You might imagine it’s the big things that can destroy a marriage—infidelity, lies, crippling money problems. And of course, those issues can put a marriage through hell, but sometimes it’s not always that dramatic. Getting upset about little things, like who does the dishes or who always remembers to change the toilet paper, may seem petty, but these issues can really add up. If you feel like you’re buckling under the weight of chores or feeling like you're always reminding your partner to help with chores, that can cause real stress.
In fact, couples who share chores often have strong relationships and those who don't can really struggle.
But how do you divide your chores? And, even more importantly, how do you keep from fighting during the chore-dividing process? It can be an incredibly stressful area with a lot of built-up resentment—years of cleaning up someone’s dirty socks no matter how often you remind them about it can really do that to you. And women often end up bearing the brunt of emotional labor and mental labor, taking care of everything themselves or, at best, delegating them to a partner. And the truth is, delegating and management is its own responsibility.
So here are some tools you can use to start divide chores more fairly, because life is too short to fight about them.
If You Have the Money, Throw It at the Problem
Obviously this option isn’t going to work for everyone, but if you do have the spare cash then you might want to consider throwing money at the problem. One working paper from Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia surveyed 3,000 people and found that paying to have your chores done could help your relationship. It makes sense, because then neither of you have to worry about it—maybe it’s hiring a weekly cleaning service, maybe it’s sending your laundry out, maybe it’s just getting your car washed rather than fighting over who does it at home.
This logic fits in with larger research that has found that money spent on things that give you more time—taking taxis, having a housekeeper, etc—makes us happier than money spent on material things. If you have money to invest, it can really help your relationship. Outsource the chores that you hate the most, then divide the remaining ones (the ones that are easiest to fit into your lives) as fairly as you can.
Get Techy With It
If paying to help get the chores done just isn’t an option, don’t fret. For a lot of us, it’s just not affordable and there are other ways to help organize your workload. You’re not the only couple who struggles with this—which is maybe why a bunch of apps have popped up to help deal with the issue. One of the best out there is Wunderlist. “Wunderlist is the easiest way to get stuff done,” the app explains. “Whether you’re planning a holiday, sharing a shopping list with a partner or managing multiple work projects, Wunderlist is here to help you tick off all your personal and professional to-dos.” You and your partner can share to-do lists, send reminders, and more.
Because it’s all on the app, it doesn’t have to feel like a huge confrontation when you remind your partner to do something. Wunderlist is great, but there are plenty of other household management apps out there, so find one that works for you.
Stay Old School
Apps not your thing? You can always go old school. If you’re sick of your partner never helping or you feel like a nag for constantly having to ask for help, you can take out the guesswork by clearly delineating tasks. Create a schedule or a chore wheel that makes it obvious who is responsible for what. No longer can they pretend they just need to be told what to do (as if that’s not another job for you to have to do), because everyone’s responsibilities are pre-decided. A wheel has the benefit of everyone taking a turn with each task, so nobody can pretend that they’re stuck with the worst jobs, but on the other hand set schedules have a helpful predictability, so decide what’s best for you two.
Focus on Communication
No matter what kind of method you use to divide up the chores, communication is key. If you feel like you’re still doing too much, don’t bury that feeling and get resentful—talk to your partner. Similarly, if your partner feels like they don't know what’s being asked of them or if one of you realizes that your tasks just don't fit into your schedule on a given week, you need to communicate that to each other. Talk about how it makes you feel if you're overwhelmed or if your partner is slacking, rather than just accusing them and pointing fingers.
Having systems in place is great, but life happens sometimes. The only way to make sure you can avoid animosity is to keep checking in and talking to each other if you need to.
Tackling chores in a relationship can be an ongoing battle, and it may take a while to find a rhythm and a system that’s right for you. There are a lot of different tools available to you, but no matter what, make sure you don’t make assumptions and keep communicating about how you're holding up. It will keep your relationship stronger—as individuals and as a couple.