Why Teammates Shouldn’t ‘Help’ Each Other

Young couple having argument in the kitchen. She's shunning him as he tries to explain himself.
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The house and children aren't solely my responsibility. And the chaos isn't entirely mine, either. My husband, Greg, is an equal partner with equal responsibility. He's not simply "helping" me.

It was the meltdown hour between school and dinner. Our daughter Murphy was half-dressed. Our son, Garrison, was coloring on the walls, and our daughter Taylor was sitting at the counter with her latest craft project spread from one end to the other. I was in the middle of making dinner while trying to ward off my own meltdown.

And then another adult showed up — my husband, Greg! My heart warmed with hope. Surely he could see the dire situation. And then he said it: “How can I help?”

I knew Greg’s intentions were good. However, this circus wasn’t just mine — these children were his, too. And he had the ability to observe the chaos just like I did. I wondered, Why doesn’t he just jump in and put out the most immediate fire? And then I snapped and voiced that thought out loud. Everything stopped — a moment of silence followed as Greg stood in shock.

Lest I seem heartless and ungrateful, let me explain: The house and children aren’t solely my responsibility. And the chaos isn’t entirely mine, either. Greg is an equal partner with equal responsibility. He’s not simply “helping” me. For Greg, embracing this concept was an epiphany, and his attitude change improved the tone of our marriage.

Navigating the ‘help me out’ conversation

Since that tense interaction, Greg and I have navigated these situations better, although we have had an occasional challenge. We continue to work together to figure out equal distribution of household responsibilities.

At seminars where we’re speaking and in counseling sessions we lead, Greg and I frequently hear from couples that the “chore war” has a big impact on their marriage. Couples report they feel taken advantage of; their relationship feels one-sided; they become bitter, resentful and angry because their spouse doesn’t do his or her part when it comes to taking care of the kids or doing chores and other duties around the house.

As on any team, couples need to work together to accomplish a shared goal, even though expectations may change during different seasons of marriage. As you work together, supporting each other with taking kids to school, washing the dishes or paying yet another bill, acknowledge that you are both necessary for total success. One spouse’s preferences don’t trump the other’s, even though each spouse plays a different role. Couples need to figure out what works for each spouse. Discuss what a win-win really looks like in regard to chores.

Husbands who share chores typically have less-stressed wives

Research shows that stress lessens a woman’s desire for sex. And some of the top stressors in a woman’s life are housework, childcare and meal preparation. What an opportunity couples have to share the load — and some days carry our spouse’s load — so he or she can escape from the stressors and relax. Although, we shouldn’t serve or sacrifice for our spouse with the expectation of payback (especially when it comes to sex), sacrificially loving through action is bound to positively affect your marriage relationship.

I encourage you to reflect on your chore distribution. When it comes to household responsibilities, what is one thing you can do today to be a better teammate?

Erin Smalley serves as the strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry and develops content for that department.

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. 

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