Who does more work - you or your spouse?

A huge source of tension is the division of labor between married partners.  It's probably the most-cited source of marital conflict I encounter when I deliver marriage counseling in my private practice. 

What's also interesting is that many women who book a counseling visit with me to talk about marriage problems actually find that the main source of their stress is anxiety about housework and domestic chores.

In essence, we often find that it's not the spouse's lack of help that is the problem... it's unmanaged stress reactions. 

who does more work you or your spouse

Picture this: you come home from work and kick off your shoes, walking straight to preheat the oven for dinner. Your kids' backpacks are everywhere and the sink is full of dishes, but your husband sits on the sofa scrolling through social media. TRIGGER! You feel yourself becoming more and more irate, feeling as though no one is pulling their weight at home. You're suddenly keeping a mental tally of all the work you've done around the house, and you're jotting a big fat zero in the column for your husband's support. You make a few passive aggressive comments to your kids loudly enough for your man to overhear: "Sorry, sweetie. Mommy can't help you with that puzzle because Mommy always has to come home and fix dinner before I can rest." Your husband hears this, of course, and responds with resentment... resentment that causes him to want to help LESS... thus fulfilling the prophecy you'd spoken about him in your mind moments earlier.

Perhaps if the mom mentioned above had managed her stress reactions a bit more carefully, she would have felt less resentment.  She may have, in turn, behaved differently and elicited a different response from her husband.

 
marriage counseling anxiety
 

Picture the same scenario played out with a different reaction:  

You come home from work and notice immediately that the kids' backpacks are strewn everywhere, and everyone is watching TV in the den.  You know that dinner has to be started soon, but you're exhausted.  You kick off your shoes and notice, to your irritation, that your husband is glued to his phone.  Knowing that hunger cues even more irritation in your family, you decide to reach in the fridge for a little snack to tide you and your family over, then graciously hand the goodies out to everyone in the den.  You kick off your own shoes and plop down beside your man, who thanks you for the snack and asks about your day.  After fifteen minutes of peaceful conversation and more stabilized blood sugar, you feel refreshed enough to start dinner and ask your husband, "Would tackle those dishes while I get the chicken going?"  He agrees, now that he's had a few moments to relax after work and reconnect with you.

See how those scenarios play out differently with different reactions?  

 

Let me say that I realize you're probably whining a little bit in your head right now:

"But Celeeeeeste... it's sooo unfair that I have to manage myyyy reactions.  Can't everybody just do what I want them to do without me having to ask?"

 

Darling, what you just described is a robot.  Until we find out a way to clone that metal maid from The Jetsons, the answer is an unfortunate no. (Side note:  why have we made such technological advancements and still don't have robotic maids?)

Here's my challenge to that: scientific studies show that people almost always overestimate the amount of work they personally do, and almost always underestimate the amount of work anyone else does. It's true at work, in marriages, and in friendships. 

 

I designed my Division of Labor chart for families to sit down honestly take stock of who does what around the house.

 

You may find that your partner is doing lots of little things you don't really remember in the heat of the moment. Or you may realize that your spouse does a lot to help... but he does it in his own time (which maybe drives you crazy). OR, you may realize that your spouse really doesn't help at all and it's time to have an open conversation about the support you need (either from him or in the form of a housekeeper, meal service, etc.). 

 

Here's the Dropbox link to my Division of Labor Worksheet:   https://www.dropbox.com/…/Division%20of%20Labor%20Chart.pdf…

 

I hope it helps!


If you found this article and the Division of Labor Worksheet helpful, you'd really love my 90 Day Comeback.  It includes all sorts of practical resources like just like this one.

Give me 90 days and I'll help you transform your schedule, renew your thinking and refresh your life.