When you first get married, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to think that something as mundane as housework could ever destroy the love between you and your beloved, right?
But unfortunately, the sad reality is that the way couples manage household tasks has a MASSIVE impact on their marriage satisfaction and their overall wellbeing.
In fact, sharing household chores has frequently been rated among the TOP THREE factors that determines the success of a marriage – it really is a big deal!
Why? Because the person we marry is the person we have to live with every day.
And if we can’t get the day-to-day things like housework sorted with our spouses, then how are we ever going to be able to tackle the big issues?
Why does housework cause so much conflict?
The reality is that in a lot of marriages these days, both spouses work full time. So you’d think that would mean husbands and wives share the housework and childcare evenly, right?
Wrong. Recent studies have shown that even in families where wives work the same number of hours or more than their husbands, and even earn higher salaries, they STILL take on more of the housework and childcare – creating a significant gender gap.
Of course, there are always exceptions – this is not the case in every modern household. But when one spouse feels they are constantly taking on more of the workload (which is more often the wife), this can put a lot of strain on the marriage.
The thing is, even though men may think that they have ‘changed with the times’, many will have grown up in traditional homes where the housework was always done by their mothers.
And as a result, they may still hold deep-down beliefs about housework being more of a ‘woman’s job’.
Sure, they may help out in their household a lot more than their fathers did.
But the problem with having this mindset is that when these men do pitch in with the housework, they almost feel as if they are doing a special favor to their wives - and therefore expect special praise from their wives in return.
And in addition to this, men frequently tend to OVER-estimate how much housework they do and UNDER-estimate how much their wives do. Their wives, on the other hand, are usually aware of exactly how many household tasks have been done and how many still need to BE done.
So often, instead of receiving the praise they are wishing for, men find that their wives seem to only demand and nag them to do MORE – which makes them feel defensive, unappreciated and even less motivated to do housework.
The thing is though, most wives don’t WANT to be constantly reminding and nagging their husbands to do things. They simply want husbands to take INITIATIVE in the home.
Take this classic example with couple Chris and Sandy:
Sandy: “Chris, why haven’t you done the bathroom yet? You told me you would do it two days ago!”
Chris: “I would do it if you just stopped nagging me for once!”
Sandy: “I would never have to nag you if you just did it without being asked!”
I’m sure that many of you reading this can relate to this scenario. Chris complains about Sandy nagging him, and Sandy complains about Chris not getting things done.
But as much as men hate to be nagged, the unfortunate truth is that many husbands do not realize just how important keeping a tidy home is to their wives, and how DAMAGING their neglect of housework can be to their marriage.
If one spouse feels they are always doing too much of the housework, resentment can escalate to harsh screaming matches, criticism, distrust and a lack of intimacy in their marriage.
Instead of looking forward to when 5 o’clock rolls around, spouses start dreading the thought of coming home at the end of the day. And in the worst case scenario, couples will eventually divorce.
So, how can all of this be avoided? Well, the best solution is simply to put a housework system in place with your spouse, which you are both happy with.
Because when married couples have no clear model for dividing household tasks, they end up bickering about their responsibilities nearly every single day.
So if you want to save your marriage, I highly recommend starting right at the heart of it: in your home.
How can you put a housework system in place in your home?
If you and your husband or wife don’t currently have a clear housework system in place, now’s the time to sit down and come up with a plan.
Tell your spouse that you’d really like to work out a system together that suits you both, and ask for a time that suits them to talk about it.
Remember, the goal of this discussion is to create a sense of teamwork and fairness with your spouse, where both of you end up feeling satisfied with your housework agreement.
Marriage experts John Gottman and Nan Silver recommend writing out a list of all of the household responsibilities in your home with your spouse, including housework, maintenance, mealtimes and childcare (if you have kids).
As a team, write beside each item who is CURRENTLY taking responsibility for this in your home and how you each think this task could IDEALLY be managed in future.
As you go through the list, take into consideration how each person feels about each task. You may find that your spouse hates a particular task while you don’t mind it, and vice versa.
In these cases, you may agree that the person who doesn’t mind it takes responsibility for it. And for tasks you both feel the same about, you may agree to share these or divide them up fairly.
It’s also important to be realistic and take into account the ideal TIMES that suit each of you to do housework.
See how you can work as a team to fit housework and childcare responsibilities around both of your work schedules and outside commitments.
For instance, Mike may offer to cook, do the dishes and put the kids to bed on a Tuesday night so Julie can go to her yoga class. And Julie may do the same for Mark on a Thursday night when he has poker night with his friends.
Bear in mind that you may also have individual preferences about when you are most eager to tackle housework.
One of you may like to get chores done as soon as you get home from work, so that you know you can relax afterwards. While the other may be someone who needs downtime after work, and prefers to do chores after dinner.
Either approach is fine as long as you have discussed your preferences with one another and follow through with your agreement.
So make sure you tackle every task on your piece of paper and come up with an agreement of how they all are going to be managed in future. Put your task list somewhere that you can both easily access whenever you need to (e.g. the kitchen), and thank you spouse for doing this with you.
Once you get into a good routine, it should be a lot easier to each remember your chores and get them done. Remember, by doing the tasks you’ve agreed to do, you are building trust with your spouse.
Note: Even once you have sorted out clear responsibilities in your home, it’s important to remember that you are still part of a team.
So when your spouse is unwell, away, or absolutely rushed off their feet, be prepared to be flexible and ‘we-minded’ enough to take on some of their responsibilities.
How will sharing the housework fairly benefit your marriage?
Well, number one… greater housework leads to greater SEX!
Believe it or not, women report finding a man’s willingness to do housework extremely EROTIC.
In fact, married couples who share the housework actually report having far more satisfying sex lives! So if that isn’t enough motivation for unsatisfied husbands out there, then I don’t know what is.
And this is by no means the only great benefit. Studies have found that in marriages where wives believe their husbands do their fair share of the housework, wives have LOWER heart rates during marital arguments – meaning arguments are less likely to escalate.
And when spouses have a clear understanding when it comes to housework responsibilities, they no longer feel a need to check up on what each other is doing.
As a result, tasks get done, wives do less nagging, husbands do more cooperating, and each spouse feels respected and appreciated for their inputs.
Basically, by working as a team in the home and receiving each other’s appreciation and support, you are much more likely to have a happy home environment.
With a good system in place, you will be able to spend more quality time together, have time for pursuing hobbies and interests, and will both be much more content in your marriage.
I hope that this blog post has helped you to realize how it’s not always the big things that make or break a marriage - it’s those little interactions you have with your spouse every day that are the most important!