"Never in history has a man been killed by his spouse while doing the dishes" -Little Known Fact
So let's talk about housework. Domestic duties. Role expectations.
Recently I was working with a couple who was having tremendous conflict around this subject. Who was responsible for what? Who came up with this list? Was it something that was agreed to or just assigned? If they agree to do that does it make them a servant?
What should we do if our situations change? Let's imagine. What do you do if a spouse stops working outside the home, maybe starts going to school or is staying home with the kids, do they automatically get dealt a greater share of the housework?
As our culture and the modern relationship finds itself much more fluid than the crass over generalizations of past i.e. "a woman's role is to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," we now must actually bring these subconscious expectations into more clarity. I recently had a discussion where one of my own strong bias' came to the surface. I (Sam) stress about our families finances. I personally feel that it is my role to "provide" for our family. IF we are struggling then I feel I must be falling short, however I do expect not to be alone in the "stressing..."
Now I have worked with other couples where these roles on who is the "provider" has been different, I have seen numerous female doctors, lawyers and other successful women who earn more than their husbands. Again just who makes more money doesn't necessarily tell us what a person's internal expectation around this role is. This is KEY. Just because one person is doing something in the relationship right now DOESN'T mean that this is the role they want or really agree with.
I recently had a person (someone working outside the home) say, "I've worked all day. I just want to come home and relax!" On the surface this is clearly a valid need...but lurking under the surface may be some expectations/assumptions that are going to set off some relational fireworks. The above person and many like them who work an outside job find themselves resisting the idea that they need to do "extra" household chores after they get home. I can just imagine the "at home" spouse thinking, so what exactly do you think I've been doing all day! (to the parents of little kids...I see you! I know that just because the house ISN'T clean...doesn't mean you haven't been cleaning all day)
The reality is there is no "right" answer but I'm certain of the WRONG answer. Not making these role expectations clear through an actual real life, intentional conversation!!.
Many years ago...19 to be exact Kerri and I went through a workbook Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott that had a simple exercise to help with this process. Truthfully, it's funny how somethings are so idealistic and "perfect" before you get married but then turn into a jumbled mess once you tie the knot. This actually is probably a good exercise to do once every few years to highlight any changes in your underlying expectations as your marriage grows and changes!