House Chores in Relationships
I am going to be talking specifically using heterosexual couples as examples for this. Given that house chores are rooted in the classic stereotype of women versus men’s work, I’ll use my husband and me as an example. My husband and I have not escaped this issue, so don’t worry if you’re stuck here too.
My husband and I have had different life experiences, lessons, and have different personalities. So when it comes to chores, you can imagine how challenging addressing that can be. I’ve learned how to live with others by going to college and having roommates. I know how to divide chores and help out in a place I live in. My husband, on the other hand, lived in a pigsty of an environment of his bedroom, never having to live with roommates. I love you Jak, but you know what I am talking about.
When I met him and went to his dad’s house and saw his bedroom I was horrified. Empty soda bottles everywhere, half eaten food in bowls growing mold, and trash everywhere, with laundry, sprinkled in. I shudder now, thinking back to it. I was naive thinking, “Oh, it’s summer, and he is being lazy.” No. I was Very Wrong.
To this day, Jak and I are coming to compromises, switching chores when it fits, and trying to be respectful of each other. I’ve told him many times it’s not a turn on to be expected to baby him and take care of the entire house alone. I always say, we are works in progress so this topic of chores will be ever evolving and shifting as our needs shift as a couple.
John Gottman, a well-renowned psychologist, has studied couples for decades now and he has even found a pattern in how house chores can impact a relationship. In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, he mentions how the way society has impacted men and women’s behavior toward each other.
When I read this book I was thinking, “Woah, that is so obvious, how did I not think of this?” He talked about how men and women have been segregated since they were very young and then all the sudden are expected to get into relationships and know how to interact with the opposite sex. I didn’t even realize it but it’s true. Think back to the days of Elementary school or Middle school, were you and your friends willing to hang out with the opposite sex? Or was it a bad thing? Were boys gross and girls weak? That’s not a healthy attitude to have towards the gender you might eventually choose to be with later in life.
Chores are Linked to Sex
When addressing the topic of house chores, for men reading, think about house chores as linked to sex. Women reading, you already know where I am going with this. But men, think about this for a moment. When you’re working and come home to a girlfriend or wife who is taking care of the pets, kids, schedule, and house and you come home to sit down and do whatever you’re doing, expecting her to clean up, think about the signal you’re sending your significant other.
You’re my servant/maid/housekeeper. You’re submissive. Housework is beneath me. I don’t respect you.
It’s not a very sexy message. It’s very demeaning, in fact. We are not your mothers, caretakers, or maids. We are your equals, life partners. We are your teammate in life. Chores are to be divided equally and not complained about. No one likes doing chores. Who really can raise their hand and say, “I love taking out the trash!” ….. Yeah, thought so. So, why is it okay for men to expect their wife/girlfriend, to take care of everything?
Imagine, men, for a moment, you come home, noticing that the laundry is clean but not folded, and taking the basket, and starting to fold the laundry while you watch TV. Or, imagine seeing that the trash is overflowing in the kitchen when you come in to greet your significant other as they are cooking, and you take the trash out without being asked. Later that evening she is in the mood. Why? Because you treated her as a partner, an equal, and helped because you know it’s your responsibility too. To turn a woman on, make her feel appreciated, loved, and an equal. Just take that little note, and you will see a change in sexual interest if there has been a lack of interest.
John Gottman even noted that men who have more progressive and feminist attitudes do only 4 more minutes on average of housework, which equivalates to vacuuming a rug or doing five dishes.
Men, reflect for a moment. When was the last time you brought up house chores as a topic to address in your relationship or marriage? Have you ever thought about how chores need to get done, when they need to get done, and how to divide them? If you say no, that’s fine. But be aware now that you also have a responsibility here. Emotional labor is put on the women, but it’s time for men to take some of that on.
Actions To Take
Men, be proactive in being apart of the house chores. Start a conversation with your significant other, help figure out what chores you both can live with doing, and then do them (without being asked!). Have a happy/neutral attitude about it. Don’t whine, just accept you’re an adult with adult responsibilities. Women, acknowledge the effort you see when they start helping around. Nothing helps behaviors stick like a little positive reinforcement!
P.S. If your partner is an Acts of Service love language person, doing chores will score you extra points with them!