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:…/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.  

Is it Anxiety or Stress?

Being a counselor is just such a joy for me... most of the time.

Early in my career, I wondered if becoming a therapist would mean listening to people vent their complaints all day.  I worried if I could ever help them change.  I wondered if they would think I was enough of an expert to guide them in their journey toward a better life.

The good news is that opening my private counseling office in Florence, Alabama has been one of the most satisfying and fulfilling moves of my life.  When I work with a woman who has anxiety attacks, or a child who can't go to school because of worry, or with a  mom who wonders if everyone is as overwhelmed as she is (The answer is yes.), I can't help but feel truly blessed.  

There are hard parts about my job, though.  

One of the most difficult parts of being a counselor is knowing wholeheartedly that someone would benefit tremendously from my services, yet they just don't realize it.  


"This is just how I am."

Is it?  Or is this how you are when your emotions are out of balance?  If you worked with me for a few sessions, would your mind still race with worries that your child will get sick or be in an accident?  

woman worrying


"It runs in my family.  My mom was always worried sick, and my grandfather was... and I've been this way since I was a kid."

Wow.  What a shame that three generations of your family has lived with symptoms of sleeplessness, excessive fear, and jaw pain that all could have been avoided.  

man working on worry


"Isn't this just life?  I mean, I feel like what I'm worried about - finances, jobs, kids - is all pretty normal."

Allow me to let you in on a little secret:

Just because worrying about everyday life - kids, jobs, finances - is common doesn't mean it's normal.  

1 in 5 people has anxiety

Research tells us that up to 1 in 5 people worldwide suffer from anxiety.  That makes it extremely common... but it doesn't make the way your body feels with anxiety normal.  Far from it.  

Your body is trying to tell you that something is abnormal when you experience the symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feeling restless, tense, on edge, or keyed up 
  • Muscle tension in your shoulders, feet, back, or jaw
  • Bad dreams, fitful sleep, waking up repeatedly, or having trouble turning your mind off at bedtime
  • Heartburn, stomachaches, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea when stressed
  • Having a sensation of choking or chest tightness in times of intense panic
  • Feeling a sense of impending doom if you're not with your "safe person" or "safe place"
  • Ruminating on the "what ifs" past the point of what's actually helpful


Although these symptoms may be the most common manifestations of emotional distress in the world, they are NOT normal.  


To that end, I created my free "Is it Anxiety or Stress?" quiz to help you figure out the difference.  While it's not a diagnostic tool intended to determine whether you're clinically diagnosable with anxiety (only your health care professional can do that), it's designed to identify key symptoms of excessive anxious thoughts that can show up in your mind and body.





Productivity Anxiety: Are we doing too much?

As I sit down to my laptop, I’ve intended to watch a really beautifully done training video designed to help me master a hip, new task management system. I’m elated. Organization and productivity tools are my drug of choice; I geek out on To Do list printable and daily goal-setting manifestos.  

However, also as I sit, I’m reminded of the enormous pile of laundry parked only a few feet away. I also have my trusty paper planner (sorry - I just can’t go digital) stuffed with neon flags of sticky notes flipping between every page. Should I watch the video? Or start the laundry instead? Or is there something on my planner I’ve forgotten? I compulsively check.

There’s always something.

Task management tools and productivity courses are definitely advantages of living in this decade. We have more resources for organizing and power for achieving goals in the palms of our hands than women for centuries before us, and yet we still struggle to keep up. Am I the only one?

Can I take a moment to just state the obvious: It’s not the task management apps that need to improve, it’s our lives. When will we hold off for a second and say, “Whoa, girl, the issue is that you’ve got too much.” It’s not about getting organized, it’s about being realistic about our demands.

A few decades ago, a woman with moxie worked a full-time job while also maintaining a family household. She was praised for it and felt fulfilled, purposeful. However, insanity slowly crept in.



The 2017 mom needs to not only work an outside job, but it also has to be relevant and creative and fulfilling to her calling. In her free time she needs to take this or that “Challenge” of the week, or squeeze in a fat-blasting workout. All the while she feels she must be in constant task management mode planning a 6 year old’s birthday party that would rival Colin Cowie’s parties for Oprah.

It’s all just too much.

I urge you to take a moment and slow the heck down. Consider what you’ve placed on your list as “urgent” and ask yourself if the descriptor is overused in your life. It certainly is in mine.  

So now, I practice what I preach. I’m going to take a break for an Oreo dunked in a glass of milk. I won’t disregard my planner entirely, but I vow to take a look over it an decide what really isn’t worth doing. I vow not to feel ashamed that we give up ballet, or say no to one of the endless birthday invitations, or eat fast food because I couldn’t make it to the grocery store before work.  

Let it be.

Struggling to get it all done?  Try our free Priorities Mini-Course to find out where you're losing time in the day.

How Can I Recognize Burnout?

Is your schedule filled to overflowing?  Do you find yourself lecturing others about the need for a balanced life, only to spend your next 15 minutes speeding through the drive-thru with a cell phone in one hand and your To Do list in the other?

That’s what I call my own special brand of crazy.  

If you’re feeling the strain of attending to business, family, social, civic and religious activities, you could be experiencing burnout.  And if you’re a caregiver (for a child, a disabled loved one, a sick spouse, an elderly parent), you are even more susceptible to burnout.  Even those who care for others in their jobs (nurses, social workers) need to recognize that the overwhelmed feelings can soon lead to loss of productivity and even loss of personal health.

I found a great article online with easy-to-read information that will help caregivers recognize symptoms of burnout:

Burnout really is different from just general stress.  

It’s important to know the signs so that you can avoid the very real risks.  If someone you know is facing burnout, I hope you’ll join my health and wellness newsletter for tips on living better every day.