Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sharing the load

One of the hardest things about living with J has been the division of household chores. Not long after he moved in, I started having major issues with the fact that I felt like I was doing “all the work” (and I use the quotation marks to acknowledge that I wasn’t literally doing ALL the work – but it felt that way to me). Part of the problem was due to differences in our preferences and habits – for example, while I’m used to always doing the laundry once a week, J just waits until he’s out of underwear. So although he was happy to help, I would always want to do it sooner than he otherwise would have (and then either I just did it or had to ask him to). Also, J doesn’t cook, so since I want to eat more healthy, I do all the cooking, which means I also doing the grocery shopping. And because I didn’t have a dishwasher, the dishes needed to be handwashed, which J doesn’t like doing. He’d do it but I always had to ask him, reminding him that I cooked so he should clean. That got better when we bought a dishwasher but then I felt like I was the only one who ever put the dishes away after we ran the dishwasher.

It didn’t take long for my resentment level to reach a bad place. I did ask a lot of my couple friends how they handle household tasks and ALL of them seemed to know immediately why I was asking. I think everyone I asked (including one male gay couple, one lesbian couple, and a few hetero couples who have each been together for over ten years) said a version of the same thing: one person in the couple had a lower tolerance for cleanliness/getting chores done and would be driven crazy by the other person not doing stuff so they had to find a way to deal. So J and I are certainly not unique!

I followed one friend’s suggestion and made a list of all the chores that need to be done on a regular basis and then J and I sat down and divided up the list. I immediately felt better, not only because I felt like the division of labor was more fair but also because I stopped feeling like I was “supposed” to do stuff. That is, there were a lot of things that J was perfectly willing to do, he just didn’t think to do them on the schedule I wanted so I either did them myself or would ‘nag’ him to do them – and a part of me wondered if maybe he was specifically not doing stuff because he knew/hoped I would eventually just do it. Now, he still often doesn’t do things on the schedule that I would but I no longer feel like I have to take care of them or that he’s waiting for me to do them. This is a Very Good Thing for our relationship.

How do you decide who does what around the house?

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