Dr. Dave Schramm, from Utah State University, shared his tips on how to divide responsibilities without dividing your relationship.
When two people enter a committed relationship and live together, there are bound to be bumps along the way. For some couples, discussing the division of household tasks can be stressful and frustrating, but it does not have to be that way. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Start with Strengths - In all relationships, each partner brings unique strengths, experience, and talents. Some might be good with money, others might be organized, or great with tools. Some partners might have more experience with cleaning, cooking, or taking care of babies, or even helping children with homework. The first step to dividing responsibilities is to recognize your own and your partner’s strengths. What do you each bring to the table? How did your parents divide tasks? What responsibilities, if any, did you each have as a child? As couples discuss their unique strengths and experiences growing up, it can set the stage for understanding and teamwork.
Be Patient with Preferences – As couples strive to understand each other’s experiences, they will often discover they each have preferences. He might prefer to maintain things outside (e.g. vehicles, lawn, garden) and she might prefer to do the shopping and planning activities. If dividing responsibilities is a sore spot, it may be helpful to discuss or make a list of preferences, regardless of how long you have been together. Try to understand and honor the other person’s preferences.
Tackle Tasks Together – While some household or parenting responsibilities may only require one person, such as changing a diaper, others can be done together. Managing finances, cooking, folding clothes, and making beds can all be tackled as a team. A wise person once said, “The purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship.” Whether it is dusting or dishes, doing things together offers time to talk and share your day. Some parents even choose to drive their children to activities together so they can have time to talk.
Learn to Take Your Turn – There may be some chores that neither partner wants to take on, such as getting up in the night with a baby, cleaning up a messy kitchen, or registering children for activities. Some couples may find that taking turns with unpleasant tasks is a good policy.
Avoid the War, Don’t Keep Score – As soon as partners start keeping score, resentment will arise. With a positive attitude, you can view it as a contribution rather than a competition. Dividing responsibilities is not about sharing things 50-50, it is about working together for a common purpose, learning new things, and enjoying the process as well as the result.
Each relationship is different, and so is the division of responsibilities. In some relationships, both partners work fulltime, in others, one person may take on the bulk of the tasks, and yet in others, they may hire a cleaning person to come help. What works for one relationship may not work for another, but remembering these principles may help the discussion move forward in positive ways.
David Schramm, Ph.D., CFLE
Family Life Specialist & Assistant Professor
Department of Human Development & Family Studies
Utah State University
2705 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322