For newlyweds and the newly cohabitating, setting up house together requires some discussion and decisions about the division of labor in the home. This is an issue that couples don’t always think about or plan for and it can turn into a contentious issue if not addressed.  

Historically, men and women have had traditional roles in the household, but these traditions are not for everyone. There are as many unique households as there are couples and each couple will need to decide how they want to handle the division of labor in their own home. 

On the surface, this might seem like a small, even unimportant subject, but I assure you, if you’ve ever had a roommate, partner or spouse who didn’t share the workload of running the home with you, you will know that it can become a very important issue very quickly. I urge you to discuss how you plan to set up your home and how you plan to handle the day to day running of the household, paying shared expenses, grocery shopping and recreational spending for date nights and travel. Addressing these particular details in the beginning of your living together will help you to avoid future conflict created by lack of communication or assumptions made due to omitting discussion.

The responsibilities for running the household should be shared equally. If you both work outside the home, you should set up a schedule and plan for household duties so that you can schedule the time needed.  If one person is a stay at home parent or partner, it is a reasonable expectation that they would do more of the daily work of household chores. That’s not to say that the partner that works outside the home is free of responsibility. Their duties would be scheduled on their off time, and may include some larger projects or things that only need to be done weekly. Both partners have to be on the same page and feel like the division of labor is fair to both. There’s nothing worse than feeling taken advantage of or feeling like you’re being taken for granted. 

The ideal situation is for each partner to take on the chores they prefer and trade off on the ones they don’t like to do. For example, if one partner hates doing dishes, but doesn’t mind doing the laundry, this can be arranged, and the person who loves gardening can do the yard work while the person who is a neat freak takes care of picking up and tidying the house. If you both dislike housework and your budget can bear it, hire a housekeeper to clean for you; which will free you both up to spend more time together doing what you truly love. 

The couples who handle this issue the best will help each other. One partner gets held up in traffic on their night to cook? The other partner will step in and handle dinner for the night. If you see that the trash is full, empty it, don’t let it overflow; same with the dishes. Did your partner forget to load the dishwasher before bed? Trust me, it’s easier and better for your relationship if you’ll simply help out that one time, rather than nag or argue about it. This also shows support for one another and enforces the feeling that your partner has your back, and is willing to step up in a pinch. It can also be a great time when you and your partner throw on your “cleaning playlist” and work together on those big projects like spring cleaning or winterizing your house. 

It’s also a good idea to revisit the division of labor periodically when there is a change in schedule, after school starts, if you get a new job; you get the idea. Nothing is set in stone. Find out what works best for your unique home life and situation and do that.  The main thing is to discuss it and set up a plan that you both can get on board with and do happily together. 


  • Stuart Fensterheim

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    The Couples Expert

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.