Have You Spoken with your Partner about the Household Chore Divide?
Romantic relationships thrive through a healthy ability to balance separateness and togetherness. Individuals who can venture out into the world and enjoy hearty doses of independence and then come back together with their partner to connect romantically tend to report greater relationship satisfaction and less anxiety.
Reliance on remote work during the pandemic has compromised this vital balance for many couples fortunate enough to work from home. And tension over household chores is a common focal point of conflict for many couples currently navigating remote work, less independence, more dishes, and a lot more togetherness. Relationships are not meant to exist with round-the-clock attachment, and households are not designed for constant human occupation. This combination has led to an explosion of mess, chores, meals, clutter, dishes and more meals. Even couples who have discussed balancing chores throughout the pandemic may benefit from revisiting this conversation. Relationships evolve and go through phases, and navigating so many repetitive, boring responsibilities warrants more than one or two conversations.
A couple married for more than twenty years, working from home since March 2020 after decades of heading into their respective offices, found it useful to discuss one partners’ frustration that, despite becoming empty nesters this fall, the household chore balance did not ease when their twins left for college. “Now that we are empty nesters and life is less hectic, it would mean a lot to me if we could both take a less rushed, more mindful approach to our chores.” The annoyed partner opened the conversation by sharing this feeling and together they agreed to try to move a bit more deliberately now that they were not rushing to attend to their recently launched teenage twins. Another couple with young children found that using the game “Fair Play” has diffused their frequent fights about who does what. Each parent holds certain cards with specific chores and the game itself has added a healthy dose of levity to the challenge of existing as a family of five including two parents working from home and no children attending full time school.
The key to a healthy approach for discussing chores (or any difficult topic) is to share feelings in a kind way that considers the other person’s ego. Use “I” statements, avoid “you” statements, and be willing to own your part of the equation. It is much more productive to say: “I am aware that my cleanliness standards for our home are higher than yours and that must be challenging to live with. But if the dishes could be taken care of each evening without a reminder, that would be awesome.” And much less productive to say: “You’re such a slob, you can’t even clean a dish without my constant reminders.”
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