Are you a woman? Are you a woman currently making a to-do list in your head while answering a work email, getting dinner started, and texting your husband the grocery list? Then a recent Swedish study recently reported something you probably already knew—ladies are feeling kind of stressed. Something you may not have known? At age 21, men and women report about the same amount of psychological distress. But by age 42, men were sitting pretty while women’s stress levels were up.
And it seems that the unfair division of stress may be due to unfair division of labor—we’re talking household chores. I knew vacuuming was no good for me!
But there’s a twist, so don’t set fire to your cleaning supplies just yet—it turns out out that as long as the woman in the relationship felt like an equal to her partner, the risk of extra distress disappeared, even if she was doing more than her fair share of scrubbing and mopping. But if she felt like there was some gender inequality within the relationship, her level of distress was higher—think restlessness, concentration problems, and anxiety. A big bowl of no fun, basically.
Psychologist Jill Weber, PhD, told WebMD.com that “It is not the work per se. It’s the feeling that the woman is not getting support from her partner. Inequality often translates as a lack of emotional support.”
Alright, so how do you make for a more equal and supportive environment within your relationship? Here are our tips:
Start by talking. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or taken for granted when it comes to division of labor at home, speak up.
Timing is everything. Find a calm, quiet time to bring up the topic—it won’t go over as well when you’re wielding the Swiffer like a weapon.
Tune in. Maybe it’s not you but your partner that’s feeling overwhelmed. Try to pick up on subtle comments like “I cleaned the toilet. Again.” or less subtle signs like if your partner throws your belongings on the front lawn.
Make a plan. Maybe you’re in charge of dishes and sweeping and they’re in charge of mopping and vacuuming. Or they take the bathroom and kitchen and you take the living room and bedroom. When in doubt, plan it out…that way, both of you feel like you’ve had a hand in divvying things up fairly.
Or just eliminate the problem all together. No, don’t off your significant other. If you’re in the financial position to do so, why not hire a housekeeper to come in and tidy up every couple of weeks or take some things off your plate? Having a little help tidying up—and keeping the chores balanced—may be just the thing to keep the peace in your relationship.
Consider a neutral third party. If there’s resentment brewing over real or perceived inequality within the relationship, chances are that it’s affecting way more than your Saturday morning clean. Don’t be afraid to take your issues to a marriage counselor before they get out of hand.