Family life

How to handle household chores...with love

Here's how to turn the bitterness around the minutiae of married life into domestic bliss.

By Liza Finlay
How to handle household chores...with love

Photo by Catherine Yeulet/

Harmonious or hellish? How’s your honey-do list handled?

In a busy family, the list of household chores is lengthy. Laundry, cleaning, repairs — the to-dos can be endless. And endlessly infuriating. Are your chores a labour of love or like a scene from War Of The Roses?

The minutiae of married life can too easily become a divisive force, making matrimony a source of acrimony. Turn that bitterness into domestic bliss. Here’s how:

You can’t control someone else’s behaviour. So stop trying. What you can control, however, is the way you think about that person’s behaviour. That’s right, each of us is capable of exercising mind control — control over our own minds, that is. We assign meaning to behaviours and, with a little practice, we can learn to assign new meanings. Does your partner neglect the overflowing compost just to piss you off, or is it because she’s preoccupied with a work problem? Is the unfolded laundry in the living room a metaphorical middle finger, or is your mate conserving strength for his long to-do list? We get to choose the lens through which we view behaviours. Change the lens and you’ll create a monumental change in the climate of the marriage.

You have a right to expect an equal division of labour. You don’t have a right to expect that labour to be done in your way and on your timelines. The dust bunnies in the corners of the dining room may be driving you crazy, but if your spouse is in charge of vacuuming you’ll have to respect his right to schedule it when it suits him. So put the stopwatch away. And while you’re at it put the white glove away, too: setting too-high standards is a sure-fire way to start a chore war.

Pinpoint the problem — and then solve it. If she ruins your white clothes by laundering them with reds, redistribute the domestic tasks. Switch it up. Take over the laundry and hand off grocery shopping. Blaming and shaming gets you nothing but a ton of hurt. It doesn’t solve the problem of the laundry. So keep the conflict in the crosshairs—it’s the problem not the person that needs to be corrected.

Keep this in perspective. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. And in the lifetime of a partnership, dust bunnies and laundry are just that — small stuff.

This article was originally published on Apr 11, 2012

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