Dividing Up Chores

No Excuses

It's very important to keep your end of the bargain. If you have agreed to take out the trash every two days, don't forget. It's not your spouse's responsibility to nag you into doing your assigned chores (which would be unpleasant for both of you). It's your responsibility. Doing the dishes is as much a part of your relationship as candlelit dinners. Your spouse needs to know that he or she can count on you and that you will follow through on what you say you are going to do.

Think Twice

Don't put your spouse in the unfair position of needing to remind you to do your chores. By not keeping your end of the bargain, you are undermining the trust in your relationship.

Can your spouse count on you? Do you follow through on what you say you are going to do? If you answered “No” to either of these questions, think of three specific things you could do to improve these traits.

When a Chore Is More Than a Chore

What if it's your spouse's responsibility to take out the garbage, and he or she keeps forgetting? You've tried yelling and threatening that you won't do your chores if your spouse won't do his or hers, but nothing has worked. You feel frustrated and stuck.

Ask yourself: Is my spouse absent-minded and truly forgetting? Or is he or she not doing the chore in order to feel in charge and doesn't want me to nag? Is my spouse angry with me and “acting out” his or her anger by not taking out the trash? Or is he or she feeling overwhelmed in general and dropping all “nonessential” responsibilities?

  1. Do a reality check. Maybe your spouse is overwhelmed with his or her other responsibilities. This is a big issue and is about more than taking out the trash. You will have done your significant other and your marriage a great favor by recognizing this and by suggesting that the two of you have a heart-to-heart talk.

  2. Explore reasons. Perhaps your spouse is still grumbling over the fact that he or she missed a special program on television to go out to dinner with your relatives. Unresolved issues can hurt all parts of a marriage. Make time to discuss what might be bothering your partner.

  3. Remind without words. Carry the trash to the door. Put the empty laundry basket near the dirty clothes on the bedroom floor. Don't say a word. Hopefully, your spouse will get the idea and finish the chore him- or herself. If this “silent reminder” bothers your spouse, don't continue to do it, but take the opportunity to ask for suggestions on how to remind your spouse of his or her chores.

  4. Make it part of a routine. Suggest that you both do 20 minutes of chores while dinner is cooking.

It is not your responsibility to do your spouse's chores, but sometimes he or she might need a push in the right direction. Think about what you would like your spouse to do and then figure out what action you can take to get him or her to do it. Often chores become sources for anger and resentment. While it is important to resolve these issues, it is also important to put chores in perspective. Life is too short to let chores ruin a marriage—or even a day.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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