Sharing household chores

Whether you’ve just moved in with your partner or you’ve been married for 20 years, it’s easy for arguments to arise over household chores when living together. If either you or your partner feels their workload is uneven, stress levels are guaranteed to rise.

Splitting chores fairly is essential for the happiness and satisfaction of the home and keeping tension to a minimum.

But is it possible to do?

Let’s find out.



Sharing Household Chores Fairly Is Essential for a Successful Relationship

It’s no secret household chores are up there as one of the hot topics couples argue about. Especially when each person has very different ideas about what’s considered “clean”. Fights usually begin with one person who feels like they are doing the brunt of the housework.

Counselling Psychologist and Relationship Expert Dr Karen Phillip says it’s imperative for both partners to take proactive steps to ensure there is no imbalance.

“Any time inequality exists within a relationship, at least one of the partners is not happy nor satisfied,” Dr Karen states. “This creates feelings of disrespect, lack of appreciation and disregard, which are certainly not conducive to any healthy relationship.”



How do you determine what’s “fair” with splitting chores?

Each couple is different and their circumstances certainly play a role. What might be considered fair for one family may not necessarily be right for another. In a typical household with no children and both partners working similar hours, equal distribution of the chores should naturally occur.

Dr Karen recommends taking your partner’s feelings into consideration: “Imagine how you would feel as the partner needing to do the majority of tasks, then ensure you step up and take equal responsibility.”

Dr Karen emphasises that fairness is dependent on each person’s workload: “[If one person is working less than their partner] the partner working fewer hours should pick up more of the household responsibility.”



Forget Gendered Expectations of Household Chores

Gendered expectations when living together

It’s 2019, yet women are still expected to take point in running the household.

“Women generally place themselves behind everyone else, believing it remains their job to do everything, when it isn’t,” Dr Karen explains. “Those days should have disappeared decades ago.”

In contrast to previous generations, these days most women work outside of the home. And while there have certainly been strides to dissolve gendered expectations, they do still exist.

Why? Many men have grown up in “traditional” households with a stay-at-home mother who cared for the home and a breadwinning father who worked full-time.

With women working full-time or part-time, they should no longer be expected to do more than their fair share of the housework. Dr Karen laments it’s a “slow evolution” as “women naturally tend to take on far more household and child-rearing duties”.



Consider Each Other’s Priorities

Splitting chores

As opposed to thinking of the household chores as a 50/50 split, both spouses should focus on putting 100% effort into maintaining the home.

It’s normal for there to be division in what chores each person considers a top priority or even enjoys doing. Have a discussion to examine how you both feel about different chores. Does one care more about having a home-cooked meal as opposed to something easy? Does clutter irk one more than the other? Find out what matters most to each of you.

If one partner doesn’t mind doing the laundry and the other prefers to vacuum, it’s easy to divvy up the work through preference – provided it’s fair.



Decide on a System

Housework list

Dr Karen recommends drawing up a list of the jobs that need doing as well as a timetable of when they need to be done. Prioritise chores and decide on who will be doing what for that week or month. This holds each person accountable to complete their tasks in the expected timeframe. If necessary, draw up a roster for the chores that need to be done each day and check them off as you go.



Re-evaluate

Don’t just make plans and hope for the best. Check in regularly to see what is and isn’t working.

If things aren’t all going according to schedule, try some of these actions/tips:

  • If one person hasn’t followed through on their promises, talk through why this might be.
  • Be flexible and allow your partner to complete the chores in their own way.
  • Consider whether there are less important chores that don’t always need to be done to alleviate some of the strain.
  • If you’re both struggling to reach a compromise, hiring a cleaner might be the solution you need.

Above all, Dr Karen urges couples to practise respect, kindness and consideration for a happy relationship. “We should be looking at what we can do for our partner rather than what we expect from our partner.”