So, you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, given the kids a bath, and as you carry another load of laundry upstairs you think to yourself…”arrgh, why do I have to do all the work around here?” It’s a frequent complaint on the list of marital problems couples seek help for. While there certainly are inequities in many relationships, it is possible it’s a question of perception. There is a concept called overclaiming that may apply here. The idea is essentially that in our work lives, and likely our home lives most people are prone to the feeling that they are doing more work that everyone else. Whether it’s a case of overclaiming or if you truly do more of the work, here are a few ways to lighten the load and avoid resentment and conflict over the workload.
Pay attention to your spouse.
Rather than lamenting all you do, notice what your spouse does. Every time you see your spouse do something for you, the kids, the family, the house etc. take note. Keep a mental tally or perhaps even keep a short list (just be careful not to keep this list as a way of demonstrating how much more you do). Then share what you notice, say thank you to your spouse.
Write your spouse a note of appreciation.
This simple act can do two things, it can encourage you to soften your gaze towards your spouse and allow you to notice something your spouse does for you or your family that may have slipped by before. The second thing it does is insert some positivity into your relationship which will shift the climate towards a more helpful and collaborative environment. It can be as simple as a quick thank you note for taking out the trash or an opportunity to share a deeper appreciation about working hard, trying something new or making a difficult choice. The point is that it comes from the heart and that you actually say it (or write-it).
Approach household tasks with planning and shared decision making.
Successful couples are able to delegate household management tasks. If you or your spouse has a particular skill set or willingness to tackle a task, let them handle it. When you can trust your spouse to take care of something you can let go of the management of that task and focus on what you can do. Cultivate a team approach and try to avoid micro-managing everything. If you want the vaccuming done a certain way, take that task on. If your spouse is willing to do it, let go of trying to control how it gets done.
When in doubt (or conflict) outsource?
Everyone has that one task they just can’t stand. Maybe it’s cleaning the bathrooms, maybe it’s the lawn, whatever it is identify yours and your spouses’ and if you can afford it pay someone to do it. You’d be surprised at the weight lifted when you remove even one task, especially one that you (or you both) don’t like doing.
Not all marital problems are this simple to resolve, learn more about collaborative decision making, positivity and conflict resolution at Power of Two.