“There is no 50/50 in housecleaning, child rearing, vacation planning, dishwasher emptying, gift buying, dinner making, money making, etc. The sooner everyone accepts that, the happier everyone is. We all have things we like to do and hate to do; we all have things we are good at and not so good at. TALK to your partner about those things when it comes to dividing and conquering all the crap that has to get done in life.”
Most people have an image in their mind of how a relationship should work. For many, it’s that both people share responsibilities; both manage to finely balance their time together with the time for themselves; both pursue engaging and invigorating interests on their own and then share the benefits together; both take turns cleaning the toilet and blowing each other and cooking gourmet lasagna for the extended family at Thanksgiving (although hopefully not at the same time).
Then there’s how relationships actually work: Chaotic. Stressful. Miscommunication flying everywhere so that both of you feel as though you’re in a perpetual state of talking to a wall.
The fact is relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. And it’s for the simple reason that they’re comprised of imperfect, messy people—people who want different things at different times in different ways.
The common theme of the advice about the logistics of running a relationship was be pragmatic. If the wife is a lawyer and spends 50 hours at the office every week, and the husband is an artist and can work from home most days, it makes more sense for him to handle most of the day-to-day parenting duties. If the wife’s standard of cleanliness makes a Home & Garden catalog look like a hovel, and the husband has gone six months without even noticing the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, then it makes sense that the wife handles more of the home cleaning duties.
It’s economics 101: division of labor makes everyone better off. Figure out what you are each good at, what you each love/hate doing, and then arrange accordingly. My wife loves cleaning (no, seriously), but she hates smelly stuff. So, guess who gets dishes and garbage duty? I don’t give a fuck—I’ll eat off the same plate seven times in a row, and I couldn’t smell a dead rat even if it was sleeping under my pillow.
On top of that, many couples suggested laying out rules for the relationship more generally. To what degree will you share finances? How much debt will be taken on or paid off? How much can each person spend without consulting the other? What purchases should be done together, or do you trust each other to shop separately? How do you decide which vacations to go on?
Have meetings about this stuff. Sure, it’s not sexy or cool, but it needs to get done. You’re sharing a life together, so you need to plan and account for each person’s needs and resources.
One person even said that she and her husband have “annual reviews” every year. She immediately told me not to laugh, but seriously—this couple have annual reviews where they discuss everything that’s going on in the household and what they can do in the coming year to change the things that aren’t working. Even if you think this sort of stuff sounds lame, it’s what keeps this couple in touch with each other. And because they always have their fingers on the pulse of each other’s needs, they’re more likely to grow together rather than grow apart.