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How to Diplomatically Divide Household Chores

Avoid unnecessary tension with these helpful tips.

Contributing Writer
couple hugging in kitchen
Photography by: Getty Images

Folding laundry, washing dishes, paying bills, mowing the lawn, and other household chores are tiresome and tedious. That's why they often become the source of many relationship conflicts, whether you've been married for 10 years or just moved in together. One cause of disparity is the division of tasks; one partner inevitably feels like he or she takes on a greater portion of work and may hold a grudge against the other. Another issue involves motivation; one partner makes chores a high priority and becomes irritated when the other would rather put tasks off until later. Not surprisingly, the constant battle over chores isn't beneficial to any relationship, and it can lead to long-standing conflicts. The solution: Break up household chores in a way both partners understand and appreciate.

 

The first step in dividing jobs is identifying what needs to be done. Sit down with your partner and create a list of daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities. Include maintenance tasks, like vacuuming and pulling weeds, as well as other household duties, like taking the kids to soccer practice and paying the cable bill. After getting a clear sense of the workload, break up tasks fairly and diplomatically with these six tips.

 

Related: Real Couples Tell All: What's It Really Like to Move in Together?

 

Play to Your Interests

Take a look at the list of household chores. Are there any tasks you enjoy doing? If mowing the lawn doubles as much-needed stress relief, or if you secretly enjoying folding laundry while listening to podcasts, sign up for these jobs. Similarly, ask your partner if he or she minds taking on tasks that you absolutely despise, whether it's taking out the trash or washing dishes. People are far less likely to procrastinate on tasks they find at least somewhat enjoyable.

 

Compromise When Necessary

There's bound to be a handful of tasks neither partner wants to take on. In the name of fairness, split these undesirable tasks evenly. Swap the chores regularly, too, so one person isn't stuck doing something unpleasant week after week. Another solution: Try tackling these less fun chores together, attempting to make them as enjoyable as possible.

 

Consider Your Schedule

When dividing chores, think about your schedules. Does your partner have a full-time job and an hour-long commute each way? Given his lack of free time, it probably works out better for you to take on a greater portion of housework (at least for the time being). Does he start work later than you? Perhaps he can handle packing school lunches or grocery shopping. Also understand that schedules change, and couples need to be lenient about this. It's not a big deal if your husband has a super-busy week and can't clean the bathroom. Instead of getting annoyed, pick up his slack, knowing that he'll likely do the same for you in the future.

 

Related: 6 Ways to Make Housecleaning Less of a Chore

 

Don't Try to Be Even

It's nearly impossible to divide housework exactly in half. Splitting chores down the middle will only lead to resentment, since things will never work out flawlessly. In other words: Don't lash out at your partner if the shower needs extra scrubbing this week. Chances are, one of his tasks will require additional time and energy, too. As long as both people are putting effort into maintaining your shared home, you shouldn't waste time analyzing whether you're each holding up your end of the bargain.

 

Learn to Let Go

Your partner may not wipe the kitchen counters precisely the way you like. He or she may also forget to vacuum a corner of the living room or accidentally leave a coffee mug on the bedside table. Instead of starting an argument, learn to let go of the little things. Micromanaging creates an imbalance in your relationship, even if you have the best intentions. Remember that nobody's perfect, and being appreciative of your partner's help goes a long way.

 

Consider Outside Help

Do household chores cause bickering month after month? If you have the financial resources, you may want to consider hiring outside help. It's common for couples to become overwhelmed with housework, especially if they both have full-time jobs while raising a family, and a housekeeper can alleviate a major source of tension in a relationship. Similarly, if you have children, rely on them to complete some of the tasks on your list. You'll be able to breathe a little easier and focus more on maintaining a happy, healthy relationship.