Marriage and Chores: How to Stop Fighting and Start Cleaning

Jan 13, 2022

Woman punching man

In a dual-income household where working couples have to juggle jobs, kids, and a house to run, arguments can come from any direction. But despite what you might expect, the typical topics of relationship troubles or having enough money aren't the primary points of contention — it's housework.


Studies show that couples with young children argue more about chores than any other issue, including finances, child-raising, and intimacy. Nearly one-half of parents have frequent arguments over chores, and they're coming at the expense of a happy marriage. Of those who argue about chores often, only 47% describe their married state as "very happy".


We all want to avoid the fights that kill the mood around the house, but it's crucial to address the problem head-on and make long-lasting changes. Without partnering in practical ways to share housework, you're only going to set yourself up for disappointment. As time goes on, those feelings can boil over into heated debates, anger-fueled ultimatums, and for many couples, even divorce.


If you're worried about the unfair division of household chores in your home, here's how you can create a positive partnership.


Assign Household Tasks


Research has shown how communication skills are essential in an egalitarian division of household responsibilities and satisfaction among partners. If you want equity and happiness, you both have to be willing and able to talk about it.


It starts with a proactive conversation centered on respect. Sit down with the other person to discuss your feelings and how you can share in the mental labor of cleaning and running a household. 


Divisions between men and women around household tasks are often the result of decades-old gender roles. It may not be that one person avoids work, but that they don't notice the details you do. They are likely willing to listen, but nothing will change if you don't outline what's expected.


List the Household Work and Set Priorities


There's never 100% agreement between husband and wife on every aspect of home life. Women and men often have different cleaning standards and methods. That's why you need a shared vision of what you need to do and how often to do it.


The best way to accomplish that is to get it in writing. Keeping an agreed-upon action list will maintain harmony and accountability, so you can prevent old habits from dying hard.


Make a list of every task, such as:


  • Laundry
  • Dishes
  • Bathroom cleaning
  • Dusting and vacuuming
  • Shopping and running errands


If it's a recurring need, write it down and figure out how it fits into the course of the week. What day and time should you do it, and what is a good example of how to do it?


It's common for one partner to disagree about the importance of certain chores, so putting it on paper can help to compromise on priorities. When you promise to forgo a "my way or the highway" mentality, the decision on how you share chores will be much easier.


Assign Housework Based on Comfort and Strengths


Writing down priorities and setting tasks for the week is the best way to make a to-do list. You and your partner will have less anxiety, more time to relax, and fewer excuses to procrastinate.


The only question is who's going to do which chores. You need to agree on what constitutes a fair share of the domestic tasks in the house.


That doesn't mean you should spend time keeping score and nitpicking about how long each chore takes. Look at your list of responsibilities, and divide them based on how they fit each person's routine and comfort level. When you develop a system that accommodates each person's strengths, interests, and schedule, you can find satisfaction in any arrangement.


Note Your Frustrations and Communicate Calmly


The to-do list should be fluid, something you can reevaluate and reshape as new issues arise. Setting a routine in motion will have minor bumps as you both adjust. Partners will make mistakes or fail to meet standards, but the essential point is to have calm conversations.


Discuss your housework plan on a regular basis, maybe once a week or twice a month. Share the stuff that doesn't make sense or what might worry you about how your spouse cleans. If they tend to do something a certain way that concerns you, don't be afraid to speak up.


It's easy to react immediately and aggressively when agreements aren't honored. But attacking your partner will only put them on the defensive and initiate an argument.


Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and emotions so you can manage the conflict. When you have a problem with how your partner handles tasks, keep these tips in mind to effectively communicate:


  • Focus on the present situation instead of bringing up past missteps
  • Discuss your feelings and not their failings
  • Encourage your partner to share their feelings and listen thoughtfully without getting defensive
  • Don't argue in absolutes ("I always", "you never", etc.)


Family life carries a lot of conflicts, and you're bound to be disappointed in some way once you start establishing more expectations. Remember that neither of you is the boss but rather teammates working towards a shared goal. You might have to clarify those goals and each person's role, but it rarely requires a fight when you have it in writing.


Pick Your Battles Over Household Chores


Communication and a plan are the secrets to a sound housework strategy, but they don't guarantee success as you divvy up chores. There will be points where you need to pick your battles.


For example, if your husband is having difficulty doing laundry on a Saturday morning as you both planned, you may have to take over the chore or accept a new schedule. How much does it matter to you, and are you willing to let it go?


Improve Family Life with a Weekly Cleaning Service


In a related story, we discussed the benefits of a cleaning service for happy marriages. It saves time, energy, and frustration for everyone involved. When you struggle to find common ground in taking care of the mess, a weekly cleaning visit can be the shortcut to conflict resolution that you need.


If you've tried everything and still haven't found satisfaction, Anita's Housekeeping Referral Agency will help you find a local maid service to balance everyone's needs. Request a booking with us today, and end the chore wars once and for all.

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