When my husband and I first married, we had a bit of a learning curve when it came to sharing household duties. Each of us had lived independently and brought our own skills, cleaning styles — I cleaned a few times a week, while he did a deep clean monthly — and expectations. (My dad had always taken out the trash, so I assumed my husband would too!)
But figuring out this area of our relationship was more needed than we realized. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape study, sharing household responsibilities is a “very important” part of having a successful marriage. In fact, 61% of married couples surveyed believe this to be true. This means that equitably dividing household chores ranks third in importance for keeping a marriage strong, just behind shared interests and a satisfying sex life.
Breaking from tradition
Studies show that women still handle most of the cooking and cleaning duties, even when they work outside the home. But Joshua Rogers, author of Confessions of a Happily Married Man, believes that today’s husbands desire to be more involved at home than past generations and are experiencing benefits that come with that. “As we shoulder the burden of loving our families in the daily grind of life, including helping out around the house, we’ve noticed that our wives are more tender toward us and our marriages are much happier,” Rogers says.
Kevin and I learned over time that sharing the housework is key to a happier marriage. Here are three ways to divide and conquer household duties:
- Divide by strengths. One way couples can divide chores is by leaning into each individual’s strengths. If one is a good cook, let him or her prepare meals, and the other spouse can clean the kitchen afterward. One can handle the detail work, while the other does the larger tasks.
- Divide by preferences. One couple I know says that early in their marriage they agreed that each of them could opt out of one dreaded household duty, such as washing dishes or mopping floors. In our home, Kevin rarely does laundry, and I almost never take out the trash or recycling. Having one chore that you almost never have to do can bring a sense of freedom and healthy interdependence.
- Divide by load. When both Kevin and I worked outside the home, we shared household duties almost equally. We also did many of the tasks side by side, which produced the added benefit of time together. Now that I stay home with our children, I have assumed a larger share of the load. But when something special is going on, such as hosting a dinner party, having houseguests or organizing a specific room, we set aside a time to tackle the work together.
When it comes to sharing the household duties, both spouses must exercise grace toward each other. There are times when one spouse may be overloaded by work or other responsibilities and the other spouse must take up the slack. Sometimes a spouse may be ill and unable to share the duties. But as a general rule, couples who share the housework are happier. So if your marriage needs a pick-me-up, pick up a broom and divide and conquer!