Doing All the Chores?


You know how you start thinking you’re doing the bulk of the chores? Or that you’re stuck with way too many on top of your exhausting paid job?
You are not alone. Most wives feel this way. And so do most husbands.
How can this be? Surely one of us is trying to put something over on the other. Surely one of us needs to pick up the pace a bit and relieve our mate, no?
Not really. Even paying attention to who is doing how much is exhausting. It riles the stomach, kills the libido. And for what? Has it ever changed who does what for more than a couple weeks?
We all measure what we do against our own list of what needs doing. If we hate potato chips on sofas, cleaning them is on our list. If we cringe at what old oil can do to an engine, changing the oil goes on the list. If something smells bad to us, removing it is on our list. And then, to our complete dismay, the things we take care of comprise well more than half the list!
We assume that lazy bones who shares our home should be doing all of the rest and then some. How can we feel cared for or respected if they don’t?
But our spouse has a different list. If chips on the sofa make no difference, removing them is just not on our list. If that is what our spouse is doing while we change the oil, we are obviously working harder. And it feels this way even if we are sitting in the waiting room while someone else changes the oil, even if those are our potato chips on the sofa. It feels this way because what we are doing is a chore and it is on our list of must-do chores, the list we always do more than half of.
And if we work in a place where the boss frowns on napping during work hours, how can we not feel this work is harder than work at home, where it is obviously possible to nap as needed? If we work at home, where it never seems possible to get things done if we stop to nap, even if we could get the kids to sleep when we’re tired, we imagine that this work is much harder than work that allows for coffee breaks or lunches with friends.
If you get stuck with all the chores, change the list. Take it off your list. Your efforts to put it on your spouse’s list will never succeed until everything else on your spouse’s list is getting done, and that is never going to happen.
Take it off your list so you can enjoy your marriage. Eat your meals off paper plates and you can take dish-washing off the list. Move your TV into the kitchen and the chips will get swept up with the rice and peas instead of landing on the sofa. Leave the oil in an extra three weeks and see if it really matters, or if you can free up the time for one of your annual oil changes.
Or try an easier way so you can enjoy your marriage. Ask for a week of telecommuting. See if it really is possible to do more in the same amount of time at home and squeeze in a nap. If you work at home, make a daily lunch date at the local sandwich shop for every day next week and see if it makes your work feel any easier to do.
Your list is your list. You have complete control over it. Why leave any item on there that causes you to feel resentful instead of wildly in love?

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • I just found your blog about a week ago. I so love your advice! My thought about today’s: That’s what kids are for! LOL They can do a lot of chores to help out, even as young as 2-3 yo. My kids set the table, do the dishes, vacuum, laundry, clean the bathrooms, take care of pets, besides their own rooms.

  • I just found your blog and I love it. I am a newlywed and we are having this and many other “adjustment” problems. He is a self-employed, fulltime student, I put my education on hold so that he can finish his and we could have a steady income. BUT when his income slows, he refuses to just suck it up and do little side jobs for the extra dough. I am left struggling with the bills and feeling like everything is on my shoulders, when I already work 50 hours a week taking care of a bunch of grumpy men at work. Then I come home to a husband who went to school for three hours, worked out for an hour, and then had one client for thirty minutes, who then complains about the smell of the trash. Well when we first moved into this house almost a year ago, we decided that his only household responsibilities were to take out the trash, get it on the road on trash days and take care of the yard. In the year we have lived at this house he has mowed the front yard maybe four times, the backyard has been cut twice. I have to beg him to take out the trash, and remind him every Wednesday to put it out on the street. I know that I shouldn’t sit and focus on all the things he doesn’t do, but I am starting to feel like the things he does do aren’t much. He feeds the dogs in the morning, he plays with them during the day while he is home. I love him and I don’t mind doing the housework and handling the finances, nor do I mind putting my education on hold so that he can get his finished given that he is 8 years older and went back to school later in life. But I am starting to feel like my marriage is becoming an unbalanced relationship. I do most of the work, and he gets most of the reward. How do I change this dynamic in my marriage? And please understand that my husband is a very smart, but he is very wrapped up in his own world which makes him come off as very inconsiderate (for instance we share an electric toothbrush with two different heads, we keep this in his bathroom, every morning lately, he gets up and locks me out of the bathroom without even a thought of ‘oh perhaps my wife might like to brush her teeth before she goes to work’ so I am left brushing my teeth with the manual toothbrush I keep at work (which doesn’t do a satisfactory job given my dental issues.)) He’s very big picture, and I am very detail oriented, I don’t want to lose my marriage because we can’t seem to meet in the middle.

  • You did not mention any disagreements over toilet paper or toilet seats. This puts you well ahead of the average newlyweds. Congratulations! All the rest are normal problems you can handle.
    Don’t try to meet in the middle; it’s an awful place. Go read some of my posts about Third Alternatives. You two sound creative enough to solve your toothbrush problem without changing his underlying personality or your need to brush before work.
    I want you to know that resentment kills a marriage. When you are full of resentment, sure that you are getting the unfair shake, you will withhold respect for your husband and his contribution. To a man, that is withholding love. It’s painful, and it’s likely to build resentment in him, too.
    When you feel resentment building, let go of responsibility for whatever is filling you with it. Just stop doing what makes you feel so burdened. Trust that if it’s something he cares about, he’ll take responsibility. If it’s not, you’re only doing it for you. You can let it go or you can resume doing it =for yourself= without resentment.
    You might want to read this recent post and the comments on it:

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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