How Spouses Can Divide Household Responsibilities Fairly

On February 18, 2021

Coming to agreement on the division of labor in a home should be less stressful. My experiences as a family mediator have taught me that creating a sustainable plan on how to divide household tasks would be helped by a few perspective shifts.

A successful conversation about chore planning starts with each person making two lists in advance. On one side of the dividing line they list the tasks they find easy and want to contribute to freely. On the other side they list the tasks that they find themselves being forgetful about.  

Coming to the conversation prepared in this way, you will learn about what is tidy and not tidy for your partner. You may be surprised by what they believe and why it hasn’t been so easy to divide the tasks between you. Remember, these explorations are going to help the plan succeed because of how they allow both partners to learn about the core and situational values that inform decision making.

In my experience, couples commonly get stuck in two places. One has to do with what “clean and tidy” means—what it looks and feels like. This is because the visual impression of a space could be comforting to one but creates tension for the other.

To deal with these differences there needs to be space for both truths to be shared and acknowledged as real. Then we can more easily address what needs to be done moving forward.

What can happen if there’s been a pattern of unfulfilled requests and frustrated accusations is a stalemate that shows itself in “bickering”. One of my mentors is a mediator, arbitrator and author named Kenneth Cloke. He very intuitively figured out that under every accusation there is a confession and a request. An example is found under the statement, “You’re so lazy!” The confession being communicated is, “I’m really tired, and I find it difficult to ask for help”, and lastly the request is, “can you help me?” 

These explorations are so worth the investment of time and effort as they can help you prevent future conflict and return the care and intimacy to a relationship that has been lost arguing about past disagreements.

The bottom line is both partners will be better off if they do their homework and come to the conversation prepared with a list of tasks they’d enjoy doing and tasks they would rather not do. If you both make a list, put the time into it, and engage your partner with curiosity during the conversation, you’ll find lasting solutions to the issues you’re having

Richard Brydson

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