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Six Areas of Conflict in Marriage Part 6 – Housework

By:  Donna Martin

There is an old rhymed couplet that says, “A man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” I think this saying is as true today as the day it was written.  Even if a woman works outside the home, she still has work to do when she gets home.  If she is a mother, then she is on duty 24/7 for the rest of her life.

Some men get married and assume that their wife will take the place of their mother and will pick up their dirty socks, wash and iron their clothes, cook them gourmet meals and work eight hours at the office.  Of course, some women get married and assume that their husbands will pamper and take care of them and give them whatever their hearts desire while they do nothing but shop and go out with friends.  So once again the conflict comes from differing expectations.

Housework can be a source of conflict anytime that one spouse feels that they are being taken advantage of or treated unfairly.  For example, a mother who has been on her feet all day chasing toddlers, changing diapers, folding clothes, cooking meals, etc. may be envious of her husband who works at the office all day and then comes home, sits down, with his paper and watches the news while she continues to care for the children and house.  If she has those negative feelings she has two options, she can bang the dishes loudly, slam the cabinet doors, trudge between her husband and the TV with an extra large load of laundry and then be aloof and distant the rest of the evening after the children have been put to bed.  (I’m sure I am not the only one who has pulled this stunt.)  That kind of behavior is childish and leaves her poor husband clueless about the reason for her actions.

A better solution would be to tuck the kids in bed or better still hire a baby-sitter and go out and then discuss the options for sharing housework.  Of course a man who works all day should not be expected to come home and work all evening helping with the housework.  In my opinion, I think a man or either spouse who works outside the home should have a few minutes to unwind when he gets home.  I also think it is not asking too much to assume that the wife who stays home will have a nice dinner ready when her husband gets home.  However, a husband should help clean up the dishes, play with the kids, put his own clothes away or do whatever he can to help out.  Just playing with the kids while she goes for a walk or has a few minutes to herself can really make a woman feel better.

If both spouse’s work, then of course there should be a plan to divide the workload of chores around the house.  As children get older, chores should be assigned to them.   Even a preschooler can put away her toys and help fold the towels.  A teenager can learn to do the yard work or clean the pool.  Involving children in the chores helps them learn responsibility and the value of work.  Working together as a family to prepare a meal, clean the house or do the yard work can be a great time to talk and build family relationships.

Of course it all goes back to expressing your expectations to your spouse.  Learn to communicate in a positive way.  Don’t expect your spouse to read you mind.  If you need help from your spouse ask for it. Keep a positive attitude about the chores.  You might consider making a chore chart each week so everyone knows what they are expected to do.  Be flexible and considerate of each other.   Don’t keep a check list of all you do and compare it to all your spouse does.  Remember the more you do to show your love to your spouse, the more your spouse will return that love to you.

The Martins currently present “Happy Together” marriages seminars for churches and organizations.  To schedule a seminar call Michael at 940-735-1515. They also publish a weekly “Happy Together” Blog about family and marriage issues.  You can order copies of their new books Dancing With Death and 366 Tidbits We Have Learned in 14,610 Days of Marriage, read, and subscribe to their “Happy Together” Blog by logging onto the Martin’s website at


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