Washing Dishes Is The Chore That Can Ruin Your Relationship, Study Finds, So Here's How To Talk To Your Partner About Helping Out More
As much fun as the freedom of adulthood can be (like being able to decide that sugary cereal is a totally acceptable dinner food) there's also the unfortunate reality that at any given moment, there are about a zillion chores and household tasks that need completing — and if you're in a relationship and live with your partner, that means twice the chore load. Figuring out how to talk to your partner about helping around the house is easier said than done, but according to a new study by the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), if you want your relationship to stay happy and healthy, it's an absolutely essential conversation to have.
For the study, researchers explored the connection between how heterosexual couples did (or did not) share the responsibility of routine household tasks, and their reported marital and sexual satisfaction. They found that, compared to previous generations, splitting chores in an egalitarian way is more important than ever for relationship satisfaction; couples who shared tasks equally demonstrated "clear advantages" over couples where one partner did the lion's share of the chore load. The researchers also found that, for women, the chore most likely to cause relationship dissatisfaction if it's not shared equally is everyone's favorite daily task: doing the dishes. But how does a task as simple as doing the dishes turn into such a big deal over time?
"If one partner is left to do all or most of the chores it can add an additional level of stress and exhaustion to an already stressful and exhausting day," Jonathan Bennett, Relationship/Dating Expert and Owner of Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Consequently, it can lead to a feeling of resentment in the partner who does more and create a strain in the relationship."
Although doing chores might not be the most fun way to spend your leisure time, they *have* to get done, and if you live with your partner, one person shouldn't do all the work: you should both chip in and do your fair share (whatever you mutually agree that is). If you need help motivating your partner to help out around the house more, here are six expert tips for talking to them about the division of chores in a constructive way — hopefully, they'll help you find a good compromise.
1. Start The Convo At A Good Time
One of the golden rules of relationship communication? Any serious talk is best had at a time when neither partner is preoccupied, angry, or upset — which means that you should start this discussion at a neutral time, not when you're in the middle of a chore and feeling resentful.
"Be proactive, not reactive," Bennett says. "Having a calm discussion with your partner will be more effective than getting angry and lashing out while in the middle of doing dishes after a long day."
2. Focus The Discussion On How You Feel
When it comes to the division of chores, it can be tempting to point fingers, but if you want to have a productive conversation, hold off on the accusatory statements. Instead, focus on talking about how your partner's contributions to the household (or lack thereof) make you feel.
"When talking about sharing household chores, try to focus on how doing more than your fair share impacts you and makes you feel," Bennett says. "Explain honestly why it’s overwhelming, frustrating, stressful and tiring. By sharing your feelings and thoughts honestly, you’re more likely to encourage dialog and actual change. Putting your partner on the defensive usually just leads to more fights and stubbornness."
3. Use "I Statements"
If you're unsure how to get your point across to your partner in any given discussion, one simple trick is to use "I statements" to convey your feelings without being accusatory or placing blame.
"I’d advise using 'I statements' instead of coming at your partner with accusations and pointing out his or her shortcomings," Bennett says. "So, say something like 'I get exhausted after a long, stressful day of work when I have to wash a big pile of dishes myself.' This is preferable to 'You never help with the dishes! You’re so lazy!'"
4. Don't Use Demeaning Language
If this issue is something that's been a sore spot in your relationship for a long time, it can be easy to let your anger or resentment bubble to the surface, resulting in you saying something rude or hurtful — but ultimately, being disrespectful to your partner during an argument isn't fair or productive.
"Your partner might need to stop being lazy and get his or her act together, but telling him or her that will usually only lead to defensiveness," Bennett says. "Focus instead on your own needs and feelings when asking for help."
5. Work Together To Find A Compromise
One of the trademarks of any healthy couple is an ability and willingness to compromise whenever an issue arises. When you talk to your partner about how to redistribute the chores, don't just demand they do more in order to temporarily placate you: be willing to listen to their side, and come to a compromise that makes you both happy.
"The best way forward is to have an honest discussion during a calm moment that involves some give and take," Bennett says. "Usually it’s a matter of finding a way to share the load and setting up a schedule for chores, even an informal one."
6. Don't Keep Score
When you're coming up with a new system for splitting the chores, it's important to remember that a fair compromise isn't necessarily an equal one — as long as you both agree on what each person can and should contribute, 'keeping score' of who does more will only harm your relationship.
"I’d recommend against 'keeping score' once a compromise is reached," Bennett says. "There will always be an imbalance of work around the house to some degree. As long as each person is contributing fairly and frequently, there’s no sense in making sure everything is completely equal."
Because every couple has their own unique relationship dynamic, there isn't a right or wrong way to divide household tasks with your partner. As long as you both feel that your chore arrangement is fair — and you're able to have a productive conversation anytime something feels off-balance — your household will be on its way to harmony in no time.