Resentment, animosity, jealousy, hurt and loneliness are not words anyone wants to use to describe the partnership they have with your spouse. What do spouses fight over? Marriage failure statistics do not agree on the primary reasons for divorce. I have seen money troubles, communication difficulties, and an uneven distribution of weight in the relationship as some of the most frequently cited reasons from couples counselors and divorce attorneys alike. If we look into those reasons, it wouldn’t be difficult deduce that the concept of domestic labor disputes are a common thread! Feelings of inequality in a relationship will lead to resentment, animosity, jealousy, hurt and emotional loneliness. From there it is not a far leap to end up with an affair, substance abuse or domestic violence (three of the other top cited reasons for divorce.)
If this topic is important to you and you have not yet read The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, you need to. You can find a summary of her key points here, however I’d recommend a full read. Melinda covers a lot of ground in this book on gender inequities around the world; however, I want to tune-in particularly to the equality gap found within domestic labor in the home. Melinda refers to tasks such as cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and running errands as “unpaid work” and in this article I am using the term “domestic labor”, they are one in the same. Melinda cites research that finds a gap in all cultures (in India for example it’s 6:1 with women doing 6 hours of unpaid work per day and men doing 1, in the United States the ration is 4:2.5. There is clearly a disparity that needs to be addressed and openly discussed in homes across the world.
My stance, albeit controversial, is that there is not a way to have a truly even distribution of domestic labor and furthermore, trying to achieve a truly even distribution will reek havoc on your marriage as one person will always feel like they did more. Someone will feel that their load of laundry had more socks in it, the day they mowed the lawn was hotter, the kids were harder to control when they had them…
A marriage is a partnership, it is a mutually agreed upon relationship in which you and your spouse agree to work toward common goals. These common goals include keeping the house, maintaining the the yard, parenting the children, etc. all in agreed upon conditions. In general, I agree that there should be an equal division of labor…over a long period of time (such a a year). I suggest looking at longer periods of time because it is a normal life occurrence for each partner to have natural ebbs and flows in their career/paid workload (such as tax season for an accountant), their health (perhaps pregnancy or after an injury or surgery), or the demands of their extended family (such as taking care of their ailing parents). Partners need to have faith that if their partner is not able to keep up their end of the workload for periods of time, there is not a personal insult attached. The tides will turn back to normal and there will also be times where the workload tips completely in the other direction.
All of that being said, if you look at a longer chunk of time (such as one year) and feel the balance is lacking, it is time for a conversation. Gaslighting, excuses, defensiveness and blame would all be red flags. A respectful conversation about workload can and should happen several times throughout the year to share feelings and prevent the build up of negativity.