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Managing Household Chores in a Relationship

Relationships should provide love, security, and companionship. Everyone needs a few deep and meaningful connections with others as we go through life. However, not all relationships are easy. Romantic relationships can be particularly challenging, especially when they enter the long-term phase. Inequalities, differing love languages, and difficulty in communicating can contribute to dissatisfaction in a relationship. In this article, we will guide you through some of the most common disagreements couples face and how to find common ground.

When it comes to any long-term relationship, not every day can be a bed of roses. Sharing your space with someone can be challenging, especially when things move from the romantic to the mundane. Disagreements over kids, finances, careers, and household chores can impact the quality of even the most loving relationship.

How does inequality manifest in a relationship?

When you hear people say that a long-term relationship is hard work, they don’t mean that being with another person is a burden or a chore. It means that each day you must find ways to make living together work for both people. You must be willing to compromise and to make sure both you and your partner are satisfied with the way things are.


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One of the most common sources of dissatisfaction for couples is household chores.


For instance, in heterosexual couples, in the UK before COVID-19, women spent 1.8 times more effort than men on household chores—including cleaning, cooking, childcare, and handling the mental load of planning and managing the household.

After the pandemic struck, these numbers got even higher. Many women were forced to leave their jobs to home-school their kids and do other kinds of unpaid labour.

This raised the question of equality in relationships yet again.

Read next: Lack of Sexual Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

The problem with the gender inequality in household chores

When women work double shifts—one at work and one at home—their lives are limited to work and caregiving, excluding them from career growth and self-development opportunities. They also lack time for self-care and recovery, which can easily result in burnout.

Being stuck with an unfair share of the household work also puts a strain on the relationship. If partners are not taking care to meet each other’s needs, one can easily grow resentful. When you don’t receive the support you need in everyday situations, other aspects of the relationship also suffer. Intimacy fades, irritability increases, you stop enjoying spending time with your partner and begin to feel you can’t trust them.

Read next: The Effects of Stress on Female Sexual and Reproductive Health

Gender inequality at home also impacts the kids. If children see their parents dividing tasks equally and taking on daily duties, they are more likely to reproduce this healthy behaviour in their adult relationships. But if the mother is doing most of the work at home, her children will perceive it as a woman’s job to care for the kids and do the chores.

Different love languages

The inability to divide household chores evenly doesn’t necessarily come from inequality. In his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, author Gary Chapman introduces the five most common ways people express their affection for each other and, importantly, the way we understand that another person cares about us might not be obvious to them.


According to Chapman, there are five love languages—words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. The importance of each of these signals can vary dramatically from person to person, causing people to misunderstand those closest to them.

Unfortunately, couples are often mismatched in terms of what it takes for them to feel loved. If your love language is, for example, acts of service but your partner’s top love language is receiving gifts, it might be challenging for them to understand the significance of your small acts of love. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself: Which love language is most important to me? Which one is most important to my partner? Are we recognising and appreciating what we do for each other?


What can you do to solve the problem?

Have a deep conversation. It takes two to nurture a happy relationship. If you want your partner to change the way they do something, you have to talk about it. If you feel that you have been wronged, do your best to articulate your thoughts and feelings. Often, when you spend years with the same person, you expect them to know you inside out and to pick up on your emotional clues. Unfortunately, your partner can’t read your mind, and the only way for them to understand how you feel is to tell them.

Explain the situation from your perspective. Doing more than your fair share of the household work is tiring and can eventually damage the relationship. But your partner might not understand that you feel that way, especially if you don’t explain it to them.

Saying things like “you never wash the dishes” or “you always leave your socks lying around” come off as accusations and are less likely to make a positive change. However, if you can explain to your partner how their neglect makes you feel, it can give them a better perspective. For instance, if you notice that you are always responsible for preparing food for the kids, which makes you late for work, you might say, “I do this every morning, and it makes me stressed and distracted. Could you do it instead?

Explaining how you feel works much better than nagging, shouting, or silent treatment because it gives your partner the chance to choose to be the good partner instead of making them feel like the bad one.

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Look for compromise. Even the most enlightened couples can’t always achieve a 50/50 split in household responsibilities. And that’s okay, as long as it works for both parties. One partner might be working longer hours or have a more stressful job situation, so the other does more around the house. In a healthy relationship, partners adapt to each other’s needs instead of being tied to prescribed roles.

Having an open conversation about your preferences can also help. Household chores aren’t usually fun, but some are better than others. For instance, you might prefer cooking while your partner finds it more enjoyable to help the kids with their homework, or you don’t mind mopping, and he prefers vacuuming. Compromise will look different for any two people, but it only counts as a compromise when both are content with the result. If not, what looks like a compromise to one person can easily become a sacrifice for the other.

Couples counselling. Even after many years of being in a relationship, people can struggle to communicate their pain and needs. Couples counselling can help partners understand one another better and resolve hidden issues. If your partner can’t relate to your concerns, a therapist can help you find ways to communicate and strengthen your connection.

When is inequality a deal-breaker?

Each relationship is different, and so is each couple’s commitment to equality. Some couples strive to divide household work 50/50, while for others, 80/20 feels fine or more appropriate because one partner is contributing significantly in other ways. The most important is how the division of labour makes you feel and whether your partner is willing to compromise and find a solution that works for you both.

If you feel you are doing more than your fair share of the chores and it’s making you resentful, it’s time for a talk. But talking is not the same as doing. If, after long debates, nothing changes, it may be worth reconsidering the value of your relationship. Inequality in housework and childcare often indicates a general inequality in the relationship. If your partner won’t compromise, always wants to have the upper hand, and needs to have the last word in an argument, you might want to rethink the relationship.

Washing the dishes, preparing the kids for bed, and planning weekly meals might seem to be trivial tasks. But more often than not, disagreement over such mundane issues is where many serious arguments start. It’s not always easy to understand how to have a happy relationship but going through these situations as a team can sometimes make all the difference.

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https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/30/sharing-chores-a-key-to-good-marriage-say-majority-of-married-adults/
https://internal-journal.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01330/full
https://www.npr.org/2020/05/21/860091230/pandemic-makes-evident-grotesque-gender-inequality-in-household-work?t=1633012027501
https://www.5lovelanguages.com/store/the-5-love-languages
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