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Do You Share Housework? Five Steps to Putting an End to Chore Wars

Meeting and marrying a man who had been single for thirteen years before I came along has definite advantages. 

One of his most appealing qualities was his facility with household chores. He did his own laundry (a huge plus) and while he had a housekeeper, he kept his home neatly, took out his own trash, and cleaned the cat box for his elderly kitty.

Now that we have been together for a few years, we started experiencing a little tension around who should be in charge of what tasks around the house. We didn’t talk about it much and I could feel some resentment creeping in as I took on the cat poo-poo responsibilities and I could sense in him the same as he took out the trash and recycling.

In my first marriage, there were very strong traditional lines drawn with household jobs. There were women’s tasks and men’s tasks and I lived with a lot of unrecognized resentment. I say unrecognized because I really and truly thought that I was not resentful. Needless to say, our lives were full of passive aggressive behavior from both sides.

One of the keys to the success of our second marriage is that we are both determined to stay open to one another and to work out our differences before they become too big to manage. The cool thing is that having that as our main focus brings a lot of creativity in dealing with piddly distractions like who does what around the house.

Hence, the Zone Method was born.

“Honey?” I said, batting my cute little eyes, “What if we divided the house into zones and took charge of our own zone on a daily basis?”

Looking at me a bit suspiciously, after all, his ex never approached him like this, he asked for more details. I explained what I had in mind. Zone one would be the kitchen and zone two would be the living room and dining room. He liked the idea. We could switch zones weekly so that neither would get tired of doing the same chores all the time. We agreed to have our zone done by four in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, we still are in charge of our own laundry, although I have been known to toss a few pairs of panties in with his clothes now and then to keep him on his toes! We each clean a cat box and we often share cooking and cleaning up for each other. We make the bed together every day … I have to say, this one is more important to him than me. I slept in an unmade bed most of the time when I was single … a member of the “It-is-only-going-to-get-messed-up-anyway” club.

The result? We have a nicely straightened house most of the time. Each of us knows what is expected of us by the other partner and there is none of that sneaky resentment stuff creeping in. I love the Zone Method and so does my hubby. If you want to try it yourself, here are some tips:

1. Both of you write two lists: the household tasks that you don’t mind doing and the ones you hate doing. Sometimes one of your hated tasks is one your partner doesn’t mind doing at all. This is a great starting point for creating your zones.

2. Agree on two to three tasks that will always be your responsibility. Perhaps it will be your laundry as it is with my hubby and me. We also are in charge of our offices.

3. Pick at least one task you can do together. We cook and clean the kitchen together at least once a week and we also do projects like gardening or cleaning the garage to work on together. We put on some tunes and beebop our way through the task at hand.

4. Once you pick your zones, agree on a schedule to switch so that you are fresh and motivated to deal with your zone. When we first started, Larry chose to do the kitchen as a permanent zone. I had the living room and dining room. Well, he tired of the kitchen after a month or so and we switched. I love doing the kitchen now after a month off and he is happily taking care of the other rooms.

5. Celebrate your success. Compliment your partner on his or her zone. Tell your partner not only how much up appreciate your newly ordered home, but how very much you appreciate the attitude of cooperation that is happening. Resentment has no place in a soulmate relationship and with plans like the Zone Method, you can keep those love fires burning!