Here's How To Handle Relationship Fights About Chores, Because Nobody Likes Doing Them

by Ginny Hogan
Originally Published: 

Is your kitchen sink piled high with dishes (and if not, do you think you're better than me??)? My sink right now has a few dishes (fewer than 12, more than 10) in it, and my roommate is not stoked. I've also been in romantic relationships where fighting about household obligations is common, so I learned a bit about how to handle relationship fights about chores. For some reason, taking out the trash seems very easy for me but laundry is the bane of my existence (it could have something to do with the fact that the trash disposal is 10 feet from my door but the laundromat is an eight-minute walk away, but who knows). To get the scoop on how to deal with these fights and how they can impact your relationships, I spoke to experts.

First, figure out if the fight is about an underlying issue or just about the weird smell in the fridge. Sometimes, it could be because of a growing feeling of stress in or outside the home. "When women are frustrated by feeling overburdened and treated unfairly in the home workplace, they become less physically affectionate with their partners, who in turn withdraw more emotionally," Behavioral Scientist, Relationship Coach and Creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method Clarissa Silva tells Elite Daily. This can apply to everyone, too — feeling burdened in one area of our lives can lead us to be anxious in others, which means stress about the chores can turn into other problems in the relationship, and vice versa. "If you've been more irritated than usual by seeing dishes or laundry piled up, chances are there are other issues you need to explore," Silva says. Find out what's really going on with you and your partner before launching into a fight about chores — you might find that there are other issues to resolve first.

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Communication is the key to handling relationship fights about chores. It's better to speak with your partner ahead of time instead of letting the tension escalate. "Talk to your partner before you begin feeling overwhelmed and let them know that you really need and appreciate their help," Silva says. When you communicate with them, you can also find a way to make sure each of you is happy with the chores you're doing. "In your delegation discussion, split the responsibilities based on what each of you hates the least then create a short to-do list for one another," Silva suggests. Talking it out with your partner can help the two of you find a way to get the chores done peacefully and without arguing.

Try to thank your partner if they've struggled with chores in the past but are now putting in a greater effort. "Don't be a surveillance camera," Silva says. "One of the reasons partners don’t always pitch in is that sometimes they are made to feel inadequate about their performance and skill level. Express gratitude and reinforce the positive behavior to create a long-term sustainable plan for a more equitable distribution of labor in your home." Gratitude goes a long way towards creating a comfortable and happy home, so remember to thank your partner if they are working on their ability to do chores. Similarly, if you are the one who struggles with chores, let your partner know that you're putting in an effort so that they know you're taking steps to make the home clean and joyful for both of you. And if they don't thank you, feel free to tell them that you'd appreciate it if they did — they might not realize how much a little gratitude can help you feel like the work you did is valuable.

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It can be helpful to be realistic about what each person can do. Maybe you love cleaning and you do a great job at it, but your partner isn't as talented. It might be more important to understand that they're putting in an effort. "Be comfortable with a seven compared to your 10," Silva says. "If the choice is to do every task yourself or to live with their less-than-perfect housekeeping skills, you may be happier with that seven performance." Of course, you might also prioritize having a spotless home, and then you'd want the chores done excellently, so it's up to you to decide what's a reasonable expectation. If you think you can diffuse relationship tension while still having an acceptably clean home by adjusting your expectations, it could help you to reduce fights about chores.

Relationship fights about chores are super normal — not many people love chores (although if you are one of those people, would you like to be my friend and/or next roommate?). It's understandable that you and your partner would argue about this, but there are many ways to resolve the issue. And once you do, you'll have a beautiful, clean home and a very healthy relationship, so happy vacuuming!

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