Not too long ago, one of the couples counseling accounts I follow on instagram posted a reel about not putting up with the bare minimum in dating. They referenced things like”actually getting a text back” and “liking your instagram post.”
I thought it was a great post, and I left a comment about how in my relationship, when my partner does the dishes and looks at me with pride, I tell him “congratulations on being a participating member of this relationship.”
Guys, I got some hate for that. (Mostly from men). They seemed upset that I wouldn’t just thank my partner and move on, or that he had to do dishes in the first place? I found that pretty interesting and it made me start to think about couples who split chores and how to split chores in a relationship. I’ll break down the comments for you and share my insight as a therapist about how to split chores with your partner- skip story time and go straight to the tips here.
Starting with my relationship and the hate I received for my comment: I am a cis woman in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship with a cis man. I believe this is relevant and important to point out because of perceived gender rules and norms that might not exist in every relationship.
Let me tell you where I was coming from with my comment. The comment was not a joke, but it was lighthearted. I do and have actually said “thank you for participating in this relationship” to my partner for something as simple as doing the dishes. However, that is not to say that I don’t also thank him for doing things around the house. I want to build a culture of appreciation in my relationship so giving gratitude is important to me. We have a lighthearted and fun relationship, and if you’ve ever met me, you know that I use humor often. So does my partner, it is one of the reasons we get along so well.
In my comment example, I referenced doing the dishes. This is a chore that we all need to do, as adult humans. It isn’t going the extra mile in a relationship by any means. We live together, and doing the dishes is part of maintaining the household. Like I said above, I make a point to say “thank you” and express gratitude for things like this- taking out the garbage, cooking dinner, unloading the dishwasher- technically what I would consider to be bare minimum tasks, they are still deserving of appreciation. However, sometimes I bring in humor. In the case of the dishes comment, it is a way to bring in humor to remind my partner that we are in a partnership, a relationship, and we both have responsibilities.
So let me share with you some of the hate I got on this comment.
1. “Does he call you mom when he finishes doing the dishes” (this one was in super broken english so I’m taking some creative liberty on translation).
I’m assuming this person believes that it is the woman’s job to maintain the household and do the dishes and take care of the man. This is an old patriarchal belief system of the infantilized male and the motherly, caretaking female. I am not his mother, I do not pay him an allowance, he is a fully grown adult. We have had, and continue to have, conversations about chores in the home, which I will tell you more about below.
2. “It's the same when women give money to help build the household”
I’m not totally sure what this person means. I think it is along the lines of the old belief system that men go out and make money while women stay home and maintain the household. So, if I were to go out and make money, it would only require a “thanks for participating in this relationship” from my partner. That old paradigm doesn’t work today. Most households are dual income (53% according to a quick google search). I’m honestly shocked by this number; I thought it would be much higher. My partner and I live together in southern California and support ourselves. It would be damn near impossible for me to not have an income and for us to live the lifestyle that we do. In the sake of transparency, he does make more money than I do. Again, we will talk more about that below.
3. “Doesn’t take a minute to say thank you tho lmao”
Yes, I agree. It doesn’t take a minute to say thank you. If this comment is all you know about me, this response makes sense.
4. “Sounds like a great way to breed resentment”
Ah, breeding resentment. I think that for this person, this is really true. All that means to me though is that this is not a person who would be happy in a relationship with me. We all have different wants and needs, temperaments and expectations. And that’s ok. This is where the nuance comes in- yeah, if I was only ever giving comments like this to my partner and never actually showing genuine gratitude, then I wouldn’t be surprised to breed some resentment. It sucks to do things (even bare minimum adult things) without appreciation. And honestly, if we want to break it down, we could be in a relationship where he does only his dishes and I do only mine. That is a possibility for people, in which case doing my dishes would be a huge favor and absolutely deserve thanks.
5. “Good luck being single eventually. Bet he doesn’t wanna do it again”
Woof. Ok. This person is threatening that I will get broken up with AND that my partner will no longer want to help around the house. Again, a huge indicator that I could not be in a relationship with this person. Can we talk about how “good luck being single eventually” is meant to be a threat of sorts? Listen, I love my partner dearly and hope to be with him for a very long time, and I also understand that it might not work out. People change and grow apart sometimes and that’s just life. However, I know with 100% certainty that our relationship is NOT going to end because I use humor to thank him for participating. Honestly though, thanks for wishing me luck if I am ever single again, random instagram person, because I will definitely need it with the way dating seems to be going.
So what can we learn about relationships, splitting chores, and showing appreciation?
That it is going to look different in every relationship. These 5 commenters have NO idea what my relationship is like. They are projecting based on one interaction that I described in an instagram comment on a reel. Hopefully, it makes them aware of what they want in their own relationships so that they can have open and honest conversations about expectations because avoiding those hard conversations is actually what breeds resentment. So is using sarcasm and cynicism, as well as a condescending tone and yes, threats will surely end a relationship.
How to separate chores without hating your partner
My partner and I have had numerous conversations about expectations and continue to do so over time. He works in an office and I work out of the home. He works 40+ hours per week, plus has a commute, and I work closer to 30 probably. I work for myself, he works for a big company. He makes significantly more money than I do (right now, as I build my empire). ALL of these facts, and more, go into our conversations about household chores and responsibilities. We also don’t have black and white rules about what gets down and how. We ask each other for help when needed, and we show appreciation.
Since I work from home, more of the household chores naturally fall on me. I do the dishes more often than he does, I cook more meals, I set delivery appointments around my schedule, etc… When we go out to eat, he normally pays, but I pay sometimes because it feels nice to have a meal bought for you and I want to give that to him. We’ve talked about creating a joint account for food, but it hasn’t happened yet.
We split our mortgage unevenly, him paying more because he makes more money. This was a difficult conversation to have because he originally believed that everything should be split equally financially, without taking time, energy, or income into consideration. I keep a running list of household needs like toilet paper, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc… and I do most of the shopping related to those things. Sometimes I’ll ask him to Venmo me half or sometimes I don’t. Sometimes we shop together and split payment in the store.
This is just a little bit of insight into what works in our relationship, which might not work in yours. Again, that’s ok! It is up to you and whomever you share your life with to decide what works best for you. You may even try something, find it doesn’t work so well, and pivot to try something else. Also ok. Also normal.
How to Split Chores in a Relationship
Here are 5 tips on how to split chores in your relationship.
Communicate expectations. This is one of the most important aspects of a relationship that many people don’t consciously think about. You need to know what you want in your relationship and you need to be able to communicate that to your partner. Do you refuse to clean the toilet? They need to know that. Do you love scrubbing dishes and don’t want them to ruin your fun? They should know that too. This is an ongoing conversation that will fluctuate over the course of your relationship, but standards and expectations should be clear.
Don’t play games. Skipping step 1 often leads to step 2. This could also be called “Don’t be passive aggressive” or “leaving it until they notice is ineffective.” Take cleaning the toilet from above; you hate it and refuse to do it. If you don’t communicate that to your partner and just never do it, they might notice, or they might not. If they do notice, either they won’t care and will clean it, or they will care and will start to feel resentment toward you for never cleaning the toilet. Either way, when we play games or act passive aggressively, one person ends up feeling shitty. Sometimes both. Avoid that by going back to step number 1 and communicate your needs and expectations.
Don’t criticize their style. Using the toilet example again, if you refuse to clean the toilet but don’t like the way your partner cleans it- that does not mean that you then get to criticize the way they clean. It means you get to accept how they do it or do it yourself. The way around this is to request they do it differently. But if they don’t take you up on that request, that’s their choice.
Build a culture of appreciation. As we saw in my story above, sometimes chores are just the bare minimum of being adults. We have to take care of our space. With that said, it still feels nice to hear “thank you” and “good job.” Feel free to use humor if that’s a part of your relationship. Make sure that you are thanking your partner or expressing gratitude for them in some way each day.
Hire outside help if possible. Listen, chores suck. Sometimes we don’t have the time, energy, mental capacity or skill to do them. That’s ok. If it is available and accessible to you and your partner, hire someone! Getting outside help will free up time and energy that you can spend elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with getting help, even with tasks of regular ol’ adulting.
Let me know what you think! Which chores do you absolutely hate? (I legit hate doing the dishes so I make sure to use gratitude more than humor).
Kaylin is a licensed therapist in Orange County, California and creator of intentional living for the chaotic mind. With an all virtual practice, Kaylin is able to provide therapy to anyone in the state of California, and can coach individuals located anywhere.