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If You Want Help with Housework, Don’t Get Married

I’ve decided that I’m never getting married. The reason is, if I do, my husband might decide he no longer has to contribute his share to the household chores. If I live with someone, there’s a higher probability that our non-legal status will keep him on his toes. Or so this study seems to be saying.

I consider this to be a “feel-good study,” because any adult who reads it can relate to it in some way. It attempts to offer an explanation for why some men do less housework after they get married, but in actuality it seems to be designed to make all groups feel better. For instance:

Singles and unmarried couples who don’t want to get married: “Yes! This is yet another reason why I’m glad I’m not married!”

Unmarried men: “Oh, good. Once I get married, I’ll have an excuse to cut back on the amount of housework I do. This study justifies my future life of slackerdom!”

Married women: “That’s right; he has been doing less housework since we got married. Now I know why.”

Married men who DON’T do their share of housework: “Yeah, that’s right. I’m not alone. This makes me feel better because now there’s no reason for me to change.”

Married men who DO their share of housework: “I’m more helpful than most of my male counterparts. I’m such a wonderful guy. What a lucky woman my wife is.” (Puffs chest.)

There should be negotiations and compromises involved with this process. I can’t see anyone not getting married because they were worried their future husband might start slacking in his cleaning duties.

[Read the rest of this post at BlogHer]

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19 Comments

  • Reply tj September 10, 2007 at 10:31 am

    well, i know for a fact that my wife does more around the house than i do … i’m not stupid. however, i know that i do plenty and do my best to try to do things so that my wife will have a minute or two to rest too. on the other hand, she does more around the house because she’s home more than i am … i work 8-5, she works 9-1.

    in my eyes, marriage is a partnership. neither one of us does more than the other, we just do different things. if i ever felt like my wife wasn’t pulling her weight in the relationship (i know, pretty funny), i’d tell her. and i have no doubts she’d do the same. communication and sharing are the cornerstones of a successful partnership … imho.

  • Reply geeky September 10, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Before we got married, I made it clear to Mr. Geeky that since we both work full-time, we would both do chores at home. Fair is fair. We talked about the various chores that needed to be done and divvied them up. He agreed to clean the bathroom because he’s good at it. I told him I would cook dinner OR wash dishes, but not both, and gave him the choice of which he would prefer to do. He chose dishes, so I do the cooking. I usually do the vacuuming and dusting and other general cleaning up. As far as taking out the trash and doing the laundry, we take turns, one of us picking up the slack when the other is too busy. I’ve been picking up the slack recently because he’s been working long hours for his residency. Like TJ said, it’s a partnership, and ultimately we’re there to support each other.

  • Reply jen September 10, 2007 at 10:59 am

    i thought i’d be the one person it doesn’t make “feel good”, because i don’t fit into any of those groups, and also i hate studies. but actually, i guess it does make me feel good in a way, because it confirms my view that there is something inherently bad about marriage, that it somehow changes people and relationships for the worse. but i don’t really feel “good” about that, it actually makes me feel more disgusted at the institution of marriage than i already was, which was plenty.

    i’m definitely the chore slacker in the relationship, so i don’t know what the study says about me getting married (yes, despite my disgust for the institution). nothing i guess.

    since travis is the one who cares more about the chores getting done and does more than his share of them, i seriously doubt he is going to do LESS chores after we are married. (although i’d love it if he did do less chores, because that would take the pressure off of me to keep up with him.)

    as a practical matter, we (usually) have a chore chart to divvy up the chores in a fair manner, but i still don’t end up doing half the work in the end. ultimately, i do my best to do as much as i can out of consideration for him, but he knew who i was when he moved in with me, and he shouldn’t be with me if he can’t accept who i am.

    more importantly, relationships shouldn’t be tit for tat on who does what, the important thing is whether the couple works well as an equal team over all. being in a relationship where the couple is constantly adding up who has done what for who lately is not my idea of love.

  • Reply Mala September 10, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I live alone and force myself to pick up daily. Once a month I do a big “cleaning.” And twice a year I do a big overhaul — send things to goodwill, major repairs, etc.

    But lately I’ve seriously considered just hiring help one day a week. I hate cleaning and doing laundry and figure it might be well worth the cost to just pay someone else to deal with it.

    In the past when I did live with someone, we naturally just took care of certain things. I was a better scrubber so I took care of bathroom and kitchen, they handled windows, trash, and dusting. We both took turns with laundry. It was never really an issue.

  • Reply Marie D. September 10, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    what about a household prenup?

  • Reply been there, done that September 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Then they didn’t marry the right person. Mine did and does, he even scoops the litter boxes. WooHoo!!!

  • Reply Elissa September 10, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    The idea of a chore list seems so silly to me. Is that the best communication plan some people can come up with? If one person feels like the table should be dusted they should just do it and not worry about who did it last.

  • Reply Janet September 10, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    My husband does WAY more housework than I do. He does a majority of the laundry and most of the dishes. He is almost always the obe to clean thekitchen floor and clean the mirrors. If the bed is made, 9 out 10 times he is the one who made it.

    I guess I am just lucky. Or he is more obsessed with cleanliness. I think that’s it, actually.

  • Reply Dana September 10, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    The study is interesting….I agree with Elissa though, making a list of chores for each person just doesn’t seem right. A marriage should be an equal partnership with each person contributing….of course I’m not married, so I haven’t had the experience of a non-helping husband. lol (maybe I’m living in fantasy land)

    PS. BRITNEY SPEARS SUCKS.

  • Reply Jul September 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I guess I should be doing a little happy dance, then, since my husband does his share around the house. But really, I’m kind of disappointed in the women who let their men get away with not helping…

  • Reply Sijbrich September 10, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I think my husband and I have a pretty good system. I am working only part-time while he works full-time, so it’s understandable that I end up doing most of the chores. But Mr. P never asks me to do something. If he sees something that is dirty that needs to be cleaned, then he will just clean it himself. A couple weeks ago, we had friends over for dinner. I was busy cooking, so he took it upon himself to clean the bathroom and straighten things up. I love it when we work well together like that and both do our share. It’s little things like that that make marriage, well, happy. It works out really well for us both. He now cooks on the weekends, too.

  • Reply janet September 10, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    we are 50-50 usually. I do more dishes and scrubbing, and he does more picking up. We each do our own laundry, and split the grocery shopping about evenly. I guess I should consider myself lucky?

  • Reply Amy September 10, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    It makes me kind of sad to see another study that adds to the stereotyping of gender roles in marriage. But keep in mind that I come from a household where my father does the cooking 5 nights a week.

    I definitely would not have gotten engaged if my guy had not understood that we will split the housework evenly. It took a few pointed reminders, but he is very proactive about helping now.

  • Reply jen September 11, 2007 at 10:33 am

    chore lists can be great! i don’t know why people are so automatically down on them. the whole point of it is to be a tool so that we CAN both contribute equally, without friction or distress.

    there are two problems that a chore list solves for us. the first is that i just don’t think to do a lot of chores that aren’t staring me in the face — i tend to leave bills unpaid and the cat box unscooped. our chore list states how often each chore should be done each week with a space to check it off when its done. it sits on the fridge, so i can see everytime i get a snack, that the cat box needs to be scooped. so i can remember to do it. without that reminder, i’d let the cat box go for months at a time. that’s just unfair to the cat, if no one else!

    the second problem i have is, it’s easy to say “just clean something when it needs to be cleaned” but the fact of the matter is that different people have very different concepts of what needs to be cleaned and when. for instance, if we both just cleaned the toilet when we thought it needed to be cleaned, i’d never ever clean the toilet because my partner would think it needed to be cleaned long before i ever did.

    and it’s not fair to him to just leave it at “the person with the least tolerance for dirt loses.” that would mean he’d basically do ALL of the cleaning. or, in the alternative, he be in the position of having to ask me to do it, and trust me, it really isn’t fun for either person for one person to constantly be having to ask the other to clean. with the chore list reminding me that the bathroom needs to be cleaned twice a month (for instance), he’s not in the position of feeling like my mommy or my maid.

    that said, a chore list is a TOOL for organizing and reminding, i agree that it definitely shouldn’t become the basis of “who does what around here” competitions or disputes. as i said, it’s a tool, like a grocery list or a daytimer, not a dictation of rules. i’ll do my best to do various chores regardless of what the chore list says, assuming i think of it, and he’ll do the same thing. in the end, he still does end up doing a lot more of the chores despite the list, and despite my efforts to do my share. and that’s fine, no one is lording anything over anybody. but meanwhile, at least the bills get paid on time, and the cat doesn’t stage a protest by pooping on the floor, and the household works smoothly. and most importantly, my partner isn’t put into the position of feeling like he is doing all the work around the house. because i don’t WANT to be thoughtless to him and make him feel that way, but unless i get help from a tool like a chore list, that’s going to be exactly what happens.

    it works great, and i highly recommend it for couples where one person, like me, just doesn’t have the “clean gene.”

  • Reply Maryam in Marrakech (or Cairo really) September 11, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    My husband is an absolute CHAMP. He totally does his fair share and more. Just practice the Secret:-)

    PS Coming to DC soon. Wanna meet up?

  • Reply Katy September 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I totally agree! My husband works nights which he seems to feel gives him a totally free ride. Although, I’m so anal I would rather do most things myself! One thought I’d like to add is that men (at least mine) feel that they deserve a congressional medal of honor for everything little thing they do around the house(even putting away the dishes…that I washed!!) It is frustrating but I’ll keep him.

  • Reply elysa September 12, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    We are pretty good about each doing our share. We take turns with cooking and cleaning. The only real rule we have is whoever cooks doesn’t do the dishes.

  • Reply Nadine September 16, 2007 at 5:05 am

    We both do 50 – 50. We did not divide chores, we just do what’s necessary. Though he seems to take the garbage out more often than I and I seem to do a little more laundry.

    When one is busy with something (school?) or sick, the other one just does a little more in the household. It goes smoothly.

  • Reply Stephen January 6, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    As a man who loves housework and would happily do the lot, I can only say that women seem to be as trapped in gender stereotyping such issues as men; it’s rare to find a woman who is really happy to let a fella do it.

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