How An Unfair Division Of Labor Hurts Your Relationship


Housework can be a point of contention for many couples. Perhaps you feel that you vì chưng more than your fair cốt truyện of the cooking, or that you constantly have khổng lồ ‘nag’ (read: ask) your partner to vì simple tasks like picking up their dirty laundry. All these little annoyances can build up to lớn make you feel irritable and resentful. Sound familiar?

Thankfully, it doesn’t always have khổng lồ be this way. There are steps you can take to lớn communicate with your partner, change your mindset, và come up with useful arrangements lớn ensure you balance the housework fairly. The result? A more peaceful home, less arguments, & – hopefully – a stronger, more loving relationship.

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But first, it’s important to lớn acknowledge that you’re not alone. When writer Sally Howard was researching for her book, The trang chủ Stretch: Why It"s Time to lớn Come Clean About Who Does The Dishes, she found that 78% of cohabiting respondents said housework caused relationship tension. This is perhaps unsurprising, as according to Howard, women in heterosexual relationships contribute more, on average, to the domestic load: “men contribute 18 hours to lớn women’s 26 hours per week,” she says.


Why such a big difference? “Our domestic arrangements are based on centuries of sex-based roles, with man as the provider, & woman as ‘angel of the house’,” she explains.

So although women being ‘providers’ & having our own successful careers has been normal for some time now, the household labour side of things hasn"t quite caught up. When you’re busily working the same hours, and taking on more of the housework, this can be doubly exhausting – và frustrating.

“Many men were raised by parents who didn’t expect them to do as much around the house, so this is very deeply engrained conditioning,” explains intimate relationships expert Susan Quilliam. “Whereas, women are often trained from a young age lớn look after themselves, và to measure cleanliness – of both themselves và their homes – as a measure of self-worth. This can also lead to different standards of criteria, meaning women might become more uncomfortable, viscerally, when something isn’t clean and tidy, while their partner might not even notice.”

Thankfully, things are changing, and this certainly isn’t true for all couples. Yet, even in many relationships where chores are technically divided up equally, Howard warns that women often still disproportionately shoulder the ‘mental load’, otherwise known as ‘emotional labour.’

“This is the household organisation & chivvying that often falls to lớn women,” says Howard, including organising the shopping, planning kids’ calendars, remembering birthdays và replacing the soap when it runs out.

It’s probably not surprising that these issues and imbalances might be feeling even more pronounced during lockdown.

“For one, spending more time in the house means more housework,” says Quilliam. “Secondly, being locked down with your partner is likely khổng lồ cause more irritation in general, as there aren’t many places you can go lớn release stress và cool off, so you might be noticing the frustration building more than usual.”

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But the good news is that this period of intense time at home can actually be a great opportunity khổng lồ overcome any issues surrounding housework, and come up with a better set-up that works for both of you. Here’s how to bởi it…

Divide & conquer

Have you ever actually had a proper conversation about who is responsible for what, when things need doing, và how they should be done? No? You"re not alone. But it"s so important to sit down and really work out your plan of action. Set aside time for a conversation khổng lồ unpack any issues you"re having & work out solutions in order to balance household tasks.

Having your own, clearly-defined, separate tasks & responsibilities can be a really useful starting point for many couples.

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“You could begin by thinking about the things you each actually enjoy doing, và then go from there,” Susan Quilliam recommends. “Perhaps you feel a sense of satisfaction from doing the laundry, while your partner prefers cleaning the kitchen. Starting on a positive footing is always helpful.”

Sally Howard recommends avoiding dividing tasks into traditionally ‘pink’ (female) and ‘blue’ (male) chores. “’Blue’ jobs – mowing the lawn or putting out the bins – tend to lớn be occasional, compared to lớn the daily và necessary ‘pink’ tasks, such as rustling up meals against the clock with a toddler screaming at your feet,” she says.

Instead, think about which tasks are most unpleasant, which ones take up the most time, & which happen most frequently. It could be helpful lớn write these down in different categories, so you can work out how to lớn create an even split.


Get it in writing

Both Quilliam và Howard advise against tick-lists và rotas, as they say this can exacerbate the ‘emotional labour’ being carried by one person and can also result in point-scoring, which can give you more reason to argue. But Quilliam says that when you’re forming a negotiation, it really helps lớn write down what you’ve decided.

“You can refer back khổng lồ it, so you don’t forget,” she says. “But also, don’t be afraid to suggest making adjustments as time goes by. If you’re finding a task particularly exhausting or difficult, calmly suggest renegotiating, rather than carrying around simmering resentment. You might find that your partner is happy to lớn come up with an easy solution to lớn benefit you both.”

Listen, understand và compromise

While you negotiate, ask them what it is about housework they struggle with. Rather than assuming the worst – that they’re just lazy or disrespectful – find out what is really going on, says Quilliam.

“Work out whether there are certain times you both prefer to bởi housework – maybe you always lượt thích to vị things in the morning, while they prefer khổng lồ set aside time in the evening,” she says. “Explain your point of view, listen to their point of view, và prepare lớn negotiate và make some changes.”

Make it fun

Some couples might find that dividing tasks into mix responsibilities doesn’t work for them. It could be that you actually prefer to lớn take on some tasks, like cooking, together.

“Find ways to lớn make it fun, so you can turn monotonous household chores into chất lượng time,” suggests Quilliam. For example, you might want lớn play your favourite songs và dance while you clean – you might find you both enjoy it!

“Or you could mix aside time in the evening to do a blitz of the house, & ensure you reward yourselves by snuggling up on the sofa to watch your favourite box-set,” she says. Having some kind of reward or motivating factor - for both of you - can be really useful.

Pick your battles

One common sticking point in couples, says Quilliam, is that your partner may be happy khổng lồ take on their fair giới thiệu of the housework, but the way they vị things isn’t up to your standards.

“Keep one or two things for yourself if you know it would make you feel comfortable,” she recommends. “For example, if they always goes shopping & come back with the wrong items, you might want to make the shopping one of your "things". But with other chores, it can be easier to think, ‘does this really matter?’ For example, if they stack the dishwasher wrong, can you choose to let it go? This doesn’t mean you should keep sweet và never raise your opinions – it’s just about choosing your battles so you can both feel happier & more content.”

Remember housework isn’t proof of love

According khổng lồ Quilliam, one of the most common reasons arguments occur in relationships, as a whole, is that you often have ‘I want’ vs ‘I don’t want’.

“The problem is that this often tips over into proof of love,” she says. “So you might say, ‘if you loved me, you would vì chưng this’ while they might say ‘if you loved me, you would stop pushing me to do something I don’t want to do.’ But if you view certain actions (or inactions) as proof that they don"t love or respect you, it intensifies the problem & can worsen the way you feel about it.”

Ultimately, having individual desires, needs and preferences doesn’t mean you love each other any more or less. You just have to lớn find some way lớn meet in the middle, says Quilliam, by maintaining communication and empathy.

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