Chores and Your Marriage

young married couple washing vegetables

My wife, Erin, and I have been married for more than 22 years, and we've had our fair share of struggles with dividing household chores. One evening as I walked into the kitchen, I entered into complete chaos. Erin was making dinner, two of our children were arguing, the TV was blaring, and someone's homework was scattered over the counter and floor. Noticing the ticking bomb, I uttered four words that changed my life: "How can I help?"

That phrase sounds positive, right? I thought my offer would epitomize my loving-husband nature. But I quickly realized that I was creating a rift in my marriage. The evidence was in Erin's response: "You're an adult. See what needs to be done . . . jump in and do it!"

I thought, I can't believe she snapped at me after I offered to lend a hand. And that's when I realized that my offer to "help" implied that Erin was responsible for the work. That night, I asked for forgiveness. I reassured Erin that I knew we were teammates, and I was also 100 percent responsible for the care and maintenance of our home and children.

As Erin and I talked, we discovered the biggest need Erin had was for me to take initiative. My need, however, was to have some downtime as a family each night. I didn't want our home to represent only "work." The solution was simple: By jumping in and doing whatever needed to be done, I could not only serve my wife, but also make sure the work got done quickly so that we could relax together.

How you share household responsibilities is just as important as the ultimate solutions you come up with. When you share the chores with a teammate mentality and when your goal is to out-serve each other, you can bring an end to the chore wars in your home.

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.

Based on research and experience from Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, Focus on the Family has created valid and reliable questions that evaluate the strength of your marriage. Take our free assessment now.

This article first appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine.
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