Modeled on parents, friends…or you?

It seems that the practice of delegating household responsibilities is based more on traditional roles of our parents or other couples rather than the pragmatic and realistic abilities of the married partners. This is one of matrimony’s ironies and traditional idiosyncrasies, which compared to the expectations of one’s professional life, does not make sense. For example, from the first job we get as a young person, to later positions of responsibility and income, there is always some outline of expected responsibilities. Some are broad and general, so that there is room for individuality and creative thinking, others are very specific and task oriented. We expect, and therefore accept, that our job has certain expectations. When put in writing (as in a job description) we can be reminded, set priorities and take action so that fulfillment of these responsibilities meet the expectations. Home expectations often have the same challenges as work and thus a similar structure can help partners to remember, to set priorities, and take action in getting the ‘job done.’

The new order

With the complications of modern marriage, establishing the responsibilities of daily home life are critical. Traditional arrangements often no longer work successfully with a two income household. Therefore a candid discussion about the subject is not only critical but essential to the mental health and environment of the married couple. This is a conversation that should be backed up have some note taking and even some formal guidelines written for future reference. Though this may seem a little extreme, especially when you are in love with that special man or woman, it is inevitable that household responsibilities will become an issue of ‘whose job is it’. In fact, with a two income marriage it can become a major issue. Even in a traditional single income household, with one spouse staying at home, there still needs to be a realistic outline of expectations for one another.

Obviously, it can be difficult to project the needs of a new household with two of you living together as partners. However, by simply using your own experiences and the list of categories below you’ll certainly find many things to talk about.

Responsibilities to consider

For example here are some of the major categories of responsibilities:

And some tough questions…

Below are some important questions that should fuel a lively conversation about the ‘how, who, what, where, and when’ of daily responsibilities. Be prepared to get hot by: keeping cool; staying on track; being objective; and, most importantly, fair to each others needs and abilities.

These questions are intended for both you and your future partner to answer. Take time to hear each one out and remember this is a learning opportunity. Though your opinion may strongly differ, first take time to explain your position so that you both have information about each other. Then armed with knowledge of each other’s viewpoint, you can begin to uncover the compromises and agreements that will make you both happy.

1. What do you think makes a home a comfortable and livable environment?

2. What is intolerable to you? What is tolerable to you?

3. What areas of the home are important to you and what do you want to have control and say in?

4. If one of us feels there is some inequity in the division of responsibilities, how do we correct that?

5. What is your vision of how a household is run? How do you see these categories divided between us?

6. If one of us is away, sick or unable to fulfill the responsibilities, what happens?

7. If hiring outside help to take care of these responsibilities is an option, would you agree to using a service? If not, explain your reasons against outside workers. What would convince you otherwise?

8. Given the varied chores on the inside and outside of our home, which ones do you think you’d enjoy doing the most? The least? Which ones do you feel you can’t do? Won’t do?

9. How are we going to manage our combined income? Separate or one single account? How will the paying of bills, balancing bank accounts, deposits etc. be handled? How will the short-term and long-term investing and saving plans be divided or share? Who determines, if not both, questions relating to investing?

10. When entertaining your friends, my friends, and, or, our friends describe how you see our roles and responsibilities?

11. Does it make a difference whose friends it is?

12. What is your style(s) of entertaining? Will you accommodate my style?

13. Is the pet(s) yours, mine or ours?

14. How are the responsibilities of pets shared? What do we do with them when we can’t take them with us on a trip etc….? Where do you see pets fitting and not fitting into our lives?

15. Do you have any desires, plans, goals to have more pets? Explain

In our final article, we discuss planning for the future.