Fighting Dirty

A recent survey has shown that sharing chores is the key to a happy marriage. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be married, because while Dave and I live together and have been committed to each other for a quite a while, either of us can leave at any time. But I think this survey can be applied to our relationship.

Since we moved in together we’ve had this recurring fight, sort of like a recurring nightmare, only I can’t wake myself up before the tornado destroys me (I have recurring tornado nightmares). We fight about chores. Okay, so we also fight about “Why are men jerks?” but that’s another story. The Chores Fight usually starts with me being infuriated by dish washing and then wondering why I’m always washing these damned dishes.

Common Scenario:

I’m standing at the sink washing dishes and look at the clock to see 20 minutes has rolled by. I remember that there is also a pile of clothes on the bed that needs folding. I’m wiped out from taking care of customers for eight hours, and all I want to do is crawl in bed and watch a movie.

I look over at Dave to see him checking on a message board or scouring Flickr and my blood pressure climbs. I ask him, like a mother asks her son, to go fold the clothes. He says okay and goes back to the Internet. My blood pressure climbs some more.

Eventually, I’m in tears and yelling at him about something I asked him to do weeks ago that was never done and has nothing to do with laundry or dishes. In that moment I am losing my mind. I get a blank stare, and then, “Oh, you meant fold the clothes now.”

I’m trying not to let myself think of all this in terms of gender. I know plenty of guys who clean their living spaces, because they like their living spaces clean. I guess the root of the problem is: What do you do, other than hire a maid, when one person likes their home to be clean and the other doesn’t care?


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  1. * lauren says:

    We have the same problem w/r/t to folding the laundry. I think Mike is afraid he will burst into flames if he actually has to fold something.

    We’ve established that dishwashing is Mike’s job. At first I used to get so angry as the dishes started to pile up and then in a rage do it myself. Now I’ve learned to ignore the gnats and foul stench until my roommate does his job. And, in fact, his timeliness has improved quite a bit.

    I always clean the bathroom. We share laundry duty, but I always fold the clothes (*evil eye stare toward Mike*). I usually feed and give water to Lula in the morning and Mike cleans Lula’s vomit. We share litterbox cleaning, but Mike usually handles the bulk of it. He also gets to give her treats everyday b/c he gets home first so she likes him better.

    Neither of us ever likes to dust. That’s gonna be an issue at the new place I bet. Maybe we should get a maid.

    I also think I am going to buy one of those little mini-portable dishwashers.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  2. * mike says:

    My roommate has a habit of not washing off her dishes, so I end up spending an extra twenty minutes scrubbing dried cereal or rice and disgusting old lettuce bits off the plates. She also pretends that any chore I do that she does not witness firsthand does not count.

    But I cope.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  3. * lauren says:

    BTW, I cleaned up some wickedly gross cat vomit this morning.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  4. * mike says:

    Did Lula make poopie in her poopiebox?

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  5. * ~A says:

    Get a maid.

    Or, well, just deal with creating a system that you can live with and work out some compromises with your partner ’til you both agree on something.

    Put it in writing: It probably sounds like overkill to put it in writing you both can be totally sincere and honest in the conversation but really, truly honestly disagree over something that was discussed – or, you could both have wildly different interpretations about what one thing another actually means/meant. Also, try comparing this overkill to your own crying and screaming about other things: you’d probably want to the overkill to go into avoiding those occasions rather than having them.

    Figure in “or else” clauses: Your partner will do his/her part “or else” blah blah blah. It shouldn’t be mean or unrealistic but s/he should do his/her part within agreed-upon standards (“sweeping the floor” could be different to two people – what should the end result of a swept floor look like?) – if s/he doesn’t then the “or else” could be: “You will wash full load of laundry a week or else you will pay for an hour massage for me that weekend.”

    Of course, you don’t want to put everything down in writing – only those most important things and/or things that have already come up as pet peeves.
    Also, it may not all be things that should happen but could include things that should not happen. You might want the dishes rinsed before left in the sink and she might want you to stop placing her fragile, hand-made childhood mug in the dishwasher. You know?

    After all that, I still believe the key to a happy home may be to have someone clean it for you once a month. Pay someone the $50 – $60 to visit once and month when you both leave the house and just do all the windows, dusting, ironing, etc. and you’ll find you’re both happier with each other more of the time and that your outlook on life has also actually improved.

    (*Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried any of these and I’m just making them right now while typing furiously fast in a rush under the weight of many projects at work but they sound pretty good to me.)

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  6. * Rebekah says:

    ~A, you’re a genius. You should be an advice columnist. Seriously.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  7. * ~A says:

    good title, by the way.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  8. * lauren says:

    ~A, I think you need to come to Chicago and oversee said “Chore Agreement” contract.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  9. * mike says:

    Fuck it. We’re getting a maid.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago

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