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Chore Wars and Marriage
There is an old Japanese proverb about marriage: “When two people marry, they become like two wheels of a cart. As long as each person pulls his own weight, their little cart moves along smoothly. When one person stops, the cart haplessly rolls in an endless circle, getting nowhere.”
Married couples argue about house chores mostly because one spouse feels that the other isn’t pulling his own weight. No one likes to shoulder the burden of all the house cleaning. No one likes to clean up after someone who is being lazy or discourteous. There are ways to negotiate equitable chore sharing in marriage. Here are some ideas to consider:
Who has the time?
When career commitments cut into personal time, who wants to spend the few available moments doing chores? Chore-sharing should be divided according to free available time. If Jody works longer hours, her spouse should pick up more of the chores and vice versa. How much a person earns, however, should not be a factor.
The biggest complaint from men about household chores is not having to do the actual tasks, but the criticism they receive when doing them. Many wives insist that their husbands clean up to their standards, do it their way, when spouses should be allowed to set their own standards. If my husband doesn’t like the way I mop a floor, he can do it himself. And he does, sometimes. Otherwise, he adapts. If you want your spouse to clean more, praise his efforts instead of criticizing him. He’ll work to get better at the job when your happiness is evident.
By the way, holding high perfectionist standards is setting everyone up for an unhappy home environment. Although I like a clean house, it is not meticulous by any means. Good enough for health and happiness should be the standard.
When should chores be done?
Kids hate it when parents demand that they interrupt their favorite TV show or computer game to take out the trash. Adults have earned the freedom to choose when they want to do their chores. No one likes to be nagged or bossed around. I stopped nagging my husband to be sure the trash bins went to the curb, and he missed the trash service a few times. Now, he is mindful without any reminders from me. It would really bug me if he nagged at me to do my chores.
Ending the arguments
The easiest way to end the chore wars is to hire outside help. But most couples don’t consider it for the following thoughts:
“We can’t afford it.” Hiring help runs counter to the do-it-yourself generation that believes that hiring others to do what you do can for yourself is a waste of money. Can you afford marriage counseling? It’s far more expensive. And ultimately, marriage maintenance is more important than home maintenance. Besides, hiring help is providing good work opportunities for others while freeing up both of you to either earn more or get the necessary relaxation you need to be able to work better. Not to mention, ending the tension and resentments from chore wars is great for your relationship.
“It’s not the principle of the matter, he should be willing to help out and hiring someone else is enabling him to cop out on his responsibilities.” Yes, in a perfect world, everyone should be willing to chip into the communal effort of home maintenance—in principle. In reality, people simply avoid what they dislike. In principle, we should be adults and do what is necessary whether or not we like it. But human nature finds it hard. After all, we all should be eating good foods and avoiding unhealthful foods. We should exercise and have great in-law relationships. We shouldn’t give into our impulses to buy what we don’t need. Everyone has “shoulds” that he/she avoids in life.
Cut your spouse some slack here. If he really dislikes mowing the lawn, give him the gift of lawn service. That is a gift of love.
Use money as incentive. Saving money can be a good incentive to get everyone to pitch in. When I announced that we could hire a house cleaner or use the money for fun activities, everyone chose to help out more. Now, there was incentive to do chores.
Setting up routines. Putting your chores on automatic pilot helps curb the complaints because the tasks become part of a routine. Our cars rarely got washed until we began to make it part of our Saturday morning routine which also includes stripping off the bedding when we wake up. Without having to mull over what to do, we simply get to it like brushing our teeth and the tasks are done just as quickly.
My husband knows that if he helps, I have more free time for him. If I am swamped with housework, I end up exhausted and irritable—and definitely not amorous, if you know what I mean. I remind him that mistresses are lucky because they don’t have to mop floors, chase after his kids or iron his shirts, and all they have to do is primp themselves to prepare for the next sexual rendezvous. Suddenly being a mistress sounds appealing, I hinted. I found a tole-painted sign that says, “Housework makes you ugly.” Funny. Now, he’s always willing to help out.
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