Every day I meet with couples who are overwhelmed with responsibilities on the home front. Dual-career couples find it particularly hard to keep the chaos in check. Add kids to the mix and you have double trouble.
A mass of untended responsibilities can lead to tension between you and your mate, and the following circumstances only make matters worse:
- Outside commitments. The pressure of work and other outside involvements leaves little time or energy for getting home responsibilities completed. Such commitments also limit downtime, both alone and with your partner. You are left feeling irritable and overwhelmed, hardly a recipe for peace and order in your personal life.
- Financial strain. Money concerns affect most households at some time. Worry about paying bills leaves you feeling stressed. Further, limited funds decrease your options for managing your mood, as well as disaster between your four walls.
- Poor communication. Most couples have difficulty talking about unpleasant topics, especially when each person feels overwhelmed. Expectations about household responsibilities may not be defined clearly. One of you may become a nag, while the other may retaliate by doing less, not more. Does any of this sound familiar?
- Differing expectations and priorities. Are you a person who can live with clutter, but dirt and dust make your skin crawl? Does your partner need everything put away, even if it all falls out when you open a closet door? The problem is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to clean or organize your home it’s merely a matter of preference. And since your preferences are different, compromise is necessary. But how can you compromise if you can’t communicate?
There is a way out of this vicious cycle. Life at home will become immeasurably easier if you follow this commonsense plan:
- Revitalize your relationship. -This step is mandatory; without it, subsequent steps will be difficult, if not impossible. Establish a date night at least twice a week. Do something you both enjoy, and leave heavy discussions behind. Regularly do nice and unexpected things for one another, such as sending a card or making an unexpected call. Let little things slide and acknowledge the helpful things your partner already does for you. Doing these things will begin to create a “goodwill bank” between the two of you, allowing you to tackle the more difficult steps with greater ease.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Discuss household responsibilities only when you’re both rested, and approach it from a problem-solving perspective. Listen to your partner’s point of view, without interrupting. Then clearly communicate your perspective. Remember that neither of you can read minds.
- Organize and delegate. Together, make an exhaustive list of the chores to be done. Identify the ones that you each already do. Then talk about your respective strengths and preferences. Divide the remainder of the chores accordingly. You can post each of your chores on an erasable whiteboard and jot down important deadlines on a central calendar. If there are chores that you dislike or cannot do, pay a responsible teenager or a cleaning service to do them.
- Operate as a team. Remember that the two of you are on equal footing in this process. If there are chores that are particularly important to your partner, make them your priority. Avoid nagging and disparaging remarks these will get you less, not more, of what you want. Finally, let your partner complete his or her chores the way he or she wants to.
Regroup weekly or bi-weekly to review your plan. Communicate your concerns clearly and without judgment, and make the necessary revisions.
You have a choice: You can just keep doing what you are doing or the two of you can play on the same team and make your home a haven.