How to Share Housework and Chores Between a Couple

While division of labor may have had its advantages centuries ago, with women now forming a significant part of the labor force, it is a physically impossible for a female partner to take on the responsibilities of the workplace as well as run a home entirely on her own. Apart from the practical advantages of sharing chores, when both partners chip in together to do housework, it creates for better understanding between the couple and creates the foundation for mutual respect and support. Here are a few tips on How to share chores so that both partners are happy and they have a well-run home.

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Start right

At the start of a relationship, a woman tends to show her love by pampering her man and doing everything for him. This is in keeping with long established gender roles according to which women are supposed to be the nurturer in a relationship and tending to the man is how she can express her love. Initially when the woman is merely camping at her boyfriend’s place for the weekend or both have only a few belongings, the housework does not appear to be strenuous and the woman is happy to do an occasional laundry or cook her boyfriend’s favorite casserole. However when a couple has been living together for a while and belongings accumulate or especially when kids come, the housework multiplies several times over. At this point the woman feels overwhelmed but the man who has got used to getting his things done by his partner, still can see no reason for doing his bit. While this is the most common gender role equation, there are also examples where it is the male partner who finds himself stressed by responsibilities both at the workplace and home. The point is that ultimately in a skewed arrangement, it is only a matter of time before nagging starts and then things move to raised voices and flared tempers. So if you wish to avoid conflicts around housework later on, it makes sense to start on the right foot. Even before you move in with your partner, have a chat about who is going to do what. While this may seem unromantic initially, it is far better being practical rather than taking an emotional decision only to find out later that you cannot possibly do everything on your own.

List your priorities

The first thing you need to do while dividing chores between you and your partner is to decide what your priorities as a couple. Discuss how you both feel about home cooked meals versus quick meals or eating out now and then. If home-cooked meals are important to you and your partner, then someone will have to buy groceries , cook and then clean up. On the other hand if saving time is more of a priority, you can eat out or get food delivered to your home. Similarly find out your feelings about dusting, cleaning the toilet, making the bed, mowing the lawn, paying bills and so on. Once you are able to figure out what aspects of living is important to you – like clean toilets - and what you can do without – like shining cyrstalware -  you will be able to jot down the  chores  that need to be done around the house and thus divide them between you and your partner.

Keep individual compulsions in mind

When dividing the housework, try and be considerate of one another's body clocks. Some folks have no problem getting up in the morning people while some folks are night owls. Forcing one another to do a project when they really aren't ready to do it only creates tension. So if your partner is not at his/her best in the morning, agree to take out the dog for a walk at the beginning of the day while your partner can take out the trash at night. Likewise with work schedules – if you need to leave earlier than your partner for work, he/she can run the morning laundry while you can pick up groceries on your way back since you will be probably returning home earlier than your partner.

Keep each other in the loop

Let one another know what the coming week is going to be like and thus and keep in mind meetings, errands, special occasions on each partner’s planner. Then decide who is going to do what, make a list, hang it somewhere visible and then let it go. Don't nag one another about what he/she volunteered to do. Some people dawdle more than others. If the task hasn't been done by the following week, when you next sit down to share expectations, that's the time to bring it up and talk about the undone chore or task.

Don’t give in to gender role expectations

A common excuse from men is that they work all day to maintain the family’s lifestyle, so they shouldn’t have to do anything when they get home. Some husbands may view household chores as woman's work and not manly. Family of origin issues can be a reason for differing opinions on chores, too. If you are a stay-at-home mum, you may find that the entire load of running a household and brining up kids fall on your shoulders. But in such a situation, Blaming your spouse for what hasn't been accomplished or finished is just wasting energy. Instead start out by  acknowledging to your partner that he does work hard, but at the same time point out that although you don’t get a salary for being a mum and doing the housework, your time is precious too.

Avoid communication gaps

If you and your partner are not communicating on the same wavelength, then the practical business of running a household is bound to suffer. So, when your partner gets home from work, don't barrage him or her at once with a list of things you want him to help you with. Instead give your beloved a hug and kiss and ask how his/her day was. Showing your partner you care about his/her day will lead him/her to care about yours with the result that he/she might be motivated to take on some of the chores that may be stressing you out, such as the vacuuming or the kids’ homework.

Resolve underlying relationship issues, if any

Often a partner will stop doing his/her bit around the house as a way of showing that he/she is offended at some other aspect of the relationship. However by keeping the channels of communication open, not only will you and your partner be able to share the domestic responsibilities but more importantly thrash out issues before they go on to negatively affect other aspects of your relationship.

Take it easy

It is important not to set too high a standard for your partner to follow when sharing household chores. While some people are naturally meticulous and tidy in their work, many of them are just happy to go through the chores and be done with them. So if you repeatedly criticize your partner for not doing the chores as perfectly or exactly as you do, he/she will lose any interest in sharing housework. If he has not stacked the dishes exactly like you or if her pancakes take too long to appear on the table, let it be. Or you may find your partner purposely doing slow or sloppy work, knowing that a perfectionist like you would rather take over the chores, thereby leaving him/her free to enjoy his/her leisure.

In the end it may all boil down to a matter of perception. Many couples find they look at the division of chores differently. Domestic disorder simply doesn't bother some people while others can’t bear the sight of a crumpled sheet. If talking it over with your spouse doesn't improve the situation, then you have the option of doing it yourself or hiring someone else to do it. While the latter may turn out to be a strain on your resources, the former option can leave you overwhelmed and too stressed out. In extreme cases of discordance, the only solution may be to talk to a counselor or maintain separate establishments so that the living habits of one do not affect the other. What you choose finally will depend on how far you are willing to adjust between your personal compulsions and your need to be with your partner.