What's your perspective on the ideal division of labor and the proper distinction between male and female tasks and roles in marriage? Lately my spouse and I have had disagreements about our respective chores and responsibilities at home.
When you fell in love, the thought of how to divide up the burden of household tasks probably wasn't on your radar. Now that you're married, chores are the one thing you can't escape. It's important to find a mutually satisfactory way to manage this aspect of your life together.
It's common to think in terms of "male" and "female" chores. But should a wife automatically be in charge of shower curtains, while her husband specializes in replacing shower heads? Christian couples may tend to think that such male/female distinctions are biblical rather than traditional. But the Bible doesn't specifically support the notion that, for example, only women must cook and only men should calculate the budget and finances.
This isn't to say that there is no basis at all for distinguishing between male and female roles in marriage. Scripture states the fundamental principle: "[God] made them male and female" (Matthew 19:4; Genesis 1:27). From this flows a multitude of implications and inescapable "givens" that are built-in to the nature of sexuality itself. These "givens" are usually seen in those areas of family life that are most directly connected with issues of childbirth, child-care, and child-rearing. When it comes to simple chores, however, couples tend to take their cues from their parents' example. This can cause problems if unspoken assumptions and misunderstandings are allowed to explode in anger and arguments over the sharing of household responsibilities.
As we see it, there is no "right" solution to the problem of dividing up the household chores. But there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind as you work to resolve this issue in a fair and balanced way.
- Communication. First and most importantly, sit down and talk about this part of your marriage relationship. Even the act of discussing and divvying up the workload can lessen stress and conflict. Don't take anything for granted. Lay all your assumptions, expectations, and personal preferences out on the table. Approach the situation as equal partners and work out an arrangement that's acceptable to both of you. You'll be glad you did.
- Think positively. Remind yourselves that this is not an impossible problem. Once you've made up your minds to share the load, you'll probably find the rest of the process unfolding in a smooth and natural way.
- Consider the rewards. Many hands make light work. Tackling chores together eases the burden. This is especially true when both husband and wife work outside the home. A workable system will leave you with more time for togetherness and more leisure for individual activities.
- Concentrate on giftedness, not gender. Rather than emphasizing "male" and "female" chores, talk about which jobs you enjoy or don't mind doing. Is there anything for which you have a certain knack? Anything you'd really prefer not to do? Let these natural tendencies guide your choices.
- Allow for exceptions to the rule. Helping each other out with chores during times of stress, busyness, or illness is always appreciated by a spouse. It also tends to be reciprocated.
- Stay flexible. No matter how fair and equal things seem at the start, you may have to make adjustments along the way. One spouse who was at home may begin a full-time job at some point. Another may experience a serious illness or injury.
- Don't go strictly by the numbers. Fair and equal doesn't necessarily mean "one for you, one for me." Remember that some chores are more difficult and time-consuming than others.
- Write it down. Making a list of what needs to be done is essential. It's too easy to forget who's supposed to do what. Be sure to include a chart that clearly communicates the division of labor in terms of "yours, mine, and ours."
As you go through this process, try to view it as an opportunity for cooperation rather than conflict. A key to meeting the challenge of marriage is striving to understand each other and seeking to meet each other's needs. This is a great area to put these principles into practice. If you need help drawing up and implementing a workable plan, don't hesitate to give our Counseling department a call. Our staff counselors will be happy to listen to your concerns and offer their perspective over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified counselors in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy.
Planning Out Household Chores: Dr. Gary Chapman talks about the struggle in marriage of who is going to clean and suggests some practical solutions.
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Marriage and Relationships