How to avoid the chore war

by Dec 30, 2015

Tips to avoid the chore war

man cleaning

How to avoid a chore war

Do you try to avoid the chore war? Let’s start with a depressing fact: all around the world, married women spend more time on chores than single women.

A house doesn’t need vacuuming twice as often when there are two adults living in it instead of one; at worst, you’d expect married women or women with partners, to do the same amount of work as single women. But EU statistics show that women’s share of the housework increases on marriage because their husbands are actively avoiding it.

Add children into the equation, and the division of labour becomes even more unequal. Single mothers actually do less housework than married women with children.  Things are improving, but not fast.

It’s no wonder that housework is one of the most commonly discussed issues in couples’ therapy.  Some therapists joke that cleaning is a more common cause of break-ups than infidelity.

If you don’t want to reach that point, and avoid a chore war, you’re going to have to talk about sharing housework. This advice focuses on heterosexual couples; same-sex couples also argue about the washing up, of course, but they don’t have ten thousand years of patriarchy clouding the issue.

Splitting the work

  • List the chores around the house, down to the most trivial ones, and talk to him about it. A lot of people (not only men) have no idea how many separate tasks need to be done to keep a household running.
  • Talk together about which chores are most important to each of you, and divide them up according to which areas you care about more.
  • Don’t use ‘choreplay’ or emotional manipulation Read: Choreplay 50 shades of housework.  [Tweet “Tidying his own house is not a generous thing to do – it’s a basic aspect of adulthood”].  [Tweet “You wouldn’t give him a prize for getting himself dressed.”]man cleaning2
  • Even if you’d like him to do more chores, acknowledge anything he does do around the house. Thank him for his contribution.  (In return, expect thanks for yours.)
  • Fight the urge to hover or ‘help’ while he’s cleaning. He may welcome some advice on how to clean more efficiently, but not while he’s actually in the middle of a task.

What to do if he won’t pull his share

Are your expectations realistic? If he’s sharing the most important things, then you can’t be too annoyed that he puts the toilet paper ‘under’ instead of ‘over’.

If you’ve made repeated attempts to negotiate a compromise and he’s still not pulling his weight, then you have two options. (Well, three.  Have you considered leaving him?)

  • If you can afford it, then spending an affordable sum per week on outsourcing cleaning or other low value work, is a small outlay compared to the cost of getting divorced.
  • Opt out. Decide which chores are most important to you, and explain to him that you will start ignoring the rest.  For example, you might continue to clean the house, but save time by serving sandwiches for dinner every weeknight.  This is the nuclear strategy: it should not be undertaken lightly As recommended in  post in Psychology Today – make your actions congruent with your words.  This is about taking responsibility for yourself rather than a move against your partner and sharing the limits in your relationship.

How do you avoid the chore war? Let us know!


Alice Bell Contributor
"Alice writes online about business, popular science, and women's lifestyle. After a few years working her way around the world, she has settled in the north of England and taken a day job as a maths teacher. Her life's ambition is to earn enough money to start repaying her student debt."

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