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Monday, February 15, 2010

Does Love Mean Cleaning the Toilet?

Valentine’s Day encourages thoughts of what are important issues in having a good marital relationship. According to a Pew Research Center survey of more than 2000 American adults on what are the most important factors in a happy marriage, Sharing Household Chores (62%) ranked only behind Faithfulness (93%) and Happy Sexual Relationship (70%).

Numerous surveys have found that even though many women work outside the home, they still tend to do most of the household chores. Conflict over domestic duties around the house is second only to conflict over money in causing marital disharmony. When either partner in a marriage is unhappy about the allocation of household chores, the stress level in a home will increase tremendously.

Although many women complain about their husbands not doing their share, they may actually be inhibiting their spouse’s involvement by a subtle sabotage known as maternal gate keeping. Maternal gate keeping is defined as having three dimensions: 1) Discouraging a husband’s involvement by redoing tasks, criticizing and acting as household managers. The husband, then acts as a helper by doing only what is requested. 2) When a women’s identity is tied to how well she thinks others view her homemaking and nurturing skills, she may be more likely to resist her husband’s involvement since it would diminish her value. 3) Some women cherish AND resent being the primary care-giver, feeling both relieved and displaced with a husband’s involvement due to struggles with the ideas about traditional family roles.

Of course, men also have responsibility when there is a discrepancy in the distribution of household tasks. 1) Some men also struggle with changes in the traditional family roles and are resistant to “doing more than my father did”.
2) Some men have feelings of inadequacy in both household and child care skills. 3) At times there are significant differences in the tolerance level for housekeeping. For some, a sink full of dishes or a dirty toilet may not cause concern or come with any sense of urgency while it may be highly distressing to their spouse.

Accomplishing a true sense of sharing in the business of running a household requires communication, motivation, and respect. These basic guidelines are helpful in this process:

• List out every job that has to be done in the house. Set your priorities as a couple. It may not be possible to accomplish EVERYTHING.
• Identify the chores that each of you hates to do. What one hates, the other may be able to tolerate.
• Don’t ask for help!! Asking for help implies that the responsibility for the chores belongs to one person and others agree to assist.
• Timing is important – pushing another to complete a task when they really aren’t ready to do it only creates tension.
• Don’t nag. Even though your complaints may be valid, nagging makes your spouse resentful, defensive, and feeling attacked. Nagging is a vicious cycle. The more you nag, the more a spouse will avoid and withdraw.
• Be flexible and allow your spouse to accomplish a task in his/her own way. If you give up responsibility for a chore, you have to give up control over it too.
• Train your kids. Make sure your children, boys as well as girls, grow up believing that sharing chores at home is just what considerate people do.
• You can’t change your spouse. If there is an absolute refusal to equally share household responsibilities it is necessary to look for outside help or perhaps to stop doing some things.

There is greater efficiency and happiness in a home where family members share household responsibilities. When a couple can divide chores in a way that both spouses feel satisfied with the outcome, they are showing mutual respect for one another.

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