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Couples have lots of approaches to sharing housework

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Couples have lots of approaches to sharing housework

Readers had a lot to add to Monday's topic, on sharing the domestic workload with a mate.

Non-Nag: Don't think of it as nagging; think of it as setting expectations. E.g., not "Would you mind cooking twice a week?" but "We've talked about you cooking twice a week . . . how about you be responsible for Tuesdays and Thursdays?" Set the expectation, remind once or twice if necessary, and let there be consequences if the person doesn't hold up his/her end. If you both have to eat Triscuits for dinner on Tuesday because he forgot, them's the breaks.

Carolyn: That's a start, and a potentially effective one, thanks. Unfortunately, though, it affects the conscientious person's quality of life.

Let's say you don't want a Triscuit dinner, but the person on Tuesday/Thursday cooking duty is fine with it. Oops. So then you, say, stop on your way home Tuesdays and Thursdays to pick up something you do want — perfectly reasonable — but boy do you feel petty buying just for one.

Then you feel angry that this is what your "marriage" has come to, getting takeout for one because the other person can't be bothered to make your household a home.

And Triscuit person can say, "I was fine with Triscuits for dinner my whole life, and now I have to cook meals twice a week just because that's my spouse's idea of a marriage?"

It's really wrenching, if even one of them lacks the impulse to meet the other halfway.

Dividing Housecleaning: My husband and I have each chosen the thing we don't hate. He hates vacuuming and dusting; I hate scrubbing the toilet and dishwashing. So I dust, he scrubs.

Carolyn: As a bonus, this approach builds in gratitude: You're so thankful not to be doing the thing you hate most that you feel better about doing your part.


Anonymous: My mom told me this, and it works.

Make an even-numbered list of chores. Have the more reluctant person pick half. They are responsible for that half. (It's good for weekend chores, not so much everyday stuff.)

Nag: When we first moved in together, I told my husband that asking him to do chores would make me feel like I was his mom, nagging at him. He was an adult and knew what needed to be done. And if he chose not to do it himself then he was also making the choice to have me do it.

We found we had the common problem of my wanting a cleaner house than he did. We ended up listing out all the chores and their frequency. I still probably do more than he does, but anytime he sees I've done chores, he almost always does something on the list himself.

Husband "Helping Out": The fantastic book by John Gottman and Nan Silver, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has a checklist of every single chore one could possibly think of, and asks two questions: Who does it now? Who should ideally do it? Each spouse fills out the questionnaire — it leads to great talks and certainly greater awareness.

Couples have lots of approaches to sharing housework 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:31am]
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