Whether it’s cleaning the litter box, loading the dishwasher, or remembering to transfer the cash for rent, everyday tasks need doing. So why, when you’re in a relationship, does it feel so hard to make sure both partners are doing their fair share? A 2015 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, despite decades of progress towards equality in other areas, women still do a disproportionate amount of chores compared to men. And that sucks.
What causes this inequality? Lindsay McGrath, LMFT, says it arises from two main problems: outdated societal expectations (sometimes stemming from childhood), as well as one partner’s tendency to overfunction (usually, the female). You know, that whole, “It’ll be done right if I do it myself, so why bother asking him?” mindset. Eventually, you'll overextend yourself and create a slow burn of resentment in your relationship. Another issue? “I find that a lot of people do the tasks that they’re naturally good at, like paying the bills," McGrath says. "But anytime someone feels like 'I’m doing this all alone and it’s not fair,' things can get messy.”
Almost all the couples we know are looking for a better and more equal way to divide their duties. It’s better for your home life and for your emotional connection to each other, too. Hell, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that couples who share household duties have better sex! And it’s all in the communication. While passive-aggressive comments about the dirty toilet won't work, an honest sit-down where you explain why it’s important to you to have your needs considered will.
"Anytime someone feels like, 'I’m doing this all alone and it’s not fair,' things can get messy."
So how can you actually create a more equitable relationship? Here, six tips that will work for even the laziest of couples with the most lopsided distribution of chores. Seriously!
1. Time Yourselves
Set a timer for five minutes. During that time, both you and your partner should make a list of all of the household tasks you’d like help with—and why it's important to you that your partner chip in. When the time limit is up, exchange lists and talk it over. McGrath suggests that this will give you a lot of insight into your partner’s feelings.
2. Get Organized
Insert all of your household chores into a spreadsheet and allocate them to each person. Post it on the fridge where both you and your love can see it regularly. Revisit the spreadsheet each week to make sure things are actually getting done.
3. But Keep It Random
McGrath suggests writing all of your household tasks down on slips of paper and tossing them in a jar. Each partner can choose a few to do each day. That way, both of you get a variety of tasks to do and the same things aren’t falling to the same person each time.
4. Keep a Schedule
Are you or your partner forgetful? Set reminders on your iCal to ensure you do your duties. (You’re glued to your phone, anyway.) Every Tuesday, vacuum, check!
5. Do It Together
Yeah, you might not want to spend your precious Saturday morning deep-cleaning your bathroom. But finding time that you and your partner both have free, and using it to work together on your shared space, can make things feel a lot more like teamwork. Turn up your favorite music and reward yourself with beers after all the chores are done.