Who should deal with the dirty dishes?

An interesting post I encountered in one of my favorite subreddits, r/AmItheAsshole (AITA) was entitled “AITA If I Get Mad Over My Husband Not Doing the Dishes?“. Reading the post prompted a callback to several similar opinions about household chores in a lot of Reddit posts, including basic questions of who does what or even sexist remarks about how women should be serving their husbands.

One thing is extremely important when it comes to deciding who does what—communicating expectations.

Doing chores is one of the things that Dane and I talked about early on. I specifically hate washing dishes out of all household chores. I’ve done it for a very long time when I was younger so it felt like I capped out on dishwashing activities in this lifetime.

I remember telling him that I’m willing to do all other chores except washing the dishes and cleaning the toilet. Those two things were activities he was willing to take on and that he does so well today.

But aside from being clear on who does what, it’s a lot about making it known when there’s something that’s important to you.

What triggered me to write this post was actually reading a story entitled, “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” A guy who realized that leaving dishes by the sink wasn’t a big deal to him, but so much of a big deal to his wife but it was too late. And it wasn’t even really about the drinking glass or the plate he didn’t put in the dishwasher. It was the deliberate decision not to that felt so disrespectful to her.

When Dane and I started living together, I quickly realized that Dane throws his dirty clothes into the laundry as-is. That meant that whether one of the legs of his pants were inside out or that his boxers are still caught within his pants, he’ll throw it in the bag all the same. This bothered me a lot because it looks so sloppy and it meant that those pieces of clothing weren’t getting cleaned in the wash properly. That bothered me a lot for some reason so I brought it up to him. Now he makes sure to put them properly and we’ve never had to discuss it ever again.

He knew it was important to me, and that’s why he did something about it.

Having expectations and communicating them are two separate things. And sometimes, having just one conversation about it is so much easier than passive-aggressively hinting or complaining to yourself whenever it bothers you.

Couples have different dynamics when it comes to living together. But in my opinion, there are two clear ways to decide who should do what chore.

Who has more time?

Both Dane and I have work. However, he reports to the office five times a week while I’m only required two days. Even if we both work the same hours, he’s physically not at home, while I can easily spare a few minutes here and there in the middle of the day to sneak in loads of laundry, cook meals, or sweep the floor.

But even though we were both working from home, Dane’s work is more time-sensitive while I’m more output-based. So essentially, my time is more flexible as long as I get things done.

If one of you works long hours and the other has more idle time, then it’s easier to step in logistically because you equally have the same 24 hours to spend in a day. Imagine if one of you works 40 hours a week while the other 70, the latter would end up too exhausted to use the remainder of his 24 hours to do chores while the other is free.

It’s not to say that it’s fair and it penalizes the one with the privileges, but at the end of the day, there are times that one needs to puts in more weight because it’s a partnership, not a competition.

The one with the higher standards

Dane has a knack with cleaning (something I only learned when we started living together). His patience is so far up than mine when it comes to cleaning tough stains and he’s a lot more obsessive-compulsive when he puts his cleaning lady hat on. He has higher standards when it comes to that so I leave it up to him to uphold them.

On the other hand, I like things organized—properly folded clothes, items that are not in use are stored in labeled boxes, Excel sheets to manage the household, the works. Compared to me, he doesn’t care as much that his cables and other equipment are just out in the open or that meat, veggies, and poultry are stored in the same packaging they came in. That he leaves up to me. And I’m glad to make sure everything is neat, orderly, easy to look at, and functional for our use cases. Plus it makes me happy.

At the end of it all, keep in mind that it’s never about winning. Household chores (especially if there are kids) will never be a 50/50 split because two (or more) people live different lives and have different strengths and weaknesses. As long as it’s a relationship that knows how to compromise and communicate, then every hurdle is going to be much easier to deal with.

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