Our research suggests that the following strategies may help increase fairness and gratitude in relationships.
People who find themselves doing more than their fair share of the housework can:
• Avoid repeatedly performing a task they don’t want to “own,” especially when first living with their partner. From the time they first start living together, each partner should take turns at many different tasks, so they can both own those tasks down the line.
• Communicate to their partner when they feel a task should be performed, rather than waiting for the partner’s threshold level to be reached—and resenting them for their lack of awareness.
• Express appreciation for the work their partner does do, even if that work doesn’t meet the highest standard. Statements of appreciation—rather than criticism for not doing a task correctly or for doing it too late—are more likely to encourage repetition and improvement.
People who are doing less than their fair share of housework can:
• Perform tasks before they seem necessary or bothersome. One easy strategy for following through on this is to stick to a schedule for specific tasks.
• Be mindful of the work their partner is doing and remember to express gratitude for it routinely, which should make their partner feel less taken for granted.
Both partners can:
• Write down a list of their tasks, then switch lists (and tasks) for a week or month to better understand their partner’s contributions.
• Understand how different “response thresholds” can influence their partner’s perception of the housework, which should help them address their partner in a calmer, less accusing fashion.
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About The Author
Jess Alberts, Ph.D., is President’s Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University; her research interests include conflict, relationship communication, and the division of labor.