It is common knowledge that the subject of household chores is – ahem, let’s just say well-debated – in most marriages.

While it is probably clear to both of you that sharing a home means sharing the work to keep it up, defining those tasks is, unfortunately, often open to interpretation. Many spouses have no problem accepting responsibility for taking on their fair share of the chores, but how do you determine what is fair?

Chores themselves, in fact, aren’t really the problem. The root of most arguments over chores is respect. Respect for time and respect for each other’s needs and wants. The challenge with chores in a marriage is defining them in a way that both qualifies and quantifies a shared set of desired outcomes.

Often, one spouse may feel like he or she is left with the bulk of the chores and that the other simply takes it for granted that “things just get done.” What is the solution in that case? Stop doing chores? Tempting as it may sound, what does this kind of passive-aggressive behavior really accomplish?  

If the laundry doesn’t get done, it piles up and nobody has anything clean to wear. Stop doing the dishes and soon there are no clean bowls for cereal; no fresh mugs for coffee. Stop going to the supermarket and the pantry becomes bare. Cease cooking and everyone is left to scrounge for themselves. Not doing the chores isn’t the solution, because it doesn’t solve anything – it just creates more problems.

What we really want from one another, even more important than help around the house, is respect. Husbands and wives need to feel connected, loved and respected. When we fight over chores, the real issues are often not the tasks themselves. Here’s what really gets under our skin:

We Want to Be Appreciated

Nothing says “I don’t value your time and hard work” to your spouse like tracking dirt over a freshly cleaned floor, or saying you don’t want to eat the dinner that took hours to prepare because you had a late lunch and aren’t hungry. What can you do? 

You have to walk on the floor to get into the house, right? Of course, but if your spouse quickly admonishes you for muddying up the floor, a sincere “I’m sorry” followed by a statement that acknowledges the work put into cleaning the floor, “It smells so clean in here!” can go a long way toward making amends.

Is it your fault if you’re truly not hungry for the meal that is on the table? No, of course not, but you can still show your appreciation for the time spent on the dinner by sitting down together and having some, or showing enthusiasm for the meal and a desire to enjoy it but asking if you can wait a bit.

Nobody Likes Being Compared to Others, Nagged or Criticized

After taking on and completing a chore, the last thing you want to hear is that your spouse doesn’t like how it was done, that you were late doing it, or that even though you did one chore, you neglected another. 

We all have different standards and expectations, but the bottom line is that we all want our time to be valued and appreciated. Communicating expectations and agreeing to measurable outcomes upfront can help avoid disagreements, and acknowledging your spouse’s efforts with a compliment or thank you will go a long way towards showing your appreciation – translation: respect – for the time and effort spent.

Nobody Likes Guilt Trips

Instead of guilting your spouse or your children into doing their fair share of chores by listing everything you do for them, share the burden. “Honey-Do” jars are great, but unless you both have one, are they really fair? 

A chore shouldn’t be a task that you do as a favor, to earn a reward or to avoid nagging. Chores are responsibilities that come with being part of a family, and as a family, we all need to help carry the load. Try developing a chore chart that fairly distributes that load while clearly outlining the expectations and providing a way to track completion.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:31-32, KJV

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