Have you ever argued with a spouse about the division of house chores? Here are some ways to use conflict to build teamwork
Resolving marriage conflicts: house chores
Many couples fight about housework because few people enjoy doing it. Scrubbing floors, washing windows, folding clothes, and cooking meals aren’t typically on the top of people’s favorite fun list, except, perhaps, for the gourmet chef.
But chores like these must get done, and deciding who does what causes many arguments between otherwise loving spouses. Because it is a universal point of contention, here are some of the methods that help other couples avoid arguments:
1. Make a list of the most important tasks to be accomplished on a weekly basis. (You may need another list for monthly duties, like changing the furnace filter or washing the dog.) Ask your partner to look over the list and make modifications. When both of you agree, let other tasks go, starting with only the most essential. You can always add more as both of you get used to the new routine.
2. Let the other person choose a chore first. Encourage your partner to select something on the basis of priority or preference. Then the second person chooses. Divide the list with alternate choices until all selections have been made and each partner is basically satisfied.
3. If one task seems more onerous than the others, like doing 12 loads of laundry, offer to help sort or fold. Not only will this offset the complexity of that chore, but it may put you in the good graces of your partner, who perhaps may likewise offer help.
4. Try out your selected duties for a month or two, making adjustments as needed. For example, you may decide you’d rather scrub showers than floors, or take out trash rather than vacuum. If so, see if your spouse is willing to trade duties that will satisfy both of you.
5. Rotate tasks periodically. This keeps housework from getting boring and allows both of you to try different approaches. For example, one person may prefer store-bought cleaners until the other partner tries something home-made, like vinegar and soda. Results may convince the other spouse to adopt the homemade method (or vice versa). You also may want to drop one task that doesn’t seem to need done as often and add another that needs attention.
6. Be flexible. If someone doesn’t like a certain task, be willing to exchange or drop it from the list. Or if someone becomes ill, travels, or gets busy with a job-related project, show patience and understanding by helping with that person’s work until things settle down. Don’t expect perfection because most of us can’t deliver it. Be lavish with praise, stingy with criticism.
7. Reward yourselves. After a particularly grueling day of cleaning house, catching up laundry, or doing yard work, take the family out for ice cream or go bowling. Or invite guests over to show off your shared effort. Incentives like these help get the work done faster and give both of you something to look forward to.
House chores are a routine part of married life. Rather than view them as a focus for fighting, use housework as a basis for teamwork. Praise each other’s skill, help, and accomplishments!