Tips For Dividing Household Chores

splitting chores between partners

Household chores are a part of domestic relationships that throughout history have involved ever changing roles and responsibilities. Research shows that when living together, there is no right way to split up the duties so long as everyone is on the same page and genuinely happy with the arrangement. However, figuring out how to get to the bottom of an endless to-do list can be a daunting task for couples. Who takes on the cleaning, cooking, errand running, organizing finances, yard work, and more? Here are some tips below for splitting and managing those lingering chores.  

Don’t Take on Too Much

Often times one or both partners try to take on more than what is necessary on a given week. Especially for parents, the term “supermom” or “superdad” gets thrown around as a way to say they really can do it all. However, it’s just not possible to do everything every week. Recognizing what is important and prioritizing what needs to be done is paramount to staying afloat. Each week partners have to filter through what can and cannot be accomplished. Those items left undone for the week will either not be completed or put on the backburner for another time.  

Ask for Help When Needed

Not only is asking help from your partner essential, but asking for help outside of the home is beneficial too. Often times couples and families try to take it all on without asking for assistance. This can be due to their own insecurities of not wanting to appear inferior or uncapable to friends and family. However, identifying where you can outsource some of the responsibility once in a while can help to lower stress and keep the relationship intact. For example, if you have children, this may mean asking the grandparents or a babysitter to watch the kids for a day so you can get the to-do list dwindled down. Or if finances allow, using a housekeeping service once in a while. This does not mean that your partner is off the hook! It merely helps to alleviate some of the load so you can focus as a team on the rest of the list.  

Say “No” When Necessary

It can be hard for partners to say no to activities or social events in order to get things caught up at home. However, this may be a necessary step when the household to-do list piles up. In a given week, prioritize what the most important events are and postpone the less important events when necessary. In order to keep friendships intact however, make sure that rescheduling happens if possible, so others don’t feel blown off. Also, saying no early on in the event planning is easier on everyone rather than waiting until the last minute to cancel.

Split Chores Effectively

Many couples don’t have explicit conversations about how to split household chores. They often expect their partner to just see things around the house and do it on the spot. However, when it is expected that both partners do all chores at all times it becomes unrealistic. The solution to this is identifying which chores can be “assigned” to which partner. Does one person not mind as much to do the cooking or the laundry? Does another person not mind as much to mow the lawn or take out the trash? That way, partners can focus on which chores they do best.

No one loves to do any chores, but there are certain tasks that are hard for some due to personality differences. For example, an extrovert may not mind doing the grocery shopping or errand running as much as an introverted partner. Someone with a better attention span may not mind doing the more detail-oriented tasks, while the partner with a lower attention span may struggle. A partner with a dust sensitivity may not enjoy dusting, while another partner may be repulsed at the smell of taking out the garbage. In a nutshell, figure out what you do well and take the lead in that area!  

Respect Boundaries

When a partner expresses that they are exhausted at the end of the day, those boundaries need to be respected. That is, as long as there is a plan for movement towards that goal in the near future. An example of setting a boundary may sound like, “Honey, I understand you want to get chores done tonight but I am burnt out from work today and need a break. Can we come back to these chores tomorrow?”. The key to this is respecting the request, coming up with a solution together on how to get it done later, and both sticking to that promise.

Also, understanding each partner’s individual needs is important. This helps everyone to identify how they can balance their time with household duties versus time for those needs. For example, if one person is an extrovert and gets fueled by social interactions outside the home, then allowing for a quick break from household chores on the weekend (or time off) to engage in a small amount of social activity might be necessary.

Identify When a Break Is Necessary

When one or both partners try to do too much without resting it can lead to burnout. When burnout happens, nothing gets done, so it actually has the opposite effect intended. Identifying when to take a healthy break can in fact provide restorative energy. This energy helps for when going back to the task at hand and yields more productivity in the long run.  

Praise Each Other Using Love Languages

Often times partners don’t know how to show appreciation in the way that their significant other likes to receive it. After witnessing your partner putting in the effort, even if it’s a part of basic household functioning, it helps to acknowledge that you know they are working hard.

There are five main love languages which categorize how partners like to receive love in their relationship. These include words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, physical touch, and quality time. For example, if the partner’s love language includes quality time, that could mean setting up an evening together without interruptions. If the partner’s love language is physical touch it might include holding their hand or giving a massage. Gift giving does not have to be expensive; this could mean picking up some flowers or making something by hand. When praise is received it shows partners that what they are doing is recognized and appreciated.  

Seek Therapy

Navigating the household duties and to-do list can be difficult to maneuver in a relationship. Need help working through this? Reach out to Sara today to start relationship therapy!

Want additional reading materials on the five love languages in a relationship? Check out the official book by Gary Chapman below:

The 5 Love Languages®

*Please note: Sara Miller / Confluent Relationship Therapy does not receive any compensation for the links or books listed on her website. They are suggested based on expertise and experience as a relationship therapist*