Whether it’s the laundry piles, the broken fridge or the kids’ relentless schedules, the breakdown of household chores can significantly impact relationships in various ways, both positively and negatively. Dr. Regina Lark, an expert on relationships, with a particular focus on emotional labor, says that when one partner feels they're shouldering more of the household chores, it can breed resentment. “This emotion can simmer and, over time, result in more significant disagreements or tension in the relationship.” On the flip side, however, when both partners contribute equally and acknowledge each other's efforts, “it fosters a sense of value and appreciation, strengthening the relationship's bond,” says Dr. Lark. Here, we break down the biggest chore-related mistakes couples make and how to overcome them.
1. Not cleaning up after oneself. This can be anything from leaving dirty dishes in the sink to not taking out the trash. “Typically,” says Dr. Lark, “we see one person constantly cleaning up after the other and can see no amount of cajoling, nor expressions of frustration reminding the other adult to ‘Please clean-up after yourself!’ resulting in resentment and frustration.” Overall, it shows a lack of respect for your partner’s time and effort.“When you leave a mess behind, you're essentially saying that you don't care that your partner will have to clean it up,” explains Dr. Lark.
2. Having different standards. In many cases, one partner might be content with a bit of clutter, while the other needs things to be spotless. These differing standards can lead to conflict if not discussed. If couples don't talk about how much time and effort each chore requires, they may have unrealistic expectations about how much their partner can do, which again, may lead to disappointment and conflict.
3. Forgetting about “invisible labor.” Whatever you call it—invisible work, emotional labor, mental load—these terms, says Dr. Lark, encompass the tasks that often go unnoticed or unacknowledged but are essential for the smooth running of a household. “These tasks, although not always tangible, are critical to the well-being of the family, and to family happiness.” Yes, all that nudging and Google-cal making is part of the household chore list. “The most common invisible work-tasks include all of the remembering and reminding—about birthday and dental appointments, or meal planning and getting a date on the calendar for a romantic night out,” confirms Dr. Lark.