A recent study done at Ohio State University found that when couples have their first child, both spouses think that their workload has increased by equal amounts. The highly educated, dual-career couples in the study actually overestimated their increased workload, but by widely varying amounts. As it turns out, in actuality, women end up bearing the larger portion of work that comes from a new baby. Prior to the baby being born, many of these couples shared equally in the household chores. After the child is born neither parent is cutting back on their paid work, but women are assuming the bulk of the childcare.
How often do couples keep score over tasks or conflicts? Unfortunately, this is a common issue in couple’s counseling since many of the people I work with are competitive, stubborn, and strong-willed. Often couples argue over who has done more around the house or who contributes more to the relationship. The conflict often digresses quickly into arguing about past behaviors. Before long couples are using “always and never” to emphasize their point and create a better argument. Ironically, when couples argue, the reality of the situation is quickly distorted and each side has either magnified or minimized the problem to support their position.
Scorekeeping doesn’t work! It results in resentment and detachment over time. Instead, work on being a team, reinforce when your partner is helpful, and request help when you need it. The key to this process is the approach, timing, and attitude. Speak respectfully to each other using requests rather than commands, and appreciate the efforts that are made by your partner. We all have different talents, different needs, different personalities and different expectations. Accept your differences and stop trying to make your partner more like you. Remember the “Golden Rule,” treat others like you want to be treated. We can accomplish more when we work together rather than competing with each other. Whether facing the demands of children or other issues, getting on the same team will result in a more peaceful life.