February 16, 2023
Chore Wars: How To Stop Fighting About Housework
We are riding a high after appearing on The TODAY Show this morning! Hoda and Jenna were the warmest hosts and in this week’s episode we dig a little deeper into one of their viewer questions about housework and how to stop keeping score. Tune in for 6 specific strategies you can use to reduce tension, conflict and stave off resentment in the long-run.
Don’t forget you can save 25% off all of our video courses at HappierCouples.com with code PODCAST.
You can watch the interview on Today With Hoda and Jenna here.
See below for a rough summary of the podcast:
Earlier today we were on The Today Show thanks to Kieran, producer extraordinaire, who has a new segment series called Relationships Dilemmas.
My partner and I are constantly keeping score over who’s doing more at home — between the dishes, cooking dinner, taking out the trash. So my question is, what’s the best way to delegate or balance routine chores at home?
Keep score but play for the same team. Focus on all the things your partner does. Make a list of everything that needs to be done – break it down into small parts. Really break it down. And let yourselves add to it as things come up. Then run through the chores like a draft taking turns opting into specific tasks. I’d suggest you do this monthly as opposed to making it a one time thing because the list will change, your schedules will change and it’s good to switch things up.
The point is to look at the tasks as a team as opposed to tracking who does what. Get to the underlying issues. If making a list and going through it feels triggering, if it hits a sore spot, if you’re resistant, if you get defensive, consider whether or not chores are the issue or if it’s a relational, emotional or attachment need that’s not being met. Is it really about dirty dishes or is it about feeling unheard? Is it about laundry or is it about resentment for the fact that you gave something up to support your partner’s career?It’s easy to place blame on the superficial issues like chores as opposed to examine the root issues.I see this often. You argue about something rather innocuous like the way they put the food in the fridge, but really you’re annoyed that they don’t put effort into the relationship. Don’t expect it to be 50/50. That’s not the way life works and if you’re obsessed with making sure your partner does as much as you, ask yourself why.
Your lives are different. Your skills sets are different. There are going to points in the relationship when you do more domestic labour. And there will be times when your partner does more. Examine gender roles and other identity layers that may be contributing to engrained biases. Did your mom do all the cooking and you now expect your wife to do the same? Was your dad handy and you now have the unrealistic expectation that your boyfriend should take care of repairs?
Express gratitude profusely. It’s so easy to take all the little things for granted. And even if you do appreciate all the things your partner does. The gratitude gap refers to the distance between feeling grateful and actually expressing it.
Lower your expectations. Just because you want things done a certain way to a certain standard doesn’t mean your partner affords the same value to the same tasks. Maybe you’re angry or annoyed that they don’t clean as thoroughly as you. And maybe that’s a legitimate concern. But maybe you’re being unrealistic. Maybe they do a perfectly decent job and you take comfort in laying criticism because of past issues. Maybe it gives you a sense of control. Or meaning. This happens with kids. One parents has expectations that the other finds unrealistic in terms of how involved you should be in your kids lives, how much you should influence (or in some cases control) them and this leads to arguments that are seemingly about childrearing but they’re really about the individual or a relational dynamic — working through personal issues through children.
Adjusting expectations is essential to happy relationships and the same goes for chores.
They are just things you have to get done. They’re not the meaning of life. They’re far less important than relationships. Relationship quality determines the quality of your life. Relationship quality is tied to health, happiness, longevity and everything that matters — so prioritize that over being right or proving a point. And get on the same team.
This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
Chore Wars: How To Stop Fighting About Housework
Speaker 3 00:00:08 You’re listening to The Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and Relationship Advice you can use tonight.
Brandon: 00:00:19 Welcome To the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I’m your co-host Brandon. We are here with my always lovely other half, Dr. Jess.
Dr. Jess 00:00:26 Hey. Hey. It’s been a big day.
Brandon 00:00:27 It has.
Dr. Jess 00:00:29 We were on the Today Show today.
Brandon 00:00:31 Yeah. I was super nervous.
Dr. Jess 00:00:32 Yeah. This is a thing, right? I don’t think you seem nervous to other people, but I know inside you’re really nervous.
Brandon 00:00:37 Yeah. My heart rate was probably 180, the entire segment.
Dr. Jess 00:00:41 But it was amazing. I know, I know. The last time you came on a show with me, you were wearing one of those aura rings,
Brandon 00:00:46 <laugh>. Yeah. That tracks your heart rate and your sleep. Wow. It was like, are you working out? You should calm down. You’re working out too strenuous. I was like, yeah, no, we are on
Dr. Jess 00:00:57 Television. You were just sitting on a couch. I was sitting down selling vibrators. Yeah.
Brandon 00:01:00 Yeah.
Dr. Jess 00:01:00 Pretty much. But today was super fun and it was all thanks to Kiran, this amazing producer on the Today Show who has a new segment on there called Relationship Dilemmas. And we were answering some questions from folks and one of the questions that came in pertained to chores. And you know, every time I do a television segment I’m like, oh my God, we need more time. And these topics just require really just more nuance to be fleshed out. So I thought we could talk about the chores today.
Brandon 00:01:26 Yeah. Chores is something, I mean, as a kid it was something that was always there. There was always, there were always chores that needed to be done. There were always things that you
Dr. Jess 00:01:34 Were always in
Brandon 00:01:34 In trouble. Right. I was always in trouble. Yeah. And actually, I used doing chores as a way to get outta trouble. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like I would do ’em preemptively in the hopes of, you know, not being in trouble when my parents got home.
Dr. Jess 00:01:46 Or not getting yelled
Brandon 00:01:47 At, not getting yelled at or, you know, it was an exchange too. It was something that I used to be able to use the car or to go out, things like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So chores had a very interesting, uh, interaction in, in my upbringing.
Dr. Jess 00:01:59 And I wonder how that affects you today. The idea that, you know, you knew that somebody was gonna yell at you when you came home, and so you would just preemptively and not because you’d left a mess or anything just because mm-hmm. <affirmative> that was the behavior that you were accustomed to.
Brandon 00:02:11 Yeah. No, that’s absolutely spot on. So, um, yes, <laugh>.
Dr. Jess 00:02:16 So today, do you do that for me? I’m just reflecting right now. Am I coming home from a business trip and you’re like running through the house madly cleaning up, you
Brandon 00:02:22 Know, chores with us? We have fought over them, but it’s something that, uh, I think we, we approach a little differently.
Dr. Jess 00:02:29 And honestly, I’ve been gone for like three weeks. I don’t even remember chores.
Brandon 00:02:33 Yeah. I don’t worry. The house is great. <laugh>. You
Dr. Jess 00:02:35 Don’t mind. You’ve been with me half the time.
Brandon 00:02:38 <laugh>. That’s true. Well, it was great when I left, so don’t worry. Yeah,
Dr. Jess 00:02:40 It’s interesting when you’ve been together so long, you don’t always remember the moments in time and mm-hmm. <affirmative> you say that we’ve fought about it. I think we tend to get into a pretty good routine, but once in a while I’ll get it in my head that like, oh, I have to do every goddamn thing. Really? Yeah. I’ll catch myself <laugh>.
Brandon 00:02:57 Don’t tell me more.
Dr. Jess 00:02:58 Tell me more. No, I’ll catch myself thinking that way. And it’s just in the heat of the moment, I’m frustrated with what I’m doing. I’d rather be doing something else. And so it’s easy to perceive myself as doing more, but I guess I don’t come to you with it because I calm down and I’m like, nah man. He, he does his share. And there, I think there were more times in our lives where maybe I didn’t feel you did your share?
Brandon 00:03:19 Hmm. And you know what, uh, there probably were times in this relationship where I didn’t. And I think having a conversation about that, that’s the biggest thing. Right? We’ve talked about these issues a lot. Like when something arises in our relationship, it doesn’t result in prolonged periods of resentment. I feel like it sparks a conversation.
Dr. Jess 00:03:36 There’s never resentment. Cuz I can’t hold my tongue <laugh>. Like I sometimes I’ll do that, I’ll be like, oh, I should wait for a better time to bring it up. But like, no, get in here in
Brandon 00:03:45 The middle. Middle. That was a great time. Now
Dr. Jess 00:03:46 Was a great time. Now is the time. Yeah. I have huge difficulty holding my tongue. It’s a family curse. So we had a, a viewer who sent a video in to the Today Show and she was saying here’s what she, she said, she basically said, my partner and I are constantly keeping score over who’s doing more at home between the dishes, cooking dinner, taking up the trash. So my question is, what’s the best way to delegate or balance routine chores at home? So I thought we’d do this quickie episode cuz we are on the road. I’m moving again tomorrow and the next day and the next day, three days in a row I think I have to fly. So I, I thought that uh, we’d go through this quickie episode with six different strategies to stop fighting over chores or have more harmony over chores.
Dr. Jess 00:04:30 Of course there’ll still be some conflict, you’ll still have moments where you don’t feel great. But the first, first part for me, because this person says that they’re constantly keeping score, my thought is that, you know, keeping score can be actually a good thing if you see yourselves as playing for the same team. So can you focus on all the things your partner is doing to make the household run smoothly? I think about, you know, can you make a list, and I’ve done this with couples before many times, can you make a list of everything that needs to be done? Break it down into small parts and let yourselves add things as they come up. Cuz you’re not gonna remember everything right now. And then can you run through the chores like a draft, sort of taking turns, opting into specific tasks and can you do this on the monthly perhaps as opposed to making it a one-time thing. Because I think the list will change, your schedules will change. And I think it’s also really important to switch things up so you’re not always doing the exact same things. Especially the things that feel onerous, especially the things that piss you off. Especially the things that bring resentment.
Brandon 00:05:32 You talk about a list, and I know lists are very controversial, but I’ve always found them very helpful because I love a visual medium. I love something that I can look at and say, I’ve done that. Check it off. I also like looking at it because it reminds me of the things that I don’t do. It reminds me of all the things that you are doing and if you have an opportunity to highlight them, I’m like, oh yeah. Oh snap. Yeah, I thought I was doing 80% of the, you know, of the chores or you, whatever it is, is that needs to be done. And in reality I’m doing maybe 30 or 40%. So then it inspires me to then pick up my end of the, uh, you know, pick up the slack and make sure that I’m, I always feel like I need to be pulling my weight.
Dr. Jess 00:06:09 So, and and you feel that way, but I think a lot of people in relationships can’t even get to this point. They can’t even make the list and go through it because they’re so angry at each other.
Brandon 00:06:17 Mm.
Dr. Jess 00:06:18 Yeah. Right. And that kind of leads me to the second point, which is that we need to get to the underlying issues list. You know, like if making a list and going through it feels triggering if it hits a sore spot, if you’re resistant, if you’re getting defensive, I would really consider whether or not chores are the actual issue or if it’s a relational, emotional or attachment need that’s really not being addressed or met. You know, is it really about the dirty dishes or is it that you don’t feel heard, that you don’t feel appreciated, that you feel disregarded in another realm? Is it really about laundry or is it about resentment for, I don’t know, maybe the fact that you gave something up to support your partner’s career? I think it’s really easy to focus and place blame on the superficial issues like chores as opposed to examining the root issues.
Dr. Jess 00:07:04 And I see this all the time, you know, you argue about something rather innocuous, like, oh, I don’t like the way he just throws everything in the fridge and he doesn’t put things away properly. But really you’re annoyed that they’re not putting a different type of effort into the relationship overall. And I do find that one of the reasons we don’t fight about chores or the house generally speaking is not only that I’m not there a lot <laugh>, but, but also I feel, I feel loved, I feel appreciated. I admire you and I actually like you. Like not just love you, but I really, really like you. So when you do things that annoy me a little, cuz I bring up the, like how you put things in the fridge. I look at a, and you probably don’t even know this,
Brandon 00:07:38 But No, I dunno. Please tell
Dr. Jess 00:07:39 Me how you put things in the fridge. I’m like, what is wrong with this guy <laugh>. But in the end I actually find it kind of funny. What?
Brandon 00:07:45 What? I wanna know what I put in the fridge. What is it?
Dr. Jess 00:07:47 Do you even have a method to your <laugh>?
Brandon 00:07:49 No, there is no method.
Dr. Jess 00:07:50 Like there’s straight corn in the, in the cheese drawer. There’s like lettuce Hold on in the milk carton area.
Brandon 00:07:57 Is it refrigerated? Is it cold? Yeah,
Dr. Jess 00:07:59 <laugh> is,
Brandon 00:08:00 Yeah. Is it still good?
Dr. Jess 00:08:01 Well I, and you know, all of these kind of strategies intersect with one another cuz we’ll get to the fact that you also can’t hold people to your same standards. But I think that when you’re already in a really happy, loving, caring relationship, a you can turn to one another and say like, Hey idiot, put this, put the lettuce in the crispr,
Brandon 00:08:18 Those are the other vegetables. Smart guy.
Dr. Jess 00:08:21 Yeah. Like why would you put the heavy eggs on top of the delicate fish <laugh>. But A, I could tell you that. And B, I also don’t take it that seriously because I don’t have any resentment toward you. I’m not saying you never irritate me. You can be very irritating <laugh>, but it’s not, well thank you <laugh>. It’s one of your greatest skills. Now you’re not very annoying, but I’m definitely way more annoying than you. But it’s that I’m able to kind of laugh about it and be like, oh, okay, it’s not really a big deal. And I do think it’s because we address the underlying issues. So it’s not just about, you know, playing for the same team and making the list, but also asking yourself, am I really mad about this or am I mad about something else? And that is, this is not to discount people who really are doing too much, right?
Dr. Jess 00:09:03 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I think there are definitely relationships and we see them all the time where one person is carrying way too much of the weight, whether it be, you know, household chores mm-hmm. <affirmative> or emotional burden or investing in the relationship. That’s not to discount it, but if those are the things that are actually affecting your relationship, I think we need to address those first. And they’re a little bit more complicated to address than just kind of six quick tips to stop fighting about chores. And it’s interesting, you know, you mentioned the list and you might be doing 30 or 40%. That brings me to strategy number three, which is that we need to understand that it’s not gonna be 50 50. Like that’s not the way life works. And if you are obsessed with checking a box and making sure that your partner puts in the exact same amount of time and the exact same amount of effort as you do, ask yourself why, you know, your lives are different, your skills are different, uh, your timing is different. They’re gonna be points in your relationship where you do more domestic labor. And there will be times hopefully, you know, when your partner p picks up the slack for you. I can think back to when you first started working in real estate, man, you were never around. I really just took care of everything. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> really, I I don’t recall you doing cleaning. You always did ironing because you are for your own self. Like you’re,
Brandon 00:10:16 You’re, I gotta tell you, I don’t say I’m great at much, but I’m a great Parker <laugh> and I’m a great ironer of things. Two
Dr. Jess 00:10:23 Skills, putting a car in a slot and flattening
Brandon 00:10:25 Your shirt. And I shirt also, I also take with the garbage real
Dr. Jess 00:10:27 Well. No. Do you really though?
Brandon 00:10:29 I, I definitely do. Yes. I
Dr. Jess 00:10:31 Feel like you’re an average garbage. Take her out. It we take her out. No, but you are a really good ironer. But when we, you do recall when you went into real estate? Yeah. Especially not when you were in commercial, but when you were in residential and you were basically working on a sales site, I don’t know, 40 hours a week and then selling real estate to clients another god knows how many hours. It was just me at home taking care of things. And then as I started going on the road for work and you know, you had a lot more flexibility because your business grew and you had more staff and stuff like that. I was gone and you would just take care of things like not just with me, like we are, we’re a community, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like we have neighbors who are really kind of a part of our family.
Dr. Jess 00:11:07 We have family members who are also a part of our family. <laugh>, we have chosen family and we have bloodline family and you took care and you continue to take care of a lot of things. Well, and and it’s not just you and me. Like I really look at our support network of people who look out for us mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? I, I could name all of them now, but really like people who are checking in on our house, people who help with my dad, people who help with groceries. These aren’t people we pay. These are people in our community. Yeah. Friends and family, you know. And I do believe it’s reciprocated.
Brandon 00:11:39 I I agree. And I, and I think just like as you said, making the analogy to a team, there are different people that play different roles on a team and some, you know, get all the glory and get all the, uh, you know, all the spotlight. That’s
Dr. Jess 00:11:51 Me. Yeah.
Brandon 00:11:51 Yeah. And then, then there are other work horses behind the snow. Then there are, you know, people that, but at different times in our relationship, I do think that there’s been an unequal distribution of chores or, you know, people doing, or one of us doing those chores. And I, I hope I, I feel that it, it, in the end it evens out 2 50 50,
Dr. Jess 00:12:11 Right. And it’s not just chores in our relationship. Right. Our, and it’s like, you know, there’s us and then there’s the, our close family and our close community and it’s, it’s never 50 50. It’s never 10, 10, 10, 10 10. And I think that’s been really important for us. And I definitely see that among couples as well, being able to navigate the changes mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and not expecting it to be even. And again, if you’re expecting it to be like, I did 45 minutes of cleaning and you only did 35 minutes of cleaning, again, I, I think you should just really think about why, like why are you trying to make things perfectly
Brandon 00:12:41 Even? And also the idea that once I’ve done my 50% that I’m gonna stop. Mm. It’s that okay, I’ve done, I’ve done my, my share and I am o on principle. I’m not gonna do anything else. As opposed to, no, you know what this needs to get done. The garbage needs to go out, the, the kids need to go to school. They, or, or whatever it is that needs to happen. And I’m gonna do this because you’re busy, you’re away, for instance, you’re traveling for work or whatever it is that you’re doing. And I’m gonna have a conversation with you at another time and tell you how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking that, you know, perhaps for the last X period of time that I don’t feel like it’s been fair. And you know, it gives you the opportunity to have that conversation with me as to what, how you feel mm-hmm.
Dr. Jess 00:13:19 <affirmative> as well. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well and you know, there’s so much research on unpaid labor and how household labor is divided and how it leads to happiness and relationship and how oftentimes more egalitarian relationships are happier in, in the long run and in the big picture. But, uh, I think a really important piece here has to do with our roles. And I think that should probably be, you know, bullet point number four here, that we need to examine how gender roles and I think other layers of identity can contribute to ingrained biases where we expect our partners to take on tasks and responsibilities based on their gender. And it’s oftentimes tied back to our family of origin, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if my mom did all the cooking, I, I’ll tell you, I feel pressure to do all the cooking like
Brandon 00:14:01 I in in a, in this relationship.
Dr. Jess 00:14:03 Yeah. Well, not right now. You’ve, you’ve
Brandon 00:14:05 Started it’s because I’m such a great cook.
Dr. Jess 00:14:07 You’ve cooked four meals, <laugh> and it’s <laugh>
Brandon 00:14:09 For me and they’ve been
Dr. Jess 00:14:10 Mediocre. No, but I think that just, it’s more ingrained in me that I should, should do those things cuz my mom did. And it was a big expression of love and it really is, you know, among my cousins and my super close family mm-hmm. <affirmative> that it’s an expression of love. So I do feel some pressure there. Not from you at all, cuz you could care less what you eat. You’ll eat a bag of salad or bag of nuts or second nuts or whatever <laugh>. But
Brandon 00:14:30 Yes to all of the above. But you know what’s funny when you, when you mention that sense of responsibility or that pressure to do that, I feel pressure to make sure that I’m always cleaning up. Mm. And and I, and I feel like if you’ve made the meal, you shouldn’t get up. You shouldn’t lift a finger. I should be cleaning up everything after. So interesting how in, in that sense. I, I feel pressure too. And I hope that it works out to be 50 50 cuz I know the preparation of the cooking is a lot of
Dr. Jess 00:14:57 Work. Can I ask you though, does that pressure to clean up also come from like the fear you were raised with in your household? Yes. Like you, you were raised with intensity and fear and the anger and other things that maybe we won’t get too deep into. Like are you afraid that if you don’t do something that I’ll be mad?
Brandon 00:15:12 Yeah. I’m sure that if I were to dig down deep there, that yeah, there’s definitely a fear of, um, you know, of of having had done something wrong if I don’t clean up the dishes now again, that’s something I probably need to work through with my therapist mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But that being said in right now, reflecting, yeah. I feel that way. I do. But I also, I also feel that it’s my responsibility again, you prepared the food, I’m gonna clean everything
Dr. Jess 00:15:35 Up. Yeah. And I think side note, I think there’s also a dynamic where you are afraid of me getting mad. Yeah. Like separate from chores and I think that’s for a whole other conversation. Yeah. Maybe for private for you and me. Yeah. But yeah, no, there is, we definitely have that dynamic where I, I don’t even wanna get mad because I know that it’s, it’s, it’s kind of scary for you and that you sort of live in this place of fear of me getting mad at you or anyone really getting mad
Brandon 00:15:57 At you. Yeah. And I mean, I think that that has to do with how I was reared and it’s something that I, I’m working through every single day and every single week is like, you know, deconstructing it and, and taking that whole idea and breaking it down, um, so that I can move forward more effectively with my staff, with my work, with everything that I do. But it’s, yeah, it’s
Dr. Jess 00:16:16 There. And I think what I’d extrapolate from that as it pertains to chores is really that even the way we interact around chores is going to be affected by, you know, past traumas, by family of origin, by past experiences. And so I always remind people that when you’re fighting about something, oftentimes it’s not about the thing, it’s about the meaning you attach to the thing. Hmm. Right? Yeah. And so something for us to have a private conversation <laugh> about, not tonight. Not
Brandon 00:16:39 Today. Just making more notes
Dr. Jess 00:16:40 Here. Yeah. Okay. So a another piece I I was thinking of with regard to gender rules. Cuz I was talking to, uh, a woman the other day was unhappy in her relationship and she was talking about how he doesn’t do anything. And when I was digging deeper into that, she was saying that, you know, her dad was really handy and he doesn’t even take care of things around the house. And that that was definitely real <laugh>. Yeah. Ohoh <laugh>. I was like,
Brandon 00:17:01 Where we going
Dr. Jess 00:17:02 Here <laugh>? Well, okay. So I don’t have that dynamic. I’m not so handy. My dad was not handy. Your dad was
Brandon 00:17:08 Handy. Yeah. My dad was was more handy than your dad. For sure.
Dr. Jess 00:17:11 For sure. Way, way more handy than all of us put together. And so we just have to examine how, not just gender but other layers of identity affect our expectations and be willing to adjust because we’re, we’re be like, you know, I think all of you are kind of beyond that now. And that’s not to say that you can’t fall into traditional gender roles if that’s what works for you mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But to have that expectation and allow it to lead to perhaps tension and conflict and resentment, it’s time to, you know, check
Brandon 00:17:36 ’em. I’m very glad that you don’t have that expectation that your father wasn’t very handy because you fix things. I do feel like I can fix things and I’m taking the in, I have taken the initiative to try and learn things and it’s so much easier now with YouTube, <laugh> and Amazon for, for tools or, you know, your local hardware store. But if, if it was that expectation, I wouldn’t be disappointing you weekly,
Dr. Jess 00:17:56 You know where it’s not easy with a local hardware store.
Brandon 00:18:00 <laugh> tell
Dr. Jess 00:18:00 Me, you know, Spain
Brandon 00:18:02 For,
Dr. Jess 00:18:02 Because they’re only open for a few hours in the morning.
Brandon 00:18:05 I love it there. But, and
Dr. Jess 00:18:06 Then they shut down and Brandon’s like, oh cuz you know, we’re working on the new apartment. He’s like, oh, I just have to run and grab some screws. But you can’t go and grab some screws cuz they’re closed.
Brandon 00:18:14 I trying to explain in charades what it is I need, man.
Dr. Jess 00:18:17 <laugh>. And that’s if you can catch ’em when they’re open. Uh, alright, moving on. So number five, if you wanna stop fighting about over chores, the flip side really involves thanking each other and expressing gratitude profusely for all the things the other person does. So it’s so easy I think, to take all the little things for granted. And again, this isn’t just with partners, this is with our entire loving community. I think about even with my mom, like, and my stepdad, all the things that they do and even my neighbors mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Like, you know, I, I think I saw somebody on the camera the other day taking care of something in our house that we didn’t even ask them to do. They were just like in our house. Yeah. Taking no, they taking care of it because they saw something arise. And we do take it for granted because it just happens, it just functions. We function really well together. And so, you know, even if you appreciate all the things your partner does, are you actually thanking them? And I’m sure I’ve talked about this for before. The gratitude gap refers to the distance between feeling grateful and actually expressing it. And I think that I, I think we’re kind of good at this. Oh I’m, maybe me, I’m good at
Brandon 00:19:17 This. Yeah. You’re better than me at this. And I remember the first time that you thanked me, like you, the first time I really realized that you were thanking me for doing a chore, it was like, thank you for putting it the garbage. And I’m like, was that sarc? Hasn’t he <laugh>? I’m like, are you joke, are you serious or are you joking right now? Like, thank you for putting out the
Dr. Jess 00:19:34 Garbage. Thank you for putting garbage in the garbage for me to put
Brandon 00:19:37 Out. Thank you for doing what you’re supposed to do. No, but it, you know, over time it, I learned to appreciate it. Right. I was like, oh yeah, that’s no problem. I’m, I’m happy to do it. And it’s just that little jolt, that little burst of of appreciation that goes a long way. Yeah. And it, and it sounds silly when you’re saying it, but it really does reinforce that that foundation
Dr. Jess 00:19:57 Yeah. And I talk about this in pretty much every session I run. It’s actually how I start the session is with an expression of gratitude. Because I find that kind of high functioning couples, couples who get along really well, this is one of the traps that you fall into because you function so well together. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you forget to thank each other. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I do think that, uh, you might feel less resentment and less stress around chores and less strife if you are actually expressing gratitude. And I’ll just, you know, quickly apologize for noises in the background because we are in New York City and it’s not quiet. So we’re doing Yeah. It’s New York doing the best we can.
Brandon 00:20:27 Surprised somebody hasn’t honked at us yet. <laugh>
Dr. Jess 00:20:30 We did get yelled at, yes. We’re on the street yesterday and I won’t say the city cuz I don’t wanna, you know, badmouth it. But a guy had a big knife out and we had to run into the street to get away from him.
Brandon 00:20:39 Those two people. I hope somebody doesn’t
Dr. Jess 00:20:41 Get injured. He wasn’t coming after us, but we, yeah. Anyhow, it all worked out fine. Somebody kind of got in the middle of it, it and um, sent de each deescalated Yeah. In their own direction. I digress. Okay, the last thing I have to say about not fighting about chores is to me a lesson that applies across all sorts of relationships and with all issues in relationships. And this is, we need to lower our expectations
Brandon 00:21:06 For, there you go,
Speaker 5 00:21:07 <laugh>.
Dr. Jess 00:21:11 We need to temper our expectations because just because you want things done a certain way to a certain standard doesn’t mean your partner affords the same value to the same task or the same, I guess standard of task. Uh, you know, maybe you’re angry or annoyed that they don’t clean as thoroughly as you and maybe it’s a legitimate concern. Like maybe they are just going through the motion. So I, I really don’t want anyone to feel dismissed here, but I also want you to consider, are you being realistic? Maybe they do a perfectly decent job and maybe you take comfort in laying criticism because of earlier, previous dynamics, past issues. Maybe it gives you a sense of control. Maybe it gives you a sense of meaning to tell people that you can do it better than them. And this is a really hard pattern to recognize.
Dr. Jess 00:21:51 And I think this is just an opportunity to remind ourselves that we’re all decent people doing the best we can and we still screw up and we’re still imperfect and we still, you know, make these mistakes in relationships. We, we see this with kids all the time, right? Where one parent has certain expectations about, you know, about how they want the child raised with every little detail and maybe the other one finds these expectations unrealistic in terms of, I don’t know how involved you should be in your kids’ lives. How much influence or in some cases control, you know, you exert over them. And this leads to arguments that are seemingly about child rearing, but they’re really about an individual issue or a relational dynamic. You know, working through personal issues through children or through chores is not terribly uncommon.
Brandon 00:22:35 But can I say that if you are gonna have a conversation about your expectations to not do it when you’re upset already. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because I can imagine that that is like, what I need you to do is I need you to make sure you’re clean the bay sports right in the bathroom. And, but it’s like, you know what, have that conversation when you’re not already upset about it so that you can both have a very common irrational conversation about what the expectations are. Okay?
Dr. Jess 00:22:59 So I’m super guilty of not doing this because I said I can’t hold my tongue. I remember this one day you were making the bed and you didn’t like fluff the pillows and lean them up properly. And I was just pissy about something else and I was like, if you’re gonna make the bed, just make the bed properly. What is your problem? Why are you even, do you remember that or no?
Brandon 00:23:16 No, I don’t. You blocked it cause I’m a great bed maker. Let me tell
Dr. Jess 00:23:19 You, <laugh>, no, but I can find myself freaking out about some of these things in the moment for no reason at all. And I know the problem is me. I’m the problem. It’s me and I have to, I have to really check myself and catch myself. Sometimes it’s honestly cuz I’m just in a pissy mood cuz I haven’t slept or I’m on my period or something like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I’m not saying those are fair excuses, I can just catch myself mm-hmm. <affirmative> so that I’ll kind of say it under my breath by myself, but not bring it to you because every, every thought I have, every frustration I have doesn’t need to be shared with you. Cuz I can assuage many of them myself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I catch myself. And I, I will say kind of, I did grow up also in a household where we were in trouble for certain things and I, I won’t get so detailed into it, but I can catch myself reenacting some of those behaviors where I get mad about stuff that honestly I don’t even care about <laugh> like in the moment I just like wanna latch onto something and I have to catch myself.
Brandon 00:24:10 Well let me just go back to the bed making thing and, and I’ll tell you right now for future reference, I’m not a good fluffer. I am not <laugh>, I’m not a <laugh>. I I’m talking about pillows here.
Dr. Jess 00:24:21 Okay. No, you’re a good pillow. Fluffer. I’m a better pillow. Fluffer, listen. Okay. Bottom line. Adjusting expectations is actually essential to happy relationships, friendships, intimate connections. And the same goes for chores. You know, chores are just things you have to get done. They’re not the meaning of life, they’re not as important as your relationships. You know, we know that relationship quality determines the quality of your life. Relationship quality is tied to health, mental health, physical health, happiness, longevity, everything that matters in your life. So we need to prioritize the relationship over being right or proving a point. And I think the goal is just to get on the same team. Once again. If you are in a relationship where your partner is not pulling their weight, where they’re not willing to have these conversations, where you are feeling worn out, where you’re feeling resentful, I think it’s time to probably get some help and talk to somebody. It’s not as simple as like get on the same team and make a list. Yeah. Maybe you’re not in that place right now. And I never want people to feel badly. If you’re in an amazing place, that’s perfect. Maybe these are strategies you can employ. If you’re not in a great place right now, maybe these strategies aren’t as relevant, but hopefully you can go work on the foundational issues so that you can get to the point where you can have a laugh about how terrible your partner is about, you know, stocking the
Brandon 00:25:31 Fridge. I mean, I don’t really, again, everything’s cold and edible so I think it’s a wind. How
Dr. Jess 00:25:36 About how you load the dishwasher? <laugh>? I, there’s actually research on
Brandon 00:25:40 This. I’m not very good at loading the dishwash.
Dr. Jess 00:25:41 Some people will redo their partner’s chores. And again, I think there’s a difference between redoing it cuz you want it done a certain way and being able to laugh about it versus redoing it and being kind of under your breath. Like, what the hell is wrong with this person? Because I think that fighting over chores can be symptoms of a be a symptom of other issues in the relationship that need to be addressed.
Brandon 00:26:00 Hmm. I mean I fit the three bowls in and the two spoons so we can run the dishwasher.
Dr. Jess 00:26:06 Five items can fit in
Brandon 00:26:07 The dishwasher. What do you need to reorganize?
Dr. Jess 00:26:09 Did you ever play Tetris growing
Brandon 00:26:10 Up? I did. And did you get apparently to level two? Apparently I wasn’t very good
Dr. Jess 00:26:14 At it. Hang on. I’ve given you a hard time about how you stock the fridge and how you love the dishwasher. What’s, what are the chores that I suck at besides all the ones I don’t even do
Brandon 00:26:22 <laugh>. Well you’re not a good bed maker. For real.
Dr. Jess 00:26:25 You mean cuz I don’t make it
Brandon 00:26:27 Y Yeah, but when you do make it, you’re very <laugh> very particular about it. But if you, you just, I’m like, oh you made the bed today or you made like a third of it.
Dr. Jess 00:26:36 <laugh>. I’m only making my half <laugh> then in that case I should make nine tenths of it. Cuz I take up nine
Brandon 00:26:42 Tenths. It seems like a hurricane,
Dr. Jess 00:26:43 Man. I know. One thing I do is I leave all the drawers and cupboards open. Oh
Brandon 00:26:47 Yeah, you definitely, I’m like, I will be in the kitchen and all of a sudden I’ll get like clothes lined by a drawer that’s opened or
Dr. Jess 00:26:54 Door. And our kitchen, our kitchen is like not have a big kitchen. Tiny. So no matter what you’re walking into a cupboard. Yeah. All right. So I’m gonna do just a quick recap for things for you to think about. So again, think about playing on the same team and make a list and see if you can work through it. Uh, get to the underlying issues. If something else is actually bothering you, don’t expect things to be 50 50. Consider how ingrained biases perhaps related to identity, like gender are affecting your expectations. Express gratitude, profusely and unsu. Sarcastically, <laugh>. Thank them for all the things that they’re doing. Actually, I think I got that from my parents. I think there was a lot of Thank you. Back and forth. And then lower adjust, I shouldn’t say lower. Adjust your expectations. Don’t expect you, you know, a partner or anyone in your life to meet all of your expectations. And maybe you’ll fight less about chores. Yeah.
Brandon 00:27:40 Set the bar low. <laugh>. Set the bar
Dr. Jess 00:27:43 Though. What do you say? Underpromise. Overdeliver.
Brandon 00:27:45 That’s it. There you go.
Dr. Jess 00:27:46 A and of course, you know, you need to be having conversations and they’re ongoing. So, uh, I’m, I’m glad we got this question today. We got a few others as well and I’m actually really happy we had the opportunity to sort of expand on them as well. Mm-hmm.
Brandon 00:27:58 <affirmative>. Yeah, no, that was great. I had a lot of fun. All
Dr. Jess 00:28:00 Right, we are going to stop there. A quick reminder that we’ve got our amazing video courses, self-proclaimed amazing <laugh> at happier couples.com. If you want to go and learn some new techniques from line blowing oral, if you actually wanna make a huge difference in your life and get into mindfulness practices as they pertain to sex, although they’re not all about sex, check ’em all [email protected] and you can use the code podcast to save. Thanks for chatting with Lee babe. Thanks for being here. You’re leaving me tomorrow.
Brandon 00:28:31 I am, but it’s been fun. Yeah,
Dr. Jess 00:28:33 I’m off to Buffalo and somehow Brandon is not joining me. I’m not, no. I don’t know. I’m Brandon’s heading to warmer pastures, so I’ll,
Brandon 00:28:39 I’ll come. She’s setting me off. What? Sounds like you’re setting me off. No.
Dr. Jess 00:28:42 Is that a thing? I’m not so good with the, with the expressions folks, thank you so much for tuning in and thanks for being here babe.
Brandon 00:28:50 Have a great one.
Speaker 3 00:28:52 You’re listening to The Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.
Speaker 3 00:28:52 You’re listening to The Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.