• Clarifying Expectations: How Working Couples Can Manage Familial Responsibilities

Clarifying Expectations: How Working Couples Can Manage Familial Responsibilities

January 4, 2016

One of the largest sources of stress for working couples is the lack of clarity about how to manage home responsibilities.  Unfortunately, for some couples, there are unspoken, gendered expectations about who should handle particular duties.  For instance, although both couples may work the same amount of hours, a husband may feel that his wife should manage the cooking, cleaning, and childcare tasks at home.  Although it is not always discussed, this lack of clarity can cause tension and conflict, resulting in feelings of resentment, frustration and anger.  Here are some tips about communicating expectations to improve your relational functioning:


  1. Discuss your preferences and commit to a strategy – explore how some of the duties can be divided up in an equitable, if not equal, manner.  You may decide to share the same duties, but take on different days (e.g. cooking), or you might choose to each take on different tasks (e.g. one partner does the laundry, another washes the dishes, etc.).  
  2. Problem solve together – if the initial arrangement proves to be unmanageable, sit down with your partner to strategize alternative arrangements.  It may take a few attempts to find the optimal solution.
  3. Communicate your feelings – if you feel that your partner is not living up to his or her end of the bargain, it is important that you communicate your feelings about it, without attacking him or her.  You might say, “when the dishes aren’t washed, I feel overwhelmed.”
  4. Consistently evaluate progress – lack of communication or miscommunication can often lead to conflict.  Therefore, it is critical to check in periodically with your partner to find out how the arrangement is working for him or her.

Embrace that is a collaborative effort – it is important to acknowledge that working full-time and managing a household is a challenging endeavor, and needs a team effort.  Talking to your partner about this reality and accepting that both partners need to contribute in manner that it is fair to both parties, can prove to be liberating and beneficial to the overall health of your relationship.

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