In dual-income families particularly, sharing responsibilities can be an intense source of conflict. Resolve the difficulty of how to share responsibilities at home using the following tips.
- Don’t keep quiet: If you are frustrated with the way work is organized in your home, talk about it. This does not mean you should make general comments in the direction of your spouse like, “I seem to be the only one doing anything productive around here.” Hearing statements like this will probably provoke your spouse to do even less. Instead, find a time to sit down and calmly discuss your feelings of being overburdened.
- Don’t criticize: Criticism will only breed defensiveness. Everyone does things differently, but different doesn’t mean bad. Instead of criticizing the way your spouse does housework, show your appreciation for the work he or she does.
- Don’t maintain unrealistic and rigid expectations: Evaluate your expectations for yourself and for your spouse. Do you want your spouse to be as perfectionistic as you are at keeping the house picked up? Do you wish your spouse would immediately start dinner when you get home rather than resting for a few minutes? If these sentiments are true for you, you may need to relax your expectations regarding housework.
- Be very specific about which areas of housework are creating problems: There may be areas of housework that don’t bother you while others cause conflict. Pinpointing where the tension lies will help you arrange things so both of you are satisfied.
- Trade responsibilities: When one partner has constant responsibility for one area of domestic work, such as child care, it can become extremely overwhelming. One way to resolve the stress involved here could include exchanging responsibilities so each spouse can take a break. You may consider taking turns with specific jobs.
- Be consistent: It is important that you are consistent in your words and actions. If you express a desire for your spouse to help more in a certain area of housework, give him or her a chance to help. If, for example, you want your spouse to help get the kids ready for bed, don’t immediately take over at bedtime. This mixes your messages, telling your spouse you really want to be in charge.
- Work together: It is not always possible to complete housework on a schedule where you are both together, but do it when you can. Consider what you could accomplish, for example, by doing the dishes together. This would be a great opportunity to talk about your plans for the weekend or what you did at work that day. You will be sharing the tasks, resolving any issue of unfairness, and you can make it fun by turning it into a game or listening to music and singing while you work.
Arond, M. and S. L. Pauker, M.D. The First Year of Marriage