Fighting Over Chores Can End Your Marriage

We all know that nobody really likes to do chores around the house, and that the effective division of this labor is something plenty of couples struggle with – but somewhere in the back of our minds, we probably dismiss it as a minor issue, not something that is going to make or break a relationship.

According to some recent research, however, it might be a much more important aspect of your marriage than previously thought. In a study published in Sex Roles, the perception couples have of “labor equality” (and the gender roles associated with it) is directly related to overall marital happiness.

The study looked at some 220 couples, asking questions about two main points: “cognitive egalitarianism” – how the men and women perceive male/female responsibilities, and “behavioral egalitarianism” – how couples actually put those divisions into practice.

Fighting about chores could end your marriage.
Fighting about chores could end your marriage.

The biggest influencer of happiness, according to the study results, appeared to be relationship between the women’s perception and how labor was actually divided. When women believed that labor should be split equally, and their reality met that expectation, the couple’s overall happiness was higher than other couples. Similarly, the least satisfied couples were those where the women believed in equal division, but this belief wasn’t reflected in their reality.

Those dissatisfied couples were mostly those where husbands simply did not think there was a discrepancy in responsibility, or those where husbands believed that household chores were the woman’s responsibility (an outdated point of view, in our opinion).

As expected, the marriages with the largest discrepancies between expectation and reality reported the lowest levels of overall happiness. It is worth pointing out, however, that the women whose husbands didn’t see discrepancies or see the importance of helping around the house reported the lowest levels of marital satisfaction. Husbands seemed far less affected by the differences of opinion.

There are a couple of important lessons to take of away from this information. First, understand that expectations are huge here. When couples were on the same page ideologically, and backed up those thoughts with their actions, they were generally happy. When expectations didn’t align with actions, couples had problems.

The second takeaway is a little veiled, but the men in the study tell a startling truth – that old gender roles are still alive for many people, and that men may be ignoring the need to step up and divide household responsibilities equally – especially if that’s what their wives expect.

However you choose to divvy up chores in your household, take a moment to talk about it with your spouse. Is there a discrepancy between what you’d like to happen and what actually happens? Getting on the same page will likely reduce stress and increase overall happiness for both of you…

You just have to talk about it!

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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unsuredad 9 years ago

A couple weeks ago, I was cooking collards and black eyes for new years. My second child, 14 yr old daughter, didn't want to eat it. I said it was tradition and she threw in my face "We didn't follow any of the traditions for Christmas this year, why do we have to follow this one?" Basically she was pointing out that I did not go with them to her Grandparents house with my soon to be exwife. The divorce was not my idea, but apparently I am to blame in her eyes. It really hurt. So what do you do when your child blames you for the divorce?

Elle 9 years ago

Taking care of our son, our apartment, and then going to work is exhausting. I am breastfeeding, so I am the one who gets up throughout the night to take care of our son, while my husband sleeps. He says he is "supportive" of me staying home, but his actions are different. He told me a few weeks ago that he "would rather stay home and 'play' with our son, than go to work". That statement pissed me off, as if I just sit around on my butt all day, "playing".

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Hi Unsure - She is feeling unsteady in her life right now, and it's up to you to keep her grounded. Let her know that some things will have to change, but there are still traditions you can keep in your family. Also, we encourage you to try and make amends with your wife. It's not too late.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Hi Elle - Is it possible for you to pump? I would have some extra on hand and he can feed the baby at night, or you take off for a an overnight with the girls and leave him with your son. Let him see that although taking care of him is your choice, it is not easy, or all play, and you need him help with the things he can help with.

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