Making marriage work by doing the dishes

For most of human history, people have lived in societies where what you do and how you do it was largely determined by your birth. One of the most enduring roles has been gender. No matter what your status (peasant or royalty) In almost every culture, women have been the managers of the interior world, while men work outside the home to provide it with resources. Making marriage work was less about happiness and more about the ability to fend of starvation, keep a roof over your head, and have lots and lots of babies. Luckily, times have changed, the business of staying alive is easier, and both men and women have many options for what to do with their lives and how to order their home life.

Women who take advantage of this and pursue careers in addition to having a family often find themselves between a rock and hard place. Managing a household alone is tough! After all, there are professionals—nannies, accountants, designers, plumbers, and personal assistants—who keep full time jobs doing just one fraction of what it takes to run a home. Plus, this whole women working thing has been uncharted territory. There are no guidelines on how to divvy up housework between spouses. This has lead to frustration, exhaustion and all sorts of marriage problems.

The good news is it seems like we’re entering a new phase where, slowly, couples are making marriage work by redefining household roles. Dan Seaborn of the Dover Post has written about a new study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor. According to this 2010 survey, husbands and wives are spending about the same amount of time doing chores, especially in marriages where both work full time. That’s pretty darn impressive!

“In another study by the Pew Research Center in 2007, 62 percent of couples surveyed said sharing household chores was the third most important ingredient in a successful marriage after faithfulness and sex ––  I’m glad sex rates higher than chores!”

I agree.

Seaborn also has a lot of great advice on making marriage work with smart chore sharing. First off, setting good patterns of behavior is always easier than changing old ones. “Couples really need to make a plan for how this gets done, instead of making assumptions. It should be one of the first things a newly married couple discusses before patterns are established.”

Second, he suggests setting mutual definitions of what a chore means. Is clearing the table just putting the dishes on the counter, or is it putting them in the dishwasher and wiping down the table? Does doing the laundry involve folding and putting the clothes away? How much time should be spent on which activity? Communicate clearly about your expectations, and don’t hesitate to speak up about your frustrations in a tactful manner.

Part of the joys of marriage is knowing that you have someone there for you, a partner to go through life with and to give you the help and support you need. I have a hunch that taking care of the house together will be good for marriage. When you work together on a project, you feel closer and more intimate. It may seem like a mess at times, but make sure you take moments to step back and appreciate all you have created together.

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