Equality Doesn't Have to be a Power Struggle
A well-written article in the Daily Mail (UK) from this past Saturday describes the power struggle so many couples have over housework. Back when gender inequality ruled the day, we all had our place and this made things easy on the surface. But today's couples can't abide by inequality any longer, and yet have not learned the ground rules for happily living as equals.
The article suggests some of these ground rules - all of the suggestions involve effective communication such as good listening and really telling your partner why a particular topic (e.g., laundry) is so loaded for you. These are good rules. We have a few others to add:
- When you divide up household chores, decide you are equals rather than manager and helper. There is nothing so annoying to a guy than a woman who asks for some help with the laundry and then proceeds to control every detail of how that help is provided. People don't want to help any longer if they can't own the task and do it their own way. There is a great example in this article about a man who starts out helping with the laundry by putting away the folded clothes, and then because he doesn't do it right away, his partner gets angry - leading him to wait even longer until she eventually puts it away herself.
- Set joint standards for how the contentious chores are done. If laundry is a hot button for one of you, sit down before you divvy it up and discuss what constitutes doing the laundry, how often it should be done, etc. Then, only after you both agree to the laundry 'rules', divide up who does what. Finally, mind your own business and let you partner do his share his way. If he wants to save up 10 loads and then do marathon laundry, let him! Just sit back and say 'well, that's interesting' rather than criticize.
An equal housework division can become an untenable power struggle if you are more interested in being right than being happy. But it can be a intimacy-building lifestyle if you can really develop a team approach by treating each other as true equals and keeping your eyes on your own chores.