Both spouses should know what their duties are and when to do them.
As much as the roles of men and women in society have become more flexible, men and women will always behave differently, due to their different biological and psychological characteristics. These differences are noticeable in various daily situations, including the way they do household chores.
Women tend to centralize the work and resist dividing tasks because they’re afraid that things will get out of control and won’t get done. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more practical and objective, doing the tasks that fall to them and otherwise collaborating only when asked.
In a marriage, these differences become more evident, and if the spouses haven’t come to a clear agreement, conflicts almost invariably appear, making the relationship more difficult. As this is very common in married life, there are scientific studies and psychologists who specialize in this aspect of relationships that bear witness to the fact that the division of household duties contributes to marital happiness.
According to many therapists, in order for a married couple to live in harmony, they need to see their marriage almost as a business, with division of labor, detailed planning, and records of its administration, which includes things such as household cleanliness, grocery shopping, preparing meals, and taking care of the children.
This being the case, the first thing a couple should do in this regard is to create a written plan that maps out the organization of the household—the various tasks and responsibilities that need to be done and assigned. The second step is to define priorities, and reach an agreement about what is most important for each of the spouses, such as cleanliness, organization, family meals, time with the children, and so on.
In this conversation, the couple needs to make decisions about the things that have the greatest impact on their daily family routine, such as who will cook and how often, who will take care of washing the dishes, who will clean the floor, walk the dog, make the bed, go grocery shopping, or clean the bathrooms. It’s very important, that during this process, both spouses make it very clear what things they do or don’t like to do, and that they respect each other’s preferences as much as possible.
Once they have decided who will do which of these basic tasks and when, they need to determine the organization of less important activities, such as taking care of the lawn or houseplants, cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer from time to time to get rid of old food, and the organization of closets and cupboards.
Next, both spouses should sign a commitment to fulfill their part of the deal. And, so that everything is clear, they should hang a monthly calendar in a visible place in the home so that both remember everything that they agreed to. Between family meetings, it’s important for each spouse to focus just on what he or she needs to do, without getting stressed out over what the other person did or didn’t do.
And, just as in any business, they need to have periodic meetings to evaluate how their plan has been working, and—if needed—revise their plan. These conversations are a crucial a moment for them to fix problems and weaknesses in their household plan. The spouses need to be realistic and honest. If it’s clear that, between the two of them, they can’t get everything done, they need to consider hiring help for certain tasks, such as yard work or household repairs—things that one or the other could, in theory, take care of, but for which they just don’t have the time, energy, or ability.
Such decisions can’t be taken lightly, because they have an impact on the family budget. Although it can be expensive, for many couples it’s worthwhile to hire someone for certain jobs. However, if it’s not possible for a couple, they need to work together to find a more effective way of organizing their household, being willing to be flexible and change their point of view if necessary.
Both spouses need to be realists, and look for solutions to problems that may have caused unnecessary physical or emotional fatigue. In practical terms, this means that if one of them is fussier about cleanliness and organization, they may need to become a little more flexible regarding certain parts of the house, just as the other spouse needs to try to understand how important order, neatness, and cleanliness can be for the other. This kind of cooperation, responsibility, reflection, and mutual understanding will help the couple face daily life with less stress and to live together in greater peace and harmony.