A chore is, by definition, an unpleasant or burdensome task. Sarcastically translated – action everyone desperately wants a piece of. So, it’s easy to see why couples get so combative when they aren’t allowed their fair share. These are, after all, life’s little treasures, aren’t they? Who doesn’t love to prepare meals three times a day, do dishes twice a day every day, wash, dry, and put away load after load of laundry, or dispose of trash that just keeps reappearing? If this list seems short, allow me to confirm… it IS. An actual list of daily household chores (especially households in which children reside) is so ongoing, so tedious, so perpetual…one may begin to feel like throwing in the damn towel rather than washing it ever again. Chores are no fun as it is. But when one spouse is doing most of the chores without help, the tension can become so tangible that it seems to evolve into yet another mess that needs “mopping up” before the day is done.
This scenario may sound familiar:
She’s had a long day with the kids and work. She’s exhausted, but sees no end in sight where the chores are concerned. The kids need to be bathed, dinner needs to be made, dishes need to be done, a load of laundry awaits, the garbage is overflowing, the phone is ringing, the dog needs to be fed and walked, the kids are arguing, her head is spinning, her sanity is wavering, and she looks over to find her “partner” dozing in the recliner. She goes from feeling overwhelmed to feeling angry and resentful in a split second. Why is it her sole responsibility to tend to the needs of everything AND everyone in the house? Why isn’t her partner helping her? Of course, resenting him takes time…time she doesn’t have at the moment. That argument will have to wait.
As for now, dinner, dishes, kids, baths, garbage, and bedtimes are jackhammering her patience. Once everything is done and the kids are in bed, she can finally sit down for a break. However, that anger is still lingering just beneath the surface waiting to explode like a shaken soda bottle – all he has to do is open the top. She’s drained of energy (mental and physical), and suddenly, he’s alert – upstairs AND down. He suggests they go to the bedroom. Bottle top opened…instead of the warm reception he hoped for, he gets slammed with each and every way he made her night miserable. The argument that had to wait before is now fully engaged. May the best man, or woman, win.
He was most likely unaware of her frustrations. He feels completely blindsided by her ranting, just as she felt alone and taken for granted while he rested. Her anger has gotten the best of her, and she’s attacking him. He goes into defense mode and attacks back. Neither hears the other. Because he didn’t attempt to help her with chores, she no longer sees him as a partner. Women will never come out and tell men this, but when left to take care of absolutely every chore the house demands and every need the kids demand (as if it’s “her” job alone), she feels she’s lacking a partner and her spouse becomes – in her mind – another “child” or “chore” to tend to. Is it any wonder she’s not interested in having sex at the end of the night? Not only does she feel a lack of connection, but she’s seeing him as a chore, rather than a lover. What was the definition of a chore again? A burdensome task. So, when he approaches her for sex after she’s completed EVERY other need in the house, she begins to view that as just another “job” to do before she can relax and go to bed. Her sentiments may include: “I did all of this alone…you can do that alone.” :0 Now he feels rejected, angry, and refuses to help the next night. The cycle begins.
A marriage is a partnership. Household chores are the responsibility of both husband and wife. There are chores inside and outside the house. And believe me, they’re not going away…ever. Whether laundry or yard work needs to be tackled, both partners need to help each other and participate. “Your job” or “My job” shouldn’t be part of our vocabulary. All chores fall under “Our job.” Otherwise, lines are drawn, those lines are crossed, and battles erupt. The battles erupt because one partner feels shorted. Tension and resentment replace affection. And the argument becomes a contest of “who does what every day” and “who did it last.” When both husband and wife are helping, both feel appreciated, both feel equal, both feel connected. When both are pitching in, chores are finished sooner.
No one feels unappreciated or taken for granted. She now sees him as her partner and feels closer to him because they shared the work. On this night, we don’t have one partner who’s rested up and ready to go and another who’s drained of energy and ready to rest. On this night, we have two partners who are in the same place physically and emotionally. They understand how tired the other feels from doing the housework, and they’re emotionally connected because they shared the experience. Now guess what other experience they’re likely to share? Because the emotional connection is there, she feels a true partnership. The groundwork is laid. Now it’s his turn. Sex is no chore tonight. When he approaches her tonight, there won’t be any ranting …maybe a little panting, though.
So, keep in mind…the house, as well as the kids, belong to both of you. The responsibilities belong to both of you. The chores belong to both of you. Remain a team, and avoid nightly wars by sharing the nightly chores.