by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 25, 2019 chores, marriage, marriage and family, national institute of health, relationship, way couples can stop arguing about household chores0 comments
Couples Counselor verified; 6 ways that Couples Can Stop Arguing about Household Chores.
Cleaning and how to manage it with some degree of harmony is a topic that comes up often for couples, it ranks right up there with finances and parenting in terms of hot button relationship issues. The research weighs in, according to the National Institute of Health, in relationships where both partners are engaged in managing household chores, wives have higher happiness and well-being in the relationship. Furthermore, the opposite is true, in marriages where only one partner, typically the female partner, manages the majority of household labor, there is greater dissatisfaction and distress, this is especially true in relationships where both partners are a part of the work force. The stress and imbalances in shared responsibilities can take their toll, in fact according to data compiled by business insider, house-hold chores are a common reason people divorce. Often when couples take the time to dig a little deeper into what each of these critical issues means to the other, the dialogue changes. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, they can consider, what are the true barriers to making change, and then work on creating mutually achievable solutions, it is empowering to realize that these conflicts can be resolved. Here are our therapists 6 best ways to stop arguing about household chores.
- Co-create a cleaning list of total household chores; divide and conquer. This may seem basic, and it is. One of the problems we as couples therapists observe is that one partner carries the ‘cognitive load’ for organizing, cleaning, and managing the household. Data shows that this is often the woman in the home, she then asks for help and the male partner may feel criticized or micromanaged when he is asked to help. When couples co-create a weekly list on a dry erase board, both partners become responsible for completing it. This can also help both partners see the sheer volume of work that must happen to keep the house managed well. Add an initial next to the task once it is completed and then you can even turn it into a competition, create a prize or personal expression of gratitude for the person each week who completes more tasks etc.
- Recognize that while one partner may be more focused on cleaning, don’t take that as a lack of love. We all view the world in a different way, we walk into living-room and some people see the pillows on the couch in disarray, others never notice the pillows because their brains are not wired that way. Partners who have repeatedly had discussions or battles about cleaning may end up feeling very hurt imagining, ‘If my partner cared about me, they would do the dishes or clean the bathroom.” The truth is, they may love you very much but household tidiness may not be on their radar. In other instances, a partner may be struggling with depression or another mental health disorder that prevents them from action. In any event, do your best to not make the cleaning about his or her love for you.
- Use a soft start instead of a criticism! Soft start is stating your feeling and what you need, this is a Gottman Couples Therapy Method to break up the tendency that couples have to criticize each other. Instead of saying, “You never wipe down the counter tops!” You might try, “I am really tired today with a busy work week, I could really use extra help with the counter tops.” This way prevents our partner from feeling attacked and makes it less likely your conversation will spiral and instead you may achieve your goal which is to be responded to kindly!
- Figure out what having a clean house means to each partner. Talk about it constructively! Figure out what is most important to your partner about cleaning the home, ask them questions that play back to their own childhood too. It is amazing how much you can learn when instead of responding to each other’s criticisms you go deeper. Maybe your partners parent had OCD or were perfectionists, maybe your partners parents never cleaned and they were embarrassed to bring friends back to the house as a kid. Meaning is vital for couples by providing a context for each person’s wants and needs.
- If you want your partner to share in the chores, you might need to accept that they will likely perform the chores differently that you do. Some couples expect their partner to become the perfect task master and do everything the way that they have been instructed. This isn’t fair, we need to accept that our partner will come up with a different way of doing things, when we create a home with a partner, it doesn’t get to be all about the way each individual wants to do things, collaboration and mutual problem solving are necessary.
You may not have this fight forever. According to Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, she stated that “One couple she worked with for many years used to fight about the pillows never being straight on the couch. The woman fumed about it leading to many battles, several years later her husband died, and each day when the woman walked to her living room she was tearful, wishing that those pillows were misshapen. Remember, our time on this earth is limited. The things that annoy us today we may end up missing tomorrow.”
For a couples therapy or marriage counseling appointment near you, please call us at our Pittsburgh Counseling Center, Wexford Counseling Center, Monroeville Counseling Center, or New South Hills Counseling Center!