How To Share Relationship Roles Equally

Making It Fair: Who Will Do What and Why?

(Note: print this worksheet)

Why Roles Are Important?

1. Roles relate to how couples handle leadership responsibilities and divide household

2. As a couple, you will be involved in an almost endless number of activities and responsibilities.

3. Each couple must discuss together and decide who is most competent to do which tasks.

4. Roles must be defined around interests and skills, not on traditional roles.

What Does History Tell Us?

1. Women played the role of housekeeper, cook, nanny, dishwasher, dietitian, gardener, tutor, and so on. She was responsible for taking care of the household and children. Her role was defined around sensitivity and understanding.

2. Men played the role of financial provider, accountant, handyman, referee, manager, and so on. He was responsible for having a career and making decisions. His role was defined around aggression and logic.

3. The historical definition created many stumbling blocks. The roles were rigid and restrictive, and created a strong division between spouses. This separated the couple and led to a lack of sharing, less intimacy, lower self-esteem and relationship satisfaction, more hostility and stress, and feelings of rejection, aloneness and imbalance.

Are Attitudes and Expectations Changing?

In a survey (Thornton, 1997) of 555 married couples, the findings showed that women still bear almost all of the responsibility for housework. Even if a husband believes he should share responsibility for cooking, doing the laundry, and shopping for groceries, shared responsibility is more of an ideal than a reality. Women who work full-time still do the majority of housework. Women do 66%, while men do 13% of the housework.

Women's Contribution to the Problem

Studies show that many women do not want to give up control they have in the home. They may have a hard time surrendering some of their responsibilities to their husbands because so much of their identity is tied to home and children, just as a man's identity is stereotypically tied to his work. Many men find that when they try to do their share of housework and childcare, they are often critiqued and judged by their wives to the point of feeling discouraged.

What are the Key Ingredients for Improving the Quality of Your Role Relationship?

1. Remove gender from housework. Talk about and divide housework based on interests and skills rather than on gender.

2. Work to develop and maintain an equal relationship in terms of power and decision-making.

3. Keep an ongoing discussion of your expectations and feelings regarding roles and changes you would like.

4. Working together on tasks as a team works best for most couples.

5. Be flexible and be open to change.

What are some of the benefits of an equally balanced couple relationship?

1. Greater relationship satisfaction.

2. More sincere and shared types of influence.

3. Less depression, hostility, stress, anxiety and irritation.

4. Increased intimacy, self-esteem, closeness and comfort.

Improving Role Relationship

1. Forget about "helping."

2. Erase the idea of "lending a hand." Helping someone implies that the job is that person's responsibility in the first place.

3. You take equal responsibility for the functions of the household tasks.

4. Household tasks are the responsibility of both partners. Both take equal ownership in their joint partnership/home.

Household Tasks: His and Hers

1. Take an inventory of all the things you do around the house and all things your partner does around the house. For example: cooking, cleaning, doing yard work, caring for a child, grocery shopping. Separately, your partner must also create the same two lists.

Things You Do Around the House










Things Your Partner Does Around the House










2. Compare and discuss your lists, after you have completed the inventory. Focus on what you each would like to change about who handles what household tasks.

3. Revise your current lists, finalizing an agreement about tasks that you will each do next week. Set a time to review the new lists.