly constant anger that your spouse is unwilling to help – even when you ask.
As if this weren’t enough of a problem, there’s even another downside – one person in the marriage feels like they’re doing all the work, and the other person feels like their constantly being nagged to help. Neither member of the relationship is happy in this scenario – though it’s safe to say that the person doing the disproportionate share of labor is “worse off.”
Now, we won’t pretend that some people don’t do this on purpose – specifically take advantage of their spouses so they don’t have to do much of anything around the house (or otherwise) - but this is less likely than the alternative, that they simply never sat down to discuss an effective division of labor. Instead, they’ve let assumptions and habits dictate how they handle household needs, and it has lead to a place of unhappiness and unfair division. This is largely the product of a lack of communication.
There may be some household responsibilities that you would rather do yourself, some that you simply do better than your spouse, and some that you don’t want to mess with at all – and all of that is just fine! Solving this problem involves taking stock of all the daily, weekly, monthly responsibilities that come with maintaining your household and lifestyle, and having an open discussion with your spouse about who’s going to do what.
The goal is to effectively divide things up so you both feel like the other is contributing their fair share, and everything is getting taken care of as needed. This could mean taking turns for some chores, combining efforts to get things done together, divvying up tasks for who’s best suited to handle them… or any combination of those options. You have to sort out what’s going to work best for you, and that starts with having the discussion in the first place.
If nothing else, you should be working together to make sure one of you doesn’t feel overburdened or taken advantage of.
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com